updates: the prank falls, the entitled coworker, and more

Here are three updates from past letter-writers.

1. Friend is pranking coworkers by repeatedly falling down

I wanted to send in an update about my “friend” (who is actually my sibling who uses they/them pronouns) who I wrote about two and a half years ago here.

My sibling continued to do inappropriate things at work and continued to react with extremes every time I disagreed with them or tried to set a boundary. Sending in this question and seeing the responses was the beginning of me realizing how messed up our relationship was, and how much pain and anxiety it brought me. I went to therapy and gained some boundary-setting skills, and in the last six months I have finally put a lot of distance between myself and my sibling. It has been great! I am so much happier and confident in all my relationships now that I can set boundaries, and I also am happier not caring so much about my sibling’s antics. I spent so much of my life trying to “help” them, and I now know that I can’t make them change and I can’t be responsible for their actions.

As for my sibling: once COVID happened, they began “working from home” which for them meant taking three hour naps during the workday. They started strange conflicts with their supervisor and said inappropriate and concerning things as “jokes” (like joking about death and dying). Just the other day, they let our family know that they quit their job with no other job lined up, which makes me wonder if they were finally coached out. They have some sort of plan to volunteer and then get a social work degree from Canada. But their monkeys are no longer my monkeys and I have exited the circus. :)

2. My coworker feels entitled to my time, expertise, car, and house

You were kind enough to publish my letter and both you and the readers gave me some excellent advice, so I thought I’d send an update.

Essentially, in my situation, the pandemic turned out to be very helpful, because everyone scattered to work from home indefinitely and many people moved away entirely. I was able to buckle down and work on my own project with few interruptions by simply ignoring my e-mail and all the meetings they’d planned that weren’t part of my job description. It’s much easier to say no when it just means not responding to requests for unreasonable time drains, though I did do some guest lectures etc. to keep my network active.

My problematic co-worker moved back home and got married – when I wouldn’t go to her non-covid-safe wedding, we more or less fell out of contact. We have now both defended our PhDs and left the programme, though much to her chagrin, I got there slightly ahead of her.

Since my funding ran out before I could finish due to having to adapt my research to what was possible in the pandemic, I moved to an area with a much lower cost of living and got a part-time job as a lecturer at a local technical college. It turns out that if I budget carefully, I can actually get by here on a 20h/week job while still owning a car and renting a two-bedroom flat just for myself, so while I’m casually searching for a second job or freelance work to rebuild my savings, I’m mostly just enjoying having actual free time!

I miss the international research community (and the frequent conference travel) of my previous phase of life, but there’s a lot to be said for this change of pace.

3. I love my job but hate my boss (#3 at the link)

Unfortunately, everyone was right. Shortly after this, I set up meetings with a couple members of the Executive Council I have relationships with and trust. They listened, they protected me, they documented. There was no retaliation. They said they would be “asking more questions” and “determining appropriate action.” I only know for certain of one other coworker they talked to about it.

We’ve had resignation after resignation and nothing changes. So, it was time to move on. I’m starting a new job elsewhere next month!

i expect to love my new company and coworkers just as much as I do now — without the added bullying. While I’m frustrated that I went through the mental stress of trying to make a difference, at least I can walk away knowing I truly tried everything.

{ 81 comments… read them below }

    1. Kaden Lee*

      I’m not particularly “mystified”, no – sounds like OP’s sibling is pretty immature in all facets of their life, including professionally and personally.

    2. Myrin*

      Mystified in what way? I feel like this update is a very straightforward and largely expected continuation of the original letter. Sibling is clearly troubled in some kind of way and OP set appropriate boundaries and is successful and happy with that.

    3. Sal*

      I wouldn’t want to impinge on their hard-earned boundaries by saying that I would lay 50-50 odds that sibling did not quit but rather was separated more involuntarily than that.


      1. Elle*

        I can’t speak for dust bunny but I do find the update and original post a little mystifying just because I don’t understand the thought process behind some of the actions described. Delibrately falling on the floor as a joke seems really odd, I don’t see the humor in it and trying to understand the reasoning is a little perplexing.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          It’s attention-seeking behavior. The sibling is deeply troubled, and acts out in numerous and varied ways. This seems to occur in both personal and professional settings. I’m very glad that OP has success in setting & enforcing boundaries with them.

    4. MK*

      Not to diagnose people over the internet, but the OP’s sibling clearly has some deep rooted issues that cause bizarre behaviour, OP used to try to manage that for them, and now she has set boundaries. The details are missing (and aren’t any of our business anyway, even if the OP know them), but I wouldn’t call the situation mystifying.

      1. HR Ninja*

        I was thinking the same thing. I’m glad the OP got the help she needed and hope the sibling does too. The concerning behavior isn’t just a sign of someone who is unfamiliar with professional norms but is bleeding into personal relationships, as well.

        1. Observer*

          Yeah. I went back a re-read the original letter. The OP’s sibling is clearly someone with significant issues that most definitely were bleeding into their personal relationships. Nothing in the update is surprising, although it is sad that Sibling doesn’t seem to be getting effective help for their issues.

      2. Poppyseeds*

        I think that often people in situations where something is their “normal” they do not see the disfunction in that. When others point it out then they are able to see better that this is not normal. I believe the letter writer had this experience with the response, corresponding comments, and therapeutic intervention.

          1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

            Given LW1’s sibling’s penchant for pranks, I don’t think that LW1 should take it as a given that the sibling HAS left his job until there’s actual proof of that. And if the sibling protests that he’s NOT kidding, he really DID leave his job and why won’t anyone BELIEVE him…well, the LW can always suggest that said sibling Google the fable of “The Boy who Cried “Wolf!” ” to find out why chronic liars have no credibility.

            1. nott the brave*

              Genuinely curious, where did you get “he/him/his” anywhere in LW1’s letter???

    5. LittleMarshmallow*

      All it did was remind me that it’s fun when I get to throw myself to the ground at work to test our “man-down” devices. I’m a lady so… “woman-down”… eh whatever it’s basically like one of those life alert things but for people that work alone in dangerous places. To test to make sure if it can tell if you fell you get to dramatically throw yourself to the ground and I think it’s fun.

    6. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      Am I alone in thinking that 3-hour breaks (or naps) can be healthy in a work-from-home setup?
      I do that from time to time – work with Asia 6-10 am, have a long break, and work with the US 2-6 pm (I’m mostly in Europe). Working from home gives me the flexibility to cater for different time zones.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        Work from home isn’t inherently “work when you want”. Certainly if your job caters to different timezones it makes sense. And if the job has said you can work whatever schedule you want, fine. But it sounds like from the letter this job was not that. It was WFH because of the pandemic and seemingly still had set business hours. So a 3 hr nap during one’s expected worktime is not a great idea.

  1. Mittens*

    Maybe OP1’s sibling should make friends with last week’s “controlled fall” letter writer

    1. Bad Memories*

      Ha my mind went there as well, I actually initially confused them. I was like ‘oh wow I can’t believe we have an update already!’

  2. anonymous73*

    #2 I missed the original letter and comments, but it sounds like the main issue was never resolved since the pandemic took care of it for you. You told her no on multiple things but never had a conversation with her about the real issue – her entitlement. In the future, you need to set boundaries with people and not let them continuously try and use you for their own professional (or personal) gain.

    1. SJ (they/them)*

      Oh wow, I completely disagree. Ignoring messages and refusing to attend events IS setting boundaries, and way more effective in most cases than trying to talk someone out of their core personality flaws. Also, you can’t stop people from TRYING to use you. You can only disengage, which is exactly what OP did.

      Good job OP!

      1. Rose*

        Yea, I can’t think of a better way to set boundaries than using the word “no” liberally and following through. Telling another adult you find them entitled is unlikely to be productive. She’s not asking for feedback on her personality, she’s pushing boundaries, and it seems like OP learned to hold those lines.

      2. allathian*

        Yeah, absolutely. This is the way to set boundaries, and in the end, things worked out for the best. When the LW declined to attend the coworker’s covid-unsafe wedding, they more or less fell out of contact.

    2. neeko*

      Aggressively confronting the co-worker was never a suggestion. According to the previous update, OP handled things while remaining cordial well before the pandemic and took care of the larger departmental issues at play.

      Enjoy your free time, OP2.

      1. Why isn't it Friday?*

        Yes, and I think we have to keep in mind that the setting was academia, which seems to have its own unique considerations. I thought OP handled things quite well!

    3. Observer*

      I think that the issue was resolved as well as it needed to be. It is not, and never was, the OP’s responsibility to educate or change the attitude of the entitled person. The OP just needed a way to manage the situation so that they were no expending time, energy or other resources dealing with this person and keeping her from imposing. The OP was able to do that. That’s all that matters.

      1. DoomCarrot*

        OP 2 here – exactly! It’s not my job, it would be overstepping, and worse yet, trying to coach her on what’s OK in the workplace would mean I was accepting the “mentor” or “big sister” role rather than that of “peer who has her own project to work on and just as much time and funding to do it”.

    4. JamminOnMyPlanner*

      The OP was setting boundaries, though. The original letter detailed all the things she said “no” to, but the irritating cohort member then went and cried to the department head that OP wasn’t “collaborating.”

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Exactly. Most of what the OP wanted was more of advice/wording to help boss allow the boundaries that they were establishing.

        And maybe some wording for coworkers to not get drawn back into being the other Coworkers “big sister” at work.

    5. Imaginary Friend*

      Setting boundaries is about your *own* behavior. You don’t say to someone, “Don’t do xyz thing”. Instead you decide “if that person does xyz thing, I’m going to end the phone call/leave the room/whatever”. You might tell the other person that you’ve decided to take this new action and you might not, but you have decided on what YOUR boundary is. Which sounds like what the LW did.

  3. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

    Congrats, OP#1–I am stepping back from my younger brother’s… interesting work choices, and the whole “not my problem” concept really is very freeing!

    1. Momma Bear*

      I love the phrasing of “But their monkeys are no longer my monkeys and I have exited the circus. :)” Good for you OP1.

      1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

        I love that phrasing, too! I’m going to endeavor to attend no circuses.

      2. Anonymous4*

        I don’t remember if I picked it up from someone or if I came up with it during an extremely frustrating situation, but I find that my current mantra, “Ain’t my business, ain’t my problem” really smooths things out.

  4. ecnaseener*

    A lovely theme here of getting free from the stress of difficult people!

    Well done setting boundaries LW1 in particular, I hope your relationship with your sibling lands in a comfortable place (wherever that may be on the scale of “still friends but their issues are not mine to fix” to no-contact)

    1. Goldenrod*

      “A lovely theme here of getting free from the stress of difficult people!”

      Yes! Agreed! I find all 3 of these updates to be so positive and inspiring.

      Letter 1: “not my circus, not my monkeys” is so healthy and great!!! Also, that expression made me laugh. :D

      Letter 2: Yay to work life balance!

      Letter 3: AMEN to escaping a bullying environment!

      Well done, all 3 of you!

      1. EPLawyer*

        Slight correction on #1 – OP said not my monkeys and I left the circus.

        I LOVE that phrasing. Not even dealing with the circus the sibling brings to town with them.

        I am betting sibling was flat out fired, not coached out. But as OP1 said, not their circus anymore. Enjoy your freedom. Just because you are related to someone doesn’t mean you have to deal with them.

        1. Goldenrod*

          “I LOVE that phrasing. Not even dealing with the circus the sibling brings to town with them.”

          Ha ha, you are right! I was remiss. I should have quoted the actual phrasing which was much funnier than my summary of it. :D

  5. Critical Rolls*

    I always wonder what crummy coworkers are like out in the world. Do they save all their dysfunction for the workplace? Is it only when they have a little power to wield? Or are they like LW1’s sibling, consistently lousy and just bringing their whole selves to work?

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I’ve wondered that on occasion myself. I’ve worked with some people who were so annoying I couldn’t fathom how in the sam hill their spouses put up with them.

  6. Richard Hershberger*

    “i expect to love my new company and coworkers just as much as I do now”

    I expect you will. This is the workplace version of the old joke: A newcomer moving into town asks a local what the people here are like. The local asks what were they like at the old place? “Oh, they were wonderful! Everyone was friendly and helpful, and a delight to be around.” “The people here are just like that,” the local replies. Then another newcomer arrives and asks the same local what the people here are like. The local asks the same question. “They were horrible! Everyone was rude and difficult and miserable to be around.” “The people here are just like that” was the local’s reply.

    This can be overstated, of course. Local or work cultures do differ. But over the long haul, there is a big kernel of truth here.

    1. Goldenrod*

      “This is the workplace version of the old joke: A newcomer moving into town asks a local what the people here are like…”

      I never heard this one before. LOVE IT. And it is so true.

      I had a really drama-creating co-worker once who got another job and said, “I hope there is less drama at the new place!” And I thought: “There won’t be!”

      So, yeah. Someone who tends to get along with her co-workers will likely get along with the next batch too. :)

    2. Heffalump*

      I read that decades ago in the Boy Scouts handbook. My response would be, “The vast majority of people are cool, a few are jerks.”

  7. HigherEdAdminista*

    LW #3- Someone I know went through something similar. There were documented issues with this person, and everyone took the situation very seriously, but did nothing about it. Person still continues to be in charge in their position, unspoken to, damaging the situations of all the people under them.

    My friend escaped with a promotion to another spot as well, but it is so disheartening knowing people recognize the bad actors sometimes and just have a shrug for them.

    1. Momma Bear*

      As far as I am aware, a problem person is still at my old job, but many of the longer term employees have noped out of the situation. Instead of firing one bad egg, they’re losing the rest of the carton. Sometimes that’s all you can do – point it out and self-select if necessary. It’s all business, right?

    2. Heffalump*

      Last time LW#3 checked in, I held out some modest hope that something might be done. Sorry to hear otherwise.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        The original letter said they had actually even hurt their wrist once, so at that point it doesn’t even seem like a “fake” fall. They are just really falling, on purpose, and never telling their coworkers it was somehow intended as a joke… what is the prank even supposed to be??????

    1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

      Both are scary. It’s one of those “impact is greater than intent” things.

      1. quill*

        Controlled fall had no ill intent, but alarmed people, and seemed receptive to reasons why they should stop.
        Prank fall sibling had ill intent and no intention to stop.

        So while both had an impact, (on the floor or their coworkers) one of them is going to have a much greater impact over time.

        1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

          Controlled fall kept justifying in the comments why the falling was fine. I think you are confusing being receptive to stopping with having a sad because people weren’t agreeing with him. I am pretty sure Controlled fall is controlled falling on.

          1. quill*

            To be fair I didn’t end up reading /all/ the comments. The bit I did read didn’t include him doubling down.

            1. Sal*

              “I guess it’s not okay to be quirky these days” and “I will have to retrain my body in order to crouch, I guess oh well if I am in lots of pain for months while said retraining occurs” were the gists of some comments I caught.

          2. Sea Anemone*

            Quotes from Controlled Fall aka Can Man:

            I try to limit my impact on other people (I’m not practicing punches in a crowded hallway or doing forward rolling falls next to someone trying to review a spreadsheet or anything), and I’ve avoided some of these when they had obvious problems (probably better not to take a fall in a chemistry lab no matter how quickly I want to get what fell under the lab bench)

            I try to limit it to when no one but the cameras are around

            my go to for getting up and down quickly is much more discreet

            I make sure to avoid loud noises like the slap and kiai yells. I also try to do anything involving faster movements in areas away from people, or at least out of their lines of sight.

            The only impact he appears to have is ruffling the feathers of a bunch of internet commentors who will never be in proximity to him.

            Stay gold, you beautiful controlled faller

            1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

              A large number of the people weighing in were martial artists and martial arts instructors, who all agreed (among other things) that there is no way to do a back breakfall “discreetly” and that even if you eliminate the “slaps and kiyais” (which, ps, render the drill absolutely useless and ingrain crappy form) it will still wind up attracting attention even if you think you’re out of eyeline. Oh, and non-martial arts people who listed very real and legitimate reasons why walking in on or catching a glimpse of a grown man throwing himself to the floor and kicking his legs up above his head to grab a can off of a shelf on the reg would make them uncomfortable around said grown man. But sure, sure, they’re all just big internet meanies with ruffled feathers who weren’t trying to help the guy…

        2. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

          Also, one having greater impact over time seems like a needless distinction? It doesn’t really matter when or why the behavior stops. That doesn’t make one action less scary.

        3. Sea Anemone*

          The only people we know for a fact were alarmed by the controlled falls were the commentors here. The actual OP didn’t report anyone being alarmed, and did report doing most of their moves either discreetly or completely out of sight of other people. There really is no comparison to Prankster Sibling.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      One of my siblings used to do fake falls to get the rest of us in trouble. But we’re talking about a literal CHILD.

  8. A Social Worker*

    Sigh…as a social worker who has unfortunately seen some very, very unprofessional people pushed through grad school and into the field, I am hoping that LW1’s sibling has field instructors who recognize and address the obvious issues and aren’t afraid to fail them if needed. We don’t need any more unethical, incompetent, or unprofessional people in this field.

    1. gnomic heresy*

      That was just my thought. Not diagnosing, but IF sibling’s attention-getting behavior was the result of some deep-seated narcissism, they are not going to enjoy or be effective as a social worker. You need, like, empathy?? And boundaries???? And to prioritize other people’s needs before your wish to be the center of attention?!?!?!

      I… hope they don’t get into that grad program at all, frankly, and it’s as much for their well-being as for their possible future clients.

    2. Ess*

      This jumped out at me as well. This person seems like a walking liability at best, and the idea of them potentially wreaking havoc on the lives of vulnerable people who need their services makes me shudder.

    3. Splendid Colors*

      Example of unprofessional SW pushed into the field:

      A previous neighbor of mine who was in the social work program at the local university turned any interaction into Highest Drama. For example, when I left a note saying “FYI your dog cries when you’re out of your apartment and stops when he hears you in the hallway so I’m sure you don’t know” she turned this into a complaint to management that “SHE WANTS MY SERVICE DOG TO BE PUT DOWN!!!11!”. (Why is your service dog alone in your apartment while you’re out anyway? You could hear the poor thing howling across the street but it was only obvious from my place it was in her unit.)

      The sequel to that was over a year of her being rude and hostile to me in the common areas. She would block my car in the parking garage with hers so I couldn’t back out of my space, FaceTime her friends and show them live video of me in the common areas so she could make fun of my paint-splattered work clothes to her friends, and scream at me if I accidentally made eye contact. This culminated in her shouting at me in the lobby that I need to make sure she never sees me because “I work with people like you all day and I don’t want to see them where I live!” She knew she was moving into a building with Disabled tenants, and probably got preference for HER apartment because of HER disability. And why did she get a degree to qualify for social work if she hates people who “aren’t normal”?

      I told her that the next time she talked like that to me, or around me, I would find her current employer on LinkedIn and let them know how she feels about their clients.

      She ignored me for several months and the only thing she ever said after that was that she got a raise at work and was moving out of our affordable housing. Good riddance! I feel sorry for her clients, though.

  9. Delphine*

    Excessive sleeping, joking about death and dying, quitting without a job lined up and only vague future plans…my personal experiences read those as major warning signs. But I don’t have enough actual information and even then…it’s not on LW to get their sibling help. Happy for LW and hope the sibling lands on their feet.

    1. Love Dies*

      Yeah I was concerned about that too. I hope I am mistaken but this person sounds to me like they need help and are possibly in danger.

  10. NewBoss2016*

    LW 1, it is almost as though I used to manage your sibling. I no kidding had a professional employee that seemed to go out of their way to randomly fall. I mean, just basically engineered situations that could cause themselves to fall. They never admitted it was fake or a joke, although I had to get the health and safety department involved. They had to come in and instruct them on safe work practices within the office. Like this is how you should sit down in a rolling chair, this is a flower bed – you have to pick your feet up when you walk into it, but hey you probably shouldn’t walk into the flower bed. Both of those were some of the more common causes of falls. I have called safety on people for sure, but never on an office staff member until then. I never did find out if this was a joke, an attempt to get workers comp, or just a truly clumsy person. But the millions of other red flags with their work didn’t allow me time to find out.

    1. Fae Kamen*

      That is so interesting. Why did the trainings on sitting in chairs exist? Were they originally for physical therapy or something?

  11. quill*

    As someone who JUST banged their patellar nerve on a filing cabinet half an hour ago and only now feels mostly better, I really do not understand fake falling sibling.

    Hitting the ground isn’t a lot of fun whether you do it on purpose or on accident.

  12. RunShaker*

    op#4, I almost thought you were on my team with your first letter but I’m not in HR. My department has been similar for many years. The head of our department talks a great talk but actions do NOT match up. We’ve had large turnover & now my department is closing down. I’m hoping to find another position within my company. It is large, 16,000 employees/contractors just at main location. But I’m concerned since only 1 person has been successful in transiting over and it was only due to her own connections she maintained. It’s like we’re all seen as step kids of company that no one wants. I’m happy to hear you found another position. Good luck!

  13. CaviaPorcellus*

    Child welfare social worker and current MSW student here – we don’t want Sibling. They can go do something else.

  14. Curious Georgiana*

    OP 2: So she got married? Now I’m dying to know who her husband is and if he is aware of the person he signed onto marry. Does he know that she refuses to work and expects to be given things financially? And is he ok with supporting her to that degree? I guess the tricky with marriage is that you do have to support a person like that to a certain extent. Unlike with being a coworker, that’s part of the marriage relationship. I can imagine a reality-tv-marraige-bickering situation in my head, like something you’d see on Bravo. Lol. Also, congrats on being able to have a fulfilling career in a low cost of living area.

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