I don’t like my super popular coworker … and she complained to my boss about it

A reader writes:

While speaking with my manager the other day, he mentioned that my coworker, “Susan,” has come to him regarding my attitude towards her. He phrased it as “butting heads.” I must have looked confused (I was!) because he told me he doesn’t feel I am rude or inappropriate. The problem, according to him, is that Susan is almost neurotic in her need to be liked, and she isn’t getting the reaction she wants from me. He doesn’t think there’s a problem or is asking me to change anything about my behavior – he just wanted to bring it to my attention in case there is tension.

I will say I noticed Susan’s tendencies when I started in my position here in August, and I immediately took a dislike to her for them. She is kind, thoughtful, and professional, and she does an excellent job in her role, and I try to be friendly and appreciative of that. I offer her genuine compliments and gush over her grand-baby. However, I do tend to keep her at a bit of an arm’s length while the rest of the office fawns over her.

My problem (and I admit here it is MY problem, because it doesn’t affect her work) is that I hate suck-up’s – she writes little “thinking of you” notes, offers compliments regularly, is happy to take on extra work, etc. – which I tend to view as fabricated in order to make people like her. It might be genuine, and I might be biased – and, again, I recognize this is MY problem to work through.

So, here’s my question: will this work itself out or should I try to improve our relationship? Any suggestions for easing the tension?

I wrote back and asked, “What do you think Susan is looking for from you? What does the fawning from others over her look like? And do you know what she said to your boss?” The response:

I think she can tell she’s not my favorite person in the world. I try to be kind and considerate, I offer her compliments and gratitude, and I include her when we’re ordering lunch and so on. I try to keep my personal feelings from affecting our professional relationship because, again, she isn’t doing anything wrong — I just don’t care for her. A lot of people bring her little gifts (either for herself or for her family), and they often stand around chatting with her. I hear a lot of inside jokes, some bawdy banter, and just general conversation. It’s all friendly (and mostly appropriate for the office) and, if I had to pick a word, I think I would say celebratory, if that makes sense? It’s all very positive and upbeat from all parties — a lot of cooing over her grandchild and upcoming nuptials for her daughter, telling her how impactful a post was on Facebook, asking where she bought a blouse, and so on. She reciprocates the positivity and asks how their own celebrations are, how their weekends were spent, and so on … but people seek her out and initiate the interaction, in most cases. They aren’t bad interactions — maybe a little much, but not inherently bad. I think I just tend to keep our conversations more on the small-talk/professional level, perhaps. For example, I’ll mention how cute a photo of her granddaughter is and she’ll thank me. Someone else might come over and talk at length about the dress — was that something you bought, Susan? You have great taste! I think she has your eyes! — then show up a few days later with baby shoes to go with said dress or a picture frame for this particular photo.

I don’t know exactly what was said between her and my boss. He told me he didn’t want to go into detail, as he doesn’t think it’s a problem and told Susan as much as well. He only mentioned it in case I pick up on any tension from her. The comment was part of a larger check-in meeting we were having, and this comment was thrown in at the end.

Good lord. You are offering Susan compliments and gratitude. You’re admiring her family photos! It does not sound like you are freezing Susan out in any way.

If the issue is that you’re not bringing her gifts, trading bawdy banter, or fawning over her to the extent that other people do, Susan is being very, very weird here.

Any chance there’s more to it than that? Like is it possible that it would be clear to a reasonable observer that you don’t like Susan or that you’re put off by the cooing your coworkers do over her? I’m inclined to trust your boss’s assessment that that’s not the case, but if he doesn’t see a lot of your interactions it’s worth asking yourself that.

That said, you’re allowed not to like all your coworkers, or to be a little put off by what sounds like frequent, lengthy, and possibly loud festivities around her desk all the time. As long as you’re reasonably pleasant and kind — and you say you are — nothing here should spark a complaint from Susan.

What’s interesting is that the picture you paint of Susan is, in some respects, a rather lovely one! People seem to genuinely like her, and she and they take what sounds like mutual interest in each other’s lives.

What I can’t tell is whether Susan is a lovely person whose popularity is well earned but who just happens to rub you the wrong way … or whether all this fawning happens because Susan has taught people it’s necessary (by being difficult when it doesn’t happen). I’d normally think it was the first scenario, but the fact that she complained to your boss about you makes the second one seem more likely than it otherwise would.

As for whether this will work itself out or if you should try to improve the relationship … those aren’t necessarily the only options! It’s possible it won’t work itself out but that you still don’t need to change anything you’re doing. That said, if you want to, you could try asking Susan directly about what your boss said in a “I was concerned to hear this; have I done something that has upset you?” way. And who knows, maybe it’ll turn out there is something happening that you hadn’t realized. But otherwise you’ll probably get a vague response about seeming standoff-ish or chilly … in which case you can respond with, “I’m so sorry I’ve given you that impression. I’m probably less effusive than you and I tend to be more down to business, but I’d never want to give you the sense that I have issues with you or your work. I hope you can see it as just a difference in style and nothing more.” (That might be more gracious than is warranted, but this is about smoothing things over if you decide to go that route.)

Beyond that, though, I wouldn’t worry much. Your boss doesn’t think it’s a problem, and it doesn’t sound like a problem. As long as things don’t escalate in some way, you can go on being pleasant to Susan and let her work out her own feelings about the degree of that pleasantness.

{ 615 comments… read them below }

  1. sam_i_am*

    I also have a someone neurotic need to be liked, but the idea of *going to my manager* about it is unthinkable to me. I’m often flabbergasted at what people think is appropriate to bring to a supervisor without at least addressing it with the person you’re having an issue with. (Although, knowing me and my conflict aversion, I’d probably end up doing neither if I thought a coworker was being icy toward me)

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Which leads me to, she doesn’t need to be liked, she needs to feel important.
      Different things. Same result. Coworker demanding people act a certain way.
      Equally pathological (recall letter of the poor OP who lost her job after coworker didn’t say goodbye and OP raided coworker’s desk for paystub, got home address, showed up and asked her about it.)
      But is is more like, my employee wants me to sing and dance when she completes a project.

      1. Edianter*

        Omg I am a super regular reader of this site and I don’t recall that letter… any way you can find a link?! That sounds WILD.

        1. GraceC*

          It was entitled “My anxiety caused a work problem”, which is a very low-key title for a very not-low-key story (with updates already included!)

        2. Casper Lives*

          Yes, it was a sad and disturbing story. OP had unmanaged, serious anxiety. She accessed the coworker’s paystubs and went to her home at night to apologize for a small, imagined slight. Coworker was understandably disturbed. HR told her to stop reaching out to the coworker. OP tried again, got fired, and wrote into Alison asking how to fix it. It read like she was fixated on “making things right” for herself instead of respecting the coworker’s feelings and right not to be stalked.

          She got into therapy but I don’t remember anything else on the update.

          1. These Boots*

            This sounds like childhood trauma, and if I had to guess, I think they’re near Boston. That’s where I’ve encountered that neurotic need for celebratory small talk

          1. WellRed*

            Well yes. She sits in her chair, bestows compliments on others and then awaits the offerings laid at her feet.

            1. Siege*

              Yeah. Acknowledging someone else’s celebration is NOT on par with multiple compliments plus a gift. That’s not collegial, that’s literal homage to the queen … or the leader of the cult.

            2. Anonymous4*

              She’s accustomed to getting her ego fed by EVERYONE, with pats and compliments and kisses from everyone in the room, so it bothers her when one person withholds the expected adulation?

              Oy! That is one weird puppy.

          2. Goldenrod*

            Me too! I share an inherent distaste for this type of person. It sounds like she needs everyone to drop what they are doing and focus on her every minute. Tiresome!

            What struck me is that OP kept saying “I realize this is my problem”….but I truly don’t think it is! It’s the co-worker’s problem. She can’t handle not being adored by everyone.

            But that is not OP’s problem!

            1. GammaGirl1908*

              Not just adored, but adored in the specific performative manner that she deems appropriately deferential. You’re not allowed just to think from afar that she’s basically fine, which is how I feel about most of my coworkers.

              Nobody’s really wrong here … yet. Susan is allowed to be performatively warm and to love receiving that from others, and LW is allowed to think Susan is a little much. Susan will inch over into being wrong if she starts brattily insisting LW is “being mean” by being basically polite but not fawning.

              1. Storm in a teacup*

                We had an office manager like this at an old workplace. Been there for years. A lot of people barely tolerated her in reality but there was a lot of performative stuff eg bringing her back special gifts from their holidays, special Christmas presents etc just to keep her on side so they could work well with her. It was frankly exhausting.

            2. Salymander*

              Yeah this is not OP’s problem. This is all on the performatively popular coworker. I don’t know why the manager didn’t just tell the coworker that it is ok for people to be polite and friendly at work without paying homage to her. The coworker sounds very irritating. How much work is she getting done in between sessions of holding court?

              1. Pennyworth*

                The manager might have said exactly that, it wasn’t divulged, just that OP was given a heads up about the complaint.

              2. Aunty Fox*

                yeah. I mean different people work differently and as someone who finds it really hard to focus in a room full of chat (oh how i detest large open plan offices) I can be a bit cool with co workers who encourage all day chat at their work station. Not that I don’t love a chat sometimes, just people like Susan rub me up the wrong way too because it’s distracting and an unwarranted social pressure at work. I think OP could just chalk this up to background nuisance and carry on as before.

        1. Autumnheart*

          Yeah, the phrase “paying court” immediately popped into my mind. Apparently it’s not enough to just enjoy a pleasant conversation now and then? Susan brought OP’s manager into this because OP wasn’t bringing gifts and demonstrating a sufficient amount of interest in Susan’s personal life? WTF.

          1. Lalitah*

            Your comment just made me think of “Susan” as Lady Catherine De Bourgh from Pride and Prejudice. LOL!

        2. Reluctant Mezzo*

          Is Susan a Gryffindor? Asking for a friend–seriously, this sounds like a student who is loved by all her teachers, except one, and wants to collect the entire set.

        3. Quickbeam*

          Yes. I just retired from a job where I had several colleagues whom I’d call “socially high maintenance”. We were expected to know the names of each grandkid, remember every birthday and anniversary…all of which were gifting occasions. It made me very uncomfortable. I don’t miss that environment at all.

      2. SheLooksFamiliar*

        ‘Which leads me to, she doesn’t need to be liked, she needs to feel important.’

        I thought the same thing. Telling Susan her grandkid is cute is one thing, and obeisance is another; Susan seems to prefer the latter.

      3. Artemesia*

        yeah. This. I really like Alison’s idea of speaking to her about it. This person sounds like an emotional vampire and she wants you to dance to her tune — it is partly a dominance game. It is not outrageous that she feels this way but it is horrifically outrageous that she would whine to the boss about it. That makes clear it is a dominance game. So rubbing her nose in it in a perfectly friendly, have I done something to offend you way is the right tack to take here. Make her own it and make clear that this is your style and you hope to have a strong WORK relationship going forward. I have had people in the workplace who are desperately needy like this — they create in me exactly the feeling that this woman has in the OP.

        1. OhNoYouDidn't*

          I agree. I had a boss, years ago when I was 20, at a restaurant who was poking fun at me and insulting, behind my back, at daily shift meetings with the servers. Someone brought it to my attention. I flat out asked him about it, saying that it had come to my attention that he is unhappy with my work, and that I want to do a good job so can he please let me know what is upsetting him so I can correct it? He looked shocked and flabbergasted. He brought up some lame thing that he thought I’d done (but hadn’t), and I never had another problem with him again. He actually thanked me for talking to him and said it showed “a lot of guts.” Actually a few months later, I was offered a promotion. Tactfully approaching this head on, non-defensively, placing the blame on yourself so you can “fix” it, can be very effective.

      4. EmmaPoet*

        The OP in that story continued to harass the coworker, who had to take out a restraining order, and so did one of OP’s family members. Think of being the person they fixated on to that point. Terrifying.

        1. This is a name, I guess*

          I just read that one for the first time. Yikes. Wild ride. That situation was unfortunate for both parties. OP was in a first job after university, where that kind of weird anxiety behavior would have been more normal (showing up to someone’s dorm unannounced has different social stakes than showing up to a coworker’s house). Clearly has mental illness. Probably has learned a very, very hard lesson that will probably haunt them for life. Also, the OP’s coworker had a challenging situation, as well. Bad all around. I feel for all of the,.

      5. Christmas Cactus*

        There was a Queen Bee type at my first job post college in a large company’s headquarters. The office was part of a large open floor with no dividers and for a while my desk was next to hers and we had to share a phone. (Yes, ancient times.) I had a lot going on in my life at the time and apparently rubbed her the wrong way when I didn’t become part of the gang she built around her. (I did not do the Happy Hours scene she delighted in.) She was loud, boisterous, and used people whenever she could. She had to be center of attention in everything. Her work was not up to par with the rest of us and I eventually got a promotion away from her. Something happened at a social event (never could find out what) and the gang abruptly stopped dealing with her. My boss was aware of the situation between her and me but strangely did not seem to be able to do more than acknowledge the difficulty to me . I learned just before my promotion that she was marrying the son of a senior VP. After I left, an in-law of mine who was the manager of the department next to mine confirmed that the managers knew she could not be touched without having to deal with her FIL and other senior management.

    2. Turanga Leela*

      I have a good relationship with my manager, and I can see asking her, “Do you know if I did something to irritate Lisa? She seems a little cool toward me.” I wouldn’t be asking her to intervene, just trying to find out if there was something going on.

      For whatever it’s worth, my immediate take on the letter was that LW might be coming across as unfriendlier than she realizes. But that’s really hard to know without being there.

      1. anonymous73*

        As someone with a raging case of RBF I’m sure people have thought I might be unfriendly before they got to know me. I’m a private person, and don’t open up until I get to know others well. But I treat people with respect and honestly if someone takes my monotone demeanor as unfriendly and problematic, that’s honestly their problem. Just because I’m not bubbly and over enthusiastic about other people’s personal lives, doesn’t mean I’ve done anything wrong or unprofessional. It’s the equivalent of men telling women they need to smile in public. Just because I’m not smiling doesn’t mean I’m in a bad mood or unfriendly. I just don’t fake my emotions to appease others.

        Unless OP is treating Susan in an unkind way, Susan needs to get over it.

        1. Cold Fish*

          I have a lot of social anxiety that leads to major quietness on my part (until I get to know you and even then I’m not a chit chat type of person). I am often amazed at the number of people who take offense to me quietly sitting/standing on the side lines and not paying them any attention. It’s not a matter of RBF or being unfriendly as I will often give people a smile and nod of acknowledgement. They are just seriously scared of silence and offended that I don’t automatically try to start up some random chit chat session with them.

          1. quill*

            I just stop making sense when I get anxious. Very convenient in a job where we have a lot of similar sounding technical terms, numbered procedures, and random mishmash of letters as batch codes…

        2. River Otter*

          Even if you have RBF, it is still reasonable for a coworker to approach your boss and find out what’s going on if they are concerned that they might have irritated you. Don’t blame your coworker for not reading your mind.

          1. anonymous73*

            No it’s really not. If my actions are not problematic, then assuming I feel a certain way because of my face is not okay.

            1. Jennie*

              Hard disagree. It’s very reasonable (more than just ‘okay’) to pay attention to nonverbal communication. And asking one’s boss ‘do you know if I did something’ is different from assuming.

        3. Ace in the Hole*

          “Unless OP is treating Susan in an unkind way, Susan needs to get over it.”

          Corollary: unless Susan is treating OP in an unkind way, OP needs to get over it.

          There’s nothing in the letter that indicates Susan has been in any way unkind, pushy, or manipulative towards the letter writer. She’s just been very nice, sociable, and friendly towards everyone in the office. We don’t know that she even “complained” to the boss – even assuming the boss is being 100% forthright, they could just as easily have been describing Susan asking for input on how to make things more comfortable for OP. This really doesn’t sound like Susan doing anything wrong. OP has already identified the issue (her own internal negative assumptions) – the only thing to do at this point is work on making more charitable assumptions about people’s motivations.

          1. anonymous73*

            OP needs to get over what exactly? If her actions are not problematic (according to her boss) then why did he even say anything to her? OP doesn’t like Susan and that’s okay. There’s nothing for her to “get over”.

          2. Salymander*

            It sounds like OP was fine with Susan up until they were blindsided by Susan’s complaints to the manager. OP thought everything was fine before that. We are not required to adore every person at work. Being polite and reasonably friendly is enough. OP would greet Susan, would ask after her grandkids and other basic chitchat. OP would interact about work matters politely and professionally, and without being cold or mean. That is plenty.

            Susan went to the manager and complained because OP is not spending lots of work time hanging out and chatting, isn’t bringing Susan gifts, and such. That is pretty unreasonable. It also seemed weird that the manager decided to mention it instead of telling Susan that she was expecting unreasonable things from a coworker.

            Not sure why you think that OP is the one who needs to get over it. OP isn’t the one complaining and expecting gifts and attention. OP just wants to do their job while being politely friendly with coworkers. That seems reasonable to me.

      2. MK*

        I mean, Susan is actually right that the OP doesn’t like her. Even if the OP is perfectly friendly, sometimes, some people can tell when someone despises them. Susan isn’t being delusional here.

        I do wish we knew what exactly she said to the boss. If she made an offhand remark , like your example. If she did in fact complain (and expected the boss to intervene?), then the OP should keep in mind that she has an unreasonable coworker.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          Yeah, although I sympathize with OP, it sounds like she has allowed herself to start seeing everything about Susan in the worst possible light – there’s a bit of disdain in this letter, almost contempt, and is hard to put your finger on but recognizable. I wonder if she is also unknowingly come across this way in person.

          1. Sue*

            That was my reaction as well. She actually can’t stand her but feels that she treats her well..but Susan has picked up on the dislike and is upset by it. Do we even know Susan made some kind of formal complaint? She may have the kind of relationship with the boss where it was mentioned that she didn’t think OP liked her or some innocuous comment and the boss took it upon themselves to talk to OP.
            I think OP is telegraphing her dislike in some way(s) and maybe that’s ok, but it doesn’t mean Susan is way out of line for feeling bad about it.

          2. Elle*

            I also noticed the contempt. I’ve had Susans before and viewing their actions as fake or motivated by a desire to be liked does nothing positive. Those may be her motivations but that pattern of thinking makes you miserable around her. I would really urge the letter writer to try and consider Susan to be acting genuinely, if only for their own sanity.

        2. Hannah*

          Something like this happened to me in an old job. I had a coworker who was junior to me and who I trained when she was new, and it didn’t take me long to reach BEC levels with her because she was obnoxious, unprofessional, had a bad attitude, was not great at her job but did not take feedback well, etc. I was civil to her but she eventually complained to her manager that she could tell I (and my own manager, who was her grandboss) didn’t like her and that she didn’t feel comfortable coming to us with work issues. I felt pretty bad about that because in all honestly I knew I hadn’t tried very hard to hide my contempt and even though I could not effing stand her I wanted to have at least a decent professional relationship with her.

          But that doesn’t sound to me like what’s happening here. It seems like OP goes out of her way to be friendly to Susan and even if some chilliness comes through, she is performing the social rituals of politeness to a high enough degree to satisfy any reasonable person (which Susan is not).

      3. Mme. Briet’s Antelope*

        I was sort of wondering what LW’s interactions with the rest of her colleagues are like, because even if she’s not coming across as unfriendlier than she realizes, it’s certainly possible that she *is* treating Susan differently, and in a way that’s noticeable.

        1. hbc*

          I suspect it’s along those lines–OP isn’t being cold, but she’s not being her warm-EST with Susan, and Susan can’t handle not being at least tied for first place in someone’s workplace affections.

        2. BethRA*

          It could also just be that while OP is treating Susan the same way OP treats everyone, she’s not treating SUSAN the way others treat her; Susan’s used to gushing, for example, and isn’t getting it.

          The whole thing is making my eye twitch.

          1. allathian*

            Both of mine. At work, I’d probably actively avoid people like Susan, fortunately I haven’t run across anyone like this in my career.

          2. Erica*

            Exactly. By nature, I do not gush over minor things or on command. Because I am female, some people choose to take this as a personal offense (men aren’t expected to do this kind of performative oohing and ahhing). It’s really not. I just save that level of emotion for, say, my wedding day or flying a plane for the first time as vs. a random coworker’s kid pictures.

            1. caramel*

              I have severe memory deficits and don’t remember stuff about the people I am closest to. I have no idea how Susan would cope with me because frankly, I wouldn’t remember anything about her life!

          3. Salymander*

            This.

            It is fine to be politely friendly with coworkers, and to thank them when they are helpful or compliment their work. It is pretty unreasonable to expect your coworkers to gush over how great you are, to hold court at your desk while they bring you gifts, and to complain when someone is less worshipful than you would like. We don’t have to like everyone. It is enough to be polite, professional, and reasonably friendly.

      4. BuildMeUp*

        Yeah, to be honest this was my instinctive read of the letter as well. I think it’s worth the LW asking a trusted coworker their opinion of how they come off or something, just to be safe.

      5. MsChanandlerBong*

        Based on LW’s uncharitable perception of their coworker, my first thought was that LW has been rude to or standoffish with her and that’s why she talked to the boss about it.

        1. PB Bunny Watson*

          I agree. I just don’t necessarily agree that the LW is the most reliable narrator. And what if the person really is lovely? Do we know she complained to the boss as opposed to mentioning it to see why LW might have an issue with her? A lot of assumptions being made. And if it was totally off-base, I don’t think the boss would’ve bothered mentioning it.

          1. Salymander*

            OP doesn’t seem to me like an unreliable narrator. OP seems to be bending over backwards to be understanding of Susan and to take some responsibility. The manager didn’t tell OP that they needed to change anything. Quite the opposite in fact. The manager was letting the OP know in case OP sensed and weirdness coming from Susan. I think many of the comments questioning OP’s assessment of their own situation are rather harsh.

    3. River Otter*

      When you are butting heads with a colleague, it is appropriate to approach a manager to talk through the situation and ask what you can do about it.

      1. Jora Malli*

        I don’t see anything in OP’s description that I would characterize as butting heads, though. This is someone treating their coworker with kindness and respect and the coworker insisting that’s not enough.

        1. River Otter*

          Well, apparently Susan does, and even if she is wrong, it is reasonable for her to discuss it with their manager.

    4. This is a name, I guess*

      The is the White Hat version of Sarah the University Employee from yesterday, who forced her manager to micromanage her peer. Both have unreasonable expectations of their coworkeers and asked their managers (also unreasonably) to intervene in unreasonable ways.

      1. Salymander*

        This is exactly what I was thinking. Susan and Sarah both have unreasonable expectations and get upset and call the manager when other people do not intuitively figure out what their expectations are and comply with them.

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I’m late to this thread, but have been thinking about Susan on and off all day. I’m getting a weird vibe. From OP’s description, Susan does sound lovely, but then several things are being mentioned that don’t fit into the overall picture:

      1) gifts. Is she expecting them? Is OP in trouble with Susan because OP isn’t giving gifts? As someone who spent several years in the 2010s living on a tight budget, the expectation that I’d be giving regular gifts to a coworker would annoy me to no end.
      2) OP’s totally professionally warm and cordial behavior is being described by Susan as “butting heads”. Wha?
      3) Like you said, she *went to their manager* over it. Nothing short of massive workplace sabotage or overt harassment would make me go to a manager with a complaint about a coworker, and I’m not nearly as sweet and social as Susan makes herself out to be! Something does not add up. I’d give Susan a wide berth if I were her teammate.

  2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    I think your boss did you a favor by giving you a heads up, OP.
    You were not a big fan of this person. Something about her rubbed you the wrong way. Maybe the gift giving (ugh) maybe the “fawning” (which is a clear choice of words). That was your gut telling you to stay at arm’s length. And now she has gone to your boss and complained about you.
    So your gut was right. This person is someone to keep at arm’s length. She wants the people to treat her X way. Maybe it’s quirky, maybe it’s downright malicious, or somewhere in between.
    So back to the favor part. He wasn’t reprimanding you. He was confirming that this weird coworker noted that you are not getting in line with her weirdness and he thinks it’s fine.

    1. Calm Water*

      Totally agree. Given managers reaction it sounds like this may not be the first time this has happened. Also, manager is proactively managing!

    2. OhNo*

      Agreed. In this case, you can take your cues from the manager. He said outright that it’s not a problem, he just wanted you to be aware, so you can safely assume that there is nothing you need to do about it right now. If you respect your manager’s judgement overall, try and respect his take on this situation too.

      If the thought of doing nothing about it at all makes you a little anxious (it would to me, because I’m Like That), and you trust your manager, you can ask him to let you know if the situation changes. Any statement that lets him know that you heard the feedback, you’re open to more, but you’re waiting on it before you make changes would work just fine for that.

    3. Cold Fish*

      Given the time of year and the way OP described Susan gave me flashbacks to elementary school. I was never a very popular kid and hated, still hate to be honest, Valentines Day. Remember when all the kids brought in valentines for everyone in the class. There was always that group of popular girls that would bring in extra special valentines for their friends and make a big deal out of giving them to each other. Always made me feel a little shi!ty and looking back as an adult I realize it was because it made me feel excluded and unwelcome as another girl in the class. The girls were, for the most part, genuinely nice girls, I just wasn’t part of their click. I get the impression Susan was a part of that popular girls group.

    4. socks*

      I don’t actually think this proves OP’s gut was right! We don’t know exactly what this person said to the boss, except that she at least mentioned feeling like OP had a problem with her. There are lots of perfectly professional ways to do that, and even more mildly-unprofessional-but-not-terrible ways to do that.

      Could this be a case of “coworker is pathologically obsessed with being liked and whined to the boss that OP isn’t her BFF”? Sure. But it could just as easily be “OP is acting contemptuous even though they think they’re hiding it, so coworker asked boss if she upset OP, and boss took it upon themselves to tell OP about it.” Or a million other things in between.

      1. ferrina*

        Agree. Something about the boss is giving me pause. Like- saying that OP and Susan were “butting heads” but then saying “Susan is almost neurotic in her need to be liked”. Which is it? Is it that there was a conflict or was Susan complaining about nothing?

        Boss seems to be asking for drama.

      2. Susie Q*

        Agreed. By all accounts, OP is the only one who doesn’t like the coworker. She seems like a super nice outgoing person. For all we know she said to the boss “Did I do something to upset OP” and boss bangled the translation.

        Also people aren’t great at hiding their true feelings either. Most people can tell if you don’t like them.

        1. Anonymous4*

          I dunno. I’d be a little dubious about someone who clearly requires compliments and goodies from her coworkers, even before her boss describes her as as “almost neurotic in her need to be liked.”

          Someone who’s genuinely kind and friendly? Great! Someone who elicits little gifts, writes “thinking of you” notes to coworkers, and collects an admiring circle at her desk? Not so much.

          But if that’s what she likes, that’s what she likes, and even though the little-gifts-and-adulation stuff isn’t my cup of tea, I’d figure it wasn’t my problem — until I learned she went to the boss about it. And the boss is shaking his head over it.

            1. FormerLibrarian*

              I’m pleased to see that not everyone is willing to assume this coworker is the one at fault. She seems perfectly kind and pleasant. OP’s dislike comes off as incredibly petty. Heaven forbid this woman ask people about their lives and have close work relationships! I think it’s at least worth considering that OP just isn’t as subtle in their dislike as they claim.

              1. Working Hypothesis*

                Okay, what if OP *isn’t* as subtle about her dislike as she thinks she is? So long as she is maintaining a professional degree of cordiality, she is allowed to dislike a coworker. She is even allowed to be “caught” at disliking a coworker!!

                The part which drives me nuts about Susan is that simply happening to dislike her — even taking her at her word that LW was disliking her and she could tell it — is so utterly unacceptable to her that she COMPLAINED TO THE BOSS about anyone who dared to dislike her!!! That’s outrageous all by itself. She could genuinely be otherwise exactly the fantastic person all these folks seem to think she is (although I’m not positive they haven’t been trained into performing thinking she is, instead)… but LW or anybody else *still has the right to dislike her.*

                It is not okay to try and get somebody in trouble for doing something they have every right to do, whether you happen to like it or not.

                1. Jennie*

                  But this is what we’re saying–we don’t know that she ‘tried to get [OP] in trouble’! We just know that she said something to the boss. And several commenters (not sure about OP) are assuming it was maliciously intended.

                2. Mannequin*

                  Exactly THIS.

                  I’m ASD and an introvert, and no matter how genuinely nice a “Susan” I worked with was, I would find all the performative niceness horrifying.

                  I grew up with a family full of wonderful, kind, compassionate people- my mother was the most loving & giving person I’ve EVER met, bar NONE. Nobody in my family needed or required adulation, or to be liked, nor would they ever complain if someone politely disliked them.

                  In my personal experience, most people who require public acknowledgement of how nice they are, aren’t actually all that nice at the core.

              2. Mannequin*

                How does not liking someone for an aspect of their personality that LW finds grating mean she is “petty”? Are people only allowed to dislike those who are villains/truly bad people?

                There are a LOT of us who see this kind of “performative niceness” as being fake/phony, and

            2. Anonymous4*

              Susan certainly receives them from all the other workers except LW, and who did she complain about to the boss?

              The boss assured LW that she wasn’t rude or inappropriate — “[t]he problem, according to him, is that Susan is almost neurotic in her need to be liked, and she isn’t getting the reaction she wants from [LW].”

              You don’t think that the boss’s statement is reliable evidence?

              1. notLW*

                Reading this:

                > The boss assured LW that she wasn’t rude or inappropriate — “[t]he problem, according to him, is that Susan is almost neurotic in her need to be liked, and she isn’t getting the reaction she wants from [LW].”

                In isolation like that really makes me question the boss’ judgment in a way I kind of skimmed past the first time – seriously, why would you describe a team member that way to their peer? What kind of culture is the boss trying to promote on their team, where is their judgment at?

          1. Happy Lurker*

            I feel like I spent a lot of time in my professional life trying to get along harmoniously with everyone in the office, only to have the office drama queen take exception. I never know what the heck I did, but I always piss them off.
            I suspect it would be because I would always be pleasant, but wouldn’t play into the gift giving or party at Susan’s desk game. Because, you know, I had work to do and I wanted to do it and go home. Not stay late because I spent the afternoon sucking up to the drama queen.
            The turning point was that DQ would go to a boss and either flat out make stuff up or spin stuff crazy. I would generally get the short end of the stick (more work, speaking to, etc depending on the work place).
            Alternatively, I had a couple places that the boss protected me. Without them I would have spent my whole life thinking every single place had a drama queen/ mean girls clique that was inescapable.
            No advice OP/Ann4 but plenty of empathy. It seems like your boss has your back. I hope that continues to be the case.

  3. Spicy Tuna*

    Years ago, I worked in an office where I was the odd woman out on nearly every experience or background that the rest of the office shared with each other. I had nothing in common at all with my co-workers and did not socialize with them outside of work, but at work, I was professional and polite. Regardless, people complained about me to my boss, my grandboss and my great grandboss ALL THE TIME about the most petty of issues. For example, one woman filed a formal complaint that she didn’t like the way I put files on her desk. Another time, on casual Friday, someone complained that I was wearing a knee-length denim skirt instead of actual denim jeans. It was completely ridiculous. As soon as I finished my graduate degree, I left that workplace!

      1. Cj*

        Those type of things, economic background, and all kinds of other differences might make it hard to get in on the inside jokes, make actual friendships, etc. But a formal complaint because she didn’t like them way put files were put on her desk? And the casual day thing? The place was apparently full of bees. Are assholes, actually.

    1. Kim*

      Dear Spicy Tuna , My daughter is going through exactly the same at work. She has been there since Sept.1. How long were you there and how did your manager handle the ridiculous complaints? How did you handle it until you were able to leave ? My daughter would leave in a heartbeat but the salary and benefits are top of the industry and leaving would mean a severe pay cut. She is single and just bought a house so this would be a hardship .I have never had issues at work like this and don’t know how to advise her .

      1. Siege*

        The answer depends on professional consequences. I can put up with being the target of a pot-stirring campaign with new coworkers and the various ways I’m disincluded in my workplace as long as the actual professional consequence is periodic feedback from my boss that I can’t say no to coworker requests (which in the latest convo she acknowledged I don’t do) or attacking phone calls where it takes an hour to get her to see that the “feedback” she’s giving is pointlessly inaccurate because the provoking event didn’t happen that way. There are no formal or informal consequences (ie, a PIP or reassignment of job duties) and my job is not at risk.

        But my boss is not a good manager, I’m unionized, and I have one department who sees through the BS and is solidly friendly beyond collegial norms. I also have a robust external support network composed of about a third of my family, friends, a social organization I’m a member of, and multiple meetups (currently I am in meetups at least twice a week). So that makes the Mean-Girls nonsense easier to put up with for my top-flight benefits and high-okay (it’s high for non-profits and low for the public and private sectors) salary.

        A lot of the response would depend on how much your daughter relies on the workplace for socialization and whether her boss would, for example, try to manage her out over a whisper campaign. Having a strong support network (and being old enough I just don’t care to be friends with everyone I work with anymore) is pretty crucial.

      2. River Otter*

        A great place to ask this question is in the Friday open thread! Those threads are very popular and get a lot of people reading them. You will get more people reading it and more replies if you post earlier in the day.

      3. Critical Rolls*

        Siege is right that considering professional consequences has to come first. With that said…

        I would say she needs to have a feel for her boss (and potentially HR) before she can decide what support to expect. I hope her coworkers aren’t sinking to the patently ridiculous level described by Spicy Tuna, but if they are the behavior begins to edge into harassment territory. The coworkers would hopefully be told that non-substantive complaints will not be entertained, and the manager would, well, manage!

        Within herself, the best thing she can do is sincerely not care. Really internalize that people are being ridiculous and their work-irrelevant opinions don’t matter. I’ve seen it suggested to treat the workplace at an anthropological remove – “What strange customs are the members of this peculiar social group engaged in today?” It’s easier to continue to be polite and professional if you can frame this stuff as head-shaking foibles that don’t affect you particularly.

      4. Spicy Tuna*

        Ugh, Kim, I had a whole long reply to you and then the website ate it! To make a long story short, I stayed at that job for 4 long, horrible years because they offered partial tuition reimbursement and I was getting my Master’s, which then enabled me to get a better job.

        In my case, my grand boss and great grand boss had my back, so any “reprimands” I received were along the lines of “Hey, just letting you know people don’t like you; we do not see you as a problem and don’t care”. So while I don’t think I would have had a good career trajectory had I stayed, it’s not like I was in danger of being fired.

        Good luck to your daughter!

    2. Ergo DNA*

      I have worked in a similar environment. In my experience this type of work environment develops when a manager cannot manage. For me, the manager was very concerned with being friends with her direct reports, rather than building a professional, competent team. Needless to say, the department would quickly lose the high achievers but never had a shortage of underachievers who were very cliquish.

    3. soontoberetired*

      I have had been the odd man out in my office. Because I am not married, and don’t have kids. I have nieces and nephews but that didn’t count for the women I worked with. The interesting thing is I am still with the company, and many of them are not. I made different work friends outside of my group, and have never excluded anyone. I am also well respected in my job, and the fact that they all know I am thinking of retirement scares them. I got the last laugh.

    4. Bad Memories*

      Oof. My situation didn’t rise to the level of these silly ‘complaints’ but I’ll never forget when I did one of those personality test things at work and they asked us to stand in our ‘quadrant.’ Literally every other employee on the team (about 5 or 6) stood in one quadrant while I was the one person on the OPPOSITE corner. That whole dept had very weird cult-y vibes (they took GREAT PRIDE in being a high-functioning team and often offered ‘advice’ or ‘help’ to other teams on how they could be as high-functioning as they are. Even things like ‘here’s how we run our department meetings so they’re FUN and IMPACTFUL’). I don’t think they ever figured out that everyone else was rolling their eyes at them the whole time.

      1. Lurker variable*

        This is a perfect example of why I hate, and now refuse to participate in, those faux “personality” assessments that are so popular in the corporate world. Not only are they not based on empirical evidence but the artificial categorization is harmful and too often used against people. I’m sorry that happened to you!

  4. Rainy*

    This is a super interesting one. I sympathize with the LW–I think I would find this a bit much myself, and would certainly decline to participate. I think I’d be really curious as to whether everyone else in the office is like this with everyone or just with Susan. If they’re just fawning over Susan and every other relationship seems more normally expressed, I’d definitely just write this off as a Susan problem.

    One thing I think the LW could do is if this is partially driven by social media especially the baby pictures etc–if everyone is up in everyone else’s social media business–maybe quietly just…mute Susan everywhere. And eventually unfollow her and force unfollow if that’s possible so that she doesn’t see that she’s blocked but she’s no longer following you. If someone asks, say casually that you’re stepping back from social media for a while to focus on something else, as you found it distracting to your budding snail photography hobby or something.

    1. Rainy*

      (And for the record, I think Susan is so extra she should be advertising chewing gum. She expects you to bring baby booties that match dresses her granddaughter is photographed in? She expects small gifts on the reg? Uh, no, this is a place of employment, not a particularly dysfunctional Roman imperial court.)

      1. parsley*

        The gifts really set alarm bells going for me. I can’t think of a single instance where I’ve felt compelled to bring a coworker a gift just because. I’ve organised birthday and Christmas gifts, but anything else just feels excessive and frankly inappropriately personal for a work environment.

        1. Jamie Starr*

          Eh, it depends, I think. I am a huge fan of a specific musician and one time a co-worker brought me a magnet they bought while visiting the musician’s hometown. Just because.

          1. Cj*

            I once picked up a DVD of a slightly obscure blues band that I knew a co-worker also liked. The place had a buy one get one free deal going, so I picked one up for her too, and it only cost me like five bucks.

            This was pre Amazon, so she wouldn’t have been able to order it easily herself. As in your case, it was one coworker buying her one gift one time. What the OP is talking about is going way beyond that.

            1. Cj*

              In case it’s not clear, I’m agreeing with you, Jamie, and disagreeing that it is always inappropriate. In both our situations, it was a gift that reminded us specifically of that person.

              But it does sound like it is inappropriate in the OPs situation if it has happened several times, and also if it’s stuff like baby booties and picture frames, especially for a grandma, and other grandmas aren’t getting gifts like this. Or if parents get such gifts but only at a baby shower, and not randomly.

              1. Jamie Starr*

                I understood your comment. Mine was specifically in response to parsley’s statement, “I can’t think of a single instance where I’ve felt compelled to bring a coworker a gift just because.”

            2. Cj*

              In case it’s not clear, Jamie, I’m agreeing with you, and disagreeing that it is always inappropriate. In both our situations, it was a gift that reminded us specifically of that person.

              But it does sound like it is inappropriate in the OPs situation if it has happened several times, and also if it’s stuff like baby booties and picture frames, especially for a grandma, and other grandmas aren’t getting gifts like this. Or if parents get such gifts but only at a baby shower, and not randomly.

            3. anne of mean gables*

              Yeah, there’s one-off “I saw this and it REALLY made me think of you!” colleague gifts, and then there’s…this. This sounds like Susan expects absolute fealty, expressed through regular generic gifts.

              1. allathian*

                Yeah, exactly. This sort of behavior would be exhausting socially, but at work it’s really inappropriate.

        2. Momma Bear*

          I had a coworker bring me a small token from a trip but it’s definitely not routine or expected. This kind of constant attention seeking would grate on me as well. I think OP is probably fine and it’s one of those things where not everyone will adore you and Susan needs to realize that. A lot of people see work as work and not social hour. I had a very tight-lipped coworker at an old job. We had no idea if he had a partner, liked dogs, nothing. But he did his job well and talked about the project at hand so we all just got used to it.

          Since the boss isn’t concerned, I’d just keep on keeping on, OP. You sound plenty friendly to me.

        3. Yorick*

          I’ve given my coworker, like, a sticker or something. But never one of these more substantial gifts. I can imagine a picture frame, I guess? But probably not for a random pic of their grandkid.

        4. Daisy-dog*

          I wonder if LW wrote gifts as a bit of a catch-all for any kinds of things that are given. For instance, it might include a new type of tea or snack foods. Maybe a book that someone finished and wanted to pass on. Something a family member gifted that they aren’t interested in. Something that comes in a multi-pack and they don’t need all of them (metal straws or notepads). These are examples of things that I have seen gifted at the office in the past.

        5. Asenath*

          I’ve known people, including former co-workers, who do the “little gifts” thing. I’m sure that in most cases it’s just part of their personalities and the way they communicate. I don’t do “little gifts”, and I never seemed to get any backlash when I didn’t participate – even when I received an unsolicited gift, I just thanked the giver politely and put the item on my desk (or brought it home and disposed of it discreetly). It usually didn’t happen more than once, and I wouldn’t worry if some of the office people were exchanging little gifts, not even something for the grandchild or a desk ornament like a frame. I’d put it down to different personality types. But bringingup me being unfriendly to the boss, if I’d been doing my best to be polite? That would worry and upset me.

      2. MK*

        Not booties, baby shoes. Which is not a small gift except in size, those things are ludicrously expensive.

        1. code red*

          Not necessarily. They could have found them on sale or at a second-hand store for super cheap. The second-hand store locally has sales where you can get basically new baby/toddler shoes for $1.

          1. merry*

            in my experience (which obviously isn’t everyone’s) you don’t give second-hand gifts, particularly not at work. Now I am very much an upper middle class white girl, so I am fully willing to believe there are other people with different ideas about acceptability.

            And to be clear, I think second-hand stuff should be gift-able. I think we need more items that are constructed for longevity, that get passed around as needed. Reducing consumption overall is a good thing. I would love it if previously-owned stuff got the respect it ought to be due.

            But…Susan also doesn’t sound like someone for whom second-hand baby shoes would be considered a gift (more like an insult), if she cannot handle the LW’s lack of enthusiasm.

            1. code red*

              I’m not sure where you work, but I’ve been gifted second-hand stuff by coworkers before and have seen other people receive second-hand items at work. No one’s ever found it unacceptable. My coworker gave me all of her daughter’s clothes when I was pregnant with a girl and I was very grateful and can’t imagine turning my nose up because it wasn’t brand new. People are hung up on these shoes thinking someone spent a bunch of money on brand new baby shoes specifically for their coworker, but it could just be a simple thing like “my kid was gifted these and never wore them, maybe your granddaughter would like them”.

              1. Gothic Bee*

                I agree with you. Maybe it is a regional/class thing but in my experience, unless it’s for a specific party like a baby shower, most baby items get passed around/given second-hand. I mean baby items nearly never get worn out before the baby outgrows them and there’s always someone who needs them, so at least around here it’s really common for people to pass baby items on where they can.

                It’s something I can especially see happening if you get into a conversation with someone about something and are reminded, oh I have some old baby shoes that would match that dress or I have a frame that I don’t need that would fit that photo and since you don’t need the thing anymore you offer it to Susan who could make use of it.

              2. Louise B*

                Also what is unacceptably too much to one person is not to another- my mother hand knits baby hats and such to give to people because knitting little baby hats is fun. Sometimes she makes them and donates them, sometimes she makes them and takes them apart and makes something else, but a lot of times she knits them and gives them to people with kids, or nieces and nephews, or grandchildren. But if we got a letter here “my coworkers wife knit a baby hat for the admin’s daughter” there’d be 300 comments on how inappropriate that is for the workplace.

                I think Susan sounds like a lovely person, though one I wouldn’t particularly care for either. I just don’t share her vibe. And it’s fine.

      3. Guin*

        I would be uncomfortable if anyone brought a present for my grandson to the office. That’s really weird! Like, my daughter had a shower, you know? Why would a random co-worker bring *me* a baby present? It would create a disturbing sense of obligation.

        1. This Old House*

          This part just doesn’t seem that off to me. Presumably it’s not a “random coworker” – it’s a “work friend.” My mom definitely got gifts from coworkers when my kids were little. Come to think of it, the ones I can remember were mostly from one coworker, either because she and my mom were closest or because – someone mentioned this below – people who like knitting will take any excuse! But she also went out and bought him a toy after she had a cute interaction with him at their office one day. (We were patients at their medical office, so they saw him in person very occasionally.) I never thought twice about it. (Certainly didn’t expect it, and I’m sure that neither did my mom, but wasn’t weirded out by it.) In my experience, some people just love giving gifts to babies. This might be especially pronounced among people who are grandparent-aged but don’t have grandchildren.

          1. Willis*

            This. Especially if these gifts are from other grandparent-aged people, with or without their own grandchildren, who have worked together for awhile. I’ve seen this big time with my parents and their friends as my sister has had kids. They just legitimately seem to enjoy seeing one other enjoy becoming grandparents. Not everything is cloaked in ulterior motives or fakeness.

      4. Anna*

        Where in the letter does it say Susan EXPECTS gifts – ie. the baby booties that matched the dress her granddaughter was photographed in? Or that she expects small gifts regularly? That’s a very strange and unfair assumption.

        It sounds like the OP’s problem with Susan is that she is overly nice, which OP perceives as sucking up. Which I can see being annoying and coming off as insincere, absolutely. But this strange caricature of a cult leader you have come up with is over the top and not based in any reality I see from the letter.

          1. eisa*

            I will come out and say that the description of Susan sounds quite cult leader-y to me, personally.
            but however that may be, “extra” covers it pretty well (did not get the reference about chewing gum, though, is it a brand name or something from an ad ?)

            1. Rainy*

              Oh, yeah–it’s a brand of chewing gum in the US! Extra brand sugar-free gum. :) I remember a lot of very bright, saturated commercials with super enthusiastic people dancing and singing “extra extra extra” which sounds…er…appropriate to the situation. :D

            2. Rainy*

              Oh, and also…I actually did grow up in a religious cult so I may have higher standards for “cult leader-y” than other people. :)

              It’s possible that Susan is a perfectly nice person that everyone wants to do all this stuff for, and there are no expectations on her part and she’s one of those people who go through life being showered with gifts and attention just because, but I actually find that unlikely because Susan complained to the boss that the LW doesn’t do that stuff. I’ve met one or two of those actual archetypal Disney princess type folks in my life, and they’re usually sweet, kind, and gracious–and would never complain that someone’s not fawning on them enough!

      5. eisa*

        Yeah, Susan sounds like a holy terror. I would be in a straightjacket within a month if I had to witness all this.

        Not keen on the fawning colleagues either tbh … but I’ve seen it happen … there are people who will just cave in to whoever is the Roman emperor in question, or “go along to get along”.
        Don’t have anything to offer to the LW except my sympathy, really.

        What I’m wondering, where is management in all this ? (N-1) people involved in court rituals for what seems to be not inconsiderable amounts of ‘work’ time (where N is everybody and 1 is the LW) does add up, right ?

    2. Cmdrshpard*

      I also had this question ” I think I’d be really curious as to whether everyone else in the office is like this with everyone or just with Susan.” It could be that this is just a much friendlier office than OP wants but everyone else is more reasonable than Susan.

      But the shoe/booties/gift part I wonder if that is is really a regular occurrence or if it is more of a one/two off between coworkers who have known each other longer/better and OP is reading into it more negativity because they already don’t like Susan. It is clear OP is trying to be civil/professional with Susan, but I wonder if some dislike of Sudan still seeps through.

      Overall I do think Susan was out of line going to the boss, but I can understand Susan being upset if Susan feels OP does not like her even though she was always been super nice and friendly.

      1. Cj*

        You are allowed to not like your coworkers. You are only required to be professional and at least reasonably polite, and it sounds like the OP is going quite a bit above that standard.

        1. Liz*

          Exactly! I have a few co-workers I don’t really care for personally. I don’t work directly with them often, but when I do, I am cordial and professional, but not over the top like the OP describes her other co-workers being.

        2. Loulou*

          You’re allowed to not like your coworkers, but they’re not supposed to be able to tell you dislike them! That said, I agree that it sounds like OP is behaving professionally and appropriately based on their own boss’s assessment.

        3. Cmdrshpard*

          I agree “You are allowed to not like your coworkers.”
          But it seems OP actively dislikes Susan, instead of just not liking her, it does seem OP is trying to be “professional and at least reasonably polite.” But I wonder if the active dislike for Susan still seeps through even though OP is really trying. Most of the behaviors OP described don’t really seem bad, “suck up…or fabricated”

          I also think it is understandable for Susan to wonder/be upset “I have been nothing but nice/helpful to OP and she dislikes me I wonder what is going on.”

          I do think it is mostly a Susan issue, but it could be slightly an OP issue. Like 95/98% Susan issue and 2/5% OP issue.

          My main suggestion is that OP does not have to like her or interact the same way everyone else does but should try to be a little more cognizant of her interactions for any extra dislike seepage.

          1. Squeakrad*

            I would be really curious as to what kind of a letter Susan would write. I was in a very similar situation years ago where everyone was very friendly and exchanged gifts and hung out without me, and I have to say at the time I thought my responses were professional. But looking back I can see that I didn’t really make much of an effort to be included Or even to be interested in the other employees. The main reason for that was that they all shared a religion I did not share, which I did not know when I was hired. As the company expanded it became less of an issue as there were more people of different races and face.

      2. eisa*

        “I am upset because I feel my colleague does not like me” vs “This one colleague, while acting friendly and interested to an amount that would be average or above average in every normal office, does not offer me adulation and gifts to the extent I consider my due, so I will try to get her in trouble with the boss”.

        LW is allowed to dislike Susan (and Jessica, and Wakeen, ..) Susan, Jessica and Wakeen are allowed to dislike LW. As long as everybody maintains polite manners and cooperates, this is not something that requires the attention of a manager.

    3. MakingMistakes*

      “I think I’d be really curious as to whether everyone else in the office is like this with everyone or just with Susan. If they’re just fawning over Susan and every other relationship seems more normally expressed,”

      This is an interesting question, is it an office with a lot of close/friendly comraderies where they do this for each other too and OP is the odd one out entirely? Or does OP have closeness with everyone in the office but Susan?
      It all sounds a bit much to me, but I have also been in a situation where everyone in the office went over-the-top for each other for birthdays etc. Until we hired this one woman who was perfectly lovely, if perhaps a bit too keen on exaggerating her personal life (but who cares about that in the office?). Unfortunately, one other person in the office decided they didn’t like this woman and would happily participate in the existing office camaraderie with everyone except her.
      It was really, really awkward.
      I’m not saying this is OPs situation, but I am very curious to know more about how their office functions on a social level.

      1. LW/OP*

        I would say I relate better to many of my colleagues than to Susan due to past experiences in this field, so I can have a different level of conversation when they come in with a problem or have had a grueling day. My job also requires I interact with them more than with her. So, while it isn’t a conscious decision, I am certain the levels of interaction are very different!

    4. LW/OP*

      Generally, it seems to happen just with Susan. The folx here are generally very nice – they stop by to chat and to joke around. With the rest of us, they generally come over when they need to update us or have a question or concern – and, being friendly people, they stay a few minutes to chat. With Susan, however, they seem to go to her desk to socialize first – often, it seems more that they just want to acknowledge her than because they need something from her.

      As far as social media goes, that’s very excellent advice! Except then what would I say to make small-talk when we’re sitting in a meeting room together waiting for the rest of the team? LOL Defaulting to cute pictures is my go-to when I have nothing else, because I can honestly say her grand baby is really cute!

      1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

        “How is your grandbaby doing? I’ve been cutting back on my social media to focus on other parts of my life, but one of the things I do miss is pictures of that adorable child.” Susan gets out her phone and wastes 10 minutes of meeting time finding and displaying the latest photos, feels loved and adored, etc. Or, you know, you could skip it and say “How about that weather/that sportsball team/those crocuses out front/the traffic today?”

  5. Edianter*

    Good god she sounds EXHAUSTING.

    Somewhat tangential, but this sort of behavior (and not officially-required-but-still-required excitement about birthdays, shared baked goods, family updates, etc. are the reasons I’m now actively searching for a 100% remote role). I can’t stand this stuff!

    1. Khatul Madame*

      There can be camaraderie in the office without veering into performative togetherness or rowdy bro-hood (which is a polar opposite of what LW describes, but is just as unpleasant).
      In prior jobs I experienced this great team spirit and now, in a 100% remote role, I am nostalgic about it.

      1. Loulou*

        Yup, I agree. But some people, for all sorts of reasons, just HATE any optional socializing at work and honestly, I’m glad for them and the rest of us that it’s now more possible for them to find workplaces where they don’t need to interact with coworkers. Just like they need to understand that many of us actually like talking to our coworkers and are not pretending, I try to remember that some people have a radically lower tolerance.

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      Seriously. I’m older than most of my coworkers, I do not have kids, and I don’t follow sports. In most offices I have very little in common with people.

      After many years of trying to find inexpensive tchotchkes for holiday gifts, I finally found that gifts of homemade jam with the person being able to pick among three flavors just worked. It was personal, inexpensive, and delicious. Even if they never ate jam, they knew someone who did.

      But this isn’t year round.

      I find it really weird that people give Susan little gifts and fawn over her. I would probably end up in the LWs position of just not caring for Susan, and being purely professional around her. (I tend to have a distaste for highly popular people, probably because I’m not, and always ended up on the short end of the stick when they were around.)

  6. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP, your office sounds weird to me. Buying shoes for a coworkers granddaughter?

    You didn’t mention anything about the tenure of Susan and your coworkers. Have they all been there for decades, or were they friends before they started working together? Because that might contribute to this environment.

    1. EPLawyer*

      that was really off to me as well. I mean its one thing to comment on a picture of a grandchild. Even ask about the dress/whatever. But then to show up with a gift, just because … they saw a picture of the kid. I mean not even a milestone like a christening or a birthday it sounds like. But just a gift.

      There is something very weird about people’s interactions with Susan. the fact she decided to COMPLAIN TO YOUR BOSS you weren’t in on all the adulation makes me think this is a Susan problem that everyone just goes along with to keep the peace.

      Not everyone in an office is going to like everyone at the same level. As long as everyone is treated in a professional manner that doesn’t matter.

      1. Zelda*

        I mean, I am a knitter. I have been known to blatantly use other people’s babies as an excuse to knit something I felt like knitting, but currently have no actual use for. If the other people happen to like the precious wee lace socks that they have received, that’s a side benefit.

        But that Susan seems to be *expecting* gifts, and is *upset* when she doesn’t receive them…. All The Nope.

        1. EPLawyer*

          This. Its a choice you are making and an excuse to do something you would be otherwise doing.

          Like the musician magnet above. Sometimes something triggers a spontaneous gift. But this seems weird to suddenly bring in booties just because you saw a picture of the grandbaby.

          1. Loulou*

            “just because they saw a picture of the baby” is a pretty ridiculous way to frame that!

    2. Anonym*

      The gift giving is really odd to me. It is… not my love language. Unless you’re my partner or immediate family, please don’t, and I certainly won’t.

      Also, it sounds like the whole team is way out of balance! Everyone showers Susan with attention and in depth praise and gifts, but what about everyone else? Even if all concerned were happy, this all being pointed at one person sounds really unhealthy. I want to be in a friendly environment, sure, but it’s more important that it be balanced and healthy.

        1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

          But that’s still a 1-to-many relationship. Other people aren’t showering each other with gifts and attention; it sounds like it all flows uphill to Susan, and then back downhill again.

          1. 1LFTW*

            > It all flows uphill to Susan, and then back down again.

            YES. This is key!

            I worked with someone like this. She did favors unasked, bent rules on behalf of her favorites (also unasked), and generally went about cultivating adoration. In general, the workplace wasn’t one where people did huge personal favors for one another: except Coworker for her favorites, and her favorites for her.

            Turned out she was… misallocating… some rather expensive supplies and equipment. Her personal economy of favors swerved as an excellent distraction.

      1. Hepzibutt Smith*

        I’m a little bit surprised other people are so surprised by the gift giving! I’ve both given and received gifts at work—almost always small and inexpensive, and an explicit reference to an earlier joke or conversation. Things like picking up a Darth Vader mask at Goodwill and surprising a coworker who had casually mentioned that her young son had broken his over the weekend and was heart-broken about it. (Like, not that I went to Goodwill shopping for my coworker, but happening to see it there when we’d just had that conversation—I couldn’t resist!) Another coworker once bought me a deeply silly mermaid blanket because my love of mermaids had become an office joke. I could think of more examples, scattered over the years—gifts are easy to make problematic for a number of reasons, but I don’t think they’re an inherent red flag between peers.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yeah, I have, too. I’ve given things to coworkers I’m close to, and. And once a coworker at Exjob regifted me a gorgeous pashmina she was never going to use. But this seems over the top. To complain that OP isn’t participating in this workplace culture and framing it as “She doesn’t like me,” which sounds totally middle school, is just bizarre.

        2. Ellen N.*

          I don’t see a problem with gift giving between coworkers who enjoy the practice.

          The problem is that people who want to opt out are often judged. I am something of a minimalist; I dislike clutter for environmental and esthetic reasons. I also hate shopping. When I worked in an office I was criticized, mocked and even pranked for declining to participate in gift exchanges.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Yes. Thank you. It’s the judgment, I think, or the perception of being judged, that’s ruffling my feathers.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Ok, gift giving IS my love language, and this is still bananapants.

        1. Librarian beyond the Shelves We Know*

          Same here. And if I am close enough to want to gift someone something, I usually give or send it to them anyway.

          I’d be so irked if someone expected me to fawn over them or bring things for their family members.

    3. MistOrMister*

      I find myself wondering are these gifts going both ways? Because if everything is going from coworkers to Susan,but nothing from Susan to coworkers that makes the situation even more bizarre. Although, buying baby shoes to match a dress you see in a photo on someone’s desk is already bonkers.

    4. Doug Judy*

      It might not be that weird. Maybe the coworker had some shoes laying around for whatever reason and thought they would fit Susan’s granddaughter. I’ve done similarish things if I have something I no longer want and know my coworker could use.

      Or as you said maybe they’ve worked together for a really long time and are genuine friends.

      1. Yorick*

        I didn’t think of them giving away their baby things. That’s super common and way less problematic.

        1. Loulou*

          Yeah, agreed. I’ve given coworkers things I had around the house and can’t imagine someone reasonable objecting to that. (I also think it’s totally normal to give a coworker a gift for their new grandchild, though I couldn’t tell if that’s what was being described)

    5. Evelyn Carnahan*

      I’m just wondering if Susan and the other coworker are particularly close friends. I have had several jobs where I become immediate and very good friends with a coworker, and we would bring each other things and have the kind of relationship that LW described. Is Susan like this with everyone in the office, or just a few coworkers?

    6. Penny*

      The gift giving seems weird to me. My mother has given new baby gifts to co-workers/friends who’s children have had babies, like a simple outfit. But that’s a one time thing instead of shoes to coordinate with a dress the child was wearing in a picture. It seems like it would be exhausting to keep up with these people and goes well beyond standard office gift giving. What struck me as very odd is that OP doesn’t mention that Susan reciprocates the gifts or that other people are exchanging little gifts in the office. This makes it seem like they are almost “offerings” to Susan

    7. JB (not in Houston)*

      It’s shoes, not a kidney! I have coworkers I like and consider friends, and we give each other presents sometimes. One of my coworker friends makes a lot less than I do, so the gifts tend to go one way (because I ask her not to spend her money on me). If she has grandkids one day, I will probably buy presents for them, and, yes, maybe even shoes because baby shoes are freaking adorable. I can easily afford to buy baby shoes and I genuinely do not understand why people are reacting like this person bought Susan a car or a house. Why are we assuming the shoe buyer couldn’t afford to buy the shoes or bought them only because she thought she needed to?

    8. LW/OP*

      I don’t think they were friends before they started working together, but many of them, Susan included, have certainly been here a while!

      1. Storm in a teacup*

        OP do you think you’re partially biased in that you may only being seeing part of the picture. For example, you may not see Susan be going to them with gifts, chitchat etc and so it may be a more equal and less fawning relationship between her and your coworkers than you realise.

    9. Nope, not today*

      I’ve actually brought a coworker shoes for her granddaughter lol. And she’s given me shoes for my kids. BUT. We are quite good friends outside of the office as well, and so the gift exchanging just happened at the office where we saw each other every day – and it privately on the DL, not making a big public fuss of it!!!! (It was also not like going out to buy her granddaughter new shoes – it was stuff from my kids, or coworkers shoes that didnt fit being passed on to my kids (she has tiny child-sized feet). Its not something that would happen with other coworkers, or publicly, or in a fawning sort of way.

    10. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      My last workplace was very much this, and it wasn’t weird at all. I actually JUST purchased a St Patrick’s Day decoration because it had a corgi riding a bike on it and a former co-worker adores/has/collects corgis. I don’t even work there anymore. lol

    11. Anonymous Koala*

      Yeah there’s something really off about this one. Compliments are normal, but regularly turning up with unsolicited gifts for Susan and her family is just…strange. OP, please give us an update if you can.

  7. Data Nerd*

    That level of fawning is really a lot though. The parents and grandparents around my office–well, there’s usually an office baby shower with gifts, they say thank you, we get pictures sometimes, and there are posted pictures of people’s pets all the time–but ongoing gifts? That aren’t part of a party like a christening/bris/naming or whatever, and not only from close friends? This sounds weird.

  8. Lacey*

    I’d probably be in the same spot. If people NEED everyone to love them, I instantly like them less.

    The OP sounds like they’re doing a good job of not letting it be super obvious though so I’d personally not worry about it.

    1. Triumphant Fox*

      It super puts me off when people are fawning over one person or that person seems really eager for attention.

      We just hired a new person and my boss RAVES about them. When I met them, they were so eager to talk to everyone and be instant friends but I was just so put off. Their energy unnerves me.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, exactly.

        I think that most people like to be liked by others, or at least prefer if they aren’t actively disliked. But the sort of needy behavior that Susan’s displaying is all too likely to drive away less demonstrative people, and those whose need to be liked is less strong.

  9. Paloma Pigeon*

    I wonder if there is a bit of a generational divide here. OP mentioned ‘grand baby’ and it’s been my experience that older generations remember a talkier culture in offices than is the norm in a lot of places now. This may simply be norms for this particular office culture that are a bit out of step with OP’s previous ones. I’ve worked in many places where chatting for more than 5 minutes at someone’s desk about personal issues with multiple coworkers would raise eyebrows.

    1. Metadata minion*

      I’ve noticed that to some degree as well, but the constant gift-giving puts this well beyond the “different generations have slightly different conversational norms” territory for me. I also know plenty of younger people who chat a lot in the office.

      1. somanyquestions*

        Also complaining to your supervisor that someone doesn’t keep up that level of interaction with you. Polite and gently kind is what I shoot for in my work relationships, and that’s it. If someone is offended by that, well, I kind of think they have issues.

    2. Squidlet*

      The generational thing doesn’t ring true for me – I’m old enough to have grandchildren and this type of thing irritates me. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it. I just don’t feel comfortable with this level of socialising and personal stuff in the workplace. It feels a little performative somehow.

    3. LKW*

      I’m old enough to have grandchildren and while I love a chit chat and would occasionally bring cookies or buy my team coffee – it would never occur to me to have anyone bring me gifts, shower me in compliments or behave this way. It’s weird and unnecessary.

      OP – you’re living rent free in her head! Keep doing what you’re doing.

    4. Missouri Girl in LA*

      I agree with others…I do have grandchildren and rarely talk about them. What do my co-workers hear the most about? My lovely Golden Retriever that I’m training in obedience/agility. I really don’t talk about children because I did 3 years of in-vitro and I am so sensitive to others’ plight that I choose not to talk that much about the kids and grandkids. I love them all, don’t get me wrong, but I’m at work and my chit-chat is really about my dogs and photography. It’s rare but when I do and I figure the risk of offending anybody is pretty low (unless we want a discussion between Nikon v. Canon v. Sony or something like that!)

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        Oooh, I would love to hear more about your Golden Retriever! I love obedience trials.

  10. Dramatic Intent to Flounce*

    I really hope this is just an ‘office culture tends towards the generally effusive and gift-giving naturally’ and not ‘Susan demands tribute from all lesser worker bees, gifts included’ (‘lesser’ of course being in her eyes, because my word.)

    I really hope it is, but the fact that she went to your boss and your boss thinks this is a Susan problem definitely ups the default assumed weirdness level by… quite a lot.

    1. Ama*

      If Susan’s been there a long time, I wonder if that’s how it started — there was a group of coworkers who gave a lot of gifts to each other because they enjoyed it, and when most of those people moved on Susan still continued to expect the same treatment and everyone found it easier to indulge her rather than refuse.

      1. Dramatic Intent to Flounce*

        Yeah, the general culture of gift-giving re: baby booties to match a dress you already have* is the one thing that really sounds odder than average (along with ‘Susan brought it up to manager,’ and even then there are certainly degrees of concerningness in that way,) and while there are ways for it to be totally out of line, there are definitely also ways that it started perfectly normally and Susan wasn’t actively UNREASONABLE but now the office culture has made it a bit weird for someone whose defaults are very much not that. It doesn’t even have to be unreasonable now, though things certainly seem a bit off if the manager thinks this is a Susan Problem.

        * I consider this odd if only because, in general, I assume anyone who’s really interested in matchy-matchy baby stuff would be doing that as much as they’re able themselves. Also, babies outgrow clothes fast enough I wouldn’t buy something new for an existing outfit and count on them fitting to be worn together for any real length of time.

        1. Userper Cranberries*

          It’s also possible that the gift was because of that outgrowing you mention – we don’t know if the booties were brand new and bought specifically for Susan’s grandchild, or if they were lying around the coworker’s house waiting to be donated because they’d been outgrown and the coworker decided to give them to Susan rather than a thrift store.

  11. Caramel & Cheddar*

    This isn’t the LW’s question, but is this something the boss even needed to mention to LW? If boss agrees there isn’t actually a problem and LW doesn’t need to change their behaviour because of it, then I feel like this is just something that will unhelpfully stick in the back of LW’s mind. It just doesn’t feel useful or productive, but I’m aware that this is something that would give me deeply unnecessary anxiety that it wouldn’t necessarily give others.

    1. I was told there would be llamas*

      I had the same thought…like, what is LW supposed to do with this information since the boss didn’t really give her any details.

    2. Rainy*

      I think I’d appreciate a heads-up if someone like this had decided I wasn’t obsequious enough and complained to my manager about it.

      Like, I wouldn’t change how I acted, but I’d definitely be on the lookout for attempts to undermine me or force me to fall in line from Susan. I’d always rather be warned than blindsided.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        I can see the benefit of getting a heads up, but I also feel like that’s an opportunity for Boss to push back on Susan when it’s clear there’s nothing actually wrong.

        1. Caramel & Cheddar*

          Or rather he did push back, so that feels like an extra reason not to tell LW!

      2. LC*

        Same here. It would bug me and I’d probably spend more mental energy on it that necessary, but I would still prefer this kind of head’s up over finding out in other ways.

        (With the sizable caveat that I trusted my boss’s assessment of the situation and trusted that they were being honest with me about that assessment and what they wanted from me.)

      3. Momma Bear*

        I was none the wiser about how I was coming off to people on a former project until the boss told me. As much as it took me aback, I was glad to have known.

      4. The Prettiest Curse*

        Agreed, I would want to know too. I say this as someone whose previous not-great boss once mentioned that a couple of times people had remarked on minor things about my work … but she didn’t tell me who, or about what, so I had absolutely no idea what might be wrong or how to fix it. Most useless feedback of all time!

    3. Casper Lives*

      I thought that too. I’d start worrying that the boss actually is hinting that I should get in line with the other coworkers because Susan is a squeaky wheel. Even though he’s assuring me I’m fine.

      Otherwise why bring it up? He told Susan that OP is fine. He’s not asking OP to tel him if Susan starts acting unprofessionally.

      Yes, I’m aware I’ve got anxiety and often overthink things.

      1. comityoferrors*

        I’m a chronically anxious over-analyzer too, so I understand where you’re coming from. But I’ve been on the other side of this situation before, and I think the statement that he’s “not asking OP to tell him if Susan starts acting unprofessionally” isn’t supported by the letter. OP says his explanation for mentioning it was in case OP notes any tension from Susan – and that would be the perfect opening for OP to tell her boss about Susan’s behavior and tone. If he hadn’t brought it up, she might have wondered if it was even worth mentioning to her boss, but he gave her an “in” in case she sees any behavior that might otherwise seem ambiguous.

        I had a similar situation with a new employee. She was new, so she wasn’t universally-beloved like this, but she’s a friendly, gregarious person who obviously cares a great deal for her personal relationships with coworkers. The other two employees on our team are much more reserved — they have warm, deep relationships with colleagues, but it’s taken time and shared experience for them to get there. (I’ll admit my own bias is in that direction, too.) New Employee started complaining to me about one of those coworkers before her first week was up. She continued to complain for SIX MONTHS. I told her they had a different approach to relationships, advised giving time for everyone to warm up and get to know each other, and emphasized repeatedly that everyone on the team welcomed her (and backed this up with celebratory breakfasts/lunches, team-builders, time for us to spend together in which her coworkers were receptive and kind).

        I didn’t tell her colleagues at first, because I saw it as a Her Problem and didn’t want them to think I was asking them to change their behavior. But it became such a pattern and New Employee had such overwrought reactions to their perceived slights (multiple 30-45 min conversations with me, after hours, crying) that I eventually had to check in with her coworkers and get their side of the story. They both, separately and immediately, gave me a laundry list of complaints about *her* behavior: she interrupts training to talk about her life, she follows me while I’m working to show me pictures of her family, she’s openly dismissive when I’m trying to focus, she seems to care more about chatting than work. They both told me they’d been concerned for a while, but hadn’t wanted to complain because it felt so petty.

        By the time I checked in with them, they HATED this lady. They both acted professionally and have been warm and helpful with her, but I know from later conversations that they still hate this lady on a personal level. I could have tailored my response as a boss so much better if I’d checked with them earlier and heard that feedback from the beginning. We did eventually get her complaining and emotional-neediness under control, but it took way longer than it needed to because both of her coworkers were politely neutral towards her behavior until I asked them directly about the “incidents” with her.

        tl;dr If your boss is generally reasonable and supportive, and opens a door for you to report counterproductive behavior, please tell them. Even if it doesn’t seem intentional or like a big deal. They want to know! They need to know, so they can be effective!

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      I want to know what the boss said to Susan! I think it would be reasonable for him to tell LW something like “she raised this concern but I want you to know I don’t see a problem here… *and I made it clear to her that as long as you’re professional there is no expectation to be her friend/shower her with gifts*.” I’m worried that he just told Susan he’d take care of it, or otherwise implied that this is a reasonable issue on her part so she feels validated or will expect “better behavior” from LW in the future.

    5. Calm Water*

      I commented up thread but my take was that her manger has seen this before and was giving OP a heads up. I got the impression it was delivered in a more casual FYI type of way so that OP would have some insight into the office culture It actually sounded to me like the manager is aware of the social dynamics of the office and brought it up because it’s a Susan thing not an OP thing and is letting her know he had no issues with her professional conduct.

    6. Famous Amos*

      You know, I seem to have a personality that rubs other women (an the occasional man) the wrong way. I come to work to work and not to join a girl gang and some people pick up it when you’re not the type who works hard to be liked. I’ve just always been this way but the workforce has magnified it to a level that has made me extremely paranoid. That being said, I generally get along quite well with most co-workers but there’s usually at least one who wants to be shifty with me because of my “attitude” and I’d rather get it from the boss that it’s happening than be tormented trying to figure out it if someone really has a problem with me or if it’s in my head, especially if we work closely enough that I’ll want to incorporate some CYA steps into any processes.

    7. Anonymous Hippo*

      If someone thought I were butting heads with them I’d want to know. That’s is NOT how I want to be known in the office.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        But as described, the only person who thinks they’re butting heads is Susan and the boss told Susan that wasn’t the case. If the boss had actually said “You know what, LW, you’re definitely coming across this way” I’d get it, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

        1. Anonymous Hippo*

          How can the boss actually know? I’ve been in situations before where someone was being literally awful to me on a daily basis and my boss would have literally no way to know without me telling him.

          1. Metadata minion*

            That’s going to depend a lot on how much time the boss spends around the coworkers in question. Unless someone was being really horrible and sneaky about it, it would be hard for my supervisor to miss harassment or other sustained awfulness because she works in the same big office space as the rest of us.

        2. River Otter*

          “ the boss told Susan that wasn’t the case”
          LW doesn’t report what the boss told Susan, they only report what the boss said to them. I don’t know that the boss is in a position to tell Susan that she is not butting heads with someone.

    8. Don’t put metal in the science oven*

      Totally unrelated to the topic but is Caramel & Cheddar a reference to Nuts on Clark Carmel +Cheddar popcorn? That mix is delicious!

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        I don’t know what Nuts on Clark is, but Caramel & Cheddar is definitely a popcorn reference! I’ve heard it described as “Chicago mix”, but since I’m not from Chicago I don’t know if this is something that originated there.

        1. Don’t put metal in the science oven*

          You might love a mail order Nuts on Clark Carmel/cheddar popcorn mix. It’s wonderful! Kinda spendy…especially in the Chicago skyline tin. My first Nuts on Clark experience was in Chicago Midway airport. A great woman behind me told me, “ Honey, you HAVE to get the Carmel/cheddar mix. That’s how it’s done.” She was right & I’m forever in her debt

        2. Broadway Duchess*

          Not originally from Chicago, but inspired by it. I think it was after a snack convention or something and this woman who attended made this mix and called it the Chicago mix. If I remember correctly, there was a battle between Garrett’s and the person/company who trademarked it and the original person won. Now Garrett’s (and probably Nits on Clark) have to use Chicago style or something similar.

    9. Jacey*

      I was wondering along the same lines. Also I hope the boss didn’t use the phrase “neurotic need” in describing one of his employees because that seems very judgy and sort of… gross? I don’t want my boss psychoanalyzing me casually. (I will admit, though, that I’m sensitive to the use of psych terms in casual speech, so I could be overreacting to that.)

    10. MCMonkeyBean*

      I definitely think the biggest issue here is really that the boss said anything to OP. If they truly don’t think there is anything wrong with OP’s behavior and don’t want them to change anything in particular, then that was really not helpful to anyone. But there isn’t really anything that can be done about that part now so I guess it’s not really worth dwelling on unless the boss has a pattern of bad decisions like that.

    11. moonstone*

      This is what I’m wondering, too. It would make sense if the boss brought it up because he thought the OP was being impolite and to tell her to stop..But that isn’t the case at all, so why did he bring it up in the first place?? Either there is a problem or there isn’t. It shouldn’t matter to the OP what Susan thinks of her (or vice versa) if it isn’t affecting either of their work.

  12. MicroManagered*

    It’s one of those rare occasions where I disagree with AAM’s advice!!

    Ugh. Susan sounds exhausting. I totally get why you don’t particularly care for her. If I were OP, I would not talk to Susan about her complaint directly. I would not give her the satisfaction of knowing I took it that seriously. It sounds like that would just start drama and I have a sneaking suspicion Susan would love that.

    Let your perfectly polite, work-appropriate behavior drive her nuts. It’s definitely a Susan-problem.

    1. Mrs Vexil*

      I also find Susan exhausting. I am older (62) and have worked at my current place for 22 years. I’ve seen some attention-seeking fan favorites like that come and go. I think the OP goes beyond being cordial as is! Now I feel like a real heel for declining to look at my own Susan’s grandson’s kindergarten graduation pictures.

      1. MicroManagered*

        declining to look at my own Susan’s grandson’s kindergarten graduation pictures.

        If we worked together, I’m certain we’d be friends based on this!

    2. it's just the frame of mind*

      IDK, the fact that the LW uses phrases like “she can tells she’s not my favorite person in the world” makes me think the LW might be being a bit snarkier or snappier towards Susan than she identifies herself as being.

      1. Yorick*

        This seems possible. LW isn’t giving any indication that Susan expects everyone in the office to give her gifts and stuff. It sounds like the office might just be this way and LW doesn’t fit in. It’s true that LW doesn’t like Susan and they might be making it obvious.

        1. Susie Q*

          Agreed. This feels like a whole if everyone is an asshole, you might be the asshole situation. If everyone likes Susan, you might be the unlikeable person.

      2. Loulou*

        I thought so too, but the boss did say he didn’t want them to change their behavior. Which hopefully he would if they were making their dislike obvious in any way!

        1. Anonymous Hippo*

          I’ve seen several comments along this line, so not picking on you in particular, but is it normal for you boss to have the level of oversight on your company interactions that they’d have any idea of how you interact on a regular basis? I’ve been working for over 15 years now, and I rarely even talk to my boss once a week, much less see them during my day to day. I could literally be cursing people out during every interaction and unless someone went to them and told them they’d be clueless.

          1. Loulou*

            No, that’s totally fair! I share an office space with my boss and he definitely has the chance to observe how I interact with colleagues (both in person and, to some degree, over email) but it’s a good point that plenty of managers don’t have that.

          2. Koala dreams*

            A lot of people work in open offices where you’d have to make an effort to not notice conflicts between co-workers.

      3. Be kind, rewind*

        That could also mean that OP is more chummy with other coworkers, and Susan has noticed that OP is “just” friendly and professional with her.

      4. LW/OP*

        It’s definitely possible! :) I do try to manage my P’s and Q’s, and I try to be upbeat and smiley, but it is very, very possible my tone or word choice makes it apparent. I read once you should “prep” yourself for interactions with people you don’t care for by telling yourself good things about them beforehand. Any other good advice?? :)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’ve had some success with imagining someone I like and feel protective toward being in their shoes — like if one of my sister’s coworkers disliked her, I hope they would still treat her kindly and even warmly. Thinking about your coworker being that person for someone else could maybe help! (Or not. But it’s worth a try.)

        2. MicroChic*

          If there is something she’s really into that you are genuinely excited about, make that the chit chat thing with her. Like if you aren’t into hearing about her grandkids but you know she does photography, ask about that.

          Having a topic you genuinely enjoy even if the person isn’t someone you genuinely enjoy does help.

    3. Lana Kane*

      I think the script Alison gave was if the OP really wanted to address it. But I wouldn’t, either. I would view it as Not My Problem ™.

  13. Don*

    I got $1 that says LW is a woman and if she was a man acting courteous but reticent there’d never be a word spoken about it by Susan or the boss.

    1. Littorally*

      Nope, I’m on your side. In fact, I imagine a dude in OP’s situation would get far more side-eye for gushing over the baby than for not doing so.

    2. Cam*

      Yeah, this smells of gender issues. I wonder if LW is butch and her lack of gender conformance is actually the complaint.

      1. Squidlet*

        There’s nothing in the letter to suggest that! And the OP specifically mentioned that they “keep her at a bit of an arm’s length”.

      2. Gingerbread Gnome*

        I see it as a cultural issue. Susan is a gift-giver and most comfortable if she is up in everyone’s business and the world knows everything (and commiserates or celebrates) what is going on in hers. She also can’t differentiate between work and family/social relationships so everything defaults to social. This is the type of person who will never change companies because her whole world is wrapped up in social interactions she is most comfortable with. If I said anything at all it would be that I came from a more reserved background, and just because I don’t talk about her family doesn’t mean I don’t care.
        I was raised in a very reserved family that overthought everything. (Will Susan be coming over? Better put that decorative bowl she gifted you three years ago on the side table so she doesn’t get offended. Why did you get Mary tulips for her birthday – the flowers she had on the table at Christmas were mums so perhaps she doesn’t like tulips. Don’t ask Becky about her boyfriend as you don’t know if they are still dating.) It was exhausting and I find social relationships anxiety-producing as a result. I can do professional and polite all day and have no issues with training/teaching relationships but warm and fuzzy is only for my immediate family. Susan would stress me out also.

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          Oh gosh, the gift thing… my family was exactly like this with the added bonus of passive-aggressive comments from Grandma if she came over and didn’t see her gifts on display. She bought me this shirt once. If I didn’t wear it every time she visited she would ask where the shirt was, why didn’t I like it, etc. She gave it to me when I was 12 years old and was still doing this when I graduated high school!

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              It did. But it was ratty and worn out by then… because I actually did like the shirt and wore it on a regular basis, not just on days I saw grandma!

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Lmao, that’s like an old joke about a Jewish mother, who gives her son two sweaters as a gift, he wears one of them on his next visit, and she reacts with “Nu? Why don’t you like the other one?”

            I, like allathian, am puzzled by the expectation that a shirt given to a 12-year old would still fit at 18. Has grandma ever heard of growth spurt?

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              To make grandma seem slightly less ridiculous, it did actually still fit. I hit my growth spurt early – only grew about 2 inches between 12 and 18.

              That joke thought…. gotta tell my sister. She’ll get a kick out of it. That’s exactly the kind of thing Grandma would do!

        1. Elle*

          This exactly. I’m seeing a lot of people reacting to Susan based on… Her reminding them of other people/situations?

    3. BuildMeUp*

      I don’t see how there is anything in the letter that supports this? Sure, it’s possible, but it’s not really eelevant to the advice for the OP.

      1. Happy*

        I think it is relevant.

        It can be validating to hear, “this other person’s odd behavior isn’t about you, it’s about them, and you don’t need to change or feel bad about ignoring it”…especially if it is potentially the result of unfair expectations based on something like gender.

        1. BuildMeUp*

          I would agree if the comment I was replying to didn’t frame it as the only possible explanation. That’s not helpful, especially if the OP isn’t a woman.

      2. Jack Straw from Wichita*

        I didn’t post it, but the comment isn’t shared as advice for the OP, it’s pointing out the gender differences as awareness for the rest of us. It never hurts to be reminded of things which a engrained into our culture and do damage to an entire population of people. :)

        1. BuildMeUp*

          I’m very aware of how gender affects the world we live in and do not need a reminder of that, thank you. :) :) :)

  14. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I need to preface what I’m about to say with this caveat: you are not responsible for other people’s feelings, barring inappropriate behavior.

    I had a big boss who was so much like Susan. I thought he was a stereotypical executive who was vastly underqualified for his role but got there anyway because of gender and race-based preferential treatment. He was bad at his job, and I refused to compliment his efforts. I was so far below him that I thought (and still think) my opinion of him was irrelevant. He only needs to keep HIS bosses happy, right?

    But this guy sought me out at every meeting or party to try to talk to me. He, for whatever reason, wanted my approval and positive reinforcement. But I refused to budge. I’ll never pay someone a compliment who doesn’t deserve it. I say nothing at all.

    I was ranting about this exec to an organizational therapist my org had brought in to evaluate people. You know what I learned? Excessive and frequent praise and effusive communications are how some people have to get their work done. (It’s kind of ridiculous, I know.) Reminds me of that administrative assistant letter from a few years back who preferred CAKE to regular raises. But that’s how some people are wired. They need compliments to get work done like you need air to breathe.

    I tell you this not so you can reconfigure your interactions with Susan. Please don’t! It’s more of a tutorial in how she operates at work, which can explain her reactions to you. As long as you can apply logic behind her responses, I wouldn’t read too much into it. That’s just how she is, and it’s not really hurting anyone so you can work around it if you need to.

    1. the cat's ass*

      I had a boss like this many years ago, and i was cordial, pleasant, professional and distant. He just could not STAND my lack of engagement with his boring boy-hijinks, to the point of pulling me into a conference room and blurting, “but whyyyyyyy don’t you liiiiike meeeeeee?” I vamped right out of there pretty quick, because these sorts of emotional vampires are not going to change.

      1. Be kind, rewind*

        Wow, I didn’t realize this type of manager was so prevalent; I had one, too! Definitely had Susan vibes: he needed to hold court, and if you didn’t laugh along all the time with his (sometimes inappropriate) jokes, he’d assume you hated him.

        At least for OP, there is no power differential with Susan. But in my experience, this isn’t something that will work itself out. Susan will always suspect you of disliking her if she doesn’t get what she needs. But OP shouldn’t have to play along: perhaps the option of the “We seem to have different styles” conversation is in order.

      2. What She Said*

        I had one too and they are exhausting to work with. I played the game for a little bit then got tired of it and refused. I was not gonna praise them for a job well done because it was not done well or it was only done well because I did it. I wasn’t gonna listen to their sob story and console them when things went wrong. My boss was pissed I refused to play the game and simply resorted to making my work life hell. I no longer work for them but it left a scar for sure.

    2. Smithy*

      This breakdown is really helpful, and also sometimes helpful to contextualize coworkers or other direct reports who appear to be playing into this game. They may in fact be reacting be responding to the Susans of the world because that’s also their style, it doesn’t cost them much, or those are professional relationships they feel are important to keep.

      I had a job with a difficult manager and one of the ways I opted to try and improve the relationship was to regularly go to the corner store and offer to pick her up what she wanted (which she did always pay for). For many, running such errands was demeaning or off putting – I personally decided it wasn’t that bad but it was also a relationship and a reference I really really needed. I was a recent graduate and my only other real professional manager had completely stopped responding to requests to be a reference.

      I very intentionally decided that was going to be my method to try and connect, in addition via my work product. Doesn’t mean it would be right for others or should have been a requirement. But maybe thinking of some of those choices as being deliberate for the workplace might help.

    3. Workerbee*

      My dad always said the higher up you go, the more insecure you get. I’ve definitely had my share of insecure big bosses.

      It is also above my pay grade to lavish praise on an incompetent rich dude. Grr.

    4. LW/OP*

      Ugh, your boss would tax me so hard!

      Thanks for the thoughts, though – that’s really insightful and is probably a lot of what’s happening! I hope!

    5. Американка (Amerikanka)*

      This boss sounds like Michael Scott from the Office! So needy!

  15. Suzy Q*

    Sometimes, you meet people you simply don’t like. It’s doesn’t even have to be for a particular reason. I recall years ago when I met a woman who lived in my apartment building. She was perfectly nice but just rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t know why! Maybe it’s a chemical thing, one body’s rejection of another.

    1. Aggresuko*

      Sometimes if you have that kind of reaction to a person, there’s a reason why….you just don’t know it yet. I’ve had that reaction to a few people I’ve met at work. One of them turned out to be kinda insane (from what I’m told, we didn’t hire her but others did and found out the hard way), another one was apparently quite incompetent and quit working here after a few days, and the third one…I can’t say but I will not be surprised if someday there’s a newspaper article about how he was caught with bodies in his basement. Skin-crawlingly creepy person and we didn’t hire him because I didn’t want to have to share air with him! He didn’t do anything wrong, he was pretty similar to the stapler guy in Office Space…just worse.

      1. Lana Kane*

        Oof, I can relate to this. I don’t usually talk about it because I’d get eye rolls, but I definitely pick up vibes from people that almost always end up being right. We interviewed someone who seemed like the pefect candidate and gave a pretty good interview, but I just didn’t like them and couldn’t put my finger on it. Obviously I couldn’t say “don’t hire this person,I’m getting a weird vibe” to the hiring manager, so we hired them. Let’s just say pretty much from the get go it was clear that was a mistake.

    2. Raboot*

      Yeah, sometimes you just don’t like someone and it really doesn’t mean anything beyond you don’t like them. I think people here are reading things into OP’s description that aren’t there and casting Susan as a bad/exhausting/fake person from that but none of that is really in OP’s letter. It’s possible they just don’t vibe, and that Susan could be sad about that, while OP has done nothing wrong. It’s not the only explanation, but it’s perfectly possible.

      1. somanyquestions*

        If Susan wasn’t pretty extreme she wouldn’t be complaining to her supervisor about people in her office who are cordial but don’t take it to extremes. That’s over the top.

      2. quill*

        Sometimes they just have a voice that your ears don’t want, sometimes they chew louder than average… sometimes you end up at BEC stage with someone because the two of you are just badly socially matched

    3. Jacey*

      I’m glad you said this! I’ve noticed a trend, particularly in online spaces, of people grasping for reasons why someone they dislike is “problematic” or in some way objectively objectionable. I think LW is clearheaded about this element of the relationship: they know it’s just a personal mismatch, not that Susan is secretly evil or something. But I do notice that LW assigns some pretty negative language to Susan’s interactions with others (fawning, e.g.) and I wonder if it would help LW to step back and try to reframe what they’re witnessing with the framework that others DON’T dislike Susan.

      1. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

        I think unfortunately that many generations of using whisper networks and gut feelings to deal with genuinely dangerous people in work environments (and other environments!) for lack of a formal alternative has left a muddled impression that if two people nebulously don’t like each other or get their wires crossed one of them must be Wrong on a serious level.

  16. Important Moi*

    My suggestions.

    1. Could it be your facial expressions (e.g. pursed lips?) when you think she’s not looking?
    2. Could it be your body language? E.g. loud or quiet sighs, shoulder shrugging, obviously removing yourself from the conversations?

    You may not be aware. Your boss seems ok. These things you could change if that’s what you’re doing. (Whether or not you like suck-ups is irrelevant. I don’t like them either.)

    1. Sara without an H*

      This. OP, do you have a trusted friend or mentor at work who could give you a quick check on your body language? Insecure types — and Susan does sound insecure — can be hyperaware of body language and unspoken cues.

      If it’s not that, I frankly would do nothing. Your boss doesn’t think it’s an issue, so I wouldn’t treat it as one.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        +1000

        It very likely may be that that’s just…. Susan, but it’s also worth checking in – even just for peace of mind.

    2. Boof*

      Yep, it’s quite likely susan is just needy but would help if lw asked someone who sees them interact if lw is doing anything like eyerolling, sighing, etc and susan’s just bad at articulating why they have a bad vibe from lw

    3. LW/OP*

      Oh, I’m sure it absolutely could! I wish I could tell you I have a mask I can slam down to convince anybody I like them…but I’m 100% sure that’s not the case. I am very much trying to see the positives in her (I read once that you should find things you DO like in a person you don’t, and that will help improve your interactions with them) but am unsure where to go in this present situation. I wish I could just trick myself into liking a person – but the best I can do is appreciate them for their good traits. Any advice?? :)

      1. Important Moi*

        Lean into appreciating the good traits. Also, it will just take time for Susan to interact with you differently. She already knows you don’t like her. That’s the awkward part and you can’t just skip it and jump to the comfortable place. You have to wallow through it. No one can give a timeframe for when Susan will be over this. Good luck.

      2. Jacey*

        One trick I’ve used (warning: it’s strange) is to pretend the other person is a space alien trying to figure out how earthling interactions work, and they haven’t calibrated for me yet. It helps me separate behavior from the person. So taking an example from your letter, you’d think something like, “Susan the Alien sure is talking to people for a long time about something minor. I’ll be kind to show her she’s welcome on earth, but keep it pleasantly professional to help her calibrate to a wider variety of earth norms.”

        1. possibly-an-alien*

          I love this. I also do this sometimes. Social norms can be a lot of work; treating them like anthropology helps!

      3. Traffic Jam*

        It helps to remember that you have no idea why she is the way she is. Maybe she grew up in a household with an alcoholic parent and has learned to try to people please to avoid painful scenarios. Maybe she was bullied as a kid and now she leans heavily on getting others to like her. Maybe her spouse is cold and distant and work is the only place where she feels connections to others. However she got here, it was largely based on the life she has lived. It has to be exhausting, though, right? How happy can one really be if you’re always looking for approval from others?

        I don’t think you should try to like her, nor should you try to be the way your other coworkers are with her, but you can certainly try to cultivate internal compassion for whatever may have caused her to become this way. Regardless, I respect the way you’ve approached this. It’s very thoughtful.

        1. Loulou*

          I don’t agree it’s helpful for OP to pathologize Susan’s behavior more than they already have. Based on their description, I don’t see much evidence that she is desperate to be liked — just that she IS well liked, has a warm relationship with her coworkers, and (correctly!!) noticed that OP can’t stand her and said something to their boss.

  17. Riley and Jonesy*

    I think there is ‘Unconscious Dislike Leakage’ (yes, I just made that up, probably) all over this letter.
    At heat, OP, you don’t like Susan no matter what she did. And she 100% knows it, even when you admire a photo the dislike is likely radiating from you and there’s not much you can do that, especially if you’re having to do a social ritual which feels false. That’s creating a cognitive dissonance which must be uncomfortable to you both.
    I think Alison’s script is good and not too confrontational.Get it out in the open as a difference in style and you may find if you’re not feeling forced into liking her then you’ll feel less pressure.

    1. Critical Rolls*

      Yep. I’ve been in a similar situation with an older woman coworker (although she was not universally beloved) when I was not long out of college. We just rubbed each other wrong, so I did everything I could to limit our interactions… and she complained to the manager about feeling “disrespected.” Was there unconscious dislike leakage? Probably! But the main issue was that she felt like she could and should compel me to perform the same social rituals as if we liked each other. She’s not entitled to that, and it’s likely to be an actively bad idea anyway. Let it go, Susan.

    2. Blind CC*

      “Unconscious Dislike Leakage” – I think I’ve tried to put this into words before but this is so much better than anything I’ve come up with.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yes, this is a great phrase, and it’s exactly what i think is going on here. The OP definitely seems at BEC stage from the letter–she described Susan as a suck-up because she “she writes little ‘thinking of you’ notes, offers compliments regularly, is happy to take on extra work, etc.” and, because OP dislikes Susan, she assumes is done solely to make people like her. Her dislike of Susan is almost certainly leaking into their IRL interactions as well.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          To be clear, this isn’t a judgment of the OP. I have worked with a woman who everyone seemed to think was super nice and who I thought was actually just nonconfrontational and passive aggressive, and I feels sure that she could sense my dislike of her even though I did my very best to seem friendly and to hide my dislike of her. It happens. But it doesn’t hurt for the OP to consider whether her clearly strong dislike of Susan is seeping out in an obvious way, and if that’s why Susan knows the OP dislikes her (rather than assuming it’s because the OP doesn’t, eg, buy her gifts or “fawn” over her).

    3. Riley and Jonesy*

      Glad I hit upon a random phrase which seems to have summed something up! I bet the German language has a perfect word for this issue.

    4. Purple Cat*

      “Unconscious Dislike Leakage” really does sum it up.
      Susan knows OP doesn’t like her. And that’s fine. Susan needs to get over herself. But OP needs to be aware that she is almost definitely letting her feelings show.

    5. LW/OP*

      I love it!

      And, yes, I’m sure that does exist. I’m not great at hiding my emotions. I once read somewhere that you can improve your interactions by bringing to mind things you DO like about someone, even if you generally dislike them overall. Before I go over to her desk for anything, I take a few seconds to meditate on those things.

      Anything else you can think of to try??

      1. Riley and Jonesy*

        Hi OP! Ugh, I feel for you. Apparently my face mirrors every emotion in my brain and it’s obvious that I want to mangle my father-in-law when he slurps soup.
        I used to have a colleague who would wind me up because of the way she interacted on the phone (it was just plain weird, take my word for it). I learned to get over my cringe towards her by finding a topic we both sincerely enjoyed talking about. In this case, it was dogs.
        Have you tried dogs or cat memes yet?

      2. Sparkles McFadden*

        I was in a very similar situation. In my case, a coworker who was friend alerted me to the issue. He said “Hey, I get it. She bugs me too but it doesn’t look good to other people. She needs to be liked, and everything she is doing is making you avoid her more. Eventually, someone somewhere will hold that against you.”

        My solution was to pretend my Susan was someone else. I’d replay the things she said in another person’s voice and respond as if I were responding to a coworker I really liked. According to my in-office friend, this resulted in a change to my body language. Once I made that change, the Susan in my office relaxed more and became less annoying.

        1. Riley and Jonesy*

          I use this technique when talking to my mom on the phone.
          I have a gorgeous photo of her from the 70s looking fabulous and hilarious.I’d love to be friends with that person. I put the photo in front of me and talk to my mom like a 35-year old friend, rather than someone who is about to say something that is potentially going to say something overstepping and irritating. I’m less prickly then towards her.
          So yeah, reframing how you think of someone can work.

          1. Corporate Lawyer*

            What a brilliant way of reframing your attitude towards your mom. I’m going to keep that in mind (not for my mom, specifically, for but other people in my life who I find challenging) – thank you!

      3. Anonymous Hippo*

        My best suggestion is to try and remove the dislike of her as a person. IE you dislike her actions, but not her. It can really change the way you approach people.

        1. Washi*

          Agreed. Something I try with really unpleasant people is I imagine them home-movie style in my head – a chubby smiling baby, a rambunctious toddler, etc, and then I imagine that innocent little kid at school, maybe being picked on, or at home and being yelled at by a parent. I don’t spend hours or even more than like 5 minutes on creating this back story, but I kinda try to picture the context that led this person to develop whatever behavior like a protective shell. And that helps me get in to the mindset of just accepting this very imperfect person – not to be their best friend or let them walk all over you (you can still have boundaries!) but just to let go of any wish they would be different.

    6. Lana Kane*

      Yeah, gonna use Unconscious Dislike Leakage. “I’m getting some serious UDL from Susan.”

  18. Mockingjay*

    This is the second letter in two days in which a coworker demands everything be all about “them” and their feelings, and the manager agrees the coworker is the issue, not the OP, but doesn’t do anything.

    OP, Susan sounds exhausting. While your manager agrees that she is the problem, not you, what has he done about her? Your responses and enthusiasms are appropriate for most offices. She and her coterie have gotten out of hand. The gift giving alone is eyebrow raising. Are the gifts reciprocal or only delivered to Queen Susan?

    As long as your boss agrees that your work is fine and the relationship is not an issue, I’d follow Alison’s advice to carry on as you are. Be aware this may not satisfy Susan’s need for idolatry and she may escalate.

    1. Colette*

      I don’t think it’s necessarily true that the issue is the coworker – it’s possible that the OP and the coworker just are different people who want different things. It’s also possible that the OP isn’t hiding her dislike as well as she thinks she is.

      1. Bluesboy*

        I definitely think it’s possible that OP isn’t hiding her dislike as well as she thinks she is, and if that’s the case, I could understand why Susan doesn’t like it. I have a coworker who doesn’t particularly like me and we’re never going to be friends. I think she tries to hide it, but well…she fails!

        What I don’t do is go to my boss to complain that she doesn’t like me. We are professional and work just fine together – which it sounds like is the case here from OPs letter.

        That’s what makes it a Susan issue for me – not the fact that they aren’t friendly, but the fact that Susan is complaining to the boss – she is trying to get OP in trouble for essentially nothing!

        1. Colette*

          None of us were in that conversation with the boss, and neither was the OP. Did the boss say “How’s it going with OP?” and Susan reply “I don’t know, I feel like she doesn’t like me”? Or did Susan go to the boss and say “I don’t like OP”, or “I don’t like OP’s attitude”? What was the context for whatever she said? Is the manager someone who actually doesn’t like the OP’s attitude but feels like she needs to borrow authority?

          1. Colette*

            In a past job, I had a coworker who hated me on site. She was constantly condescending and rude, and at one point I did go to our manager about it. I didn’t care that she didn’t like me – I didn’t like her either – but I wasn’t getting paid enough to deal with her behaviour, either.

            1. Anonymous Hippo*

              This. Being actively disliked by a coworker, especially when you’ve done nothing to provoke it, is extremely upsetting. And like someone said up above, there can certainly be dislike leakage, even if you think you are hiding it. I don’t need to be friends, or even want to in most instances (super introvert) but I’m not going to just let someone treat me with disdain day after day.

              1. Insert Clever Name Here*

                Yeah, especially when OP says it’s likely their facial expressions and body language are showing that dislike — that would be disconcerting to me! You don’t have to love me or anything, but dang if someone is rolling their eyes or scowling at me every time I’m in their vicinity…yikes.

          2. Ace in the Hole*

            Heck, perhaps Susan went to boss and said “Hey I get the sense I might be doing something that bothers LW, any tips on how I can get along with her better?”

        2. Yorick*

          It’s possible that OP’s dislike of Susan is obvious and in some way problematic. I think we have as much evidence for that as we do for Susan being over the top and demanding. OP doesn’t have an example of Susan demanding things from coworkers. It sounds like everyone else genuinely likes Susan and OP finds her annoying. That makes me wonder if we’d hear something really different if we heard this from Susan.

          1. Yorick*

            I mean, OP has interpreted these behaviors as “sucking up”: she writes little “thinking of you” notes, offers compliments regularly, is happy to take on extra work, etc.

            It really sounds like Susan is a lovely coworker. OP, why do these behaviors bother you so much? Or is it possible Susan just reminds you of someone else who is bad?

            1. Sal*

              these are, to be fair, also behaviors that are seen when someone’s overall manner/affect would best be described as “obsequious.” OP hasn’t given us (and may not have themselves put their finger on) anything that would allow us to distinguish between “lovely” and “obsequious,” imo.

            2. STG*

              Yea, the behaviors she described as sucking up, I interpreted as largely good ones to have in a coworker. I mean…who doesn’t want coworkers who are happy to take on extra work when it’s necessary?

      2. Claire W*

        Yeah I meaan some of the office behaviours ocverall sounf very unusual, but OP admits themselves that they’re making assumptions aabout the coworker (that they don’t have genuine intentions behind their kind behaviours) and is then judging them based on that… when actually that could be the coworker’s genuine personality.

        If the coworker can tell that OP is holding something against them (it’s usually noticeable on some level realistically) because they’re “too nice” when it’s how they do everything every day and there’s no ulterior motive, it’s no wonder the coworker would be upset by that.

      3. anonymous73*

        But the problem IS the co-worker. Even if OP isn’t hiding her dislike as well as she thinks, unless she’s openly rude (like rolling her eyes or making a snide comment), it’s a simple case of differing personalities and Susan had no right to complain about it. When you throw a bunch of random strangers with different personalities into a team, not everyone is going to like each other. But as long as you are professional and civil and treat others with respect, you shouldn’t have to fake your emotions to appease others.

    2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      I don’t get the pep rally atmosphere, but if people are happy with it and getting their jobs done, it doesn’t make sense for the manager to force a no-niceness policy. Teling Susan that he didn’t view it as a problem was doing something. This is a lot different from the other manager who rearranged how everything in the office was done to the squeaky wheel’s preferences. Just like OP doesn’t have to like Susan, Susan doesn’t have to like her.

    3. LW/OP*

      The only gifts I’ve seen from Susan are baked treats to the whole office about once a month. :)

      If the gift-giving happened just once (or were clearly for a baby shower or birthday), I don’t think I would have thought twice. They do seem to be taking place rather regularly and by most of our staff, and they range from baby/toddler clothes and toys to picture frames to decorative trinkets. Susan is always very appreciative and often posts a shout-out on Facebook to thank the individual. I thought it was a little over the top, but just assumed people kept doing it for the positive attention. Again…nothing clearly sinister to me but just too much for my personal comfort level.

      1. Loulou*

        I’d really urge you to question your assumptions! I guess people might be giving her gifts for the positive attention…or they might be doing it because they like her and want to make her feel good. When I give someone a gift (very rarely at work, and I agree that part seems unusual) that’s generally why.

      2. Jacey*

        It seems like maybe your issue is less Susan and more how others are reacting to her? It might be helpful to reframe it that way in your head as you try not to let dislike of her show.

      3. Lizard the Second*

        OP, I think you buried the lede here!

        Bringing in baked treats for the whole office would instantly win me over. Every office I’ve been in, people love the office baker. If she’s doing this once a month, that’s a pretty generous gift (of time or money or both). It makes sense for other people to want to give back to her.

      4. Teapot Wrangler*

        Shouting out a small gift on Facebook is the weirdest thing you’ve mentioned TBH. That’s not normal behaviour, right?

        1. LW/OP*

          As it’s been mentioned, she’s pretty “Extra.” :) I keep saying it – there’s nothing inherently wrong with what she does. It’s just too much for me, apparently!

        2. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

          Seems pretty normal to me! It’s basically a thank-you note translated to a medium that a lot of people now use.

          1. Teapot Wrangler*

            But I wouldn’t send a thank you note if I’d received the gift and been able to thank them in person…

  19. Littorally*

    So, there’s a clear divide between how you treat Susan and how the rest of the office treats Susan. What I’m wondering, OP, is if there’s any sort of a divide (not nearly as huge, of course) between how you treat Susan and how you treat other members of the office? It’s perfectly ok if there is — we’re all entitled to have people we’re closer to and people we’re more distant from, as long as everything meets a minimal level of professionalism — but if there isn’t, then you’ve got a very clear answer to give Susan.

    — Oh, it’s nothing personal at all. I’m a big fan of keeping my personal friendships and my work colleagues separate, is all. But your grandbaby really is very charming! [Or other appropriate pivot to a positive topic.]

    But overall, I’d say unless you’ve got a very profound lack of poker face and have been going visibly lemon-mouthed at Susan’s socializing with others, she’s absolutely out of line here, and the whole atmosphere is very weird.

    1. LW/OP*

      Well, that’s possible. My background is more similar to the experiences of our part-time staff, so we talk about particularly gruesome days and ridiculous customers together often. Susan doesn’t have that experience and so can’t share in those conversations. It’s possible this could come across to her as snubbing her because I don’t have a lot in common with her and so can’t have these same conversations!

      And as others have pointed out, I probably am unconsciously letting my bias show, which likely doesn’t help!

  20. Cohen*

    While this coworker may sound innocent; there are some people in the workplace that play the game so well; forming cliques, sucking up to specific people in order to get ahead, making sure that they gain X exposure over others etc. These people usually wear multiple masks depending on the situation at hand and tend to hold grudges if you do not partake in the games they play; giving them compliments when the whole team does, as an example.

    I would always just do the best work you can and try to be as friendly as possible to others. Any extra effort will not be that meaningful in the long term.

    1. anonymous73*

      I would only argue that friendly is not a requirement. Respectful and professional, yes.

  21. LC*

    OP, you’re not alone, I also wouldn’t be terribly fond of Susan. She just sounds …. exhausting. Like you, I’d try to be pleasant and kind, but even as much as you’re giving her would take up so much of my introverted-self’s energy, I wouldn’t have much less for the rest of the work day, let alone my life outside of work. For me, that would negatively effect my other relationships, both work and personal, and I would resent being consistently put in that situation.

    I’m hoping that other people genuinely like her as much as it looks like they do (I’m inclined to agree with Alison and trust the assessment your boss gave you, but I’ve also known people who just really do have that kind of relationship with 85% of the office, and it’s beyond my understanding), because that would make me less bummed for everyone who works with her.

    But even if that’s the case, it’s okay to not be super fond of everyone (as long as you aren’t being an asshole, which doesn’t sound like the case at all, it sounds like you’re already giving her far more than many people would expect from their coworkers).

    My only advice is noise cancelling headphones that you can wear at your desk, specifically when you aren’t involved in anything going on with her, no one is expecting you to interact, but for when you’re alone at your desk and trying to work. It won’t change anything, but protecting yourself from even hearing some of it might help the mental fatigue.

  22. Smithy*

    One question I have is whether or not this is an office that does a lot of bonding around things. From the letter, it certainly sounds like a lot of things given to Susan – but I do wonder if that giving happens in more directions? Such as birthdays/engagements/new babies/illness resulting in team gifts, flowers, and food?

    I only ask because I recently switched to a team that was like this, and finding my place that felt right to my own style was an adjustment. What could I do to connect with the larger vibe of the team in a way that aligned with who I was? Some of the things some people do have a similar “Susan” affect on my nerves, and just isn’t how I connect with coworkers – but there often were other things I could do. So while the OP can continue to not brining in specific gifts/initiate longer conversations with Susan – is this an office where bringing in food for the team either as celebration or to mark the Friday of a tough week accomplish a similar connection that feels less forced?

    I’m now on a team that loves a “reply all” on positive news emails, which I certainly don’t. And as much as it grates on me, I really try to force myself to reach out individual to still extend congratulations because it’s clearly apart of how this team functions but then I don’t have to contribute to the larger “reply all” piece.

    1. LW/OP*

      I wouldn’t say our culture is overly materialistic but it is definitely celebratory. People bring in their own treats for their birthdays, and good news is posted publicly so folx are aware and can congratulate the individual. I’ve only experienced one shower while I was here (which was for Susan’s first grandbaby), which I didn’t finger as out of the norm at the time.

        1. LW/OP*

          I was new and thought, aw, that’s nice! But I haven’t seen any other celebrations yet, so maybe it was just a Susan thing. Or maybe it wasn’t and no one else is expecting their first grandbaby. It’s hard to say!

  23. Undine*

    The fact that Susan actually complained has me firmly on the side that this is a Susan problem, not an OP problem. Even if OP is. But cool, or a bit edgy, around Susan, a genuinely lovely person would know people are people and shrug it off. Unless it’s a boss problem, and Susan casually said something like, “I don’t think she’s really warmed up to me,” and the boss is interpreting this as a complaint. Time for Alison’s ‘think of yourself as an anthropologist studying strange customs’ approach, at least for now.

  24. Susanna*

    One thing I wonder is if Susan actually complained or made an offhand comment.
    I wonder because… well, I was in a situation at work where there was a mid-level boss I thought didn’t like me, and I didn’t know why. He didn’t punish me in any way professionally; we had a very good and civil relationship. But it bugged me! I mentioned it once to a higher-up editor (who is more of friend), and she assured me it was not the case at all. He was just more reserved. And now we have a closer relationship.

    Though it does sound in this letter than Susan sees herself as Scarlett O’Hara at the barbecue, and wonders why LW isn’t competing to get her a plate of food.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      “Susan sees herself as Scarlett O’Hara at the barbecue, and wonders why LW isn’t competing to get her a plate of food.”

      The belly laugh I needed today! How accurate!

    2. Bluesboy*

      I have an ex-colleague I was sure didn’t like me. He moved to another company and now manages a friend of mine.

      The friend asked me if I was interested in going to work with him, I said “I don’t think you’ll get Bob’s approval for that, he isn’t my biggest fan!” Anyway, he asked Bob, and apparently Bob actually thinks quite highly of me and would be happy to see me there…

      Sometimes we just don’t read these things right!

    3. Heidi*

      The one thing that makes me wonder about this is that the boss described it as “butting heads,” which makes it sounds way more antagonistic than what the OP is describing. What I’m guessing is that Susan perceives that the OP doesn’t like her. It sucks to be disliked, no matter how well liked you are by others. But I don’t think that the OP needs to do anything other than stay professional and let Susan deal with her own feelings.

    4. anonymous73*

      But here’s the difference…you mentioned your thoughts to a friend who assured you that it wasn’t true. That friend didn’t have a meeting with the mid-level manager saying that you made a complaint about his treatment towards you.

      And your comment brings out another problem. Why would you assume that someone with whom you had a “good and civil” relationship at work didn’t like you? And what if they didn’t like you? They were doing nothing wrong. Would you file an official complaint?

      1. STG*

        It’s possible that a meeting wasn’t called specifically for this purpose though and it came up more organically or offhand.

        It’s hard to say without hearing the Susan/Boss convo though. With the way the OP has presented the situation, Susan looks needy enough to arrange a meeting specifically for this purpose.

  25. Fluffy Fish*

    Just a thought OP (prefaced by it’s absolutely ok not to like a coworker). You say you offer her compliments and small talk and such. Sometimes when you know someone doesn’t like you those things can feel snarky or disingenuous to the person even if that’s in no way your intent. Maybe it might help if you lay off that stuff a bit? Thanks for work stuff, general good morning, hello, how are ya pleasantries but maybe back off the compliments?

    1. LW/OP*

      That’s a good point! I don’t like to compliment people thoughtlessly – her grandbaby really is adorable, so it’s an easy one for me to say, with feeling, that she’s super cute.

      Also, I panic when we’re trapped in a room waiting for a meeting or while waiting for the copier to finish up. LOL

      I read somewhere once that you can trick yourself into liking people more (or, in the very least, improving your interactions) if you mentally review things you DO like about the person. I’ll try to be more mental and less verbal and see if that helps at all!

  26. Anya the Demon*

    I have so many questions for the LW! Personally, I agree – Susan sounds exhausting. Yes, there are some people who have so much charisma and magnetism that people are just drawn to them. But they are definitely not usually the same people who will then go complain to their boss when someone doesn’t like them.

    This sounds almost like The Cult of Susan, where everyone is expected to, and repainted to, lavish her with attention. Then they, in turn, are rewarded with over the top attention. It sounds like a co-dependendent cycle to me.

    Also, while I appreciate a social office, that sounds like a LOT of time and energy being put into discussing her clothing, her grandkids etc.

  27. Dust Bunny*

    Susan sounds draining, and of course you’re allowed to just not like people, but the bit about “I hate suck-up’s[sic] – she writes little “thinking of you” notes, offers compliments regularly, is happy to take on extra work, etc. – which I tend to view as fabricated in order to make people like her” is a tiny red cocktail flag for me. Because . . . what if it’s not? What if Susan means it and the LW is maybe a bit more of a pill about it than she realizes?

    I’ve worked places where coworkers were just very personal about stuff. It wasn’t my style but I didn’t assume it was fake or that they were all kiss-ups. One or two of them were, but the rest of them were just legitimately kind of effusive.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I agree with this. I have zero idea what to think here, because notes of appreciation, compliments, plus taking on extra work… in my experience, the true suck-ups never take on extra work and use their “kindness” to shirk responsibility. Maybe I’m biased. But that part made me think it’s not just Susan’s “fault” here.

      1. Be kind, rewind*

        I have. They’re those martyr types who take on extra work just so they could brag about how busy and valuable they are.

    2. Anon all day*

      Yeah, that was my immediate thought too. The disdain that the LW has for Susan is pretty clear from the letter, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s clear to Susan as well.

    3. BigHairNoHeart*

      That stood out to me too, and OP might want to examine that gut reaction because you’re right, it’s not always a bad thing to be…over the top like this. But, based on the rest of this letter, I’m inclined to think this is mostly a bitch eating crackers thing. OP probably wouldn’t have raised hackles if Susan was otherwise chill, but in the context of the rest of her personality, all this nice stuff feels fabricated (and who knows, maybe it’s not! but I get the impulse to think poorly of even the seemingly nice parts of her personality given how draining she sounds overall).

    4. Myrin*

      Directly after the part you quote, OP recognises that “It might be genuine, and I might be biased – and, again, I recognize this is MY problem to work through.”, though.

      1. Anon all day*

        Just because she recognizes it, it doesn’t mean she gets a free pass. Something off is still leaking through to Susan.

        1. Myrin*

          That’s possible, but I’m not following how that relates to Dust Bunny’s comment (with the possible exception of “the LW is maybe a bit more of a pill about it than she realizes”, which I understood to mean “maybe OP just tells herself that she isn’t *that* salty about it but she actually *is*” but which could indeed also be read like you seem to have read it).

          Dust Bunny’s comment is fully about pointing out to the OP that both Susan and the coworkers could be entirely genuine and not fake in any way in their affections and interactions and I merely pointed out that I don’t think OP needs to be reminded of that because she recognises that very thing herself in the very next sentence.

        2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          This to me falls on the side of the line of making the OP responsible for Susan’s reactions rather than her own behavior. Susan couldn’t identify any unprofessional conduct or rudeness. So the “leakage” seems to be a lack of what Susan wants rather than anything OP is actually doing. I don’t think anyone owes anyone a performance just for the sake of them feeling liked.

        3. MCMonkeyBean*

          A free pass for what? Their feelings? As long as OP is polite and professional to Susan, which it sounds like their boss thinks that they are, then they aren’t doing anything wrong. Susan is probably a perfectly nice person and OP just… doesn’t like her. That happens. It’s not the end of the world.

      2. Yorick*

        Here’s the thing: Susan has complained that LW doesn’t like her. Commenters are taking that as meaning that Susan is dramatic and needy and exhausting and a big problem. But it’s true – LW *doesn’t* like her! So that says to me that LW needs to look at their behavior toward Susan to make sure they’re really being as professional and collegial as they think. Because LW doesn’t have any other evidence that Susan is just a complainer or demands gifts from everyone or anything else.

        Honestly, the fact that the boss doesn’t think this is a big deal might matter, but it also might not. Some men see any conflict between women as catty and dramatic. Since Susan is the one who complained, the boss might just interpret her as needing more attention or whatever. LW, what does your boss know about Susan that made him take this less seriously? Or does he just take women (or older women, or less attractive women, or what have you) less seriously?

    5. animaniactoo*

      And I would be all fine with that… if Susan hadn’t gone to the boss to complain because LW is not effusive enough.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        However, we don’t know what that complaint actually looked like. We don’t know what the boss said to the LW or what Susan said to the boss.

      2. River Otter*

        When you are butting heads with a coworker, it is completely reasonable to go to your manager to talk about it.

        1. WellRed*

          Where does it say they are butting heads? It sounds more like they are killing each other with artificial kindness.

          1. Metadata minion*

            Or Susan could be a genuinely effusively nice person in a way that’s really annoying if you just want to get on with your work, and the LW is being polite in the way that just about everyone makes polite small talk with coworkers who they otherwise don’t particularly want to talk to, and the contrast is making both of them feel uncomfortable.

          2. River Otter*

            It says in the letter that the boss described their interactions as “butting heads”. I think we can assume that the boss is accurately conveying the situation as it was described to him.

      3. Anon all day*

        If you note, only Alison uses the word “complain” in her response/heading. It’s not in the question. I think that is also unintentionally skewing the comments here.

    6. Istanzia*

      What if Susan means it but the LW is concurrently entitled not to like this kind of interaction? It takes me a long time to feel comfortable around people, and if they ‘come on too strong’ (as my mother would say) I basically never can get to like them. I need to take my time getting to know someone, and crucially, I need *them* to let me take my time before they start acting like we’re best friends.

      Otherwise I feel crowded and unhappy – in this scenario, a person similar to Susan leaves an encouraging note on my desk and I don’t feel encouraged, I feel trapped – clearly, the polite thing to do is leave a similar note, but I haven’t had time to warm up to this person and I feel like she’s forcing my hand and making me act in a way I’m not ready to act yet.

      Like the OP, I acknowledge that this is my problem, but the more it happens, the more trapped and unhappy I feel about the situation, and the more disinclined I am to like the person who is being so ‘friendly’ towards me – I feel like they are getting too personal too quickly, and I’m not ready yet. Friendly is in quotation marks because as well intentioned as the person may be, the way they interact with people doesn’t feel friendly to me, it feels smothering.

      Because I am a (mostly) functioning member of society, I can perform all the actions that I’m supposed to perform, like saying thank you, acknowledging that babies are cute, etc. But you can’t make me like them and if they went to the boss about it I would be similarly confused and dismayed.

      1. Metadata minion*

        Oh wow, you’ve described that “trapped” feeling perfectly! For someone else, that level of little desk notes and compliments and stuff might be their default way of interacting with a new person they feel reasonably pleasant towards, but to me that indicates a much closer relationship and it feels really boundary-crossing. But then not reciprocating feels rude because I don’t want to reject someone’s obviously well-meaning gesture unless I have an actual reason.

        1. Istanzia*

          Yes, all of this! And it’s so frustrating, because if you don’t reciprocate, everyone *else* will think you are rude, but reciprocating is just encouraging the behaviour you don’t like…

      2. LW/OP*

        THIS! Thank you for putting it into better words than I ever could!!

        I also came from a super toxic work environment, in which my grand-manager was SO nice to everyone to their face but would tear them down behind their backs. He would directly order our manager to fire people, stop doing x-y-z, and so forth – and then encouraged people to go over the manager’s head to complain directly to him so he could “fix” it. (“Fixing” it usually involved a lot of comfort and platitudes and blaming the manager for being unreasonable.) I think that experience has scarred me for life when it comes to others being nice!

        1. Istanzia*

          That would definitely make it worse! I’m really sorry you’re having to deal with this, just reading about Susan was more than enough for me! I think as long as you stay polite, there’s really not much more they can ask of you…

        2. Sea Anemone*

          I also came from a super toxic work environment, in which my grand-manager was SO nice to everyone to their face but would tear them down behind their backs.

          And we found the lede. LW/OP, you are letting your past trauma affect you at your current workplace. Susan is not your former grand-manager. Stop responding to Susan as though she is your former grand-manager. Stop giving your grand-manager so much space in your head! Do you have any kind of EAP that you could access to get some sessions with a counselor?

  28. Ozzie*

    Blah, this feels so childish (of Susan). Maybe I’m petty, but if my boss told me this like the LW’s did, I would certainly NOW have an issue with Susan where I didn’t before. But I don’t think you’ve done anything wrong, LW. It isn’t your responsibility to cater to people’s need to be liked, especially since it sounds like you treat it very warmly and are very friendly anyway. Take your boss at his word and leave it alone, imo.

    For what it’s worth though, Susan DOES sound exhausting, and I also don’t think I’d like her very much. (and I think I would be far less friendly than you have been, just because I generally try to avoid interacting with people like that if I can help it…. so, BIG kudos to you!)

  29. Dark Macadamia*

    This whole office sounds weird! I can’t imagine going out and buying baby shoes for a coworker’s grandchild just because they match a dress I saw in a picture lol. Like did they just happen to see the shoes and they were on sale… or did they actively go out and search for the perfect accessory for this random child??

    1. WellRed*

      And did they know what size? Buying gifts for a grandchild in the office is just weird to me.

    2. Yorick*

      Another commenter suggested they may have gifted her a pair of their baby shoes, and that (giving away your kid’s things that they’ve outgrown) seems very much like something a coworker might do in a normal workplace.

  30. DG*

    As someone with resting grumpy face who struggles with small talk, Susan would probably think I’m out to murder her.

  31. Anon all day*

    I’m going to disagree with the majority of the commenters. I think we’re seeing the double effect of both “the responses to this letter would have been 180 different if the other person had written in” and AAM’s commenters’ disposition to not liking certain social aspects of the workplace compared to the average person.

    OP has some pretty strong internal thoughts/opinions about Susan that I don’t think are born out from what she describes. Further, it seems like OP could be taking out the rest of the office’s behaviors to Susan on Susan. OP says that much of the interaction is initiated by other people. Are we really going to dislike people simply because they’re popular and outgoing?

    1. Ozzie*

      I actually am super curious what the other side of this is for these reasons. I’m one of the commenters who definitely wouldn’t like Susan, but I also don’t think I would like any of the people in the office based on this description alone. (it’s just not my vibe!)

      THAT BEING SAID, I want to know so badly how this came up with the boss. Was it an actual complaint? An off-handed comment? Something the boss overheard someone else saying about how they thought Susan felt about OP? Because that changes it DRASTICALLY. Especially because we don’t know what would make Susan actually feel that way in any given context. (I have a terrible habit of coming across as snarky even when I’m not trying, so wondering if something like that happened and LW isn’t aware cause it wasn’t the goal?)

      I tend to want to give the LW the benefit of the doubt for stuff like this, but I am sooo curious, because I think perception can also play a huge part here – on the part of the LW, Susan, AND the boss.

      1. Anon all day*

        I think it could have been pretty innocent with how it came up, which is why I’m not jumping on the “Susan sucks” bandwagon. If I’m in an office where everyone is super friendly with me, but there’s one person who’s noticeably colder, I might say something in an offhand way to my boss like, “Oh, I hope I didn’t do anything to offend OP. She seems a bit distant.” And the boss could mention it in an offhand way to OP (because we don’t know the boss’s actual words, just OP’s description of them).

        1. Ozzie*

          Realistically, this is what I assume happened, and the boss painted it in a very bad light. (which is then on the boss, definitely not Susan, and less so LW) But I personally still consider this weird… but probably because I’m the one who is usually considered cold or standoffish… ^^;

          1. Lanlan*

            I honestly hadn’t considered the boss could be garbling the message until I read a bunch of the comments. I definitely don’t think anyone’s the devil here, just… things have gotten confused in that office. Really confused.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I agree. Here are the facts about Susan’s behavior from the letter: she writes little “thinking of you” notes, offers compliments regularly, is happy to take on extra work, etc. … She reciprocates the positivity and asks how their own celebrations are, how their weekends were spent, and so on … but people seek her out and initiate the interaction, in most cases. They aren’t bad interactions — maybe a little much, but not inherently bad.

      Aside from the fact that she complained to the LW’s boss (and we don’t know exactly what was said), it’s wild that Susan is getting painted as the devil in the comment section.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        And in fact, if most of this is initiated by others, we are blaming Susan for … being a friendly and helpful coworker who is liked by people who bring her gifts? Frankly, I’d argue it’s the coworkers’ behavior that’s odder than Susan’s! I’m curious to know what’s behind all the adoration — is she the relative of a celebrity? What’s making everyone so fawning? (I think the assumption in the comments has been Susan is somehow pressuring people for this — but there’s really nothing in the letter to indicate that, and it seems to be the opposite.)

        1. Ellen Ripley*

          Maybe Susan has a cult-leader aura. I want to meet Susan and see if I fall under her spell!

        2. A Wall*

          I mean, I guess. I don’t think Susan is being maligned here, people are just saying she sounds exhausting. Everyone, no matter how they behave, is someone that some other people are going to find exhausting and difficult to deal with because their styles of interaction are not particularly compatible. You can be technically not doing anything wrong (or even be generally very good) and some folks can still find you to be a real pain. I don’t think them feeling that way or saying they feel that way is an absolute judgment of you as a person but rather a contextual expression of the mismatch between you.

          In the exact same way that the LW and a number of the commenters dislike Sudan, Susan is uncomfortable in some way or another with the LW. Neither of them seem particularly wrong. The reason people are focusing on Susan is because she, a tenured and well-seated employee, decided it was worth voicing that dislike/discomfort/whatever to a pretty new employee’s manager. The LW and the commentariat are thinking perhaps Susan presses for this kind of attention because in this specific instance, she is. Regardless of how mild it was or if it was in passing or whatever, that’s kind of a crap move and it’s going to make a lot of people reading the letter think she’s at least a little bit crappy to have to work with.

          1. A Wall*

            (And just to head off this response, I know she’s not literally pressuring the LW’s manager to make them buy her baby shoes or whatever. But she is clearly some level of miffed that the LW isn’t enthusiastically personal with her and sees that as a concrete enough problem to be worth mentioning, even if it was only in passing.)

            1. Tiger Snake*

              I’m not even sure we know she’s miffed. Everything we know is third hand.

              What we know is what Susan was concerned about how the OP acted around her, and so Susan raised it with her manager. The manager said there was no problem, and then told the OP. And the OP does stress that Susan is both kind and professional. The OP has given no indication that she thinks this is drama-seeking

              We don’t know what behaviour prompted Susan’s initially concern, or even the reason why she was concerned;
              It could have been based on a specific event that the OP has forgotten about where OP was especially curt.
              It could have been because of comments from others.
              It could even just be that Susan was worried about whether the fact the OP doesn’t like her will impact on the actual work they do and wanted to get her manager’s opinion on the matter about how to nip it in the bud before it became an issue.

          2. yala*

            I’m seeing a lot of people leaping to the conclusion that Susan is someone who gets upset when people don’t “fawn” all over her, which…isn’t really backed up by this letter.

        3. Lizard the Second*

          I’m curious to know what’s behind all the adoration

          In the comments, OP mentioned that Susan brings in baked treats for the whole office once a month.

          I think this is the missing piece of the puzzle! Everyone loves the office baker. If someone did this at my workplace, I would also be friends with them and want to return the favour. Baking is expensive, and little tokens of appreciation would be a way of showing my gratitude.

      2. Polecat*

        It’s pretty hard to describe when you’re not in the situation, but for those of us who have experienced as Susan, We know exactly what the OP is talking about. It’s a kind of toxic positivity/popularity where the Susan needs that level of attention, needs to be the center of attention, and really gets something fundamental in her fed by the amount of attention she garners in the office. For people who watch ‘what we do in the shadows’ Think of Colin Robinson the energy vampire. These people are kind of attention vampires. Again it’s really hard to explain if you haven’t experienced it. And it doesn’t rub everybody the wrong way. It only rubs certain people the wrong way. I’m someone who responds to those attention vampires by pulling back. I don’t want to be involved in all of their buzz and hum and squeals and performative jocularity. For me, the way I can tell an attention vampire from someone who is just generally good-natured and happy and people are drawn to them naturally, is their response to people who don’t participate. An attention vampire is going to feel personally attacked if you’re not one of the people in the circle. Someone who is just genuinely happy and social isn’t going to feel that way. They are just going to be doing their own thing and not taking note of who else is doing it with them or around them.

        1. Loulou*

          But do you not see how you’re projecting your own assumptions and experiences onto the situation? You actually do not know what OP is talking about any more than the rest of us do. Something about OP’s description reminded you of something you’ve experienced and you’re using that to draw conclusions about Susan’s behavior and effect on others.

          1. Coyote Tango*

            Yes, the first person I thought about was one of our office “Susans” and in general she’s a fantastic coworker. She’s a bit effusive with praise but having bumped into her out and about over the years that’s just sort of how she is. It’s not a special act for the office, she doesn’t claw at people for attention, she’s just very social and raised with a very old school mentality that it’s socially appropriate to celebrate with people. Though I didn’t make a habit of buying things for people in the office, if I saw something she liked and it was a few bucks I’d tend to pick it up for her because it meant a lot to her. When people didn’t like her it did bother her but mostly because she assumed that if someone didn’t like her, she must have done something to them to make that happen and she wanted to correct it.

            My Susan left our department several years ago and she diligently emails me on my birthday, my husband’s birthday, and major holidays to say that she’s thinking of me and hopes I’m doing well. She’s going to retire in a few years and I’ll never cross her path professionally again, she just likes me.

          2. Polecat*

            Nope I don’t see that at all. I see it 100% differently from you. I don’t need you to see it like me. I’m not sure why you need me to see it the way you do. Based on your comment, this entire website was shut down because we are all discussing things based on our own experiences. None of us know the people involved in any of the letters here. Again based on your criticism of me, no comment would ever be able to be made on this website.

            1. Loulou*

              No one said that! Of course it’s helpful for people to bring up their own experiences here. What’s not helpful is to say “I know for a fact that X must be true, because X was my experience when I dealt with something similar.” That’s how your comment seemed to me.

              It seems like you took my comment pretty personally, but what I said wasn’t a criticism of you — just pointing out that your comment wasn’t necessarily true.

        2. Gerry Keay*

          I mean… maybe? You’re projecting your experience onto the letter, and there’s actually no way you could possibly know whether it’s the same situation.

          1. Polecat*

            Every single response to every single letter that is ever written to this website is based on our experiences. I used my experience to explain to people who haven’t encounter this type of person or understand why this type of person is annoying awesome. I think it’s hilarious that of the 400+ comments on this post mine is the only one you think it’s based on my own experience. It’s also bizarre.

        3. Myrin*

          Yeah, my immediate reaction to this letter – I called it “cult-y vibes” above – was largely informed by the fact that I went to school with a Susan and I absolutely despised him. He was a bit condescending but other than that never actually did anything objectively bad; by all accounts he was funny, outgoing, intelligent, and well-liked. But when people gathered around him, it was always like he held court – he sat in the middle and even made these Queen-Beatrix-esque hand movements when talking to others. It was like most people (even teachers!) around him were under some kind of weird spell whenever they interacted with him because it was often noticeably different from how they interacted with everyone else.

          I’ll readily admit that I might be being incredibly unfair and harsh towards Susan and that she might very well not be like my classmate at all but all while reading, I had this huge blinking sign of his name in the back of my head. It is a total “when you know, you know” kind of situation but for me, that mostly only applies to when I’m actually there, which I’m obviously not, so I might be unfairly maligning a lovely, positive, friendly older lady, and I can imagine others coming from a similar background.

        4. bunniferous*

          YES. This.

          I’m a reasonably friendly person and my friends are for the most part reasonably friendly. But I know someone that fits your description and I have a pretty visceral reaction to them. From the outside it wouldn’t make sense but this person makes my skin crawl….if they would give me more personal space and let me get to know them at MY comfort level it would make a big difference. “Guts” are weird.

        5. Delphine*

          But this is a projection of your specific negative experiences. There’s nothing in the letter, except for LW’s dislike of her, that suggests that Susan is anything but kind, thoughtful, professional, and widely well-liked. We don’t even know the specifics of what Susan said to her boss or what the boss specifically said to LW. Was “neurotic” a direct quote, or LW being hyperbolic?

        6. Claire W*

          But the only thing we have to suggest that the coworker is in any way not totally unbothered by OP’s attitude is that the boss said they are ‘butting heads’ – that could be anything from “I can’t stand OP” to “Huh OP seems pretty put off any time I try to interact with her, do you know if I’ve annoyed or offended her? Should I be apologising?” jumping to “she’s an energy vampire” because a third party mentioned that it’s clear that OP doesn’t like her (that much screams out from OP’s own letter anyway) seems extreme and uncharitable at best. Many genuinely nice people would be concerned if someone in their office is clearly bothered by their very existence.

          1. Polecat*

            Wow I didn’t realize my comment would be so much of a Rorschach test. The clearly described her own Behavior, and the type of social interactions she has with Susan. And they are polite and friendly. There is nothing to indicate that she displays an attitude that she is bothered by Susan‘s very existence. In fact we have evidence to the contrary. Her manager hasn’t given her any behavior to change just a vague Susan thinks you don’t like her and she might act weird around you message.
            Yet you feel comfortable disbelieving her, and misstating her behavior.
            And you don’t feel uncomfortable calling me extreme and uncharaitable. Well I find your comments about me offensive And I certainly won’t be taking any thoughts from you about niceness other people seriously.

      3. LadyJ*

        My take is when you deal with cutesy positive notes and the like and you are not that type of personality it can grate on the nerves quickly. Also, complaining to the boss feels very high school. My other take is that they initiate may be to head her off at the pass and I base that on the went to the boss thing.

      4. Ace in the Hole*

        Perhaps part of the problem is describing Susan as “complaining” to the boss, when we have no evidence this was a complaint. People are reacting very strongly to the idea that Susan complained about LW’s lack-of-friendliness, which implies a sense of entitlement on Susan’s part.

        All we know from the letter is that Susan spoke with the boss about it in some way. It could have been a complaint, but it could just as easily have been an offhand mention, an honest-but-tactful response to a direct question, or a request for advice on whether Susan needs to change anything about her own behavior.

        1. allathian*

          There’s nothing in the letter about complaints. The word is only mentioned in Alison’s heading. Maybe that should read “…and she talked to my boss about it” instead of “…complained…”?

      5. Fiorinda*

        To me the point that stood out was that OP describes Susan as reciprocating the positive attention but the other coworkers as initiating it, which suggests to me that Susan accepts the positive attention that others give to her and then reflects it back, but doesn’t initiate giving positive attention to others herself. That implies an imbalance in the interaction somewhere.

      6. Salli*

        Agreed that we don’t know the full details but taking the OP at their word and going off what they wrote, I think it’s pretty clear why Susan is coming off poorly here. Certainly though, some people are going very far with it.

    3. Casper Lives*

      “ Are we really going to dislike people simply because they’re popular and outgoing?” I don’t think that’s what’s happening here. LW didn’t write in asking if s/he should like Susan. LW wrote in because the boss passed along a complaint without any actionable advice, and LW wanted an outside opinion on the situation.

      Sometimes you’re rubbed the wrong way by someone and your personalities don’t mesh. That’s fine. You have to be professional and polite, and should try to be warm to your coworkers to work well together. You’re not paid to like each other but you are paid to work congenially.

      I think some commentators can take things too far, like not wanting to wish a coworker “happy birthday” when it’s customary or not saying “hi” in the morning. Most commentators seem to have a good grasp on being professional, working with coworkers that aren’t your bff, and understanding when a person or team has a different personality to them as nothing being inherently wrong with that difference.

    4. Anonymous Hippo*

      Yeah, this is my take too. If you dislike someone as intensely as the OP seems to, it is almost bound to be coming out in attitude or behavior in some way. And disliking someone for simply being popular and outgoing is just, IDK, mean. Now, I’d be mad as hell if someone went to my boss because I wouldn’t be friends, but if you are putting out a super negative attitude that’s something else. I usually find it is to my benefit to “kill with kindness” anyone who I particularly don’t fancy.

    5. River Otter*

      “ OP has some pretty strong internal thoughts/opinions about Susan that I don’t think are born out from what she describes”

      Yep. OP is telling herself a story about Susan, and she is reacting to her story. OP should stop telling themself stories, and should dig into why they tell that particular story in the first place.
      OP’s story is making them way more miserable than Susan is.

      1. Myrin*

        I have to admit I’m not really seeing the story, unless the story is that OP’s reaction to someone being very friendly, helpful, and sociable is to think that all of that isn’t real but fabricated to make others like them; but even that, she admits might be her own bias and she might be wrong about it.

        I actually thought that OP seemed remarkably… “neutral” isn’t exactly the right word… level-headed, maybe? in both her original letter and her secondary reply. She describes Susan and all the interactions around her in positive terms, confirms that Susan hasn’t done anything objectionable in any way, and readily admits that she thinks Susan can tell she’s “not [her] favourite person” (which I mention because several commenters said something along the lines of “your feelings towards her probably aren’t as secret as you think!” when it seems quite clear OP doesn’t think that). Honestly, the general vibe (not the question she asked but a feeling lurking behind all of it) I got from her letter was “This person hasn’t done anything wrong – why don’t I like them?”, which is something I think a lot of people can identify with.

        1. Yorick*

          OP does seem to have a narrative in mind about Susan’s motives for doing things that are objectively nice: paying compliments, taking on extra work, etc. If she has any reason for believing that narrative, she didn’t share it with us.

          And sure, OP *says* that she might be biased and wrong about why Susan acts that way, but she still interprets her as being fake and bad. It seems to me that she’s paying lip service to the idea that Susan might really be ok, but doesn’t believe it.

          1. Myrin*

            That doesn’t seem particularly unusual to me, though – sometimes things (especially things we view as over the top in whatever way) feel a certain way to us for no particular reason (I had this recently with a customer at the shop I work – she’s giving off strong creepy vibes to me even though she hasn’t done anything wrong in any way and is in fact always very polite).

            And I’m not really sure what you expect her to do regarding your second paragraph – she can’t magically make herself like Susan, so I’d say it’s vastly preferable for her to at least logically acknowledge that she might be wrong than to insist that no, she’s definitely right and Susan is definitely a phony and a faker.

            1. River Otter*

              OP Cannot make herself suddenly like Susan, but she can stop telling herself that Susan is being fake nice to make people like her.

    6. bee*

      Yeah, I scrolled down to the comments and mentally girded my loins for some Susan-bashing and I was not wrong. From the letter, the only objectively bad thing Susan has done is talked to the boss, and OP wasn’t there for that so it may have been anything from a full complaint to an off-handed mention. Susan seems nice, if a little Much, and I have a feeling OP’s dislike is palpable. That doesn’t change the advice, they’re allowed to have different communication styles, but I worry the response in the comments is going to reinforce OP’s dislike and make things worse

    7. Be kind, rewind*

      Hmmmm I think maybe people are trying to take OP at their word that Susan comes across as someone who REALLY NEEDS to be liked. This can be quite off-putting, even if her actions are objectively positive.

      Add to that the fact that she went to the boss about OP without having a conversation with them first… even if it was an off-hand comment and not an official complaint, that’s going to erode some trust there.

      1. rototiller*

        OP didn’t say that, though. They say their boss said that Susan “is almost neurotic in her need to be liked.” I take OP at their word that their boss said this, but that doesn’t mean we have to assume Susan genuinely comes across this way.

        Actually, re-reading the letter, I have some questions about the boss’s role in all this. The way he framed the issue to OP kinda sounds like someone stirring up drama. What was he trying to accomplish?

      2. Coyote Tango*

        “Add to that the fact that she went to the boss about OP without having a conversation with them first… ”

        But you don’t even know what Susan said to the boss. There’s a lot of assumptions that Susan ran in cackling to proclaim that the OP hated her and the boss had to fix it. It’s equally as likely that Susan (being “neurotic” according to the boss), could have asked if she’d done something to upset OP since she could tell OP just really didn’t like her. Is it extra? Yes.

        On the other hand, I would not be super thrilled to try and talk to a coworker who is seething with as much disdain for me as OP seem to have for Susan which seems to be entirely predicated upon her deciding that writing nice notes and taking on extra work is fake nice. You know why I take on extra work? Because my coworkers suck at it, and if I wait for them to do it, it will never be done and I can’t do my other work. Whoops, according to OP I am fake and trying to seem better than other people.

    8. anonymous73*

      If Susan had written in and said that one of her co-workers didn’t like her, I would 100% tell her to get over it. Unless there was evidence of the co-worker treating her poorly, not everyone will like you. And that’s okay. So no, not all comments would take a 180 degree turn.

      1. Eat My Squirrel*

        My thought is if you’re upset that your coworker doesn’t like you enough, that’s not a them problem, that’s a you problem, and if it’s that important to you, then it’s your job to find out why they don’t like you and change your behavior so that they do like you. It’s not their job to just suddenly start liking you because you think they should.

        1. anonymous73*

          100%. You’re throwing a bunch of randos with different personalities into a place to do a job together for 8+ hours a day. Statistically not everyone is going to like everyone else. It’s your job to be professional and respectful, but friendly is not a requirement (unless you work for Disney).

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

            Right, this is the point, I think. It doesn’t really matter if Susan is utterly delightful or secretly toxic, it doesn’t matter if OP is right or wrong not to like her, or if we’d feel sympathetic to Susan if she wrote to Alison. The point is that in the world, and especially in the workplace, sometimes we will have to be around people we just don’t like, or who just don’t like us, maybe for fully subjective or irrational reasons. And as long as everyone manages to behave themselves, that’s not actually a problem that needs to be solved. And it does sound as though OP is behaving just fine – they’re pleasant and polite, they compliment Susan’s family photos, they thank her for her work contributions. That’s enough for kind and professional workplace interactions, even if it’s less than Susan would prefer! So if Susan is complaining to the boss about that, then *that* does make Susan the unreasonable one, not OP.

            1. Elaine Benes*

              Omg THANK YOU. This is exactly how I see it and I’m dismayed at all the people implying OP is a meanie just because she doesn’t like Susan. We’re all allowed to not like people! And OP strikes me as a mature and thoughtful assessor of the situation.

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                I don’t think people are saying or implying that OP is a “meanie” for not liking Susan? I haven’t seen anyone saying that OP has to like her. People (including me) have said that it’s quite possible that OP’s disdain for Susan is more obvious to Susan than she thinks it is, but that’s not the same as saying that the OP is *mean.*

    9. EventPlannerGal*

      I agree. It seems to me that OP has taken an entirely irrational dislike to this person on the basis that they think people who do things like going the extra mile at work and being nice to people are fake. Firstly, some people are just nice and personable and other people like them because of this. (That always seems to be a controversial stance here but I think one borne out by reality.) Secondly, I think that given the tone of the letter the OP is almost certainly not concealing that dislike as well as they think they are, and the specifics of what was said to her boss are probably the most important thing in this entire situation.

      Honestly I think the framing of this letter is bringing out a lot of junior-school insecurities about The Popular Kids that really shouldn’t be applied to the workplace.

      1. Riley and Jonesy*

        I’m going to go with Bad Art Friend vibes with this letter.
        Susan sounds like a nice person (too nice? Who really knows!) whose overall ‘Kindly’ and kidney-giving is cringeworthy and offensive if observed from one viewpoint, but generous and warm if viewed from another. Ultimately, it’s your own personality and past experiences which will leave you convinced that Susan is a false suck up or a misunderstood kinky worker who is now having to put up with subliminal hostile vibes from a new coworker.
        I can spend all day flipping from one side to the other on both this letter and Bad Art Friend.

      2. Delphine*

        Like, oh no, she’s happy to take on extra work! She’s good at her job! She’s a great conversationalist! People enjoy her company! And we’ve all decided these are bad things because of reasons.

        1. Riley and Jonesy*

          Yeah, I’d probably love Susan. I kind of love gushy people. I also love prickly people.

        2. EventPlannerGal*

          Other people seek her out and laugh and talk about their grandchildren! She asks her coworkers how their weekends were! Obviously she’s a cult leader and emotional vampire.

          Like, sorry, but this section in particular is hilarious to me: “I immediately took a dislike to her for them. She is kind, thoughtful, and professional, and she does an excellent job in her role.” I mean… ???

    10. Willis*

      Yeah, all the OP’s descriptions of Susan sound positive (she’s thoughtful, kind, good worker, volunteers to take extra stuff on, talks warmly with coworkers, reciprocates interest in their lives, etc.) but somehow they add up to a suck up who wants people to fawn over her. It’s fine not to take part in a ton of office chit chat or to exchange little gifts with coworkers, but if your contempt for people that do is so noticeable, that’s not great.

      It’s also weird to me that the manager said Susan is neurotic in her need to be liked. That’s not a great way to talk about someone to another report even if he does legitimately think this is entirely Susan’s issue. It makes me wonder if he’s just talking out of the both sides of his mouth and told her “Oh yeah, OP is not as outgoing as others in the office, but you don’t need to change anything….”

    11. NOK*

      100% agree. Someone elsewhere in the comments said this is veering into classic BEC territory and I think that’s a pretty apt reading of the situation.

  32. Generic Name*

    Oh man, I feel for you, OP. I’m getting major high school vibes from Susan. It’s perfectly fine to not be best friends with every single one of your coworkers! For a while, there was a group of women at my office who were basically “the popular girls” at work. Although I sometimes went on walks/lunch/outside of work events with some of them, there were a couple that I just didn’t like all that much. I honestly can’t put my finger on why, exactly, and there’s really nothing wrong with them, but they just weren’t “my people”. And that’s fine! I worked quite well with them, and had no problem with them as coworkers. I don’t really have a ton of advice, but you’re not alone. Plus, I’m giving your boss a bit of side-eye. Maybe he meant well when he gave you that feedback, but since it’s not really actionable on your part, I question why he told you in the first place. Now you’re feeling insecure about your perfectly normal and friendly (!!) interactions with your coworker. He should have told Susan to focus on her work and less on whether or not she is beloved by all.

    1. Ozzie*

      Yeah, I would suddenly feel extremely awkward (and far less charitable) toward Susan after hearing that.

      So much so in fact that this recently happened to me and now every time the person is nice to me I’m just suspect. (even though he said his views of me had changed!) It’s a weird spot to be in, but it’s not on LW to like… undo it. Boss definitely shouldn’t have said anything at all…

    2. MEH Squared*

      I agree, especially with the side-eying of the boss. Why mention it if he didn’t agree with it? That’s too, “Just so you know, so-and-so thinks you’re annoying–but I DEFINITELY don’t!” for me. If it’s an issue, mention it and suggest what the OP can do about it. If it’s not an issue, then don’t mention it at all.

  33. Colonel_Gateway*

    Ooooh, Susan sounds like someone who retired from the department I currently work in before I started. Lovely stories from those who knew her, but something about all the reminiscing rubs me the wrong way.

  34. SquigSoup*

    I admit I get a certain vibe from the description of Susan. There are some people who are very…ingratiating? To others, and who train others around them to react the same way. (Why are people bringing this woman’s grandchild gifts? Isn’t that a bit much?)

  35. animaniactoo*

    I have to say… I would find Susan annoying too and I would be on the warpath after she complained to my boss about this.

    By which I mean… I would be very likely to find the biggest gossip in the office and quietly vent: “I’m friendly but in a professional co-worker kind of way… and apparently that’s not good enough? I can’t believe that she actually complained to my boss about this.”

    Well, at least, that’s what I would be likely to do if I didn’t think it would blow up in my face and could manage to restrain myself from doing that. In which case, my warpath might delve very far into every minor petty thing I thought I could get away with.

    This does not mean that you should do what EvilMe™ would do. Just note for reference how far out in left field that I consider Susan to be.

    1. Loulou*

      Since everyone in the office besides OP seems to like Susan, I think this would be extremely likely to backfire on OP and I hope they don’t do it! How could this possibly help the situation?

        1. Loulou*

          I guess I just don’t understand what the point of your comment is. “Here’s this thing I would do, if I had poor judgement and no regard for consequences”?

          1. moonstone*

            I mean, yes, that is what the commenter said. Not all comments are necessarily advice – some are just people sharing their thoughts and experiences. This commenter was clear about that.

  36. MistOrMister*

    I worked with someone kind of like Susan. Who complained to the boss that I wasn’t friends with her. I was pleasant, but she wanted a bff level effort and I didn’t like her so didn’t want to be her friend. She brought me a jar of jam she said she and her mom made and all I could think was, I don’t know you or your canning prowess, you could poison me with this!! I don’t get it…not everyone is going to like everyone else and that is okay!! I also don’t care for bosses that tell you someone is upset that you don’t like them enough. They seem to always tell you that you”re not in trouble but everything is just awkward for everyone forever after that.

  37. Lizzy Lou*

    It doesn’t matter if the problem is all in Susan’s head. If the higher ups love her and she keeps complaining about you it’ll salt the earth for you. Tread carefully.

  38. Sangamo Girl*

    I’m curious. Where does the management team fit into this? Are they part of the cult of Susan? Has Susan create some sort of unofficial leadership of the office that is only for the minions and OP is not falling in line? Sorry OP lots of questions and no real answers!

  39. Language Lover*

    I knew Susan would be taken to task in the comments and maybe she is manipulatively nice. Or has a need to be the center of attention.

    Or maybe she’s just genuinely perceptive and can tell when someone doesn’t like her and wanted to see if her boss had any insight.

    She could always go to you first but she might have wanted to run things by the boss to get his thoughts and drop it if there were no complaints.

    It’s possible she didn’t think this needed to be addressed but your boss made the mistake of doing so anyway and created a problem where none existed as you two may have continued to coexist as is.

    You can address it or ignore it. I think either is fine. Especially if you hadn’t noticed any tension on her part.

  40. Holy Carp*

    Is Susan’s family prominent in the community? For example, is her husband a local bigwig, or is she from a well-regarded family in town? If so, the fawning and self-importance might be a result of that.

    Being a relative newcomer, OP might not be aware of any of this.

  41. CanRelate*

    With the age gap that is going on my questions would be:

    – Is most of the staff the same age and you are exceptionally younger?
    – Is it a small community where some of them grew up together or they all have generally lived in the same town for a long time? (Like, oh we work together but I’ve known your aunt since we were children!)
    – Are there any other connections going on that would make these more familial relationships, like they all go to the same church?

    I only ask all this because while this is all a bit overwhelming, it super sounds like some of the environments that existed when I grew up in a southern small town. There were some slow moving, small offices that weren’t quite beauty salon levels of casual, but as a teen I certainly witnessed some Dunder Mifflin like spaces (Maybe not as dysfunctional in reality, but certainly oddly casual and “who is actually doing work here??” vibes) when being carted around by my aunt in her small town.

    It doesn’t mean you have to engage, but it could help bring context to why its so noticeable that you don’t like her despite being professional! My aunt was the type who couldn’t go to the grocery store without being stopped for 45min in the parking lot by some random person in town. It was normal for her and other people, and it carried to SOME work places. Ironically, not hers, she was extremely professional during her time at work, but she worked in the city (and retired early, which allowed her the luxury of just being a lady about town)

    Grandma Susan might also not really need to work, and see her place in the office as a position of being social and doing a little work, but just bringing positive vibes to the environment, and it sounds like others may as well! It also sounds like that is NOT your vibe and thats ok, but I’m not really surprised she picked up on it. If the vibe IS of the above, though? I would look to move on if it’s really annoying the hell out of you. Its so rooted into their behavior its not really likely to change.

  42. K in Boston*

    Alison — Curious on your thoughts on how the manager has managed this thus far? On one hand I can see how this is proactive on the manager’s part. But as an employee I’d probably be very confused if the manager doesn’t think I actually need to actively do anything with that information. I also know I can be a very solutions-oriented person and have trouble with “just an FYI” type information sometimes that can still be very helpful, just not in an immediately solutions-deployed way, so that could definitely be contributing to my question marks on this.

  43. HR Ninja*

    I don’t know how many people here follow sports, but this quote came to mind:

    “Aaron Rodgers is like the pretty girl you gotta tell her she’s pretty every day.” -Charles Barkley

    1. Doug Judy*

      I live in GB and this statement could not be more accurate. He’s arrogant and insecure, simultaneously.

  44. Pickaduck*

    I don’t know. She sounds to me like the kid from The Twilight Zone who would “wish people into the cornfield” if they didn’t fawn all over him.

  45. River Otter*

    “ which I tend to view as fabricated in order to make people like her.”

    What if her gestures are not fabricated? What if she is a truly lovely person who likes to help other people and make them feel good? Why do you have this perception that good gestures must be fabricated? This is very definitely a you problem, as you acknowledge. Since you acknowledge that it is a you problem, what are you doing to work on this belief that you have and change it so that it stops impacting your ability to build good relationships with genuinely lovely people who enjoy making nice gestures?

    1. Anonymous Hippo*

      Yeah, the assumption of nefarious intention should be dropped, as its coloring the OPs view. Wait until you see nefarious outcomes (and a complaint to the boss about attitude is not, in and of itself, nefarious).

    2. Loulou*

      Agreed. I’d add that taking letter writers at their word doesn’t mean that all their assumptions are accurate or fair.

    3. Cardboard*

      Being professional and courteous is a job requirement, building personal friendships with your coworkers isn’t. It’s not an OP problem if she genuinely doesn’t want a friendship with her coworker. I think it’s Susan’s problem if she can’t handle not being personally liked. It doesn’t sound like Susan has any complaint about OP’s quality of work.

  46. Seriously?*

    I worked with someone like this. They became a member of every group. They worked hard to be the most liked of all teachers, by creating favorites. (Once by cultivating a special relationship with a student who was awful to me.) They publicly patted themselves on the back often. The thing is, this person is a good teacher. If you didn’t work closely with them, you wouldn’t know the times they slightly undermined others. Like by refusing to make a decision, and handing it off to me, if anyone might not like the outcome. I ignored the favorites thing, and just taught. Kids who saw through it loved me. It does wear on you after awhile.

  47. anonymous73*

    I could have written this letter. Sometimes people won’t like you. If this is a problem for Susan, this is SUSAN’S problem, not yours. If you treat her professionally and civilly, then you aren’t required to treat her any differently. In fact, I think you’ve gone a little overboard to appease her. I would not say anything to Susan, but I might verify that I had the correct takeaway from my manager.

    “After thinking about our last conversation regarding Susan’s complaint, I just want to make sure you don’t think I’ve done anything wrong, correct?” If they confirm, I would add “I appreciate the heads up, but so you’re aware I’m not intending to change anything I’m doing at this time and I think the complaint from Susan was unnecessary and unwarranted.”

    Susan needs to get over herself. Period.

  48. Elizabeth West*

    Am I the only one who is really put off by the whole gift-giving thing? Susan sounds like a class-A Queen Bee. It’s creepy the way they’re all worshiping her.

    This is a workplace. Susan is not the matriarch of a crime family! o_O

    1. Inigo Montoya*

      You’re not the only one!
      It does feel very “worship Susan” to me! I wouldn’t buy shoes for someone else’s grandchild even if they were my best work buddy.

    2. Ozzie*

      This is the thing that read as really weird to me. If it’s only happened once or twice, it’s less weird, but if t’s a routine thing… then I have questions. The context of the letter seems to fixate on it a little bit, but that doesn’t really give any insight into the frequency. (I’ve exchanged things with my coworkers in the past (primarily food, but we work in food), and my mom has done so with a handful of her coworkers, but it was usually something fairly specific (clothes for grandchildren because they were similar age but not size, or a small thing that was in reference to a joke made like, that same week), and EXTREMELY infrequent…)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, and my experiences with mean girl coworkers might be coloring my perception. If you were left out of general office benevolence, it was usually because the Regina George ringleader didn’t like you. If you removed yourself from it for whatever reason, you were looked upon with suspicion.

        In my non-toxic jobs, the exchange of gifts was usually spontaneous, like the pashmina thing I mentioned above. Or, at the lab where I worked, someone making Russian tea mix and handing it out and me making a tiny desk for my coworker’s stuffed duck (it was adorable and hilarious).

        The non-toxic ones did not take place on a regular basis. But the way the letter read, it sounded like this happens more often than that. I may be wrong, but it feels like currying favor with Susan and she’s come to expect the adulation.

        1. Ozzie*

          Yeah basically same all around. The overall environment has a lot to do with it. It’s weird to entirely discount that this COULD be a Regina George situation, as if those types of things never happen (and like, those who have never experienced are very lucky!), but also weird to entirely rule out she could just be really nice! I think both are equally possible here, given the limited context/perspective. So the frequency is key, I think. If it was only the one time… mayyybe LW just fixated on it cause they have NEVER seen it before (or has a previous RG experience), that could be changing their perspective.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            And I also know someone who does favors and gives gifts as a manipulation tactic, so she can leverage them later. So there’s that to consider as well.

    3. STG*

      I can’t remember the last time I gave a gift (well short of money contributions to retirement, wedding, life event stuff) but I have received a few small gifts from long time coworkers. I was recently promoted and a coworker, who is soon retiring and I’ve worked closely with the last 10 years, gave me a couple cool pieces of Great Dane art and a clock to put on my wall in the new office.

      I don’t think a single gift is THAT unusual in certain circumstances but it should really be the exception and not the norm.

  49. Girl On Shelf*

    The vibe of this office does sound a little too cozy and sweet for my taste, but I could deal with it. The real issue is the manager mentioning this at all. If I was OP, I would want to know exactly what she said.
    If Susan just mentioned “Gee, OP doesn’t seem to want to be too friendly” that’s odd, but okay. But if she said something along the lines of “OP is going to be a problem. She doesn’t fit in here” I would have an issue with that.

  50. Esmeralda*

    I suppose it’s possible you’re not as good at hiding your dislike as you think you are, OP, but even so complaining to your manager was….extra…on Susan’s part. Well, now you know she’s not so nice after all. A genuinely nice person would have just dealt with it — or spoken to you directly.

    I’m side-eyeing your manager, too. What are you supposed to do with this information? If yr manager thinks it was out of line, then he needed to tell Susan that and then he did NOT need to tell you! That’s just stirring the pot.

    If he thought you should do something about it, he should have discussed with you what that was.

  51. Bossy Magoo*

    Hope I don’t get flamed for this but…
    At my last job there was an older woman who was loved by everyone for maybe the same reasons everyone loves Susan. She was kind, funny, thoughtful, generous, good at her job. People did bring her gifts, and she brought them gifts – little thoughtful things like making a special dip that everyone loved, or sending cards when they had life milestones. And people did the same for her. Most of us worked together for many years – 15 or more – and so we really did see her as somewhat of an extended family member. She got cancer and we went to her house to check on her – things like that. (she survived). I can imagine someone new starting at work and being put off by it — what’s so great about HER? And even if that person was professionally polite enough, I’m sure my co-worker would have picked up on a little distaste. It’s hard to completely hide that. And I’m sure my co-worker might worry that she did something to make this person not like her and would not want to continue with that behavior. So she might say to her boss “hey do you know if I did something to upset New Person?”

    I think it could all be as innocent as that. When someone is wildly popular at work (or anywhere), sometimes your reaction is going to be to run in the opposite direction. But that doesn’t necessarily make the popular person automatically in the wrong.

    1. After 33 years ...*

      +1. I also have worked with someone just like this, who drew the same reactions from many people. No pressure, no expectations, no diva behaviour or attitude.

    2. Firm Believer*

      I agree with you. I sort of feel like the letter is one person’s interpretation but we have to be missing some level of detail to call Susan the bad guy. I mean, it sounds like no one else has an issue with her.

    3. Elliot*

      Completely agree. I honestly was shocked that AAM jumped right to “Susan is being very weird here.” I think it’s reasonable to ask a manager discreetly why someone seems cold to you, and just because someone is well-liked and kind doesn’t mean they are evil.

    4. anonymous73*

      Maybe Susan and her co-workers are genuine with each other. But for some reason OP doesn’t like her…and that’s okay. I am a very private person and not a share-er with people I don’t know well. And unless I have a connection with a co-worker, I’m not going to be overly friendly with anyone. I realize people may be put off by my personality and not like me, and guess what? I’m okay with that because I am realistic and know that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. My biggest issue here is that Susan felt the need to complain to their manager about it. Unless OP is treating Susan poorly she had no right to complain. Even if she’s not hiding her dislike as well as she thinks she is, if she’s respectful and professional, that’s all that’s required.

      1. yala*

        Y’know what, from the phrasing, I’m not even sure Susan went to the manager to “complain.” She could have just been letting her manager know about some tension in the office. If I had a coworker who kept off giving “I don’t like you at all” vibes, and I didn’t know why, I might mention that to a supervisor, because it can lead to a really uncomfortable work environment, and because maybe there’s something about my behavior that’s exacerbating it.

        The phrase “butting heads” seems like a weird one for the manager to use, tho.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, I agree. Besides, “complain” is only in Alison’s heading, not in the letter itself.

    5. Shan*

      So. I think your assessment is potentially bang on, but I think maybe the issue with someone like Susan (or your Susan) checking in with the boss is that it can kind of screw over the other person, despite having been done with the best of intentions. In this case, the boss what like “whatever,” but sometimes that wouldn’t be the case.

      I’ve been peripheral to a similar situation (though everyone was younger – in university) where the universally loved person (Martha) raised a concern about someone else (Jenny) being a bit standoffish. I think Martha was sincerely trying to figure out if she’d done something, but it led to everyone else feeling very defensive and protective of her and being kind of shitty to Jenny, who really just seemed pretty introverted and had some RBF. I think that’s one of the risks of being really popular… what you say can have a lot of weight.

  52. KP*

    I feel like I may be a Susan. I’m very friendly, I volunteer, and people bring me presents. (Mostly food). I’m also super aware when people don’t like me. Even if they are outwardly friendly, I’m good at picking up the micro-changes in tone, body language, etc. I leave it alone unless it impacts my work.

    For instance, I had a really hard time interacting with an older, male colleague. (Lots of reasons why. None of them were because he didn’t give me presents). I talked to our supervisor and asked for advice on how to communicate better because my supervisor knew him better. When my supervisor spoke to my colleague, the message was “don’t comment on her clothes”

    That wasn’t my message. At all.

    I feel kind of bad for Susan (and myself, to be honest) in these comments. I didn’t take her statement “butting heads” as a complaint about the OP’s behavior. She just sounds like someone who’s highly emotionally intelligent, noticed that the OP may not like her, and simply spoke to their supervisor that she thought they were butting heads. Maybe she, like me, asked for advice on how to improve the relationship?

  53. Blinded By the Gaslight*

    I wonder if your secret dislike of Susan is not so secret? I worked with a woman once who really just didn’t like me, and I didn’t know why – we actually had a lot in common and could have been work friends, but to her, I was just that bitch eating crackers. And even though she’d say good morning or compliment something I was wearing or have the occasional pleasant interaction, her dislike/disdain for me was just always *there* in a little tone or sneer or an eyeroll she didn’t turn away fast enough to hide. And I did talk to my boss about it because I was trying to figure out if there was something I did to her and if I could fix it. Instead, he handled it badly with her, and that made it soooo much worse because then I was that bitch eating crackers who “tattled on her.”

    I don’t know – maybe ask yourself if you’re displaying a little more dislike than you think, and she’s just trying to figure out why, not because she needs to be liked, but because it sucks when there’s tension at work, and she’s trying to find a solution?

  54. MHA*

    Wondering if this is a small town that LW is newer to than the majority of her coworkers– this reminds me a lot of how specific older women from Important Families In Town were treated in the small town I grew up in! High school secretaries who got a constant influx of gifts and chitchat, that we were sternly told we had to Respect moreso than anyone else on the staff (I wasn’t in a disrespectful class regardless, but there was a definite vibe of Mrs. Perryman Is A National Treasure at all times), etc. Might be small-town politics if so!

  55. a nony mouse*

    I know how it is with people who grate on your, sometimes for the smallest of reasons. But you should make sure you go the extra mile to reach out, even if it seems fake to you. I was a bit arrogant and dismissive in my early career, and it came back to haunt me more than once, including having to interview at one point with someone who was not my favorite (I didn’t get the job). There’s a bit on the old Dave Chappelle show (long before the current controversies) about “Keeping it Real”; it may feel good to be uncompromising in your beliefs and opinions short term, but in the long term it’s often worth the effort to get along.

  56. Elliot*

    I think as a fellow positive person who loves giving compliments and having warm relationships, this letter left me with so many questions, thoughts, and a lot of sympathy for Susan. It’s incredibly frustrating when people who do not know me label me a “suck up” because they can’t fathom that I just have a cheerful and pleasant personality without ulterior motive.

    First, I would never go and complain to my manager about someone who doesn’t like me!! That does seem a bit odd. However – I’m sure Susan isn’t dumb. OP, you’re openly admitting to not liking Susan due to your own issues. I have had multiple co-workers with similar issues with me being positive, cheerful, and genuinely interested in others’ lives, and I can always tell. My guess is you are not hiding your distaste like you think you are.

    Second, Susan sounds lovely – she’s writing thoughtful notes, giving compliments, and taking on extra work. She’s excellent at her job, kind, and thoughtful. What I don’t see in this letter is much mention of or disdain for the other side of these interactions. It seems like a coworker brings Susan a gift, or gives her compliments back, and you dislike Susan for the coworker’s actions? Do you also have disdain for coworkers who are friendly to Susan? If not, why not? To me, it seems like Susan is a kind and great person (who you chose to label a “suck up”), and your coworkers act accordingly to how she acts. I don’t know, the whole thing just seems weird.

    You’re of course allowed to not like someone (even in this case, where it seems like for no reason…), but if it’s showing and they call out that it may be an issue, you can’t really complain about that.

    1. LolaBugg*

      I’m glad you said all of this, because these were also my thoughts on reading this letter.

    2. Elle*

      All of this. It sounds too much socializing for my taste, but I don’t really get the “problem” with Susan. She sounds like an extremely friendly and outgoing person who has been there a long time and has genuine friendships with her coworkers. It seems far more likely that OP is not hiding their dislike very well and Susan checked in with their boss to make sure she hadn’t put her foot in her mouth in some way, and far less likely that Susan is secretly running this office with an iron fist and went to their boss to get them in trouble.

  57. Marketing*

    Susan sounds really….nice. She’s probably an empath and picking up onLW’s contempt, which might not be so thinly veiled.

      1. Chili pepper Attitude*

        I want to say something about psychopaths picking up on things in people and using them so maybe if that is what we mean by empath. I’ve also been told that’s a trauma response.

        I’m not on team Susan. Boss said Susan has a need to be liked and Susan went to the boss about the OP. It was either, Susan does not faun over me and so I think she does not like me or I’m manipulative and want to make OP an outcast. Neither belong at work. It does not sound like Susan said to boss, I’m sensing OP does not like me and here is how it is affecting work.

  58. Michelle*

    I’m willing to bet if she’s talked to your boss about it, she’s talked to your co-workers too.

    I’m suspicious of “naturally charming” people when there’s an imbalance of effort made vs effort received. So like, if everyone’s coming to HER desk, giving HER gifts, and there’s not much happening the other way around, I tend not to believe this is simply a truly nice person who enables mutually nurturing relationships.

    So if your observations are accurate, I think you’re right to have your hackles up. She’s not naturally charming; she’s *trying to charm people.* Hopefully your boss shut her down in such a way that she sees it as a losing battle to try to subtly make you a frenemy to your co-workers, but if she’s got a deep-seated need to be the sun in everyone’s universe, she might not be able to handle a rogue planet doing its thing just outside her system.

    I’d watch for one or more co-workers to ask you in a nonchalant or concerned way if you have an issue with Susan. If that happens, IMO congratulate yourself for your good instincts and Do Not Engage.

  59. librarianmom*

    Some people are very sociable people. It sounds like your office is full of them. They don’t think they are very sociably active — the high activity seems normal.
    You are more low keyed. Your lack of high sociability is very noticeable to your office mates. It seems like rejection to them. Their high sociability is very noticeable to you. It seems fake, insincere, over-the-top.
    This is really a matter of a mismatch of styles and a lack of communication. I think you would do well just to stop paying attention to all the social interactions —- it’s really none of your business and it is only leading you to be a little judgmental. You need to communicate in a general way that while you like your coworkers, you tend to be less talkative — that this is just your style of interaction, not a lack of interest on your part. This really should have come from your boss when Susan complained. Keep being pleasant and professional, and let Susan deal with her feelings herself (she will just have to live without chatting you up — oh my!)
    I know this is difficult —- I (a low keyed person) have been married to a highly sociable person for 40 years!

    1. moonstone*

      I think the 2 major possibilities in this letter are:

      1) OP is just not a “culture fit” at her super duper extroverted workplace. Like she’s friendly, but doesn’t express it in the way that her coworkers approve of;

      2) As Alison suggested in the response, Susan somehow manipulated a bunch of people at the office into being friendly to her by being difficult when they didn’t behave the way she wanted (like complaining to the boss).

      1. moonstone*

        3) Possible extreme scenario plot twist: Maybe it’s the boss that is trying to start shit?

  60. Jenny Linsky*

    I’m going to chime in with the minority here who are, if not strongly pro-Susan, at least questioning what’s actually going on here. We don’t know anything about what form Susan’s conversation with the manager took (maybe she just said “Hey I feel like maybe OP doesn’t like me, do you know if I did something to offend them?”). More than that, though–and I will do my own projecting here–I get the vibe that maybe OP is envious of Susan’s relationships with people in the office. I say this because I’m a very reserved person, and while I’ve formed some great and lasting relationships in the workplace, I’ve never been “that person” who everyone loves and gathers around. After years of being resentful of those people, I realized that some of them are well liked simply because they make people feel appreciated and noticed, and that I could learn some lessons from them rather than just dismissing everything they do as manipulative and sucking up.

  61. Res Admin*

    Susan may be a perfectly lovely person and it is generally best to assume the best until you have proof otherwise. Still doesn’t mean that you need to seek her out to give her gifts are have excessive conversations with her (how does she get any work done?!).

    On the other hand, I did work with someone who everyone fawned over and thought was so sweet and helpful and generous… To cut out a long story, she was jealous, manipulative, and everything she did was at someone else’s expense. It did eventually catch up with her and she was let go not long after I left. As in, she was told not to come back and HR packed up her desk for her (which is pretty much unheard of).

    1. moonstone*

      I have a high school experience like this. In freshman year, I befriended a very outgoing, friendly girl who had a lot of friends. I was a very shy, socially awkward person at the time and looked up to her. In addition to being popular, she was a high achieving straight A student involved in a lot of extracurriculars and also very pretty. Around junior year, I started coming out of my shell a bit and experimenting with my looks, styling my hair and makeup to be more in line with trends, etc. I started getting complimented for my looks, getting more attention from guys, etc. but my friend started acting more and more cold towards me. She would make passive aggressive comments about me wearing too much makeup, being too skinny, trying “too hard” with guys, etc. Then two things happened that made her stop talking to me: I outperformed her in our math class and got into an advanced senior class that she didn’t qualify for, and a false rumor spread about a guy she had a crush on liking me (which wasn’t true and she didn’t even try to verify.)

      I also learned from other classmates during the rest of my time in high school that she got into fights with other girls she found threatening in any capacity (they were pretty, high achievers, or dated guys she liked). There were always some people who took her side, but I quickly learned that she was one of those people who only liked people as long as they didn’t threaten her. It’s sometimes hard to identify queen bees at the outset. Until this day, I tend to be suspicious of overly friendly people.

      1. Loulou*

        I’m sorry to hear this happened to you, but being suspicious of friendly people because of a bad experience with a friend in high school is really not reasonable.

        1. moonstone*

          The key word being “overly”.

          To be clear, I’m not saying this is definitely what Susan is. It’s just a tangential story.

  62. Khatul Madame*

    Susan reminds me of my late MIL.
    She was a lovely woman, but she Did Everything For Her Precious Only Son. When I married him she expected that she would Do Everything for our new family. All she needed is Just a Little Appreciation.
    She was Very Upset when I did not play along. It didn’t help that I am naturally dry and sarcastic person as opposed to sweet and clingy.
    And I am not sarcastic when I say she was a lovely person – she was, and had many friends that loved her and admired her dedication as a mother. Like Susan, she desperately needed to be Loved.

  63. Maybe not*

    You have described a nice person, a good employee, and someone who is sought ought for social interactions by employees other than you. You admit you don’t like her because you view her traits as indicative of a suck-up. Guess what? People can tell when they aren’t liked. And of course it’s baffling. And of course it feels a little hurtful. (Everyone has hurt feelings when they aren’t liked, especially when their behavior is friendly and innocuous. That is natural human behavior.) It’s a little extra that she talked to her manager about it. But honestly, just accept that you don’t hide it very well when you dislike people. Accept that it’s normal to be confused and hurt when people you’ve done nothing to don’t like you. And move on.

      1. AngryOwl*

        No one is saying OP has to like her, so I’m confused by the repeated reminders that folks don’t have to like each other.

        1. anonymous73*

          “Everyone has hurt feelings when they aren’t liked, especially when their behavior is friendly and innocuous. That is natural human behavior.”

          1. Maybe not*

            Nobody is saying she should like her. I’m saying, the colleague can clearly tell she’s not liked. So OP should accept she isn’t good at hiding the fact that she doesn’t like her.

  64. The Dude*

    I recognize this person. I was so happy when I left my last job because it meant that I didn’t have to see her anymore.

  65. Sunflower*

    We have 2 queen bees in the office like in the letter and it looks exhausting. I say “looks exhausting” because I’m like the OP and, while polite and even make jokes, don’t fawn over them. Like the OP, there’s something I can’t put my finger on but I dislike them. I just get the impression their surface niceness is fake and I’m sure they will bully and turn their followers against anyone who cross them. At least my queen bees never complain to the boss that I don’t fawn or give them gifts!

  66. Public Sector Manager*

    While Susan going to the boss is over the top, and I agree Susan sounds exhausting, I think the OP really needs to look at their issues that they have with Susan. My guess is that the OP doesn’t have as good as a poker face as they think. I used to work with someone who had this sugary sweet niceness and it was too exhausting for words. I’d often catch myself doing huge eye rolls. So I totally get where OP is coming from. At the same time, the OP seems to be attributing an intent to Susan that isn’t borne out by what’s in the letter. Which leads me to believe that maybe OP is conveying a lot more hostility towards Susan than they realize.

    The OP describes Susan as a “suck-up.” For me, a suck-up is someone doing the over the top fawning, behaving obsequiously, to get some sort of advantage they didn’t deserve–like a raise for doing no work, a promotion when they are not qualified, time off during busy periods–that sort of thing. Here, Susan isn’t getting any advantages from the boss as far as we know. The only advantages coming from the coworkers is, well, fawning. Plus suck ups usually don’t take on extra work. There is a big difference between thinking someone is fake nice and someone being a suck up.

    Rather than this being a 100% Susan problem, I think it’s more of a 75% Susan problem and a 25% OP problem. I think the manager pointing it out to the OP isn’t just for the OP’s general information. I think the manager is trying to signal to the OP that it’s not impacting their work, but they might want to do some self-reflection on how they interact with Susan. Good managers do something for a reason.

  67. graycliff*

    I have a very bad poker face, and it’s gotten me in trouble in the past when I don’t actually like someone but need to be professional.

    I learned a hard lesson from it once. I had a student once who I perceived to be aggressive, arrogant, and intrusive in class, which naturally didn’t endear me to them. I tried to cover up my dislike but a few weeks into the class, the student came to me crying to say they felt like they were failing and weren’t living up to the standards of the rest of the class.

    I felt absolutely horrible. Whether the person’s outer shell was hiding that insecurity, or whether my inner dislike came out as a harshness I didn’t intend, didn’t end up mattering. After that I made a sincere effort not only to be much gentler, but to try to actually make an effort to like them even though I initially really. did. not.

    To my surprise, when I made myself do this, I actually DID end up genuinely liking the person! They responded positively to my efforts, really shone in class, and by the end of the course they were one of my best students and favorite people who I can’t wait to see again.

    This obviously doesn’t work in every case and in some cases it’s too big of an effort, but sometimes if the person you’re interacting with isn’t completely terrible, it can be worth it to try a different approach. Especially if you’re like me and subconsciously portray feelings you don’t mean to!

  68. moonstone*

    Susan sounds like a lot.

    It’s hard to tell what’s going on. There is a difference between being cold towards a coworker and just being normal friendly but not in a “fawning over and bringing gifts” kind of way. And as long as work communications flow smoothly, there shouldn’t be an issue. The fact that your boss perceived your behavior as friendly is a good sign. Maybe check in with your coworkers as well. If they also perceive your behavior as friendly, I think you’re good and Susan is the one who is unreasonable. The other possibility is that maybe your behavior is colder than you realized, which your coworkers could pick up on as well.

    I remember there was a letter a few months ago where a OP wrote in about a coworker who seemed a little over the top in her need to be liked, but in that letter, it was clear the OP was definitely being a jerk. I think part of what made it obvious was that OP mentioned that the coworkers noticed as well.

    1. moonstone*

      I also want to say, I’m a recovering people pleaser who sort of used to behave like Susan in a less extroverted way. Not to the point where I expected people to bring me gifts, but I was overly friendly, would do a lot of favors for people, shower people with compliments/flattery etc. I admit that I cringe when I remember this behavior. Contrary to popular belief, this type of behavior is not actually kind. Genuine compliments and acts of kindness are good, but doing them to be liked automatically makes them transactional, which people pick up on. It comes off fake and like you’re trying to strongarm people into liking you Or Else. I can see why OP doesn’t like Susan.

  69. Delphine*

    I’ll preface by saying that I personally dislike the assumption that people who are kind and thoughtful are manipulating everyone around them out of a desire to be liked–it’s just such a nasty, suspicious, negative way of evaluating people’s behavior. Of course, there are people who are “fake,” but every warm person is not fake. Every person who goes out of their way to be thoughtful or complimentary is not trying to manipulate you. I think most people can recognize “fake” people and the fact that LW is the only one who appears to dislike Susan suggests to me that Susan might be a genuine person who just rubs LW the wrong way. LW is welcome to dislike her! But I expect that LW’s dislike is far more apparent than she realizes.

    1. yala*

      Probably should’ve read through the comments first, lol, because this is exactly what I wanted to say, just shorter and more eloquent.

    2. The OG Sleepless*

      I agree with this! I had an outer-circle friend in high school who was almost too good to be true. She was just a warm, bubbly, kind person. “Fake” was a word I heard applied to her several times. We stayed in distant touch over the years because she was related to another friend, and it turns out…she was genuinely that nice. I feel genuinely bad about the times I thought of her as “fake.”

      1. Metadata minion*

        Yup, my cousin’s wife is like that. The first time I met here I was put off slightly because surely someone couldn’t actually be *that* happy and enthusiastic about stuff, right? Nope, she really is just an unusually emotive person and is also nice and gets along well with the family so has lots of opportunity to express how WONDERFUL something is.

    3. moonstone*

      I generally agree with your assertion, but this is something I’ve learned through personal experience to evaluate on a strictly case-by-case basis. This is because I’ve both encountered the two-faced friendly person and the extremely grouchy person who thinks any level of basic politeness is “BITCH BEING FAKE”.

  70. Anna*

    “The problem, according to him, is that Susan is almost neurotic in her need to be liked, and she isn’t getting the reaction she wants from me. He doesn’t think there’s a problem or is asking me to change anything about my behavior – he just wanted to bring it to my attention in case there is tension.”

    Your boss sounds like an unprofessional jerk, frankly. It is entirely out of line for a manager to be telling their employee, about a different employee, that their peer is neurotic in her need to be liked. I’d be so hurt if my boss talked about me like that to another coworker, and I would be putting in a grievance to HR. And if your boss didn’t want you to change anything about your behavior, why did he bring it to your attention? Just to gossip about the other employee? What was the point? I think they really mistepped here!

    1. Khatul Madame*

      Today’s letter is like a distorted replay of the one from yesterday about Sarah who Had Issues and everyone had to accommodate them against their own inclination and common sense. Yesterday it was the issue of control/rank, today it is the need to be liked.

  71. TiaraWearingPrincess*

    It may not work itself out but that’s not your problem. You are behaving normally and she is not. Changing your behavior just reinforces her need to be the center of attention. Unless you are being overtly hostile to her – and your boss says you are not – it’s her problem to deal with.

    Don’t let her be the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.

  72. yala*

    I feel like I’m in the minority, because I don’t think Susan sounds…awful? Or like she *expects* baby shoes or something? Yeah, kinda weird folks bring her gifts, but that’s the only thing that’s really twigging me. Especially with this:

    “It’s all very positive and upbeat from all parties — a lot of cooing over her grandchild and upcoming nuptials for her daughter, telling her how impactful a post was on Facebook, asking where she bought a blouse, and so on. She reciprocates the positivity and asks how their own celebrations are, how their weekends were spent, and so on … but people seek her out and initiate the interaction, in most cases. ”

    It sounds like she is…just nice? She’s not sitting there being complimented and talking about herself only, she’s asking people how they are, what’s going on in their lives (also giving compliments?). And so people seek her out. That kind of just…makes sense to me? There are a few people in our office who will have coworkers congregate around their cubicles to chat. If these people find her fun to talk to, it would make sense that they go to her to talk. Telling someone you like their blouse et al just seems like small talk to start a conversation off on a positive note.

    “I immediately took a dislike to her…she writes little “thinking of you” notes, offers compliments regularly, is happy to take on extra work, etc. – which I tend to view as fabricated in order to make people like her.”

    I think this right here is the issue. And it’s good that you recognize your viewing of people being nice as fabricated as a thing for you to work through.

    But there’s still a good chance the vibe is bleeding out.

    I’ve got some coworkers I just Do Not Get Along With. And we’ll all try, y’know. Offer a compliment, ask how the weekend was, etc. But the vibe of “I don’t like you” is very much still there (and I’m sure I give it off as well). Sometimes, it’s really hard to hide that. Sometimes, it’s hurtful. Sometimes it makes it difficult to get actual work done, because people are human and knowing someone dislikes you can make it really uncomfortable to be around them, or go to them for work-related things. And you said you sort of instantly disliked her. She seems like a really social person, so there’s a good chance she’s picking that up.

    But. I mean. Y’all don’t have to be friendy-friends. It’s good that your boss has your back on this, and says you’re doing nothing wrong. You don’t have to like her. Heck, you don’t even have to pretend to like her. So long as you’re not actually rude or disrespectful, and the work gets done, it really doesn’t matter, and as hard as that can be for someone used to being liked, that is HER problem to get over, not yours.

    1. yala*

      I do want to add–do you think that your suspicion of fabricated niceness may also be coloring your perspective of your coworkers interactions with Susan? Are they really *fawning all over her* or are they all just being nice and talking each other up? Are the gifts *that* common? (not saying they’re not–it sounds like they are, but sometimes when you already have your hackles up about something, you just notice it more)

      It really doesn’t matter in the long run, but trying to reframe how you perceive these interactions may help you to deal with Susan without feeling so frustrated by her.

    2. Sea Anemone*

      “It’s all very positive and upbeat from all parties — a lot of cooing over her grandchild and upcoming nuptials for her daughter, telling her how impactful a post was on Facebook, asking where she bought a blouse, and so on. She reciprocates the positivity and asks how their own celebrations are, how their weekends were spent, and so on … but people seek her out and initiate the interaction, in most cases. ”

      What a monster.
      /s

  73. Nonny*

    So far the only thing Susan shouldn’t have done is to go to the boss about LW not liking her. Otherwise she sounds like a nice, reliable coworker who is maybe more talkative and open about her personal life.

  74. Chili pepper Attitude*

    Susan sounds like a nightmare. I’m pretty extroverted but it all sounds like so very much to me! I could speculate about Susan turning ugly when ppl don’t suck up to her (and it sounds like going to OPs boss is part of that) but I don’t need that to be turned off by the excessive and constant positivity surrounding this woman. I feel like she came out of the stepford office movie.

    It’s a big no thanks from me!

  75. RB*

    It sounds like Susan is the office queen. Sometimes offices will have a “queen” and it is just generally accepted office knowledge (GAOK) that you pay obeisance to the queen. I don’t go in for that sort of thing but I don’t mind being a little on the outside of the cliques and social circles that form in offices.

  76. Work From Homer Simpson*

    This is so interesting. I had a version of this at my workplace years ago. A new guy started in our department, and many people at the office knew him from his time as an intern a few years prior. He’d taken a different job after graduation to get out and see the world, then moved back home a few years later and picked up a full-time position. Everyone who knew him was so excited he was coming back, and since I didn’t know him from before, I was immediately confused by how widely beloved he was. I mean, it was like the celebrated return of the prodigal son or something, when usually people in this office were not super friendly. Once he started, I immediately disliked him, because like the LW, I thought he was a suck-up. Always doing extra tasks, working late, replying to emails on nights/weekends, chatting up everyone, etc. Mainly that frustrated me because this was not a healthy workplace and I’d just recently started trying to draw boundaries about NOT being available at all hours or picking up work outside my area only for him to come in and set the precedent all over again that the extra work was acceptable. That everyone loved him was just more proof in my mind that he was doing all this to get in people’s good graces. I really didn’t like working with him, and although I wasn’t actively rude or uncooperative, I’m sure it came across that I wasn’t a big fan of his. Here’s the kicker, though – I was totally wrong about him. After working with him for several months, it became very clear that he was just a genuinely good guy and hard worker. He took extra tasks to help people and never expected anything in return. Okay, he was a bit of a workaholic and that wasn’t great, but I came to see that everyone liked him so much because he was just such a likeable person. People would talk to him all the time, he’d remember tons about their lives, have inside jokes with everyone, etc. I guess the gift thing is all that’s missing, but he did get frequent invites to go out for a beer after work or go golfing on the weekend, which is kind of the equivalent for dudes. Only difference is that I know he rarely took people up on the offers or paid his own way if he did go. But certainly the impulse for other people to give him free stuff was there. Anyway, in the biggest plot twist, fast-forward the better part of a decade and we’ve both got different jobs and have been together (romantically) for a few years now. Talk about a first impression being wrong. So, LW, I don’t expect you to fall in love with Susan, but consider whether some of the animosity you’re feeling might be misplaced. Are you frustrated with other things in your work or personal life? I was pretty miserable in that job and it definitely colored how I reacted to this guy. Also consider if you’re truly hiding your dislike of Susan as well as you think you are. Maybe Susan is just a weirdo who people worship for reasons you’ll never understand and you’ll never like her. That’s fine! You don’t have to like her! But before you write her off entirely, maybe try being open to seeing what others seem to see in her. Maybe you’ll find you don’t dislike her so much after all.

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        We should have a post with “tell your stories about times you were TOTALLY WRONG in your assumptions/impressions of a coworker.”

      1. Goldenrod*

        wow! I didn’t see that plot twist either!

        The part that gives me pause is Susan talking to the boss about it and characterizing it as “butting heads.” That seems like an overreach….Just accept that not everyone adores you, and keep it to yourself.

        1. Work From Homer Simpson*

          I’ll give you that. What appears to be Susan “tattling” to the boss looks kind of bad. My guy isn’t the type to complain to the boss like that, but honestly since I was being kind of cold to him, it wouldn’t have been outside the realm of reasonable if he had mentioned to our boss that I was a bit standoffish and asking if he should be doing anything differently when working with me, etc. I could see something similar playing out with Susan as well. Maybe a bit of an orange flag that she went to the boss rather than LW, but not the end of the world. If that’s all she’s ever done TO the LW (the other things are just her interacting with other coworkers, nothing directed at LW), then I’m willing to give some benefit of the doubt. But, like I said, this could be a totally different situation. Susan could be a fake who ingratiates herself to most coworkers and doesn’t like that she hasn’t fooled LW. I’d still say trying to assume positive intent first and then wait to be proven wrong, rather than ascribing malice first, is the best way to go. It should eventually become obvious which person Susan really is.

        2. yala*

          I thought it was the boss who phrased it as “butting heads?” Considering that this boss also called her “neurotic” I kind of don’t trust *his* interpretation of the situation either.

          Reminds me of a time I wanted to have an HR presence during a tricky situation, and instead HR was told I wanted to “come complain” to them.

    1. RB*

      This lovely story made me remember a similar situation that didn’t have such a charming ending. I was working in an office and someone who had worked there previously was coming back. Everyone was super excited. However, when she came back, the only people who were really impressed with her were the people who had known her before. The people who had started later, like myself, never quite saw the attraction, to us she was merely a pretty good person and employee, nothing special. It sort of divided the office into the fawners and the non-fawners.

      1. Work From Homer Simpson*

        Oh, I’ve definitely known these people too. Not necessarily in the exact same context, but just people who seem to garner outsized praise for average work within a certain group. Everyone outside the group is left a little confused about what all the fuss is about. That’s a little more straightforward clique-type behavior to me where there is an “in” group who all thinks similarly and then there’s everyone else on the outside. In this case where it seems pretty much everyone except LW seems to agree Susan is a nice person, I tend to think LW needs to check herself first. If she reflects and is honestly sure she gave Susan a fair shake and just doesn’t like her, then so be it. People are different and there is always someone who dislikes what most people like (see the strange people who don’t like chocolate for example ;) ). But be brutally honest about giving that fair shake first.

    2. Allornone*

      As someone who fell madly in love with a coworker who initially rubbed me the wrong way, I love this story.

      Eight years later, we’re at different jobs, but still madly in love.

  77. Nanani*

    Susan sounds like she wants every day to be her bridal shower/birthday/anniversary.
    Unfortunately, she isn’t actually the main character of the universe and not everyone is willing to play along. Sounds exhausting

  78. cheeky*

    People like this are always hiding something- whether some weird secret or a part of their personality they try to mask. The fact that she went to your boss over this makes me think you’re right to keep her at a friendly distance.

  79. Esmae*

    Tbh I feel like the real problem here is the boss that told LW her coworker is “almost neurotic in her need to be liked.” Who says that to one employee about another??

    1. Blinded By the Gaslight*

      A bad manager who is stirring up drama instead of resolving it, that’s who. Ugh.

  80. Song and Dance*

    These comments are really shocking to me. So many of the examples stem from high school — but you’re not in high school. You’re a grown up. In a preofessional workplace, defaulting to thinking that someone who is outgoing and engages in more social interaction than you is some sort of “mean girl” is not an effective strategy.

    1. Ozzie*

      It’s also interesting to assume that these types of interactions stopped occurring when we all left school… I agree they have no place in the workplace, but unfortunately, that just isn’t the case in reality. I would wager that most of the comments speculating about this have dealt with a coworker who has treated them/others that way outside of a school setting. It doesn’t indicate that’s what happened here – but it’s hard not to see it this way with the limited view we have, if that’s how you have previously had to navigate a similar situation.

      1. Sea Anemone*

        And since we are adults in the workplace, we should be reacting with the strategies that are appropriate to adults in the workplace, like examining whether we are projecting our high school trauma onto a situation that is completely removed from high school, assuming good intentions, approaching both Susan’s friendliness and the boss’s comments with curiosity, etc. We have fully developed pre-frontal cortexes now. Let’s use them.

        1. Ozzie*

          Both could possibly be true here, and I am, in fact, using my developed pre-frontal cortex to consider both options. There is not particularly enough information to discern the truth, only the perspective of the LW. I would argue that many, many discussions in the comments have, in fact, considered this – thus also using said developed pre-frontal cortexes.

          1. EventPlannerGal*

            There is quite a lot of information, actually? Even the OP, who readily admits her dislike of Susan, states that she is kind, hard-working, professional, thoughtful, well-liked by her colleagues (who have known her for longer than OP has and approach her unprompted to chat and socialise) and takes on extra work. Even someone who clearly dislikes her cannot come up with any actual negative things to say about her. The only questionable thing that she has done, at all, is whatever she said to the boss, and that is the part that there isn’t much information about. On the other hand we have OP’s assertion that people like this are “suck-ups” and Susan is fabricating, what, her entire personality?, which they believe for reasons that they do not explain. IMO the application of quite a small amount of critical thought here should establish that these are not two equally weighted options.

  81. Koala dreams*

    I’m very much in favour of keep doing what you’re doing. You don’t need to like everyone at work as long as you’re professional, kind and polite. Your level of small talk and compliments sounds fine, and gifts at work should be voluntary. If the topic of gifts come up, you can just say that you’re not a gift person or that you prefer to sit out any gift exchanges at work.

    People are speculating that your dislike is too obvious, but it’s also possible that this co-worker (or a work friend of hers) are unusually perceptive about reading expressions, or that she assumes that everyone that isn’t best friends with her must dislike her.

  82. Antlerless*

    I have often thought “I didn’t do anything to make this person dislike me!” when in reality, my dislike oozes out of my pores. I cannot fake it until I make it although it feels like I am. I’ve been called out enough to know. In my mid-40s I accept it and just avoid situations where I’d feel the need to try as much as I can!
    Given this really long laundry list of grievances that are completely normal office interactions to me, I wonder if that’s not the case here. The disdain and dislike is very evident and if we pick up on it so does Susan.

  83. Freddled Gruntbuggly*

    The largest problem in all this is “butting heads,” which we’re told is how the boss phrased it. If Susan herself put it that way, she is overstating the case because that implies open, active dissension between herself and LW; whereas if the manager employed those words, he would be the one exaggerating the situation. Given he said he found no fault in LW, it seems less likely, but leaves open to speculation how Susan actually conveyed her feeling of dislike from LW.
    Whether the manager actually hopes, or even expects, LW to make more effort to accommodate Susan’s neuroticism is difficult to discern, but it does appear he meant this merely as a head’s-up.

    I’ve certainly encountered folks who raised my hackles from the git-go and found it hard to keep from letting them show, possibly unsuccessfully, but in a few cases I was later surprised that we became good friends. “Anthropologist observing an alien” might be the easiest way to settle your hackles and thereby mitigate any spillage of dislike at present: resetting that mental button could help significantly. Best of luck with managing to find your level of comfort!

  84. LW/OP*

    I’m putting this alllll the way down here, because a number of people have asked about the gift thing. It happens usually 2-3 times a week – enough that I’ve noticed it, for sure, but again the interactions are all usually positive. She is so happy for the gift and often posts glowingly about it on Facebook. I assume people appreciate the gratitude and her response, which encourages them to buy more things…and the cycle continues!

    Again, I don’t think there’s anything particularly malicious about any of those interactions. They’re a little odd and they’re definitely Too Much For Me. People seem to genuinely love her, and she seems to appreciate them for taking the time. People do seem to go to her more than she goes to them, but I can’t say that it’s because of some ill-intent or manipulation on her part.

    Someone made an excellent comment about these types of social interactions making them feel trapped – and that was super accurate. I also tend to view them suspiciously because of past experiences with people like this being very two-faced. Regardless, she hasn’t done anything directly to earn my enmity – it just put me on edge from Day 1. I’m not in the “I’ll hate her forever and want nothing to do with her” camp – talking to you all has made me realize I just kind of would like her to back off a little bit? I’m sure in her mind she’s being helpful and kind by leaving me appreciation notes, but…no thank you, I think.

    After reading through a few comments and chatting with some kind folx on here, I probably do give off “OMG, I HATE YOU” vibes, even when I am trying not to, and it might be helpful to re-frame my interactions with her to make myself less hostile and unpleasant in our interactions. :)

    I’ve seen a few questions about my manager too. He is actually new – he came on board in late-December – but used to work as a company courier and so has worked with Susan in the past. He admits to being very anti-conflict, which suggests the comment was either a passive-aggressive way to tell me to get my act together or wanted me to be aware in order to avoid future conflict. I haven’t worked with him long enough to know either way, but it’s definitely gotten into my head!

    1. moonstone*

      Your manager’s behavior is odd and ineffective.

      I do think it’s worth clearing communications with Susan, now that you know things are not completely okay between you two. It’s hard to tell what’s going on. I think you are right to follow your instincts about people (I’ve been there with the two faced-ness), but you also have to keep the peace with people you work with.

    2. missy*

      I tend to give off “aloof” vibes to a lot of people and one thing that helped tremendously was to just start asking questions when I make a polite comment. My therapist recommended it and it has really been a complete change. So, for example, instead of just saying “cute picture” I would ask “how old are they now?” or, closer to Holidays, “you have any plans for their first Easter/Halloween costume/etc.?”

      It was something that didn’t necessarily come easy to me. If anything I sort of hate being asked questions so I assumed that other people do also, but it really has helped people read me as more interested and approachable. Even if my actual internal feelings haven’t changed.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Ooh, I like this a lot and am pocketing this for the future.

        That’s something I’ve been struggling with as well. And similarly because I always hated being asked questions growing up. But one time my dad made an off-hand comment once when he was talking about his vacation or something like “I know you don’t care about this kind of stuff but…” and I was like “woah, woah, woah! I do care!” And it really hit me like is that really what he thinks? Because I don’t ask questions I truly just don’t care? I just have always worked on the assumption that people will tell me what they want me to know because that’s what I do.

        So I did start trying to ask more questions and I have noticed it can make people seem to warm up to me more, but I still feel like I’m really awkward about it. I do however tend to default into compliments as a primary form of small talk, so the idea of adding a related question onto a compliment may be very helpful for me!

    3. Paris Geller*

      People are giving her gifts 2-3 times a WEEK? That seems. . . like a lot. I mean, I think Susan probably is a generally kind and warm person based on the way you’ve described her, but she also must have the charisma of a cult leader, because I cannot envision a situation in any environment where I’ve worked where someone was so well loved they were getting multiple gifts a week, so I can also see how that would be just too much if you have a more “cordial-but-distant” personality.

    4. KD*

      Do you know if everyone else in the office has given Susan a gift at least once? I’m wondering if it’s really just this, she’s become so used to everyone doing this for her that you not doing it is the “tell” not only that you don’t like her, but she needs you to know that you’re not following the cultural expectation of the gift giving. I’m also curious, if, people give her gifts so frequently and regularly because they were complained about at one point. But even if that wasn’t the case, many people frequently pick up on the cultural demands of a narcissist and many are more or less content to go along with it to keep the peace. I myself am also not that person and I too would be incredibly suspicious and wary of a person who frequently receives gifts from everyone or operates in an over the top quid pro quo workplace exchange of thank you and gifts.

      1. MissMapp*

        Wait, she posts everything to social media and mentions the person who gave the gift? It sounds like the workplace has customers. Could this be some odd attempt to promote the workplace on social media that Susan has taken or, or been entrusted with? Some kind of running series of posts?
        Do the gifts have a theme? Like are the joke gifts more often than not, or knicknacks? One place I worked, they had some kind of saying about being so good at doing the impossible that they “can make pigs fly.” People started bringing the boss all kinds of pig decor, which they displayed all over the office as a passive-aggressive jab at the demands made on them, and also a point of pride at their ability to work miracles.
        Could the gifts be part of some running narrative/gag/promotion/whoknowswhat that goes through Susan or involves her, but is not specifically to “fawn” over her?

      2. LW/OP*

        I do not know. We have a lot of employees, so it feels less like the same people paying homage to her every week and more like a gift every month or two. From the outside looking in, it presents as more of a “thinking of you” sentiment than homage. In the months I’ve been here, I’ve seen almost every employee do it – the exception being some of the older guys, who also tend to be the bawdy jokesters. As some have suggested, it might just be part of the culture here, in particular given her over-the-top appreciation of gifts.

        1. Just a Thought*

          Its important for you to realize that you went from saying that gifts were being given 2-3 times a week above to saying it is more like every month or two.

          1. Brightwanderer*

            I think LW means that Susan is receiving gifts 2-3 times a week, but because so many people are doing it, each individual person is probably only giving a gift every month or two.

    5. Teapot Wrangler*

      Presents multiple times a week? That is odd!
      Susan would drive me completely bonkers – just be collegiate and polite, if you can check that your (IMO warranted) dislike isn’t leaking out into tone or body language, and mention to your boss that you think you’re acting in a normal work colleague-y way to Susan and ask him to give you a heads up if he spots anything that suggests otherwise.

      From a personal perspective, at my last workplace, I had someone in my team who, whilst I initially got on with her pretty well, I ended up absolutely hating. She chewed with her mouth open, she had a water jug and glass that she scraped across the desk multiple times and hour, she called people ‘dear’ and ‘darling’ and she was really incompetent often meaning I ended up with more work because she didn’t do what she was meant to. I was always polite even when I secretly wanted to murder her but it turns out it wasn’t so secret – a work friend told me that they could visibly see me tense up every time my Susan spoke / made a noise / came into view so I imagine it was obvious to multiple other people too consciously or sub-consciously. I didn’t really resolve it (I left instead) but did get extra bonus points for making the extra effort to help her and do stuff for her even though I really didn’t want to. If there is something which you could do that wouldn’t be too onerous, it might be worth doing that thing to be nice even though you definitely don’t have to!

    6. yala*

      Gonna say, if my manager told me that a coworker (is she one of his reports? that’s even worse) told me another coworker was “neurotic” my hackles would be up–about my manager.

      Nice people may put you on edge, but from experience, people who say things like THAT about other people in the office (especially in the case of “she went to him with a problem (or maybe just a question), and he told the other person like this)…well, they’ll say things like that about you to other people, given the opportunity.

      Having someone like that in a management position sounds much more uncomfortable than having a socialite in the office. Like, Susan MAY be a “talks about you behind your back” type person, but now you know that your manager DEFINITELY is.

  85. Lanlan*

    Until you said Susan complained to the boss, I’d have thought “Oh, well, Susan’s just an extrovert.” This, though, this takes it to a whole ‘nother level. I’m a bit of a Susan when it comes to being effusive and genuinely liking the humans I’m around, and wanting extra work — comes of being stuck at home for so many years, not of my own volition. But I would never dream of telling my supervisor that someone didn’t vibe with me and it was a problem with them. People have boundaries and a truly nice person will respect them.

    p.s. nobody brings me gifts (!!!) and I find it weird that that’s even a thing?! like??? an attagirl will make my year, but I would be shooketh if someone brought me a present just for being me, I didn’t even share my Amazon wishlist ahead of my birthday because it’s rude to grift from your coworkers, especially on nonprofit wages :D

  86. DarkleSparkle*

    “My problem (and I admit here it is MY problem, because it doesn’t affect her work) is that I hate suck-up’s – she writes little “thinking of you” notes, offers compliments regularly, is happy to take on extra work, etc. – which I tend to view as fabricated in order to make people like her”

    Girl, what. Look, the Jump to Conclusions mat was a fictional idea in a movie. It’s not something you should really do in real life especially when the likely reality (Susan is genuinely a good egg) is so very different from your off the wall interpretation (Susan has cultivated a persona across many years to dupe people into liking her because…Machiavelli something something?)

    I’m going to admit that, based on my own experiences, you sound a lot like someone I used to work with who prided themselves on being miserable to nearly everyone they worked with, randomly icing out coworkers because they said “good morning” to her (the horror), etc. And since I was not like that, she iced me out too. So maybe I’m being too harsh with my read of the situation. But damn: leave Susan alone, do a much better job masking your dislike of her (I guarantee-damn-tee that her “complaint” to the boss was not some middle school “OP doesn’t like me?!” drama—I very much bet it had merit), and keep your eyes on your own paper in class.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      They have clearly acknowledged that Susan could be totally genuinely nice and that this is 100% their issue. Not everyone has to like everyone and that is okay. As long as they are professional and polite to Susan there is nothing inherently wrong with not liking someone for no good reason. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  87. Somebody blonde*

    I used to have a coworker like this. He was kind of an office mom type, the guy who organized birthday cakes and going away happy hours and that type of thing, but he also was very extroverted and always trying to talk to me about stuff. I found him insufferable because I don’t like it when people try too hard to win my approval. I can imagine if he went to his boss about us, he would have asked if he’d done something that would cause me to not like him. The answer would’ve been yes, because I’m more of an introvert and I just don’t like to chat THAT much at work, but he kept trying.

  88. Just Me*

    Oh Lord, I had a coworker like this at OldJob, “Jane.” She was much beloved by the other staff but I found her to be very fake nice. With that said, I did my best to always be polite and courteous but she took an instant dislike to me even though everyone else loved her. Not long before I left OldJob two coworkers were talking about home schooling and one said, “Wow, Jane is so nice–home schooling must work for her to turn out like she did!” I wanted to vomit.

  89. Lauren*

    My interpretation of this may be oversimplified, but— people can generally sense when you don’t like them. Even if, by all appearances, you are polite and kind to your coworker, she’s probably picking up on it.

    If I were her, I wouldn’t have gone to my boss over it, but perhaps she was trying to get more insight, wondering if she did something to cause this? The letter writer admits they don’t like this person, so obviously Susan was correct in her assessment!

  90. Cardboard*

    I have no hunches about the personalities of either OP or Susan and I don’t think it matters if Susan really is fake nice, or if OP is a stick in the mud. I don’t think anyone owes their coworkers friendship, and I can totally relate to feeling iced out at work simply because you don’t want to participate in the personal stuff as much as everyone else. It’s very draining to try to force yourself to like someone. So I think keeping distance from Susan is the best route. Just stay polite and professional. Personal boundaries are great at work.

    It doesn’t sound like OP has had any complaints about her work itself, and I don’t think going to the boss about personality clashes is appropriate unless it creates a real work strain.

  91. Higher Ed*

    Susan sounds exhausting, and I have to wonder if all that socializing is disruptive to actual work getting done.

    1. Pennyworth*

      I get the feeling that Susan sucks up all the social oxygen in the workplace and she is disconcerted that OP has her own supply of oxygen that she prefers to keep for herself. I find super-social people at work a bit annoying, and I probably behave like OP and keep interactions friend and polite but not effusive , but no-one has ever complained.

  92. RB*

    I’m sure it’s just me, but Susan immediately brought to mind the people who say “Bless your heart” or “have a heavenly day” and then start talking about you behind your back as soon as you’re out of the room. I’ve known a few too many of these types, and they are often very subtle and careful about it, such that many people never see their true selves. Of course, Susan may be nothing of the sort…

    1. yala*

      From experience, I feel like if that were the case, she wouldn’t be inviting OP to lunch with the rest of them

  93. Robin Ellacott*

    It’s pretty hard for either OP or us to get the whole picture without knowing what Susan said to the boss. Or without being a fly on the wall when OP and Susan interact.

    If she just said “hey, OP seems a little cool with me – just want to make sure there isn’t anything I should know”, Susan is maybe a bit needy/sensitive/overinvested.

    If, on the other hand, she complained “I can tell OP doesn’t like me” and expected the boss to… somehow make OP like her more, and didn’t have any examples of unprofessional behaviour on OP’s part, that is a Susan issue. And also maybe a boss issue, because sometimes you just have to tell employees that __ is not something you can police at work. (I once had someone try to get me to tell a colleague to change her laugh)

    Susan and the whole dynamic sounds like a lot, and might annoy me too. But as long as everyone is collegial, it can’t be enforced in either direction (be more friendly vs. they are too friendly, make them stop) without being unreasonable.

  94. MCMonkeyBean*

    A lot of people need to learn that some people just won’t like them–and that that’s okay!

    I had a roommate once who after I asked her (very politely, I swear!) whether she could make sure her boyfriend cleaned up after himself in the kitchen and if she wouldn’t mind cleaning her hair after a shower she started crying and said that no one had ever not liked her before. I was so startled and confused!!! I am a sensitive person who cries easily at confrontation so that part I honestly understood. But first of all–I actually *did* like her! She was a perfectly nice roommate and while we didn’t really socialize much I liked living with her just fine (until her boyfriend suddenly moved in but that is a separate story). So I was really confused why me asking her to do pretty basic cohabitating chores made her assume I didn’t like her. But also, even though I did like her… there is just no way it’s true that *no one* had ever not liked her before. Because she is a human living in a world full of other humans! Someone is going to not particularly like you for no particular reason at least sometimes, and we all really need to be able to accept that!

  95. MissMapp*

    I’m one of those nice, friendly coworkers that everyone in this thread hates. I suffer from depression that I hide under a smile. Over the years, many coworkers have turned out to have serious personal struggles. I try to say kind things to people, because you don’t know what people are going through, and others’ kindness has helped me.
    I also bake, as does a coworker. Many recipes cannot be halved, so if I bake more of something that I’m itching to make than I will eat before it spoils, I bring it to work.
    Every once in a while, I encounter someone who HATES me the way the LW hates Susan. The thing is, that person eventually starts hating others in the office, too – the janitor who says “good morning,” the office manager who tells them they have nice shoes.
    It’s always mystified me why, in a world with so much pain, kindness or even just common courtesy set people off to rage.
    OP, if your gut is telling you that Susan is manipulative, then you may be right. But please know that some people who chitchat with coworkers, coo over babies, and bake are not evil. They may have a tough backstory that has made them be super-positive.
    Keep your eyes open. If Susan is manipulative and up to something, time will tell. But sometimes people who bring baked goods to work are not evil, just hungry, and people who pay compliments may have had a time when a single kind word saved their lives. Could Susan NOT be evil?

    1. AnoNonNon*

      Hey, my heart goes out to you. There are some truly cruel moments on this thread. Thank you for what you do. People appreciate it.

  96. Chickaletta*

    Seems to me like Susan is just an extroverted, kind person who goes the extra mile for people and connects really well. The only thing that doesn’t add up is that she complained to her boss about OP… Makes me wonder if the translation got lost along the way – perhaps Susan expressed friendly concern about OP and the boss took it as a complaint – who knows, I can only speculate. But I know this type of person Susan is – she’s just like my mom. People love her and want to do things for her and she reciprocates and blah blah blah, and of course, I love her too, but… every once in a while I just want her to chill and spend a little less energy keeping her Polyanna world alive. It is annoying to hear my whole life about how wonderful my mom is. Recently I told her I don’t like a certain family member because they were an abuser, and she told me that it was our job in life to get along with everyone. Dear Lord. My mom would find something kind to talk to Putin about.

    You can’t change this kind of person, you just got to let them bask in their sunshine and puppy world, let other people enjoy that bit of joy when they’re around them, and get on with your own life.

    1. moonstone*

      Oof…dismissing claims about an abuser goes into toxic positivity/gaslighting territory. I’m sure your mom is a good person, but I hope you don’t internalize these dismissals. My mom isn’t universally likable necessarily, but she has the same “but faaaamily” attitude of defending relatives no matter how horrible they are. They could commit murder or get caught in a trafficking ring and she would still defend them, even though it’s not something she would condone otherwise.

  97. clouded sunshine*

    Oh gosh. I feel like I’m in a weird opposite of this situation. I recently started a new job and I’m by nature warm, friendly, collaborative, helpful. This has always served me well in other workplaces, but here, they recently had a micromanager retire and I feel like everyone who was here before was traumatized or something. They are aggressively unhelpful, uncommunicative and just – uptight, I don’t know. It’s hard for me to fit into the culture here. And I swear it’s not just me – I knew I might have made a mistake when the first week, their new boss had a meeting about “changing the negative perception of the department in the organization.” I want to trade jobs with OP and work with Susan, who might be nice actually. I always offer to help others if I find I have free time! Is that sucking up and do people hate me for it? If anyone has advice for me on how to dial back my sunny personality so I’m not making other miserable people MORE miserable, without having it beaten out of me by being totally demoralized like I think they kind of are, I would be so grateful, since I have to make the best of this job (there aren’t many like it in my area). I’ve only been here a couple of months. I tell myself they just have to get to know me, and get over having a new big boss too.

    1. Blinded By the Gaslight*

      A word of advice: I, too, am a normally warm, outgoing person who likes to be friendly and helpful with my team, and I was hired into an organization where there had been decades of trauma, drama, and leadership turnover. Teams were ineffective, people were perpetually salty and unhelpful (and sometimes blatantly rude/racist/mean), etc. When I was interviewing for the job, I was told it was my job to help “turn the culture around” due to my position and educational specialty, and I was led to believe that upper management had my back and was Ready for Change.

      They were not ready for anything of the sort, and the only thing on my back was a target. I spent almost four years trying to win those damn people over. I twisted my entire self into a pretzel trying to break through the scowls and the gossip.

      Listen to me: YOU CANNOT CHANGE A CULTURE BY YOURSELF. YOU CANNOT CHANGE A CULTURE UNLESS LEADERSHIP IS *FIRMLY* *ACTIVELY**CONSISTENTLY* ENGAGED AND DRIVING THE CHANGE.

      I haven’t worked there for over two years, and I’m still dealing with mental health issues related to that nightmare. My biggest regret is that I didn’t bail after 6 months — a YEAR tops. Don’t twist yourself into a pretzel trying to make miserable jerks be decent co-workers (let alone actually like you). Give it six months, maybe a year if you really, really need this particular experience. But *please* give yourself permission to BAIL on those sourpusses in favor of a happier workplace. Self-preservation is more important than being a guinea pig in an organization’s half-hearted (or no-hearted) attempt at a major culture shift.

      Good luck, friend!

  98. Goldenrod*

    “They are aggressively unhelpful, uncommunicative and just – uptight, I don’t know. It’s hard for me to fit into the culture here. ”

    You’re not doing anything wrong! It sounds like you just unfortunately landed in a sh*tty work culture. Don’t blame yourself….I would think about leaving, though, if I were you. I know that sucks when you just started, but it doesn’t sound like the kind of work culture that will change.

    1. clouded sunshine*

      Yes, I do kind of think that too! I am kind of keeping my eye out for opportunities. I realize, in retrospect, that I have been super lucky in having landed only in fairly positive workplaces – this one seems a bit toxic, although I hold out a little hope they will come out from under the shadow of the misery their old boss imposed – she actively encouraged them to shut people down who requested their services! Rather than just doing their job, they spent all their time saying no, and explaining why. That seems crazy to me, but I should have known from reading Ask a Manager that these things go on!

  99. Cringing 24/7*

    It’s always at least a yellow flag to me when a manager calls someone in because a coworker says such-and-such, then the manager admits that they don’t see it as an issue. Maybe even an orange flag. Like, really, really close to red.

    Okay, it’s red.

    1. Cringing 24/7*

      Okay, just re-read and realized the manager was doing this as an FYI. Green flag for this particular one. Usually it’s not great, but I think I’d really appreciate this sort of heads-up. Hopefully the manager set some sort of expectation for Susan that she shouldn’t expect this sort of fawning behavior from everyone.

  100. BL*

    I think this is all context. My mom worked for 25+ years in one place. Some women she worked with for 20 or more years. Over time some of them moved to different sub-units, areas of the building, etc. but when they saw each other there was this kind of very warm friendly interaction. I’ve only met one of the four ladies she was closest with but they had spend years hearing stories, seeing pictures, etc. of my. I was in middle school when I started. They saw my prom pictures, heard about my college decision process, celebrated with my mom when I graduated, fussed over my wedding pictures and so one. When I had my first child, one of the brought my mom a stroller her grandchildren had outgrown for my mom. When she was a toddler, my daughter became obsessed with flamingos. My mom relayed an anecdote at some point and another friend bought a flamingo in a Santa Hat that we still put out at Christmas. By the time that happened, one lady had retired and the remaining three worked in completely different areas. To newer employees sitting nearby, this may have looked odd. It was a random lady from across the building stopping to give my mom a flamingo but there were 20 years leading up to that.

  101. Taxidermybobcat*

    I think the manager is the one at fault here. The manager disclosed that another coworker has a “neurotic need to be liked”? Who talks about employees like that to other employees? What is OP supposed to do with that information, and why is the manager making that her problem to solve? Manager says it’s not her problem to solve, but then why bring it up in the first place? It’s needless pot stirring, as someone commented above. A competent manager should know that sometimes people don’t like each other, sometimes there are minor personnel issues, but unless it rises to the point of interfering with someone’s work or is creating a truly toxic environment, LET IT ALONE.

  102. JustTheFactsMaam*

    I’m wondering how much of this is on the manager.

    Maybe the real story was something like this.

    Manager: And then maybe try to ask LW about X.
    Susan: Oh, I don’t want to burden them with it! I don’t think they like me very much.
    Manager: Have they been mean to you?
    Susan: Oh, Heavens no! Just a hunch, no big deal. As for X, I’ll just do it myself. Toodles!

    Then Susan merrily went off to do X without a second thought, and the manager went, “There goes Susan’s neurotic need to be liked again,” and called in LW to give the heads up?

    There’s nowhere near enough objective information to determine anything about Susan, how LW is coming across to Susan, how accurately the manager relayed the situation, or anything else.

    For all we know, this is a troll post or a social experiment to see what kind of wild conclusions people will jump to. The real truth could be anything.

  103. caramel*

    She’s an attention seeker but much worse. The reason she is worse is if people don’t give her a certain amount of attention or buy into her fake personality she will kick off. I would talk to your manager about either having a meeting with her or a meeting with someone else present. Let her explain what she is complaining about. It will soon become apparent this isn’t a reality tv show.

  104. caramel*

    I have severe memory deficits and don’t remember stuff about the people I am closest to. I have no idea how Susan would cope with me because frankly, I wouldn’t remember anything about her life!

  105. Garfield*

    OP I’m going to go against the grain and say this does sound more like a You problem. You clearly dislike Susan. But you dislike her for being nice, polite, encouraging and well liked. You evaluate that as fawning and sucking up. You might be right. But it could just be that Susan is nice, engaging and well liked. You don’t mention her as holding a position of power over others – so I’m not sure what she is abusing here. Maybe she works extra because she enjoys her job and gets satisfaction from being able to do well. Maybe she writes thinking of you notes because she cares about her work friends and knows they feel valued by these actions.

    Some people just stand out as trustworthy and friendly to a lot of people. They earn that position through their actions. If Susan had been there a while and had consistently positive interactions it could very well be that people like her and do things for her because they appreciate her. Not because she’s a fawning boot licker who will cause trouble if you don’t bring her tribute.

    It’s impossible to know what Susan said to boss. It might have been a complaint. It might have been a throw away comment. It might have been a response to a question from boss (how are things going with new person?). Susan may or may not have expected boss to do something or say something.

    I don’t think you need to do anything about this except look to see if your dislike is colouring your perceptions of her.

    I’m not a people person. I’d stand on the outer of that sort of office. I’d also understand that would be my choice.

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