I’d rather work than attend a family funeral, client constantly cancels, and more

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

1. A coworker is upset that I won’t be at a relative’s funeral

A close relative of mine recently passed away — a close enough relative (and I’m young enough) that the assumption would be that this was a shocking tragedy. My feelings about this person, our relationship, and their passing are extremely complicated in ways that are occasionally overwhelming, but don’t fit the expected parameters of “grieving family member.”

The funeral happens to conflict with an event at work. It’s not a particularly important event, but it’s related to a part of my job I genuinely enjoy, skipping it would be a hassle given my role, and frankly going to it sounds much more appealing than going to the funeral. I had intended to just not mention any of this at work and show up as normal, but I accidentally let something slip to a coworker and she ended up dragging out of me that the funeral was on this particular day. She was horrified that I thought that I couldn’t skip this event for the funeral (which I did NOT think — I genuinely don’t want to go to the funeral), and she insisted that I should take the day off.

I was having trouble expressing myself because I do get emotional when I’m talking about this person, but I really, really do not want to get into the details of this relationship with anyone at work. But also I don’t want people to think I’m some insane workaholic who skips a family funeral to attend a minor work thing. I’m assuming I can’t go to work like nothing’s happened now that my coworker knows, right? I don’t know if she’s told anyone else but it’s quite possible. Are my only options hiding in my house (and hoping no one notices that) or attending the funeral? Neither sound remotely appealing.

No! Handle the day however you want and if she asks you about it say, “It’s a complicated family situation that I don’t want to get into, but please trust that I’ve got it handled.” If she keeps pushing after that: “It’s not something I want to talk about at work. Thank you for understanding.”

Alternately, if it’s easier/less stressful for you, go ahead and tell her the funeral was moved to the weekend. She’s not entitled to details about it, and that may be the path of least resistance. (And if you do that and she still keeps inquiring you can say, “I appreciate your concern, but I’m not up for talking about it at work. I’m sure you understand.”)

2. My client keeps cancelling appointments and won’t pay our cancellation fee

I am a personal trainer with a 24-hour cancellation policy. All of my clients are respectful of this, except for one. I’ve worked with this woman for about a year now. She knows the policy and complains about it when I bring it up, but she cancels the majority of her appointments. She’ll make 12 for the month and show up to about one of them. Almost all her cancellations are within the 24 window, but I hesitate in charging her because 1) I literally can’t — she won’t pay in advance so she doesn’t have to pay the cancellation fee 2) she has EVERY emergency under the sun. She always is sick or is taking someone to the hospital, etc. I know I sound heartless but eventually I question how many emergencies someone really can have!

The other problem is she is notorious for making appointments and cancelling, so no one else will take her on as a client, so I can’t even help connect her with anyone else.

Well, obstacle #1 — that you can’t charge her the fee because she won’t pay in advance — isn’t really an obstacle; if you decide you’re committed to enforcing the fee, you could tell her that you can’t schedule her next appointment until she pays the cancellation fee for the last one. In fact, that might take care of the problem: she either won’t schedule the next appointment because she doesn’t want to pay the fee for the last one, or she’ll pay it and realize you’re serious about the policy.

Alternately, you can tell her that because of the number of cancellations she makes, she’ll need to pay in advance from now on.

But really, it sounds like it’s time to tell her that if she continues to cancel appointments, you won’t be able to hold space on your calendar for her at all because it prevents you from spending that time with paying clients. Let her know what the consequences will be and then if she keeps doing it, follow through — tell her you have to part ways and wish her the best.

3. My team is becoming specialists but I want to stay a generalist

I have a question on the matter of being a “generalist” or “specialist.” My company (a marketing agency) is growing a lot lately. Based on plans I’ve heard in meetings, it seems like the agency is moving towards making smaller departments within the marketing department. There’s a lot of talk about raising your voice about what your passions are, and that you could get a promotion according to your new role.

I feel stuck, though. I’m what you could call a content marketer/writer. I like variety in my work, and I’ve already seen the variety of tasks taken away from me as we move toward specialization. I find it tedious to have the same work week after week. I’ve received lots of recognition for my work and have been told I’m one of the strongest members on the team. But I’m starting to think I’m just a “jack of all trades” that doesn’t fit in anymore, with nowhere clear for me to move.

I want to grow in my role, but I don’t see a clear path like becoming an “X specialist.” What should I do? Am I going to be left behind as other people find specialized spots for themselves? Is this company just not a fit for me anymore?

Talk to your boss! Explain what you’ve said here — you see the trend toward specialization on your team but you strongly prefer variety and wonder if there’s room to carve out a jack-of-all-trades role for yourself or whether that doesn’t fit in with this new vision. It’s entirely possible they’ll be motivated to come up with a role you like since you’re a strong employee. Or if not, having the conversation will give you more data about what you can and can’t expect, and then you can plan accordingly. But I think you have a good shot at designing a role you like if you raise the question early enough!

4. My old company won’t return my belongings

I transferred from the U.S. to another country in May of 2020. Since that was the beginning of the pandemic, I was not allowed to retrieve my belongings from the office before I left but I was told that they would be shipped to me.

Cut to two years later after multiple attempts to work with them to get my belongings (including when I was back in the U.S. on vacation), they’re still holding onto my stuff. Complicating this further is that I left the company three months ago and though I’m having continuing conversations with them, they’re now saying they may not be able to ship internationally. The company in question is valued at $593.52 billion, so it’s certainly not an issue of money.

Do you know if this is legal? Is it something that I can contact my former state’s employment commission about?

You’d need a lawyer to comment on the legalities, but if you do have legal remedies, they’re not likely to come through your state’s employment commission. If anything, it would be likely to be a small claims court issue (I think — lawyers correct me if I’m wrong about where she’d need to seek redress) if you wanted to pursue it.

But … how invested are you in getting your belongings back? Obviously they belong to you and should be returned, but if it’s going to be a lot of hassle for stuff you don’t care that much about, it’s probably not worth it. (The hassle could include having to travel to appear in court in person, depending on the state, as well as all the implications of suing a former employer.)

However, if you haven’t already, loop in your former manager and ask for their help (they may be more motivated to fix this than someone who doesn’t know you) and escalate it with HR if that’s possible. Alternately, would you be willing to pay for the international shipping yourself? That’s almost certainly cheaper than enlisting a lawyer would be. Or do you have a friend or family member in the U.S. who they could ship it to and who would hold on to it for you?

This is all assuming they still have your stuff two years later. Hopefully they’ve confirmed they do!

5. My glowingly enthusiastic former manager denied my LinkedIn request twice

My manager recently left our company. He left me absolutely glowing feedback on the way out. He said he recommended me for a promotion. I asked about references and he said he’d be happy to provide one for me.

I requested to add him on LinkedIn about six months ago (when he was still at the company) but he didn’t accept. I figured maybe he doesn’t check it often, so I requested to add him again after he left. He still didn’t accept. And it’s not listed in my pending requests, so it seems he rejected it! To make matters worse, another coworker just joined LinkedIn today and I see he already has this manager in his connections list.

I promise I’m normally not this invested in Linkedin but this has me really alarmed. Did I do something to offend him? Should I send him a message on LinkedIn or a text to see what’s up? He only left recently so it seems way too soon to text him just to “check in.” I’m spiraling a bit and would appreciate any advice.

Don’t read anything into it! A lot of people don’t have any systematic way of dealing with their LinkedIn inboxes and overlook requests, accidentally delete them, and are generally chaotic in their approach there. (My LinkedIn inbox is a mess; I just do not care enough about it for it to be otherwise.)

This is a person who provided glowing feedback and recommended you for a promotion. That tells you how he sees you. An ignored or overlooked LinkedIn request does not.

If you’re really worried, put a note on your calendar to send a friendly email checking in with him in a few weeks, and his response to that will probably put you at ease. But truly, there is no sign of anything to worry about.

{ 374 comments… read them below }

  1. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    The other problem is she is notorious for making appointments and cancelling, so no one else will take her on as a client, so I can’t even help connect her with anyone else.

    This is not your problem to solve. She is simply bearing the consequences for her actions. And this is a good thing.
    Don’t let her wear you down to allow even one more unpaid short cancellation and if she tries then drop her as a client as everyone else has done. Learn from their example.

    1. Blue*

      Seriously!! Just let her figure out her own issues far away from you. You’re not social workers, and personal training isn’t a human right.

      1. Megan*

        Yes, to be honest I was wondering why she hadn’t been fired as a client much earlier! She sounds like a nightmare who is costing you money. Either make her pay upfront or fire her.

        1. Jolene CarlDean*

          Agree! I get why LW feels in a tough spot, but LW shouldn’t. Client is being a jerk and taking advantage.

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            Yes, either she has extremely bad planning skills and is extremely rude and inconsiderate, or she has such a high volume of personal emergencies that she is not a suitable client for an appointment-based business. If the trainer really wants to retain her business, they can limit her to booking 2 pre-paid appointments a month. Otherwise, she can take a hike (which may end up being her alternative workout.)

            1. Anonymous4*

              I’m having a hard time imagining someone having 3 emergencies a week, every week. Client’s a flake and LW1 needs to boot her.

              1. quill*

                If you’re having three emergencies per week it’s probably time to take something off your plate – and the appointments that you cancel 90% of the time sounds like a good candidate!

                1. Burger Bob*

                  Exactly! Even if the emergencies are all totally real, that just means this lady probably really doesn’t have time in her life for personal training at the moment and needs to just go ahead and remove that from her schedule for the foreseeable future. Her life will not be ruined by being temporarily cut off from personal training she doesn’t even show up for.

                2. Alice's Rabbit*

                  Agreed. Sign up for some free classes at the community rec center, and attend when you can. It won’t be as personalized a workout, but it is still good motivation. Or use one of those online services that connects you with whomever is available for a training session via Zoom. Or just follow along with the fitness trainer of your choice on YouTube.

            2. Anonymous4*

              Correction: LW2! LW2! It’s too early in the day for numbers.

              (LW1 has my sympathy — not for the death of an unregretted relative but for the nosy-parker coworker who is absolutely certain that SHE knows exactly HOW someone else should react in a certain difficult circumstance, and is determinedly shoving her oar in.)

          2. Wildcat*

            Yes, this person books 12 spots a month and only actually makes (and pays for) 1? Fire her as a client. She’s almost certainly costing you money.

            1. Sloan Kittering*

              It may be common in personal training but I also think it’s a poorly designed system. People can always wake up sick and not want to train that day. Gyms have memberships for a reason; they’re getting paid no matter what, and they make more money off of clients who have good intentions but never quite make it out. Which is a lot of people. I currently use a service that makes me buy a package of six or twelve sessions (paid up front) and then we work out the timing of them – this doesn’t offend me and in fact I prefer the flexibility because I know how things come up. I assume it also provides better cash flow for the business.

              1. londonedit*

                My yoga teacher does the same thing – you can either pay for classes as you go (it’s a group class, so no worries about leaving her in the lurch if you can’t make it) or you can buy a block of five or ten sessions at a discounted rate, and then you have a certain amount of time in which to use the sessions. She keeps track of how many sessions you have left out of your current block and will remind you when it’s time to buy another block of five or ten, and then if you miss a session it’s no big deal (and she’s also already got the money upfront).

              2. SheLooksFamiliar*

                Same here. When I worked out with a trainer, I would buy a package of personal training sessions at my health club. My appointments were set up in their system, and when I scanned into the club my appointment was applied against the package.

                I had 24 hours minimum to cancel without penalty, but my trainer was flexible. I had a flat tire on the way in, and also got caught up at work once, and called him to let him know. He just moved my session to the same time the following week, with no penalty. I even showed up sick once; he sent me home and reinstated my appointment in the system.

                If I made a habit of standing him up, I would expect him to let me suffer the consequences.

                1. OhNo*

                  Yeah, this is one of those systems where if you are a conscientious person, you will probably get some flexibility from the service provider. Personally, I like this kind of setup with a cancellation fee because sometimes the threat of a penalty is the only thing that will make me get up and moving and make it to my appointment.

          3. EventPlannerGal*

            I’m reminded of that letter from a personal chef a few weeks back who was having almost exactly this issue with flaky clients cancelling last-minute. I think when you’re a small operator relying on good client relationships it can be tough to have these hardline “pay up” conversations, but you just have to.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              I think it can slide from “If I’m patient through this brief rough patch, it will all work out” to “Well if I didn’t impose any penalties before, is it really fair to start now?”

              A work cousin of the social “Give this faux pas a chance to be a one-off” leading to “I didn’t say something at the perfect time and so now it would be too awkward.”

              1. Esmeralda*

                I just did a mentoring session for one of my colleagues who is having trouble getting students to get off their devices in class, because he didn’t say anything about it before, so now, halfway thru the term, he feels he can’t.

                Naw, you can reset expectations! I coached him thru ways he can say:
                “I’ve let this go because [reasons], but we need to start fresh. From now on, [expectation]” OP 2, you can do the same.

                I’ve banished students from my calendar for too frequent no-showing. They can stop by and see if I’m in and available. But they can’t make an appointment ahead of time. Very effective. Never had a student get banished more than once.

                1. TootsNYC*

                  I have a friend who taught grade school, and she told me that she was incredibly restrictive and vigilant at the beginning of the year.

                  Example: If they were supposed to line up quietly against the wall in the hallway, the moment one of them spoke, or shifted their weight to be slightly out of line, she was over there in a flash to tell them to be quiet or to get back against the wall.

                  She said that being fierce about these kinds of things at the beginning of the year meant that later, when she didn’t goose some kid for getting out of the line, things didn’t devolve into chaos.

                  It was easier to be rigid at the beginning and loosen up later, she said

              2. SportyYoda*

                Something similar to this; I have a skin condition that sometimes means I have to cancel waxing appointments with less than 24hr notice. I ALWAYS tell the salon that I’m having a flare up and don’t want to put my esthetician at risk, and I ALWAYS tell them they can charge the cancellation fee to the card on file. They almost always wind up rescheduling me without any fees, because it’s a rare occurrence and I’m otherwise a good customer. I would FULLY expect them to either drop me as a client OR start charging fees if I kept needing to reschedule/cancel same day. There’s always a chance that it’s a one-off thing, you do want to give customer’s the benefit of the doubt, especially if you have an ongoing relationship with them… but sometimes you need to know when to say no.

            2. Liz*

              My BF, a CPA, has the same issues. It’s just him, and he has frequently lowered the bill when clients complain about the cost. He wants to keep his clients happy but has realized its at his expense. So he’s decided no more; if they whine about his rates (which are more than fair and in many cases, less than others), he’s going to firmly but nicely tell them, this is the rate, and if you are more comfortable going elsewhere, then you can.

            3. Sloan Kittering*

              Yeah in part it comes from being small when you start out and not really being able to afford to lose clients. Any money coming in (say, one out of 12 sessions) is better than no money at all, so kicking someone out is pretty difficult to swallow when you’re close to the edge. Freelancers frequently start by taking every job they can get, even when the clients suck, and then weed out the list when they are actually in-demand enough to do so.

            4. Amaranth*

              In this case, however, it doesn’t sound like LW is actually earning any money from this client and hasn’t been able to build a relationship due to the flaky behavior. If they are on such a thin margin that one session a month is this important to hold on to, then I’d argue that the time spent waiting around for this one person is definitely time that could be better spent marketing or networking.

        2. Pennyworth*

          I don’t know why LW even considers her a client, given her record. If she wants to give this flake one last chance, only take single bookings, paid for in advance, whole amount to be forfeit if she cancels within the 24 hours. I suspect she’ll walk away. Its really LWs problem for tolerating unacceptable behavior more than twice.

          1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

            I absolutely agree with Pennyworth. NO appointments, period, for this woman without payment in advance. If she whines and complains, close your ears and ignore her. She brought this on her own self with her own behavior.

            You sound like a nice person, which is great up to a point; but it’s possible to be too nice. Face it:
            deliberately or not, this woman has been taking advantage of you, and you need to stop letting her do that. You deserve better!

            Good luck, and stand firm. It may feel uncomfortable to lay down the law to her, but you’ll feel much better for it in the end.

            1. Jzilbeck*

              I also agree with Pennyworth. Maybe I’m unforgiving but I also wouldn’t allow this client to book another appointment until they paid ALL their previous late fees for the last month (1-2 late fees I might forgive, but 11? No way). And if the client quits on the LW over this, so what? It’s not like extra schedule room is being lost; but at least then LW has the opportunity to recuperate the lost wages in the form of a new, more reliable client.

              1. Dust Bunny*

                Saaaaame. Sorry, but if you’re not willing to pay on schedule I’m going to assume you don’t need/want my services that badly and I’ll be happy to let you go.

          2. BethDH*

            I wonder if they use some sort of booking system where the client can just sign up for things and the OP would have to block her from the system to stop this?
            That kind of automation also unfortunately can make people think of their appointments in a depersonalized way.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              Fair point – but I still agree with lots of others here that OP probably needs to block them from scheduling more appointments. They apparently have too much going on (or are just too flaky) to be a client at this time.

          3. Sloan Kittering*

            On the other hand, something my doggy daycare does, which I appreciate, is they let you pay for a certain number of sessions up front – say, 12 – and then allow you some flexibility about when you use them, with less penalty for rescheduling (I do understand that the doggy daycare can have multiple overlapping dogs, while OP can’t have multiple clients – but you can put the burden of scheduling each of the sessions on her, and not offer spots you can likely find other clients to cover). OP could offer this option to the client as an alternative to dropping them. That way, even if she does cancel, you already got paid.

        3. EventPlannerGal*

          I’m reminded of that letter from the personal chef a few weeks back who had similar issues with flaky clients. I think when you’re providing personal services that rely on good client relationships it can feel hard to have these hardline “show me the money” conversations, but you just have to. When you’re a small operator with no Accounts or Collections department to chase these things up then some people feel emboldened to take advantage, unfortunately.

          1. EventPlannerGal*

            …I did not think this comment had posted, hence the double post above. Ugh.

        4. PT*

          If the trainer isn’t an independent contractor, and works for a gym or club, it could be their policies.

          I worked in that field for awhile and we were expected to accommodate customers to the point of stupidity. If you told someone “I’m sorry, but you’re not on the roster for this class, it requires preregistration,” you’d get in trouble. If you had someone who was doing training and hadn’t signed up or paid, you just had to schedule the sessions and remind them to sign up at the end. They could steal hundreds of dollars of services this way and no staff was allowed to say anything because “it will make the customer dissatisfied!” This was especially a problem with no-call-no-shows, because you have to pay the employee regardless if the client shows up, but we weren’t allowed to dock the client the session and if they hadn’t paid there wasn’t anything to dock.

          Of course, the department managers would get in trouble at the end of the month because budget was off. You paid staff for 20 private sessions but there’s only payment for 9 what happened? This class is full but only 2 students paid! But turn those people away and tell them to go pay? Or cancel the 2 person class due to insufficient enrollment? You’re getting written up for providing poor service.

          I was of the opinion that someone who hasn’t paid for services isn’t a customer, but that was considered heresy.

      2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Yep, she can just watch youtube exercise videos or do some pushups if she’s in dire need of exercise. It’s perfectly possible to do get in marvelous shape without another human being.

        Of course, she won’t actually, but that’s ok. She isn’t actually exercising with OP either, because she always cancels.

        1. Tuckerman*

          There are plenty of reasons why it would be wise to exercise under the supervision of a professional instead of training solo: injuries, medical conditions, etc. But that in no way excuses her behavior.

          1. Lunch Ghost*

            I think that was less a “she shouldn’t need a trainer” and more one of a Captain-Awkward-style list of options the person has beyond “cause problems for LW”. The client could exercise on her own or follow exercise videos, she could look for a gym that has trainers available, she could join an exercise class, she could enlist a friend/family member to cover the “take someone to the hospital” emergencies during her scheduled training appointments, she could look for a trainer who would be more able/willing to reschedule (not saying she’d find one who is, but she knows her current one isn’t), she could PAY IN ADVANCE to hold the appointment even if she can’t make it…

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              I’m glad you brought up Captain Awkward, because IMO the LW definitely needs to read CA about boundaries and “rudeness”! Being afraid of upsetting someone when you refuse to accept rudeness is understandable, but CA reframes it so well, the first thing I thought while reading letter #2 is that they really need to read CA!

    2. Artemesia*

      After the third time you got stiffed – either fail to pay cancel fee or fail to show — you should have switched to requiring payment in order to make the appointment. Lose her? Well yeah — But if she has already burned her bridges all over town as you suggest — she may actually pay.

      1. KateM*

        If she cancels 11 appointments out of 12, then OP is winning back their 11 times for another client.

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          But on less than 24 hours notice that’s not that helpful – I’m sure the OP can fill some of those slots if they’re at popular times but they’ll certainly be losing some business.

          1. KateM*

            Yep what I meant was that by losing this client OP loses 1 paid appointment a month but potentially wins 12, so by losing her OP could actually win 11 appointments a month.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        If she’s not paying the OP isn’t getting anything out of her, anyway, so “firing” her as a client is not a loss.

    3. KR*

      And honestly, if she’s having this many legit emergencies in her life than maybe she’s too busy at this point in her life for personalized training and would be more suited to a membership type situation where she can drop in on classes when she’s available. Just because she’s dealing with a lot (or just bad at making her appointments) doesn’t mean OP has to accept the consequences here.

    4. SomeoneElse*

      I wonder if the OP left something out. At some places, the client contract is actually with the gym and the trainer may not have as much control over policy enforcement as they ought to. If the gym didn’t let me charge the cancellation fee or refuse to book, I would double book for this ‘client’ since she’s so unlikely to show up.

      1. Groffington the 3rd*

        I assume LW offers training out of their own home as a business they themselves run, and when they mention other trainers, they’re referring to peers in the training community and not necessarily gym co-workers. You’re completely right that a gym would have much stricter guidelines for clients.

    5. Groffington the 3rd*

      As someone who does personal training on the reg, I am shocked that the client gets away with so much. I am locked into a PT contract that is pretty strict and I completely understand the gym’s reasons for doing so. I abide by it – and pay a substantial monthly fee! – because I love weightlifting and working with my trainer.

      I hope that the LW for #2 drops this client, they’re clearly wasting LW’s time.

    6. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

      Why would LW even want to help connect this person with another trainer? Do they hate all the other trainers in the area that much?

      Seriously, just tell the client that her tracings are her own problem, because you’re refusing to work with her any longer. If she asks for a recommendation on a new trainer, say you can’t do it in good conscience

      1. Anonymous4*

        Since the client has a widely known bad reputation, it’s likely that she can’t get another trainer. And isn’t that a shame. The only way I would take her as a client for any kind of personal lessons, whether it be needlepoint, cooking, or working out, is if she paid the WHOLE month in advance, with no refunds and no whining about it.

        Book a series of appointment and have “emergency” after “emergency” after “emergency” which leaves my income-producing slots open? Ain’t happening.

    7. Sloan Kittering*

      Think about it this way OP: if I was one of your other clients, and I abided by the policy – perhaps coming to a training session when it was terrible timing for me because I don’t want to be fined, or perhaps paying a fine – I would be furious to learn that it’s apparently optional for this woman. I’d probably stop using your services if I’d realized you had assessed me a charge that you hadn’t made other people pay.

      1. Minerva*

        Oooooo good point! Yeah I would definitely be mad and/or start treating the fines as “optional” too

    8. Minerva*

      Yeah this client is definitely taking advantage of the trainer’s good nature.

      “I understand that life happens, but due to the frequency of the cancellations I either need you to pay $$ for all fees owed before your next session, or I am afraid we need to part ways.”

      That simple.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        To be fair, I think OP lost the high ground to collect back fees when she allowed the client to book another session and not pay them. Did she even bring them up? Present an invoice? Or just let the client keep booking (and canceling) without mentioning them . Many places have a late or cancellation fee they will waive in most situations, or if the reason is good enough – likely the cause of the client’s outlandish reasons for canceling. It’s an expensive lesson for OP but she created an environment where the expectations is that the fee won’t be enforced; presumably if they were, the client wouldn’t have booked more sessions after the first one. Either restructure the way sessions are booked/paid going forward or break up with the client, but I wouldn’t suggest looking backwards.

        1. Loulou*

          I agree, it’s really hard to start enforcing a rule when you haven’t been. Fair or not, people will see it as a new rule you’re imposing.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Yes, this is where I’m sitting with a client of mine. Event planners, used to send me stuff quite regularly. Payment was always a little chaotic, and at one point they changed their accounts system and simultaneously lost their accountant. So there were several unpaid bills floating around and nobody seemed to know what to do for me to get paid.
          There were three bills still pending when Covid hit. I decided not to bother chasing them up, knowing they wouldn’t have any money to pay me since they had no events to plan. Two full years later, they send me a file to work on. I wrote back to say that since there were still three bills left unpaid from 2019, I didn’t feel that I could trust them to pay me for this new job.
          It’s on me that I didn’t chase them up, so I lost that “high ground” you mentioned. But I no longer trust these people anyway. While they sent me interesting work, they were also the most stressful client, sending stuff late at night for next day turnaround, and of course having to chase them up all the time was another source of stress. I’m not good at that, so it’s best I only work for people who pay reliably.

    9. EPLawyer*

      Very much so — this is a her problem, not a you problem LW.

      Also, would you really WANT to refer this woman to someone else? thereby affecting your relationship with that other trainer? That long term relationship with another trainer is more important to the health of your business than trying to help out this one terrible client.

      You are running a business, you have to think like a businessperson. This person is hurting your business. You need to cut them loose. Professionally of course, but you need to do it.

      1. Amaranth*

        I think they could do a referral if they explain the situation to a potential trainer, first, but its not LW’s job to hunt down a trainer that is comfortable with the inevitable confrontation.

      2. GammaGirl1908*

        Also, apparently multiple other people have cut this woman loose, so this isn’t a rarity and LW isn’t just the one trainer who is unable to get her in line. This is how she operates, and will operate forever. She apparently wants to believe and tell people she has a trainer, but she does not and will not ever actually prioritize attending or paying for sessions.

        LW can recommend her to someone else (preferably someone with a stricter pay policy) just to get the problem off her plate, but training relationships with this lady will always end this way.

    10. Valkyrie*

      Actually, depending on the field, sometimes you have an ethical obligation to try to connect clients with another provider if you need to stop seeing them – there’s no indication that this is the case in this situation, but it might be if they work in a clinic (e.g. if this is a rehab clinic with chiropractors, phsyiotherapists, etc who employ personal trainers as part of their thing).

      It is also possible that the employer makes it difficult to just dump a client; this is an issue I have with my current employer, they won’t let me transfer clients where it’s a bad match for anything short of, say, them making threatening sexist remarks but I’ve still had to work with openly sexist clients and cause they weren’t threatening it was pretty well brushed off.

    11. Esmeralda*

      Exactly. Fire her yesterday.

      She wants an appointment? She can pay in advance.
      She doesn’t want to pay? Too bad so sad, she doesn’t get an appointment.

      And I’d tell her why, too. She costs you money every time she cancels, because you can’t schedule anyone else during her time. You can say you like her personally (I dunno if you do, if you feel you have to make nice, say it), but you are running a business/have to pay rent/can’t afford to lose the money.

      Why should you be nicer to her than she is to you? She obviously doesn’t give a hoot about you. Don’t give any more hoots about her.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        I also think that, psychologically speaking, paying a deposit and then losing it feels different than having to pay a fee you weren’t expecting. Possession being nine-tenths of the law, it’s probably going to be easier on OP to keep a deposit versus try to follow up with this woman and get a fee paid. It also pushes the debate forward to the time of payment, instead of having OP bear the risk of a booked appointment she now can’t schedule for someone else. If this client won’t pay in advance she probably wasn’t ever going to use the session anyway.

        1. Amaranth*

          I wonder, though, if LW would be comfortable telling this client that they’ve lost their prepayment or would just let her ‘move’ the paid appointment due to the next ’emergency’. It sounds like confrontation is a real problem for them.

          1. Sloan Kittering*

            True. But at least OP would have money in the bank! It sounds like right now the client has had the benefit of 12 schedule spots blocked off for her while only paying for one.

    12. Momma Bear*

      Agreed. Well beyond time to let her find her own way and whether or not she can find someone else is not OP’s problem. She is wasting OP’s time and costing money – both in unpaid fees and in lost business with other clients.

      OP, shed this client. It’s just business.

    13. Observer*

      The other problem is she is notorious for making appointments and cancelling, so no one else will take her on as a client, so I can’t even help connect her with anyone else.

      This is not your problem to solve.

      Yes. Why are you even worrying about this. You need to stop accommodating her. You can give her the names of other trainers, but it’s not your job to actually get an appointment for her.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        And honestly, someone like this would probably do better with classes or a gym where she can show up or not and nobody minds. Maybe OP can tactfully steer her that way.

    14. The OTHER Other*

      IMO the LW is looking at the client’s notoriety as a minus, a source of guilt. Really it’s a plus, a source of power in the relationship. No one is entitled to waste someone’s time, especially not their WORK time, but LW is the only remaining game in town. If she wants to continue with these training sessions, she’s going to have to pay for the time.

    15. Gingerbread Gnome*

      You are allowed to fire clients! One of the most important items small businesses need to learn is they build the client base they deserve. If you allow her to back out with no consequences she will be sure to tell her friends, and they will do this also. Make your life easy fire her and find a client who is more reliable.
      It doesn’t matter that you can’t set her up with someone else. She is free to join a gym and not use the membership, walk around her neighborhood, etc.

    16. TootsNYC*

      She is simply bearing the consequences for her actions. And this is a good thing.

      It’s important for her to get the appropriate feedback on her actions.
      It’s important evidence for her.

      I sometimes think of the world as a gigantic science experiment. We do things, and then we get evidence/feedback/results, and then we make new decisions based on that information.

      Fire this woman as a client. Maybe that will teach her something she needs to know.
      She might decide to not learn it, but that’s on her.

    17. Emotional Support Care’n*

      Yep. If you want to be “nice” and give one final warning, tell her that due to her short-notice cancellations, you will only continue to see her *if* she pays for her appointments in advance and adheres to the 24 hour cancellation fee policy.

  2. Ashkela*

    LW1, as someone with my own complicated reasons for not wanting to attend a certain family member’s funeral, my heart goes out to you. I have no better advice than Alison, but you are definitely not alone.

    1. Might Be Spam*

      You’re definitely not alone. I’m dreading a certain relative’s funeral and trying to figure out the likely repercussions of not attending the funeral. There’s stigma attached to family estrangements, and yet, it is way more common than than I thought.

      1. LadyJ*

        For me it wasn’t just the complicated issues around said family member it was also being around other family members who were even more toxic

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          This was our reason in part for skipping a few recent funerals on spouse’s side. Toxic family member who we have finally managed to ditch and his prime info feeders/enablers would have attended all of them. We signed online guest books and sent condolence cards, but didn’t actually go to the funerals. That was safest for us.

        2. RabbitRabbit*

          Yup. Last funeral that I went to but would have preferred to skip, there was an attempted, unprovoked physical assault at the wake.

        3. Bren*

          THIS! I loved my grandmother and did not attend her funeral. Whenever I’m around that side of the family, it’s a full court press about my relationship with a very toxic family member. “Yes, I know that’s just how he is. That makes him an abusive drunk.” I couldn’t do it.

      2. Nea*

        Might Be Spam – can you claim the pandemic as a reason not to go? I know we’re supposed to be “over” it but we’re not, and the daily death toll remains alarming.

        1. MarsJenkar*

          Depends on your family and where you live, I’d say. If you live in the wrong part of the US, or have family of certain political affiliation, using COVID as an excuse, or even a valid reason, for not attending a family function could put a target on your back. Which might be an acceptable outcome for some but not others.

          1. Rose*

            Maybe if it’s just Covid caution. But I had a friend “get Covid” in a Sinai or circumstance. I’m a bad judge of this but I think most families would understand someone not going if they had an active case?

            This is more lying than some people want to do but in the bottomless pit of distinction that is my family, I’ve learned that for me the path of least resistance os the best path.

      3. Justme, The OG*

        One of the good (?) things about family estrangement is that you’re just not invited to funerals.

        1. quill*

          One of the good things about being in a different state from the extended family. Great uncles you didn’t know you had have a harder time dropping in on the funeral if it’s hours away from them.

      4. Bagpuss*

        Might Be Spam – a sudden illness perhaps? A message to say that you were unfortunately stricken with a stomach bug just as you were about to leave for the funeral.

      5. Insert Clever Name Here*

        If you are not already a reader of the Captain Awkward blog, it might be helpful for you to read some of her posts about dealing with/attending/not attending funerals when there are complicated issues at play (I’ll post a link in a follow up). I hope you are able to find a solution and make a decision that you feel at peace about, and that the people in your life surprise you by either their understanding or their total ignorance of your attendance status <3

    2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Very much agreed and yeah, been there.

      I *really* like Alison’s suggestion of saying the funeral date was moved to the weekend. Seems the least emotionally fraught response.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I worked with an individual who did this.

        Uh, I really cannot recommend this plan because the first thing that happens is everyone checks the obit and finds out when the funeral actually was. What happened next was instead of just wondering about the person’s attendance at the funeral, we also wondered why they lied.

        Just say something like, there is a family get-together later and you prefer to go to that. And it’s okay to add, “I prefer we don’t talk about this any more.”

        It sounds like this is just one coworker, OP, you could say something like, “I prefer to leave family matters at home. Let’s not discuss this any more.”

        1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

          This was also my thought. This *very* persistent (read: nosey) coworker sounds like exactly the kind of person who would go to those lengths, too.

        2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          “the first thing that happens is everyone checks the obit” — it would not in a million years occur to me to do that, and maybe I’m naive, but I really don’t believe it’s universal. And it’s really hard for me to believe that no one had the life experience and imagination to think of reasons why someone would lie about it (abuse? estrangement? what kind of fantasy land do your co-workers live in?)

            1. RabbitRabbit*

              Ugh, #1, not 2.

              OP#2 probably was tempted to check for obits for the many deaths that their client is reporting, though…

            2. Rose*

              There’s seriously no evidence of this at all. One they might not even have a first name or a city. Two, there’s no sign they’ve done anything very extreme. They “dragged” a funeral date out of OP, but that could easily mean asked a bunch of concerned questions of someone who didn’t want to talk and didn’t know how to handle it in the moment. Then they misunderstood and thought OP thought she had to be at the work event and tried to make her feel better about taking time off. It’s really not out of hand nosy behavior.

          1. doreen*

            I wouldn’t check the obit to see if the person was lying about the funeral – but I might check it to see if there was an online guest book. And if I did that, I would also see the funeral information.

          2. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

            Depends on where you are, maybe. I’m in a small town, and you bet your bottom dollar everybody reads and discusses all the obits. ALL of them.

          3. quill*

            If you know the name of the deceased and the location, it’s much easier to check the obituary.
            “Oh, Miss Marple died? I should send flowers to the funeral home,” is presumably a much more trackable situation than “Hercule Poirot’s uncle died, he says he doesn’t have time to go back to Belgium because of the case, but I don’t know his uncle’s name or where in Belgium his uncle lived, so I really can’t confirm that.”

            1. Totally Subclinical*

              I have a genealogy hobby, so if a coworker mentioned the death of a family member, I’d almost certainly look at the obituary and maybe look up parents or grandparents on the census to see if we might be very distant relatives. Now, I probably wouldn’t pay attention to the funeral date. Even if I did make the connection that coworker was at work when the funeral was happening, their internal family issues are none of my business. But yes, people do look at obits, and some folks would notice.

              Also, heresy! Miss Marple is immortal.

              1. quill*

                I’m sure you have ways, but I’m curious how many people know the names and locations of their colleagues’ relatives in order to look up the obits. Even if, say, someone lost their father, it could be somewhat difficult to casually track down Jane Smith (nee Jones) dad, Bob Jones, if you didn’t have several of the links to begin with.

                And that’s not even taking into account how many name changes there are in situations such as between a married woman and her married aunt, traditionally: Jane Smith (n. Jones), daughter of Anna Jones (n. Green) whose sister is Beth Walker (n. Green.)

              2. tamarack & fireweed*

                If it was me who had a death in my family and you were to turn my bereavement into an object of your hobby I would completely clam up towards you and you’d have some work to do to rebuild any kind of trust.

          4. Observer*

            “the first thing that happens is everyone checks the obit” — it would not in a million years occur to me to do that, and maybe I’m naive, but I really don’t believe it’s universal

            I’m sure you are right. BUT there is a coworker who is already pushing the boundaries here. That person is HIGHLY likely to check the obit, assuming there is one.

            The fact the coworker is pushing says that she, at least, doesn’t get it. Either she can’t imagine family estrangement or she’s one of those people who think that there is NEVER, EVER any reason whatsoever toe “excuse” it, even flat out abuse.

        3. Daisy Gamgee*

          What happened next was instead of just wondering about the person’s attendance at the funeral, we also wondered why they lied.

          I don’t think there could be any answers to that question that would be anything people would want to know.

          1. Anne Elliot*

            Why so strange? If a family member of a coworker of mine dies, I look up their obit more often than not, just out of curiosity. (“Bob’s mother died? That’s too bad. Let’s see . . . married during WWII, she must have been older when Bob was born . . . worked as a schoolteacher, that’s cool . . . wow! 10 kids!”) And the obit will say “Service Thursday at 10 at Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility.” I think here in the American South checking the obituary is pretty normal, especially for the death of a close relative like a parent. Closer coworkers (like fellow team members) will often go to the funeral, and checking the obit is how you know where and when it is.

        4. Jacob*

          “What happened next was instead of just wondering about the person’s attendance at the funeral, we also wondered why they lied.”

          Uh, maybe because you and the rest of the “we” are nosy, boundary-violating aholes?

          1. Eat Dirt, Jim*

            That seems overly harsh! Obits are printed because people want to know this information. Sure, some people can abuse that, but looking up the obit of a coworkers relative is not a boundary violation in of itself.

            1. Jacob*

              I was referring to the obvious gossiping about the coworker, as the use of “we” indicates that multiple people were chatting and speculating together, which is gross.

              1. tamarack & fireweed*

                Because that’s exactly the kind of thing that’s completely reasonable to lie about, to protect oneself from nosy, boundary-violating assholes during a moment of particular vulnerability. What’s there to worry about? This isn’t a murder mystery.

                1. Daisy Gamgee*

                  Oh, I agree with you and not Not So New Reader’s judgmental coworkers. But apparently that is too harsh of an opinion according to quite a few commenters here. Good luck to their distressed coworkers.

        5. Elle Woods*

          This was my thought as well. In my experience, co-workers who are insistent you need to attend a funeral would very likely be the kind that would search for the obit to check details.

          1. Rose*

            But the coworker didn’t actually insist OP needs to attend the funeral. They insisted that OP shouldn’t be afraid of taking the day off and skipping a work event. They didn’t know the context and we’re trying to be supportive, and OP understandably didn’t want to go into it.

        6. JustaTech*

          This does assume that there is an obit.
          A former neighbor of my mom died a month or so ago in my area and my mom asked me to keep an eye out for the obit. Well I’ve been looking and looking and there’s nothing in the newspaper. It’s entirely possible there won’t be one either, since those (in my paper) are paid for by the family unless you’re someone reasonably famous (locally).

          My friend’s dad died over the summer but the obit didn’t come out until Thanksgiving, and the memorial isn’t for many more months yet.

          So it’s a good thing for LW1 to be aware of, but if they know that there won’t be an obit that could help with the “they moved the funeral” thing.

    3. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      I’ve been in that position and thankfully my parents (I was a teen when it happened) let me skip it entirely, no questions asked.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      I think this is a fake it til you make it situation. Eventually, you’re able to deliver Alison’s lines (in future contexts) in the exact upbeat, breezy, subject-is-closed way you would want. But you probably have to practice to get there.

    5. Just J.*

      This was told to me years ago: Just because you are family does not make you friends. Alternately, you do not have to be friends with your family. But it does not make wading through family politics easier. However, obviously, that is for you to do and not your coworkers to advise on.

      You could say to your co-worker, “Just because we appear close in age or close in relation, we are actually not.” If that is revealing too much or opening a door your coworker can push through, then I would use Alison’s script bit would add a solid mean stare and the question: “Why are you so interested in my personal life?”

      1. Anonymous4*

        Yeah, nosy-parker coworker is waaaay too interested in LW1’s life. And much too ready to instruct LW1 what LW1 *should* do. It would make LW1’s life a lot easier in the long run to back away from telling her anything else about the relationship or the issues or any of the other details that the coworker is going to be dying to know.

      2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        In the co-worker’s defense, they thought that the LW believed she had to skip the funeral for work. If I thought there was even a whiff that someone believed that, I’d let the know that it is not the case. I don’t think that’s “nosy.” Having a workplace that is supportive of work-life balance means that the culture will let someone know what the norms are around work-life balance. I’m a manager but I frequently let people know not to cancel their vacation or, most recently, take more sick leave after their surgery if they need it. And my team members would do the same with each other, and I think that’s a good thing.

        1. Anonym*

          Yeah, I assumed she was just horrified that OP thought she *had* to prioritize the work event. I would have a similar reaction. To be fair, if told “no, I understand that I’m not expected to choose work over a funeral, I’m just choosing this for my own reasons” I would completely understand and back off. Everyone grieves differently, and is entitled to do what’s best for them.

          1. Rocket*

            And it sounds like OP maybe didn’t give that response. She said she got emotional and wasn’t expressing herself well.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yes, I don’t know what the culture is like there–if people regularly have to miss family obligations for work, but it sounds like that is what this coworker thought was happening. I thought from the headline they were horrified *at* OP but it sounds like they were horrified *for* OP, which is presumably coming from a place of kindness rather than judgment.

          I think it is reasonable for her to say once that OP could skip the event for the funeral and they’d all make it work, if she was worried that OP genuinely believed that wasn’t the case. I’m not clear from the letter whether she was *continuing* to insist, which would cross over from kind into invasive. Or if OP was just worried that after she found out about the funeral at all now everything would definitely be weird. It might not be! It’s possible that she just wanted to make sure OP knew they had the option to take the day off but won’t push the issue any further. Or it’s possible she will continue making comments and the OP will need to insist that they just don’t want to talk about it.

          Best of luck to OP and I’m sorry for your loss!

        3. LGC*

          Honestly, this might be my first response as well! Like, I’m not going to assume “you’re going to the work event because your family history is a mess” if you tell me you’re going to a work thing over a funeral. (I have read enough Dear Prudence and Captain Awkward to know that estrangement is really common – not that LW1 is estranged from this family member – but I’m not going to assume that literally everyone has an estrangement.)

          It also depends on how the person is overall. If the coworker reacted badly in the moment but is otherwise levelheaded, LW1 can just go back and say the most benign thing possible to the coworker about it – that for personal reasons, they’d rather not attend the funeral. If the coworker is repeatedly being pushy about this…then yes, LW1 can and should dodge. I can’t quite tell from the letter which one it is, and that does matter here. (Not that LW1 owes us this level of detail! It’s just important to how to proceed with this person – if they’re reasonable, treat them like they are; if they’re not, then don’t.)

          Also, I just noticed the ads are mostly about funerals now and that is…something.

        4. Observer*

          In the co-worker’s defense, they thought that the LW believed she had to skip the funeral for work. If I thought there was even a whiff that someone believed that, I’d let the know that it is not the case.

          That’s the thing. Just letting the OP know is OK. It could even be seen as a good thing. Going from there to “insisting” that the OP goes, is not OK. Even without family estrangement, people handle these issues in such individual ways that you simply cannot do that.

          1. Hannah Lee*

            Yes, that seems to be the line the LW’s co-worker is crossing.

            One check in of “you know you don’t have to attend work event, you can go to the funeral, right?” is okay.
            Repeatedly revisiting the issue is not. Depending on this co-worker, what they are like in general, LW could lob anything from “I’m dealing with this the way that is best for me” to “why do you keep harping on this?”

            It may also be a time to trot out an “Already asked and answered” response, which can be done lightly or sternly depending on the situation.

    6. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      This is absolutely a valid decision on your part and you can give yourself credit for protecting yourself in this way.

      That being said, I’d go with Alison’s first approach rather than saying the funeral was moved. It’s amazing how many people know other people, particularly if you’re not in a major city, and I’d be concerned that a busybody co-worker would somehow hear that it was NOT moved.

    7. LCH*

      at some point, if this coworker didn’t cut it out, i wouldn’t fault you for user stronger words to point out just how inappropriate she is being. something like, quit being such an annoying buttinski and mind your own personal life. mine is off limits.

    8. ThatGirl*

      Same. Three of my grandparents were wonderful. One was bigoted, abusive and generally terrible. Even though I felt for my grandma in her loss (and also she was better off without him), I could not attend the funeral. Thankfully nobody at work found out so I didn’t have to explain myself when I’d already taken time for both mine and my husband’s grandparents’ funerals at that point.

      I know that’s not quite the same as what the LW is going through, but I feel for them.

    9. Momma Bear*

      I know people who didn’t attend someone’s funeral that they liked for various reasons. Funerals are very personal and if your preference is to work the event, then work the event OP. Keep to the script and most people will get the hint and stop asking.

    10. Butterfly Counter*

      My worry would be that the coworker gets nosy and looks up the funeral times and catches OP1 in a lie that the funeral was moved. I’d probably say something along the lines of, “I’ve arranged to have a private time(? not sure of the terminology) with them to say goodbye in my own way.” And that’s probably not far from the truth.

    11. A Feast of Fools*

      Solidarity.

      I haven’t spoken to anyone on my mother’s side of my family tree in decades. Not the cousins whose weddings I attended and whose children I babysat, nor their parents who babysat me.

      My grandmother and, later, my favorite aunt died and I did not go to their funerals because I wasn’t about to spend any of my precious time around people who are… cruel and awful.

  3. Jolene CarlDean*

    #1 – I would not fib and say the funeral was moved. (Apologies to Alison, with whom I rarely disagree.)
    Most funeral homes have online guest books these days, and you can easily find funeral arrangement details in a quick google search.
    Nosy coworker seems like the type to do that google search.
    Falsely saying the funeral was moved, when that is easily disproven, seems like it could make this worse and make you the “weird” one, when you are not at all.

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      Yeah, this seems unlikely to work unless you’re willing to then own the “well, you made it weird first, Nosy!” conversation when she snoops the obituaries and asks why the funeral home didn’t update their schedule online. Just keep telling her you don’t want to talk about it… maybe throw in a solemn “please let me grieve in my own way” or “please respect my grieving process.”

      1. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

        “Please let me grieve in my own way” seems to me the right kind of line here. Even if you really loved someone in an uncomplicated way… Everyone grieves differently, and not everyone finds funerals helpful. It’s not your co-worker’s business whether that’s you, or what your exact reasons are.

        1. Anonym*

          Yes, I have a friend who just doesn’t do funerals, and that’s fine. Grief is hard; do what’s best for you.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Yeah, I tend to avoid funerals unless it’s literally close family or a really close friend. Even then, if I’m not in a headspace to deal, I just won’t show.

        2. Observer*

          Everyone grieves differently, and not everyone finds funerals helpful.

          Totally. That perfectly summarizes why you simply can’t push the issue.

        3. Gumby*

          Yeah, I really like that.

          One of my sisters didn’t attend our grandmother’s funeral because she just… doesn’t do funerals if she can avoid them. It has nothing to do with how close the relationship is/was. (She did have to go to our brother’s funeral but noped out of every other related thing that she could that week and none of us had an issue with it because we knew it wasn’t a reflection of how she felt about him or anything else. While suppression might not be the most recommended coping mechanism it is hers and we let her use it.)

      2. cleo*

        I like let me grieve in my own way.

        LW might also say something like working this event is their way of honoring dead relative’s memory.

        Which might be stretching the truth but is less likely to make people feel like there’s a juicy story about why LW doesn’t want to go to the funeral than Alison’s suggestion.

    2. Optimus Prime + Punky Brewster = Me*

      I would not fib either, It signals that coworkers opinion mattered when it really doesn’t. Don’t contort your truth to appease someones ignorance.

    3. John Smith*

      Id be tempted to be a little more harsh than Alison if there was pushback and just say “this really is none of your business and you need to stop raising it”.

      OP, I had an abusive relative who I’d describe as sadistic – evil, maybe. When I was told of his death, my only response was “good” and when asked if I was going to his funeral I said “only to make sure he’s buried but I’ll take someone else’s word for it”. I didn’t go – I went on a day trip I had been meaning to take for some time but never got round to it and thoroughly enjoyed it.

      Your feelings aren’t weird and your coworker is way out of line.

      1. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

        MYOB is definitely the appropriate approach. This co-worker is waaay out of line here, and likely does the same thing in other contexts. Firm and clear (and not particularly friendly) boundary-drawing would be a blessing.

      2. Not_Me*

        I was coming here to say something similar. OP, at first, you can be nice. But there are people who can’t get it thru their heads that some other people may not be close to (or may even hate) their family. They will keep nagging you and nagging you to find out why you won’t go to your family member’s funeral.

        Most of my family was abusive to me and I couldn’t care less if they’re dead or alive. People can’t believe it and seem to think I’m the horrible person for the way I think. These nosy strangers don’t care that I was physically and emotionally abused for years at the hands of the adults who were supposed to protect me. These types of clueless people just have to be dealt with harshly because they will keep prying in your business and stressing you out.

        Try Allison’s script or a gentle script of your choosing at first. But if the person pushes (and most likely they will), you will have to tell them to mind their own business bluntly. Don’t worry about being rude as they were the rude ones first who couldn’t take the hint to drop the subject. No coworker is ever entitled to an explanation of your personal life and the choices you make, remember that.

        1. Daisy Gamgee*

          Well and truly said, and don’t I hear you. I send you commiserative hopes for continued healing.

    4. Batgirl*

      It’s absolutely possible this is a nosy co-worker, but it seems more likely that it’s just a misunderstanding. The co-worker thought OP was complaining about missing the funeral, and OP was too emotional to correct the colleague. If they were a known busybody, I doubt OP would have volunteered the information. What’s really sad is OP clearly needs support, and the colleague is willing to offer it, but they missed the point by miles.

      1. MK*

        I agree. Everyone is calling this coworker names, but it sounds to me the OP pretty much gave her the impression that the reason she won’t go to the funeral is the work event. She may be nozy and boundary-crossing, or she may be genuinely trying to be kind and encourage a young employee not to feel they have to sacrifice everything for work.

        1. Rose*

          Thank you. The coworker in no way tried to push OP to go to funeral she doesn’t want to go to. OP mentioned they were we going to a work event instead of a funeral, and the coworker had a pretty natural reaction of trying to convince them to take care of themselves and not worry about work.

          It’s very unclear what happened for this to come up and the funeral date to be shared, but once that happened the kind thing is really to let a coworker know no one will blame or judge them for skipping the event. If I thought a coworker was doing this I would encourage them to take care of themselves, offer to cover shifts at the event, etc. Its hardly a cruel response, even if it was misplaced in this instance.

      2. Xavier Desmond*

        Agree completely. Too many people on here are always ready to think the worst of everybody.

      3. WellRed*

        Upon rereading, I agree it’s a possible misunderstanding with a side of OP overthinking it. It doesn’t sound like the coworker has continued to bring this up.

        1. londonedit*

          I also think it’s potentially a misunderstanding – it sounds like the OP got themselves in a bit of a conversational knot and ended up letting slip that the funeral was on the same day as the event, and then the co-worker went into ‘Oh my goodness, the funeral is on Thursday? You realise you don’t have to go to the work event, right? Please don’t think you have to miss a family funeral just because of this work thing! Take the day off!’ mode. Which OP is interpreting as ‘my co-worker is insisting I go to a family funeral that I don’t want to go to, this is really awkward, how do I get out of all of this’. I think if the co-worker does mention it again, the OP should just go down the ‘Thanks, but I’m happy to attend the work event’ or ‘I’m not planning to go to the funeral, it’s a family situation that I’d rather not get into’ route, or something like that. These things often need less explanation than we imagine they will.

          1. moonstone*

            This is actually a good point. I don’t think it changes the main advice, which is OP should just do what they planned to do anyway. But it can alleviate how self conscious OP feels.

            This is probably similar to the letter earlier this week about the OP recovering from ED who wanted to evade their coworker’s questions about their lunch hours – if something is a very sensitive topic for the OP they might get feel self-conscious when their coworkers try to engage in that topic, even if the coworkers don’t realize they’re making them uncomfortable.

        2. Anonymous4*

          Coworker “dragged it out” of LW1 that a relative died and that she wasn’t planning on attending the funeral, and “insisted that [LW] take the day off.”

          Maybe coworker is trying to be kind. But coworker sure dived into getting involved in a situation that doesn’t affect her. There’s a big difference between saying, “You know, you can take the day off for a funeral, no matter what’s happening at work,” and, “Oh, Lucilla, you HAVE to take the day off! You don’t want to come to work when there’s something important like that going on; why, that would be just terrible! And think of your family — don’t you think they want your support?”

          1. Loulou*

            I think they “dragged out” the date of the funeral after OP themselves mentioned a family member died.

            1. Observer*

              The thing is that if the OP isn’t being over-sensitive because of their history with this relative, then the OP overstepped. Because you shouldn’t be “dragging” personal information out of people you work with. Nor should you “insist” on how they manage their relationships.

              1. Rose*

                No one is insisting on how anyone manages a relationship. OP mentioned a close family members death and didn’t say anything about being estranged or not wanting to go to the funeral. Coworker insisted they shouldn’t feel they need to miss a family funeral for a work event, which is true. It would be totally different if the OP had explained they didn’t want to go and the coworker pushed back, but that’s not what happened here. The coworker made a natural assumption that OP didn’t want to correct.

      4. Not your typical admin*

        This is what I was thinking. If I had a coworker mention they had a death in the family, and were working during the time of the funeral my first reaction would be to see if there was anything I could do to help them attend. I’ve had to teach myself that just because someone mentions something to me doesn’t mean they’re asking for my help.

        1. Daisy Gamgee*

          This is very good hearted and well meaning, but it rests on the assumption that people would always or almost always want to attend family funerals. I think that a great many more people have fraught families than people with happy families generally expect. Maybe a different formulation would be to see if there is anything to be done to ease the situation, however the bereaved coworker would like to arrange it? People who wouldn’t go to the funeral may also need certain kinds of help.

          1. Rose*

            Asking if you can help someone doesn’t have to assume anything about their solution. I have immediate family in estranged from and I would never bring them up at work, mainly because they’re not actively in my life. If someone’s bring up family it’s fairly reasonable to assume they might want to be at an event and make an offer. People are free to decline offers of help. If you’re having such a hard time that someone even offering to help you do something is going to be upsetting, it’s probably best not to mention those things at work at all.

            1. Daisy Gamgee*

              It’s really interesting that your position here is to defend the pushy coworker ad infinitum and to scold LW #1 and by extension anyone who might be in LW #1’s place. LW#1 stated that she didn’t mean to bring it up at work but it “slipped out”, presumably because she’s under a lot of stress. Why does she now owe her coworker and whomever else a dissertation about her choices? Why is the burden of proof and perfection on the person who’s already hurting?

        2. I should really pick a name*

          At that point, one approach would be to ask if they’d like your help.

      5. bee*

        Yeah, I am surprised by the amount of people assuming the coworker is some kind of horrible snoop, because I would guess it went something like:

        OP: somethingsomething and also my *dad/grandma/etc* just passed away
        CW: Oh, I’m so sorry! Are you doing all right? Are you going to take time off for the funeral?
        OP: Oh, I can’t, it’s on the day of *event*
        CW: Oh my god no! Take the day off! We will cover for you!
        OP: *gets emotional, can’t explain further*

        Putting myself in the coworker’s shoes, I don’t think that’s particularly nosy or intrusive, just someone who is trying to be kind. I think Alison’s advice is solid, but absent further evidence I wouldn’t be super cold to the coworker for trying to help and making some incorrect assumptions

        1. ThatGirl*

          I agree, I read the coworker as trying to be kind and just not really understanding that it is complicated.

        2. Daisy Gamgee*

          I suspect that like many discussions of unhappy families, the reactions here to LW#1’s situation will come down to whether a given commenter relates more to the idea that family is always more important than anything else or to the idea that family relationships can be fraught, unpleasant, or even damaging. I’ve seen in many of these discussions that many people who have not experienced complex, messy, or abusive relationships don’t really credit that such things exist. For people whose families are the bedrock of their lives it can be unimaginable and even evidence of moral turpitude that another person can desire to not deal with one or more family members.

          1. doreen*

            Not entirely – I went to my father’s funeral and wake for reasons entirely unrelated to grief and I didn’t go to his mother’s funeral at all. And I have relatives I don’t really know because my mother stopped speaking to their family shortly after I was born almost 60 years ago. So yeah, I do have some experience with messy and complex relationships and people who don’t want to deal with one or more family members. I still tend to think the coworker was trying to be kind, not necessarily nosy or intrusive – and to be honest, I kind of wonder why the LW told anyone at work about the death if they didn’t plan to take time off at short notice for the funeral ( although I absolutely do not expect the LW to reply). There just doesn’t seem to be any reason to.

            1. Daisy Gamgee*

              With that personal history, why do you think it’s kind for the coworker to pressure LW into going to the funeral?

              Also, this is what LW said about why she “told anyone at work” :

              “I had intended to just not mention any of this at work and show up as normal, but I accidentally let something slip to a coworker and she ended up dragging out of me that the funeral was on this particular day. ”

              So, basically, she indeed didn’t intend to but had an attack of being human.

              1. doreen*

                Because I presume good intentions until I see a reason not to and just because someone is trying to be kind doesn’t mean they are successful at it. I don’t see where the letter actually says the coworker is pressuring the LW to attend the funeral. It says “She was horrified that I thought that I couldn’t skip this event for the funeral (which I did NOT think — I genuinely don’t want to go to the funeral), and she insisted that I should take the day off.” There’s no indication that there was a second conversation or even that co-worker kept repeating it during a single conversation. ( I’m sure it’s just me, but saying something once isn’t “pressuring” to me) or any reason to believe the co-worker was doing this for any reason other than the co-worker thinking the LW thought they couldn’t skip the event.

          2. Rose*

            His is just not true. I’ve had really difficult family situations where members of my immediate family and cousins/aunts are estranged for really awful things.

            One, I just never mentioned those situations at work. If you mention our talk about your family at work with no context people are going to assume you at least have some semblance of relationship.

            Two, just because I’ve had a hard situation with my family doesn’t mean I’m going to read a bunch of things into the letter that aren’t there. The coworker didn’t insist that OP should be attending the funeral or suggest that it’s wrong not to. Our seems like OP implied they couldn’t because of a work event and their coworker tried to do the kind/normal thing. I would be very concerned of a coworker told me they were skipping a family funeral to go to work event.

            1. Daisy Gamgee*

              His is just not true.

              Apparently so, since you seem to be someone with a strained family history who still doesn’t credit that anyone else might have one or that anyone might consider the possibility before recommending courses of action to another person. Impressive, in its way.

              “Our [sic] seems like OP implied they couldn’t because of a work event and their coworker tried to do the kind/normal thing.”

              Is it possible that the kind thing to do would be to say, “What do you need?” instead of “of course you need to do X!” (“Normal” is a whole other discussion.) Probably not, for those who think LW #1 is morally culpable here, but I remain unconvinced.

          3. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

            I’ve experienced unpleasant family stuff, and I definitely don’t think that family is more important than anything or even most things – in fact I think that the nuclear family is a generally negative force in society – but I still think (based on observation) that more people want to attend family funerals than not, and that if someone mentioned missing one for work it would be good to clarify that they didn’t need to lest they lose an opportunity they couldn’t get back out of diffidence towards asking for a day off.

      6. Smithy*

        I agree with this. This may certainly be a nosy coworker, but this may also be a friendly coworker and during a more stressful or emotional time, light questioning got the OP to share more than they intended.

        Not to say the OP needs to beat themselves up for this, just that this may be more of a one and done awkward moment. My father was ill for the majority of my life, so when he was finally diagnosed with a terminal illness and passed away – I know that my reaction in many ways wasn’t what people thought it would be/should be. I was an adult and didn’t have emotionally complicated feelings, but still seeing other people uncomfortable with how I was reacting was never fun. But even in those moments at work, it really was more momentary than something longer lasting that was an issue.

        Because this does hit personally, it is totally understandable that it lingers and hurts – but it doesn’t have to mean that it’s from a coworker looking to significantly cross boundaries. Even if in the moment it wasn’t handled ideally by them.

        1. Jolene CarlDean*

          If the coworker isn’t going to raise again….then there would be no reason/occasion to lie. Problem solved.

          I had the impression that coworker would not drop it, despite all clues to MYOB, which is why LW wrote in and why we are talking about it.

          1. Smithy*

            The OP certainly knows their office and work context more than we do, however based on the letter – I do think it’s possible there’s a viable reading to just “do less”. The coworker may have had the reaction of “omg, you don’t need to come to work event on the day of a funeral – you are entitled to take bereavement and mourn with family, please do not feel like you need to be there,” – and in the moment it would be totally understandable for anyone to feel pressure and stress in the moment of how to respond. But it also doesn’t necessarily mean that the OP’s coworker will ever bring it up again in such an intense manner.

            There are lots and lots of people who handle hard times at home by going to work as a distraction. And while that is not to everyone’s taste, just being able to stand in the moment and do less/respond with less can be a lesson that’s difficult to learn.

            So whether the coworker is a busy body (and will look up the funeral time online) or it was an intense one off, the advice on not fibbing is still good.

          2. sarah*

            “I really, really do not want to get into the details of this relationship with anyone at work. But also I don’t want people to think I’m some insane workaholic who skips a family funeral to attend a minor work thing.”

            I think this is why LW wrote in, not because coworker won’t drop it, but because they are worried about the potential ramifications to their reputation if they go to the work event instead of the funeral.

      7. moonstone*

        I don’t think the coworker is malicious, but her behavior is very inappropriate even if the LW volunteered the information. Also patronizing. Why does she think she knows what the LW wants better than the LW? Ugh. Anyway, Alison and other commenters have decent advice on what the LW can do to shut this coworker can do and I have nothing to add. Good point about funeral info being available online .

    5. LifeBeforeCorona*

      This is a coworker who is insisting that you attend the funeral, they really have no standing about what you choose to do. Attend your work event and if they bring it up again, just say that the matter is settled.

    6. allathian*

      Yeah, this. I know it isn’t much of a consolation at this point because the cat is out of the bag, but this is one of the reasons why I don’t talk much about my private life at work, except with people I consider work friends who don’t question my decisions. Or even if they disagree with my decision for whatever reason, I can trust them to keep their opinions to themselves.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      I agree. And I have seen this play out IRL, too.

      One thing I have seen people do is say, “I have reason to believe I might need bereavement time again this year, so I prefer to use it then.” This is a know your company thing- if you don’t think this will fly, for example, they tell you that it does not matter, then don’t use it. It worked at Old, Old Company because time off was micromanaged.

    8. New Job So Much Better*

      Maybe she could just say her family is getting together on the weekend to remember the person and that’s what she will attend. Not that the funeral itself was moved.

      1. Anonymous4*

        I would really recommend that she not discuss it with her coworker at all. The coworker may mean well but absolutely does not need to be putting forth opinions on the topic at all, and if LW1 says anything about it with her, that just opens the conversational gates again.

    9. anonymous73*

      Whether she’s nosy or not doesn’t really matter.

      “She was horrified that I thought that I couldn’t skip this event for the funeral (which I did NOT think — I genuinely don’t want to go to the funeral), and she insisted that I should take the day off.”

      I might think (TO MYSELF) that it’s odd that she preferred to go to a work event, but I wouldn’t interfere. Families can be complicated. Even if co-worker thinks she’s “helping”, she needs to stay in her lane.

      1. Rocket*

        If your coworker thought she couldn’t miss a work event to attend a funeral, you would just shrug your shoulders and let them continue thinking that?

        1. sarah*

          Especially when it seems like this coworker may be on the younger side– the coworker might have thought LW didn’t know the office norms around this. It definitely seems like this coworker was a little too insistent, but I don’t think it’s inappropriate to say something like “Please don’t feel like you have to come to the event, we can cover for you.”

        2. anonymous73*

          That’s presumptuous of you.

          I can tell you I wouldn’t be “horrified” and “insist” that OP take the day off. I would probably suggest she speak to the manager about skipping the event and then I would mind my business. Because families are complicated, and I wouldn’t just assume that it was a hardship that she didn’t think she could skip the work event.

          1. Rocket*

            It’s not presumptuous, it’s literally what you said – that in this situation, you would think something to yourself but not interfere.

    10. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Doesn’t even need to be a nosy coworker, just a kind one googling where to send flowers.

    11. Momma Bear*

      Obituaries are often public. I, too, don’t think this is a good tactic. Just be upfront that it’s not an event you will attend, but you aren’t discussing it at work, please respect that boundary.

  4. CatCat*

    If anything, it would be likely to be a small claims court issue (I think — lawyers correct me if I’m wrong about where she’d need to seek redress) if you wanted to pursue it.

    This may vary state-to-state. In my state, it depends on whether OP wants money for the value of their stuff, or wants their actual stuff. Money would be small claims court where I am. Asking for a court to order the return of the actual things would be a different proceeding.

    1. Anya Last Nerve*

      Additionally keep in mind that if one takes the route of going to court, you need to prove what you left behind. You can’t just claim you left $5,000 worth of belongings at the office that you should be compensated for – you have to have some evidence as to what was left and it’s value. If it is sentimental items with little monetary value, OP would not get much or any cash compensation if the former employer lost the items, unfortunately.

    2. OP 4*

      OP 4 here. I definitely want my stuff back, in part because there’s some sentimental stuff, like art I created, and also because my notary stamp and records are there. The notary records are particularly important to me because the state in question is Texas and prior to my last job (the one holding onto my stuff) I worked in abortion care, so there’s documents I notarized that could still be questioned in court.

      1. Beehoppy*

        I found this online – perhaps this is an avenue you can pursue for the notary records: Report to your state’s commissioning authority for instructions. The state’s notary laws may direct your former employer to return your notary record books to you.

        I am pretty sure you can just order a new stamp online.

        1. Glomarization, Esq.*

          A thousand times this. Report the issue to your authority — in fact, you may have an affirmative obligation to do so. And get their instructions for what you should do at this point.

        2. OP4*

          This is really helpful, thank you! Unfortunately I already have a former manager, an admin assistant, and some friends from my former workplace trying to help me get it back and nothing has worked, which is why I was wondering if I should go the legal route.

      2. Alexander Graham Yell*

        Oh sh*t. That is definitely crucial to have back. Have they confirmed that they still have it, and do you have anybody that could go and pick it up for you in person? Sometimes it’s easy to ignore emails but harder when there’s an actual person in front of them.

      3. Malarkey01*

        I think there is a very good chance your things are gone and I’m sorry. We’ve had a lot of people leave in the last 2 years and have been completely out of the office. When people move, we have one person in office maintaining the building that tries to get everything but things are missed, boxes get misplaced, some people had an apartment’s worth of stuff in their offices.
        Where possible we let people collect their own things but we have 100+ cases of people relocating first and it’s been harder than I thought it would be to get everyone’s stuff to them (and we are actively trying).

        I would suggest you call and ask point blank “are we things still there”. If they say yes say please ship (and list the things you absolutely want so they know what to look for and know that the more you need the less likely they’ll follow through-just the reality) shipped here and give them an address.

        1. Sparkles McFadden*

          I agree. It’s likely the LW’s things have been trashed or stowed somewhere that no one would be able to pinpoint. If someone wasn’t assigned to ship things within the week of departure, it might never happen. It doesn’t mean the LW shouldn’t try, but this is a “hope for the best but prepare for the worst” situation.

        2. Evelyn Carnahan*

          Yes, this is my thought too. It can certainly vary — I know someone who left her office one day in March 2020 and didn’t return for at least a year, and only went back into the office to clean out her stuff after she gave notice. Everything was there completely untouched, including some dirty dishes. I have worked other places where your entire workspace is emptied and everything is thrown out the morning after your last day (unless a coworker can grab things they know are important to you).

          I think Alison’s advice of looping in your former manager is a good way to start, as is calling (if you’re able to call during business hours) with a list of the specific items you especially want. Hopefully if they knew you’re a notary they’ll at least have saved everything related to that!

        3. OP 4*

          I did confirm that my stuff was still there, so I know they have it. Unfortunately I already have a former manager, an admin assistant, and some friends from my former workplace trying to help me get it back and nothing has worked, which is why I was wondering if I should go the legal route.

      4. Anne Elliot*

        I was going to suggest finding a lawyer to write a Strongly Worded Letter for you and addressing it to the General Counsel’s Office of the big corporation. That might result in shaking your stuff free without the necessity of moving onto the next step, which would be filing a suit at small claims.

        But I agree that the situation is very different given that notary equipment and records are at issue. I second the suggestion to seek guidance from your Secretary of State’s Office.

        1. GlitsyGus*

          Given that it is notary supplies it may be possible to get a Strongly Worded Letter from the state office that says the supplies must be returned or it is a violation of blah de blah statute. I’m sure this isn’t the first time this has happened and sending a form letter would probably prevent a lot of folks from needing to get replacement materials and such, which just makes life easier for the govt. office as well.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      To get a court order to return the things might require a higher court such as a county court. Local municipal courts might not be able to order an action to take place, they can only order monetary compensation.

      I think it might be worthwhile to see if the Department of Labor can assist you, OP.
      Or it could be that a letter from a lawyer would be enough to cause them to act.

    4. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

      I had a coworker who moved to a different state during lockdown and needed me to clear her desk, mailing the things she needed. I had access, so it was easy. Any chance you could get a coworker with access to help you out?

  5. Optimus Prime + Punky Brewster = Me*

    #2: We train folks how to treat us. Train her that your time/schedule is valuable by holding her to consequences. She’ll tighten up or move out of the way.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      This is a good skill to develop. If you decide that you will treat everyone in a similar manner because this is now a policy of yours then you will probably find it easier to follow through.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yes. It sounds like OP is very wary of upsetting clients – which woof I understand. But consistent boundaries are going to lead to a better overall relationship with your client base. Maybe that means this particular person needs to go, but it’ll be a net gain overall.

        1. Cheap Ass Rolex*

          Yes, OP, the reason you generally don’t want to upset clients is to avoid suffering financial losses. But by refusing to enforce your own rules, you’re already suffering financial losses from this woman! So that ship has sailed either way, and it’s best to cut your losses and stop enabling this problem, right?

          Also, any business that charges cancellation fees for no-shows needs to get a credit card on file in order to do so. It’s no good having a rule that you don’t really make enforceable in that way.

  6. indubitably*

    I wouldn’t lie about the funeral date being moved — the lie could end up being stressful to maintain, it could get discovered which could be uncomfortable, etc.

    I think it’s better to just say calmly but firmly (practice at home beforehand): “The ___ event is my *preference* of how to spend next __day. Please respect that, and let’s not discuss this further, thanks.” And then ask a work-related question to change the subject.

    Or, keep in mind that you DO have other options besides this event, the funeral, or hiding at home. You could take a day trip to a museum in a nearby city, book a spa day, or whatever sounds soothing/distracting/etc to you.

    Wishing you the best, whatever you choose.

    1. Loulou*

      Yes, I think emphasizing that you PREFER to go to work rather than the funeral is key. It’s may be that the coworker is just being nosy or lacks boundaries, but she may also just be worried that the OP feels like they NEED to work this event and is skipping the funeral because of work pressure. Clarifying that they are choosing to go (and adding something like “it’s personal” or “I’d rather not get into it”) may well solve the problem.

    2. Batgirl*

      I think it depends how good you are at lying. I’d have no problems doing that but equally I wouldn’t have a problem simply saying something like: “The funeral isn’t something I actually want to attend and I’d honestly just prefer to keep busy.”

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Agreed. I’d be much more worried about fielding the followup questions skipping the funeral would raise than maintaining that lie.

        Some people are not good at confrontation, especially when it’s around an emotional subject, and as well meaning as the coworker may be this is a confrontation from OPs side of things. Side-stepping that with a white lie is a perfectly reasonable workaround.

    3. Sparkles McFadden*

      Yes, I’ve always found that lying means devoting brain space to trying to remember things that didn’t actually happen. It’s just not worth it. If the LW wants to go the route of saying something innocuous to get the nosy coworker to let this go, a better thing to say would be “We don’t place a lot of importance on funerals in my family. I’d rather be working anyway.”

    4. SnappinTerrapin*

      There are a lot of good reasons for choosing to work instead of attending a funeral. After all, grief is complicated and unique for everyone.

      It’s none of your co-workers’ business what your reasons are. They should simply accept and respect your decision to handle your private affairs in the way that best suits you.

      I understand you feel some particular complexities about the relative who died, but you don’t have to share those feelings with anyone who wouldn’t be supportive. Even if you were overwhelmed with grief, some people deal with grief best by following their routines and “working through it,” rather than by participating in a ritual.

      You get to live your own life, as you see fit. People who try to decide how others should handle a personal situation are not being as helpful as they seem to think they are.

      Without prying, I hope you find the comfort you need.

  7. Venus*

    For OP1 I think it is useful to point out “People grieve in different ways.” I don’t know if I would mention the complicated family situation, but Alison’s second response is a good one and where I would start if the coworker mentions it again.

    1. Not Australian*

      This. I’ve told the story here before about how, when my father died, I was accused of telling lies by my co-workers because I “wasn’t upset enough”. Nobody gets to police anyone else’s response to a death, and in fact whether they grieve or not. It may sometimes be that, after a long and difficult illness, the death itself is expected, prepared for, and welcomed as an end to suffering and a chance to move on – and that doesn’t even touch on how good or bad the personal relationship may have been. We all just need to butt out of other people’s lives and allow them to manage their own feelings unless/until the workplace itself is affected; a death in the family is complicated enough emotionally without work colleagues intervening because one’s reaction to it doesn’t meet their imaginary personal standard of weeping and wailing.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, this. I had a good relationship with all of my grandparents, with the possible exception of my maternal grandfather, who died when I was 5. I mostly remember him as a scary man who would scream at you if you dared to make noise indoors while he was resting on the couch. At some point in my teens I realized that he had been very sick and in a lot of pain. There’s a photo of me crying at his funeral, and I think I only cried because it was the first time that I understood that death means that the person is gone forever, it was the expected thing to do, and everyone else around me was crying, rather than out of any personal grief.

        My paternal grandfather died when I was 14, and he was a distant figure. I don’t remember ever having a proper conversation with him, he just sat in the corner. I was sad at his funeral, but I certainly don’t remember grieving him in a way that would have affected my schoolwork, or the way I spent time with my friends. I do remember that even at that age, I was able to make my grandmother feel a bit better just by spending more time with her than usual.

        I was 20 when my paternal grandmother died. She was the grandparent I had the closest relationship with by far. After my grandpa died, we used to do crosswords and jigsaw puzzles together, and in my teens I liked to knit, so we used to knit together and she’d teach me her favorite patterns. Thanks to these hobbies, she was able to remain functional for longer than she probably otherwise would’ve been when she got dementia. But when the decline started, it went really fast, about six months from being reasonably independent to needing a place in a nursing home. She lived in the same apartment block as we did, partly so that my parents could keep an eye on her and make sure she ate something every day. By the time she died in the nursing home, she didn’t recognize anyone, including herself in the mirror, although she did recognize herself on her wedding photo. At some point, she stopped eating and was barely drinking, and her veins were too fragile for an IV, so she essentially turned her face to the wall and starved herself to death. When she died, it was frankly a relief. I couldn’t grieve the death of her body, because I’d already grieved the loss of her personality for so long. I did cry at her funeral, but other than that, I don’t remember being very sad about her death.

        I was 24 and studying abroad when my maternal grandmother died. I didn’t attend the funeral, although I did send a letter of condolence to my parents, sister, aunts, and uncles, to be read aloud at the funeral. I had spent many summer vacations on her homestead as a kid and teen, although I rebelled against her at 16, when I and my sister and our female cousins had to do chores, but our male cousins could fool around and do whatever they wanted, because there was no outdoor men’s farm work for them to do (the fields were farmed by others, and they’d got rid of the cattle when my grandpa died). Luckily the cousins agreed that they could set and clear the table and help with the washing up, so that helped a bit with the feelings of injustice. All of us also picked bilberries and raspberries. But the boys didn’t have to sweep the floors, or do the laundry, etc. The following summer I was working at my first summer job and used that as a reason to avoid going to grandma…

        About half of my aunts and uncles have died, and none of their deaths have caused the sort of feelings of devastating loss that other people have described. I expect that I’ll be devastated by the deaths of my parents. I don’t even want to think about the possibility of my husband dying before me (he’s younger and fitter than I am, but you never know), and I can’t imagine anything worse than our son dying before us. Just the though makes me want to make ward-off evil signs.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        yeah my SIL said I was heartless for not crying at my grandmother’s funeral. She’d had a terrible stroke a few years previously and had not been the same woman ever since, so in fact we were all relieved that she was finally no longer suffering. SIL was the one person who hadn’t known her before her stroke, so she was mourning the person she’d known, we’d already done our mourning years before.

    2. Marion Ravenwood*

      This. I have often felt guilty that I’m not grieving ‘right’ when loved ones have passed away because I wasn’t crying about it (although strangely I cry more in these situations as I’ve got older). Yes I was sad, but I wasn’t the ‘strong’ person everyone was telling me I was because I was the only one not in floods of tears – that just made me feel guilty and like I was coming across as cold or uncaring. Likewise, I’ve known quite a few people who threw themselves into work as a distraction from a death or otherwise challenging life circumstances, which I can imagine would shock OP’s coworker.

      So essentially, people need to let people deal with this stuff in their own way and not be judgy about it. I agree that Alison’s suggested response is good and that the nosy coworker needs to leave well alone, however good their intentions are.

    3. Bagpuss*

      Yes. I think the ‘people grieve in different ways’ statement is really useful as it means that you don’t have to get in to anything relating to your family situation. And if you are not comfortable with the implication that you are grieving, when you are not, then you could use ‘people respond to death in very different ways’ – either way you can add ‘please respect that I am doing the best thing for me’.

      My grandfather died when I was in the middle of taking a bunch of exams. I loved him and I was grieving, but we were not local and weren’t travelling to my grandparents’ until the funeral. I went in to school and sat the exam – it was helpful to have the distraction (also very weird, I came out and literally could not remember a single thing about the exam – not even what subject it was, let alone what any of the questions were or what answers I gave, which was very unusual for me.)

      I have one friend who doesn’t go to funerals – she finds them really hard for personal reasons and prefers to mark the deaths of people she loves in private, not in public. So I wouldn’t even assume that someone not attending a funeral tells you what their feelings about the person who died were.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Yes – I don’t attend funerals and my husband and I have agreed that we won’t be having them for each other at all. I expect there will be people who are bothered by this, but as they say, funerals are for the living, and if they aren’t doing anything useful for a member of the living then what’s the point of that member being there. (If my husband were to pass, and someone else wants to do some sort of memorial something for a social group, they can feel free, but I wouldn’t be there. Reversed, I have given specific instructions that I do not want any sort of funeral or formal gathering, but I’ll be dead so if someone disregards that … ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ not really my problem anymore :-P )

    4. Lab Boss*

      Agreed- if it was a close friend I might reveal that there was a complicated family situation, because I trust my friends to understand that and let it lie. A work busybody seems all too likely to see a mysterious “complicated family situation” as even JUCIER gossip than “coworker feels like they should work through a funeral.”

      OP, this person has already shown an ability to drag info out of you that you’d prefer not to share. Do NOT dangle any more bait in front of them- shut it down firm and fast. Aside from “people grieve in different ways” you could go to some I’ve used, like “Keeping busy will help me” or the harsher “I’m OK, so please let me handle this on my own.”

    5. Roy G. Biv*

      Grief is a peculiar thing. Sure, there are stages of grief, but I have not yet met anyone who went through them in order and then all grieving was done, check that off the list. Its more like the stages take turns ganging up, sucker punching your emotions when you least expect it. At least that was my experience. And I am not about to tell a grieving person they are doing it all wrong. There is no One Right Way to grieve a loss.

    6. Momma Bear*

      Very much this! When one of my grandparents died after a lengthy illness I was sad, but not distraught. It was actually kind of a relief that they were no longer suffering.

    7. SnappinTerrapin*

      I agree.

      For what it’s worth, I needed the structure and routine of work between my wife’s death and her funeral. It helped me cope, and helped me recoup my strength so I could support and comfort our children.

      Consider your own needs, and do what you think best to meet your needs.

  8. Working Hypothesis*

    LW #2, you’re a living example of the maxim “you can’t care more about somebody else’s success than they care about their own.”

    Their series of emergencies is not your problem to solve. Their unwillingness to pay in advance is not your problem to solve. Their pissing off every other nearby trainer so that nobody will take them on as a client except you is not your problem to solve.

    All that YOU have to do is to tell her politely that your policy is now that you don’t make appointments unless somebody is fully paid up for all previous ones… including cancellation fees as applicable. If you have a record of the number of cancellation fees she has incurred and not paid, present her with a bill documenting all the dates, and giving the total; then politely stand your ground and refuse to make a new appointment for her until she pays, not just the last one, but ALL of the missing cancellation charges.

    If you don’t have a record, or you have explicitly told her that you’ll waive the earlier fees (neither of which should be the case, but we all make mistakes), then don’t make an appointment with her until she’s paid for the most recent one. After that, when she incurs another cancellation fee, tell her that because of all the cancellations, you will need to charge her in advance for any future appointments she might want to make. If she doesn’t pay at the time she asks for an appointment, no appointment… period.

    This is really not a her problem, it’s a you problem. You need to get better at setting boundaries or you’ll be at the mercy of every unscrupulous client in the region.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Honestly, at this point I’d just refuse to schedule her for any more appointments, and reference her extensive history of cancellations as the reason. At this point she is costing you money, please put yourself first and open her slots to people who will show up or pay the cancellation fee.

      1. Willis*

        This. It sounds like she’s already been a pain…why bother dealing with her anymore? Just say you have to let her go as a client due to her record of non-payment and be done with her. Continuing to make appointments with people who don’t show up and/or don’t pay is a terrible way to run a business. Why does OP seem to think they should be stuck with this woman just cause no other trainer will deal with her?

      2. Environmental Compliance*

        +1000

        She is incurring more costs than her business is worth. Decline any further appointments and tell her after so many cancellations with minimal notice, *which incurs costs to your business*, she is no longer welcome.

      3. Oh No She Di'int*

        This is where I am. Honestly, I don’t even really understand the problem actually. If someone won’t pay for services, you simply stop giving them services. Case closed.

      4. Rose*

        I’d schedule her and make the cancellation fee 100% or 110% of the training fee. If she keeps cancelling, that’s a nice paid hour break.

      5. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I would only take appointments if paid in advance, and then when she cancels, well, I have my cancellation fee right there.

    2. Batgirl*

      I couldn’t agree more with your last paragraph. The client has been quite openly complaining that they don’t agree with the cancellation policy; they’ve been very clear about the deal they want! OP has agreed to that deal by taking the booking. The client has even gone so far as not paying in advance so that the fee can’t be taken; OP could actually learn how to enforce a boundary by this example! It’s her business, she should do the same in reverse – no booking until payment is made. OP’s response has been “okay, fine” instead of “Sorry, I can’t take a booking without payment because otherwise I can’t effect the cancellation fee”. I’m also really wary of how the OP expects clients to “respect” policies. In this context it implies an informal deal where the OP isn’t running the show and has no comeback if people don’t respect her time or policies.

    3. Polecat*

      I don’t think the OP cares about her success as much as it’s hard to let go of potential income even though they know that the income is very very very unlikely to happen.

  9. Venus*

    OP3
    Maybe you can specialize in the quirkier tasks that don’t fit a specialty. Or can you find a small specialty that takes less than half your time so that you can add different tasks that are unrelated?

    1. Alexander Graham Yell*

      One of my old jobs had specific roles and then somebody who was fully cross trained and could jump in whenever any of the teams was overwhelmed – they had their own work to do, as well, but it meant the team really had proper coverage and if somebody was sick unexpectedly or wanted to go on vacation, the team didn’t have to miss a beat. Maybe you could propose something like that for yourself, OP?

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I had a similar “backup for each of about 5 people plus my own tasks” sort of role at one point, and it made it quite difficult to schedule any of my own time off. It became “you can’t be off at the same time as John because you’re his backup”, “you can’t be off at the same time as Jane because you’re her backup” etc so the available time off became the last minute scraps of days no one else had booked. And oddly enough there was no backup for me…

      2. ferrina*

        Yes! I’ve had this role in a couple places, and it’s great. This person’s “specialty” is being able to quickly get up to speed on any topic at any time, and quickly being able to forge relationships with a large array of clients and teams.

      3. Nope, not today*

        I had a previous job where I had some regular tasks, but nothing to fill most of my time, and acted as backup and overflow for the entire department. I loved the variety of that position (they created the position just for me after I temped there during someone’s medical leave). I would not have enjoyed any of the roles I covered if they were my full time role. I didnt have coverage issues like Captain dddd-ccc-ddWdd, but depending on the urgency of the work that may or may not be an issue – some of the roles I am back up for in my current job are keeping things current and therefore require coverage, and other items are more about just trying to keep the other person from being buried in emails, so if we are both out it isnt a big deal. We also have second backups for all tasks, to make sure people can be out at the same time if its unavoidable.

    2. Web of Pies*

      I disagree with this approach, it sounds like OP’s company wants to put everyone into little boxes, so focusing on ANY specialty feels likely to get them trapped in that little specialty box. I vote Create Your Own Role as Alison suggested.

      It’s the great irony of generalists! I’m one too, and people often have trouble figuring out what to do with me, even though the fact I do many things well should in theory make me a stronger candidate than a middling specialist. “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one” after all! :P

    3. Christina*

      I’d pitch it as “I really enjoy the variety in my work – and you’ve told me that I’m very good at all of these different aspects. I’d like to stay a generalist. That way, when one of our new departments gets overwhelmed, someone takes leave, or we lose staff, I will be able to float on and off assignments as needed.” That way its phrased as not only a win for her, but a win for the company.

  10. Albow*

    Honestly, OP1, work is not the best place for discussion about difficult and complicated family situations. If attending work is best for you, great.

    Personally, I would take the advice about lying and say it was moved to the weekend “oh, no not because of work. My [relative] is handling the details and given the situation, I haven’t wanted to press them. I might be a bit slow to respond to emails for a day or so [regardless of whether you will be, it lets them see an expected response], but I’d prefer to not talk about it at work because the situation is quite difficult for all of us and I need some time away from it here at work while the family processes everything.”

    1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      That is WAY too many words when, “Oh, I much prefer to work” will do.

      1. Rolly*

        Yes, just say “I’d prefer to work.”

        If the person brings it up again, say “Thanks, I’d rather not talk about it.”

        If they bring it up again, say “I told you I don’t want to talk about it. Listen to me: stop.”

    2. ecnaseener*

      Idk, if the goal is to avoid involved discussions about the situation (which I agree it should be!) I would leave out the specifics about who’s handling what etc.

    3. anonymous73*

      Lying is never a good idea and that explanation is way too much.

      “It’s complicated and not something I want to discuss.”

      1. Office Lobster DJ*

        I think simple is the way to go and would be wary about saying the funeral was moved.

        Can the co-worker be pacified with a compliment? I might start with “I won’t be going, but I know you’d have my back [in covering my absence] if I did, Jane, and I appreciate your support. Thanks.” If Jane persists, “It’s complicated and not something I want to discuss.”

        OP1, wishing you the best right now. Do what you need most, whether it’s the distraction of work or even taking the day of the funeral off just to do something nice for yourself.

    4. Lexie*

      As someone else pointed out many funeral homes have online guest books now and post funeral information for their clients unless specifically asked not to. So, it could be really easy to discover the person lied.

  11. Loulou*

    I assume that OP #4 is, indeed, invested in getting their stuff back! If they’re still trying two years after they’ve last seen the belongings, and trying to get it shipped internationally, we’re probably not talking about a Uniqlo sweater and some Bic pens here. (If we are and it’s just the principle of the thing, I agree they should probably just drop it, but they’ve already gone to more effort than I would for things that don’t mean much to me)

    1. Anya Last Nerve*

      I’m curious to know what these things are, though. I still haven’t received the items I left at my office when we suddenly were sent home 2 years ago and then my company decided to close that office location last year and box up my stuff. But it’s been 2 years that I’ve lived without it – pretty sure I no longer care and I certainly don’t need it.

      1. infopubs*

        The OP responded upthread that one of the belongings is her notary stamp, which is quite important.

    2. OP 4*

      OP 4 here, copying and pasting my comment from above. I definitely want my stuff back, in part because there’s some sentimental stuff, like art I created, and also because my notary stamp and records are there. The notary records are particularly important to me because the state in question is Texas and prior to my last job (the one holding onto my stuff) I worked in abortion care, so there’s documents I notarized that could still be questioned in court.

      1. anonymous73*

        My first thought was to have a lawyer send a letter stating that if you don’t get your stuff back within a certain period of time, you’ll be taking them to court. The threat of a lawsuit usually makes them act quickly.

        When looking for my first house, I gave them a deposit and the owner waited until we were far into the process before giving me the condo docs. After reading them I decided to not buy the house. I legally had 3 days from the time she provided the docs to rescind my offer. She wouldn’t give me back the deposit. Thankfully my mom was a legal secretary – she got one of the lawyers in her office to write her a letter and I had my deposit back within the day. This sounds much more complicated (and potentially costly) but it might be worth a shot.

    3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I think the company has probably thrown away or lost (etc) the items and is stalling.

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        This is my sense. They disposed of them and don’t want to admit it.

  12. Iron Chef Boyardee*

    OP #2 wrote: “The other problem is she is notorious for making appointments and cancelling, so no one else will take her on as a client, so I can’t even help connect her with anyone else.”

    Based on what I’ve quoted, it seems that OP feels it’s her responsibility to find a new personal trainer for this woman. If that’s correct… why?

    1. Sleepyhead*

      I agree, it’s not her responsibility to find a new trainer for that flaky client. In fact, it could backfire badly. I had a professional acquaintance pass on a dud of a client to me because he just wanted to get rid of her. As I’m concerned, his name is mud and I’ll never work with him or do any favors for him again.

    2. Batgirl*

      Even if OP knew of someone they certainly shouldn’t pass on this client to someone unsuspecting! This is a client who will not only cost them money, but one who deliberately plans to defraud them by not paying in advance, even if that’s the policy. I don’t understand why the OP herself isn’t insisting on advance payment before bookings to be honest.

    3. Arrghhhhh*

      I wondered if the OP can’t “fire” the client due to company policy or something which might explain why she feels she needs to pass the client on to another trainer but can’t. Though if that was the case, I would think there would be better adherence to enforcing the cancellation policy.

      I would just go with no longer accepting appointments if she does not pay the cancellation fee.

      1. Imaginary Friend*

        Well, OP can just be fully booked … all the time … which is totally not the same as firing the client at all!

  13. Bazza7*

    #2 Give this woman the flick. This woman is using you and costing you money. She doesn’t pay upfront and doesn’t pay a cancellation fee. It’s a win win for her. You should bill her for all the times she hasn’t turned up, because that’s what you’ve lost in earnings. She had a bad reputation before you and they all lost money just like you have.

  14. Green Goose*

    Hugs OP #1. I think Alison’s advice about saying the funeral is on a different day might be best.
    I, unfortunately, can relate to your situation. I was estranged from my father from when I was about 12 until when he died when I was in my late twenties. My sister was still in contact with him and he passed away right as I was working on my dissertation.
    I was shocked, and was living far away from my sister and wanted to make sure I could support her however needed and told my advisor who promptly told the director of the department and they decided for me that they would be giving me a six month extension on my work which meant I could not graduate with my class. I tried to push back but also, like OP, did not want to get into the details and weeds of “well, we weren’t that close so I really only need a week or two”. They all kept insisting, “He’s your father, of course you’ll need all this time.” And I just ended up accepting it and taking the extension because I didn’t want to be forced to have such intimate and awkward conversations with the department.
    So HUGS, it’s a special type of sadness that does not “fit” the mould and most people won’t understand. I hope you can do some nice things for yourself during this time.

    1. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Yes, I really wish people would accept it at face value when someone says they are not attending a funeral or taking time off to grieve. It’s wrong to keep pressing the issue because you may not like the answer you get.

      1. Cheap Ass Rolex*

        But to be fair to the coworker, it sounds like she quite reasonably, if mistakenly, thought that the issue was that OB didn’t think she could skip the event, not that she didn’t want to. Especially depending on how early in their career someone is, sometimes it is helpful to emphasize that it’s normal to take time off for personal things even if there was a work event or busy time or something like that.

        Like, probably if there wasn’t an event going on at work, just a normal day, she might have realized more quickly that skipping the funeral was a genuine choice.

        1. Ama*

          Yeah I do think it is likely the coworker is mostly concerned that OP thinks they *have* to work or is worried that if they are someday in a similar situation, they won’t be allowed to choose to attend the funeral if it conflicts with a work event. I think just saying “No one is making me work, this is entirely my choice, I don’t really want to discuss it” one more time is fine.

      2. Batgirl*

        It’s just not clear from the letter whether OP actually said that. They may have just said it clashed with the work event, or that it’s on the same day as the work event. Saying “I’ve decided not to go” is a clear indication, but if you’re only saying “I’m not going” then it’s unclear whether you mean “decided not to” or “I want to go but can’t”. The OP mentions that they were too emotional to clear things up. I wonder if OP is grieving the relationship they *should* have had. Under those circumstances, phrases like “I decided” “we’re estranged” and “I prefer not to go” might have felt too painful to use in the moment.

  15. AlsoaJillofallTrades*

    #3 “just” a jack of all trades? Remind yourself the full expression is “a jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one” to put yourself in the right frame of mind before you talk to your manager :-) Being able to connect, communicate, and interpret across/between many disciplines can be as valuable as deep expertise in a single area.

    1. Butter Makes Things Better*

      I like to say “jack of all trades, master of fun.” Because for me, and it sounds like for the OP, it is fun! That old phrase is so often quoted without the second half and is wrongheadedly shaming to folks who can do lots of different things.

    2. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      I’d not heard the full saying, TY for commenting with it! Especially as a self-described and quite happy about it Jill-of-all-trades, I love it!

    3. Purple Cat*

      I didn’t know there was yet another part to this expression!
      This is Us had a story where Jack used to be happy that his father called him “Jack of All Trades” until he learned the second part of the expression “Master of None” and that his father was insulting him. That last piece brings it full circle again.

    4. Valancy Snaith*

      There isn’t any evidence of the second half of that phrase appearing any time before the 2000s. The “master of none” addition only showed up in the late 1700s itself. It’s a nice thought, but there doesn’t appear to have been some grand conspiracy to eliminate the “true” meaning.

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        I remember hearing the old folks say it when I was younger, but they didn’t engrave it in granite, so I reckon that’s not evidence.

  16. Stormfeather*

    For OP4: if they’re okay with burning bridges, I guess there’s also the option of naming and shaming via Twitter or something, with an @ for the company’s handle (assuming they have one) to grab attention and light a fire under them, ask friends to repost, etc. This would be a kind of nuclear option, but might be worth it if the OP a) doesn’t care about the burned bridge for whatever reason and b) really wants the stuff back because it’s important to them.

    1. OP4*

      If you Google the company value I included in my letter, you can see what company it is.

  17. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Hmm, personally I wouldn’t lie about the funeral being moved, simply because you already let the fact that there is a funeral to begin with slip accidentally – who’s to say you won’t accidentally let the truth slip?
    I think emphasising that you are choosing to be at work might be the better option – it sounds like the coworker thinks you’re being pressured, so if they bring it up again I would assure them one more time that this is a personal choice and then politely but firmly ask them to drop it.

    1. Ayla*

      One thing that worked well for me in a similar situation was to say, “I won’t be going to the funeral, but don’t worry; I have plans for something more private that fits my relationship with him better.” It let people know I had a plan to process and that I was choosing to skip the funeral rather than feeling pressured. It also let me leave out the part where “something more private” involved a lot of swearing and yelling and commiserating with other family members about what we’d experienced.

      1. just passing through*

        I think this is the best wording I’ve seen so far. It has the best chance of clearing up any genuine misunderstanding (you’re CHOOSING to skip the funeral), is straightforwardly true (you won’t be caught out in a lie), and offers the fewest handles for a nosy coworker to try to uncover family drama.

  18. John Smith*

    #2, just sack her as a client. I know how difficult it is for PTs when clients cancel and the attempt to shuffle other clients to reduce dead time. It was the bane of my PTs life. You don’t need this hassle and you owe her nothing whatsoever. Any consequences are entirely those in their entirety of your client to own.

    1. XF1013*

      Seconded. And besides the hassle, there’s the lost income! LW2, let’s say your fee is $100 per appointment. You’re forsaking $1100/month from other clients in order to get this woman’s $100/month. If firing her gets rough, like the conversation goes poorly or she trashes you online or something, just remember the numbers and you’ll know it’s worth it.

    2. irene adler*

      Yes! In fact, book a new client to take the slots this “no-show” client once had. Then there’s no way to book the “no-show” again cuz the slots are taken!

  19. Bazza7*

    #2 Stop wasting your time and money. This woman is like alot of people, she has good intentions to get fit. People make new years resolutions to get fit. They join a gym, pay the special rate for a year or pay by the month or pay as they go. But to enter a gym and use the equipment you have to pay upfront. And like alot of people, we make excuses, its too cold, hot, raining, we’re too tired etc. But gyms have already got their money, especially if you’ve paid a year upfront.

  20. Wintermute*

    #3– one thing that you might want to pitch is that many groups that have a specialist have someone that is a “floater”: able to step in to tackle any given task or to assist. The term originally comes from manufacturing assembly lines, where they needed someone who could step in to cover for people who were out sick, to help out when workloads were abnormally high, etc.

    There’s a real benefit to having someone that can cover for their coworkers, especially if your company generally allows PTO to be taken and doesn’t have a strong culture of forcing people to work sick.

    That said, there is a risk that as everyone else becomes more specialized, their expertise increases as they trade breadth for depth. The story in my field is usually that people start touching many areas and as your pay increases and positions become more senior they become increasingly specialized. Someone at an entry level might do IT account management functions, troubleshooting, setup and installation of new end-user equipment, network troubleshooting and more. They might then move on to a job in a network center where they might have responsibilities ranging from mainframe operator to automation oversight to watching network statistics and many alarm panels that cover half a dozen different systems.

    And then by the time they’re a senior they’ve picked just one of those things, they’re no longer mainframe and bots and networking and light user support and, and, and… they’re just a mainframe analyst, or just a unix server admin. And then higher than that they might specialize even more, not just “unix server” but working for a specific team on a specific type of server, or working with a specific piece of software installed on those systems.

    So it’s also important to ask if by wanting to stay generalist, you will lock yourself out of learning the depth that is needed to move up in the organization, or if the increasing specialization of your coworkers means that your ability to do what they do will diminish as their skillsets increase meaning your role will become more limited. That may still be what you want! but it’s worth knowing if you’re limiting your growth.

    If that’s the case, well that’s in general how advancement normally works if you’re not tracking into management. But if they’re really going hard in that direction this may not be an environment that’s right for you if there’s concerns that “jack of all trades master of none” doesn’t fit with their vision of having subject matter experts.

  21. Batgirl*

    OP2, on the topic of emergencies, no one should be cancelling unless there’s an emergency anyway! So, there are two roads you could take with this: 1) Start taking advance payment before bookings and specify that the cancellation fee includes emergencies. The wording could be something like: “Cancellations are designed to accommodate emergencies and a cancellation fee will be taken even when an emergency has happened. By taking a cancellation fee I avoid taking the full payment when something unfortunate happens. The cancellation fee is your way of paying me to keep your booking open and if that alone has been done, then payment is due.”
    2) Drop her as a client by referencing the emergencies: “I’ve footed the bill for several cancellations this month; it seems like too much has been going on in your life for our arrangement to continue and a more flexible exercise regimen would suit you better. I really recommend ( online or local resource). I wish you well but won’t be taking bookings going forward.”

    1. J.B.*

      There’s a difference between cancelling and cancelling 24 hours in advance. With so many cancellations this person really doesn’t have the space to be scheduling so often, but in normal circumstances things happen and we sometimes need to reschedule.

  22. Anonymous Bosch*

    For OP#1: This person is a co-worker, not a supervisor or manager. What standing does she think she has to insist that anyone should do anything outside of their job? I could understand if she advised the OP that, in case they weren’t aware of it, the company allows people to take off for the funeral of a close relative. However, it is one thing to provide a co-worker with information you think that they may be missing and another very different thing to demand they take a particular action based on that information.

    1. allathian*

      Indeed. I also think that it would be utterly out of line for a manager to require their employee to attend a funeral. A manager would have more standing to say that the employee can’t attend the work event on any account regardless, but they can’t make the employee actually go to the funeral.

    2. neeko*

      I read that the “insisting” is more the co-worker is wrongly assuming that the OP thinks they have to miss the funeral and trying to emphasize that they don’t need to do that. Not an actual demand. I don’t think it’s a far stretch to think that someone perhaps coming from a toxic workplace or new to the workforce would think that.

  23. usernames are anonymous*

    LW2 – if she’s only paid for 1 out of 12 sessions and cancelled 11 out of 12 sessions with no show/no payment then she’s lost any standing to classify herself as a client. I’m pretty sure the situation will resolve itself when you tell her you can only book her sessions if she pays full fee up front and it’s forfeited if she cancels for any reason.

  24. Alice*

    I really don’t think LW 2 needs to do anything as dramatic as trying to bill her for all past cancellations like some comments suggested. Allison’s advice is spot on. Just tell this client that from now on you can only take bookings with an advance payment. Either she pays and you have the money whether she cancels or not, or she doesn’t pay and you’re free to book someone else into her time slot. This is a problem of her own making and you don’t have any obligation to fix it for her.

    1. Bagpuss*

      I don’t think she *has* to, but assuming that the policy was clear and that she has adequate records I don’t see any reason why she should not take that step, why shouldn’t she recover a debt which is due to her?
      If she simply want to stop having her time and money wasted then simply declining to accept any further bookings unless payment is made up front will do the trick.

      OP, also consider whether you need to review your booking policies more generally to avoid this happening again with other clients.

      1. Loulou*

        Because nothing about this letter suggests she has any chance of actually getting that money back! The lady is not paying.

      2. Observer*

        I wouldn’t suggest it. The chances of getting the money are clsoe to zero and the OP is going to have to put a lot of effort to get to zero.

        I agree that it’s not right and not fair. But I would suggest that they put their effort into not getting taken again.

    2. KateM*

      “I won’t work with you anymore” is IMO more dramatic than “I will book you as soon as you have paid for the cancellations”. But “starting with March 1, I only take bookings with an advance payment” works as a less-dramatic way, too.

      1. KateM*

        Even though these three all boil down to the same thing, but 1st sounds like OP’s decision not to work with her, while in case of 2nd and 3rd it would be client’s decision.

        1. Lab Boss*

          Which makes 2 and 3 preferable in my eyes. Alison’s given a lot of advice to managers that you don’t “punish” your employees, you make it clear that their actions have consequences they have to deal with. Phrasings 2 and 3 return all the awkwardness to sender and make it very clear that the client’s choices brought things to this point and the client’s future choices will decide what happens next.

      2. anonymous73*

        Refusing to work with someone who constantly cancels and doesn’t pay the fee is NOT at all dramatic. It’s survival. All these suggestions to make her pay up front moving forward…why bother? She sounds like a nightmare and needs to be let go as a client. It’s not worth the trouble.

        1. Observer*

          It’s not dramatic AT ALL, agreed. But it can feel that way. And when the OP already feels like they “can’t” enforce the boundaries, the lower key those boundaries feel, the more likely it is that they will keep to them.

        2. Imaginary Friend*

          But the point here is that the client will fire herself, because she won’t want to pay up-front. (Maybe she’ll do it once. Maybe.)

      3. ecnaseener*

        It’s as dramatic as you make it. This is a business arrangement, not a friendship, there doesn’t have to be any drama to end it.

  25. Not a personal trainer*

    OP 1, I’m in an adjacent field (not a personal trainer but similar appointment based work that isn’t health care) and you are going to have to either fire her as a client, or tell her you can’t hold appointments for her but that she is welcome to check for cancellations on the morning of the day she wants to come, or 24 hours in advance, or whatever works for your schedule. She will probably object to that, but if you only take appointments from her when you already have a gap in your schedule you won’t mind as much.

    I know it can feel like you’re being too harsh when you have to keep enforcing boundaries with clients, but good clients respect your time and want you to get paid. It’s ok to only work with people who respect your time.

    At this point you should expect this woman to be outraged when you make any change to how you handle her. She’s been given too many exceptions and now she has come to expect them. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have firmer boundaries! It just means she may leave, and free you up to spend your energy on other customers.

    1. jtr*

      I completely agree. I own two martial arts school. I have NEVER, EVER not been burned when I bend the rules for payment because I feel sorry for a family or child’s situation. Never.

      The lesson that I’ve finally learned after, what 16 years? in business – You can’t save/fix everyone.

      This “client” doesn’t respect you or your time, and perhaps doesn’t even “see” that she is actively costing you money – all she sees is that she pays you for the time she actually uses, so what’s your beef?

      I know it’s hard to do (see 16 years in business and just now saying “No” to requests for discounts, etc.) but you have to tell her that you can’t book an appointment with her unless she pays in advance, and that payment will be kept if she cancels with less than 24 hours notice. She will probably try to get you to book anyway; stand firm. Just say, I’m sorry, but that won’t work for me.

      Yeah, she will probably quit, but – you’re out one hour of client fees a month, and 11 hours of teeth grinding each month.

      It’s also not your job to find another trainer for her! Personally, with those “I can’t possibly pay $x for y hours a week of classes!!!” people, I recommend them to check out a competitor in town, who has a great program with a much broader class schedule. They also charge 3 times what I charge for tuition, and lock people into a 3 year contract. (I don’t mention that part.)

      Good luck!

  26. Lynca*

    OP 1- When my father died it was especially tragic. People were puzzled why I wanted to go back to work quickly given we were close and had a good relationship.

    My mother was inconsolable (still is to a degree) and taking care of her was a second full time job. Work was just easier and I could work on issues that were fixable. Work was also normal and I craved some normalcy in that time. I was upfront about work being easy and normal which is what I needed and people really understood where I was coming from. I didn’t share details about my mom.

    I would advise not fibbing about the funeral (a snoopy co-worker could blow that up) and if asked about it, be up front you just did not want to attend and wouldn’t have attended even if you took the day off.

    Your co-worker might be weird about this but that’s entirely a them problem not a you or work problem.

  27. No SoCal*

    #1
    You owe no one an explanation. Allison’s scripts are great and as someone who has complicated family – enforce those boundaries.

    Hoping the situation fades for you. Enjoy your work event!

  28. Douglas (thee/thy)*

    LW! needs to tell the nosy coworker to butt out and toss into the conversation phrases like “human resources” and “hostile work environment.”

    1. ecnaseener*

      Are you talking about LW1? It’s one coworker, and there was one conversation so far where the coworker was a little nosy but nowhere near harassment. LW is anticipating that there *might* be more questions on the day.

      If LW doesn’t care about having a pleasant relationship with this person going forward, sure, they could walk up to her and say “I’m coming to the event, now butt out or I’ll tell HR you’re creating a hostile work environment!” (And hope she doesn’t know what a hostile work environment means.) But it would certainly be the nuclear option.

    2. Loulou*

      That would be a huge escalation based on the facts we’ve seen in the letter. Nothing even indicates that the coworker has brought this up again, just that OP is now wondering how to proceed now that they know.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      This definitely does not fall under the heading of hostile work environment.

    4. Batgirl*

      Most HR people usually ask if you’ve tried politely asking your coworker to stop X behaviour if you feel harassed because lots of people will just stop when asked. There’s not any indication that the co-worker is going to even raise the topic a second time!

  29. Lynn Marie*

    OP 2: The next time she tries to make an appointment, I would tell her you no longer will be available for her and why. No, you don’t know anyone else you can recommend. Simple sentences. Repeat as necessary. Don’t explain further, don’t respond. Practice ahead of time. Firing her is a business decision, not a personal one. Don’t let her make it personal. If she gets abusive, hang up on her.
    The first time you fire a client it can be tough, because your whole orientation as a business person probably is to make your clients happy. This is wrong. Your whole orientation as an independent business person is to make a living doing something you enjoy. Is this client bringing you joy? No. Is she bringing you money? No. Is she getting in the way of you getting more joy and money from others? Yes. Get rid of her asap.

  30. ecnaseener*

    LW2, it might help to explicitly say “Work isn’t the reason I’m not going.” If you don’t, I worry she will take whatever you say as “I sort of do mind missing it but I’m too scared to say so.”

    (Bookended with a “don’t worry” or “thanks for your concern, but” and something from the myriad other scripts from commenters – I like Ayla’s suggestion of “I have something private planned”)

  31. Amethystmoon*

    #4 is why I have never brought anything to work that I couldn’t afford to lose. Having been a temp for years (I am not now but that was my previous work life), I learned early in that a lot of companies simply won’t return your stuff to you.

    Bring anything personal that you can’t lose but want to keep at your desk in a tote and bring it home every night. That is, for those actually still going to work.

    1. Daisy Gamgee*

      LW #4 described above what they are missing, which includes their notary stamp, which is both an item they needed for their position AND an item they can’t afford to lose. Sometimes we have to have valuable items at work to do our jobs, and LW #4’s situation is a very good example thereof.

      1. quill*

        Yes, pre-pandemic the notaries at last job would just lock up their stamps overnight, afterwards they’d take them home. Knowing where your stamp is is pretty vital for that position!

  32. hamsterpants*

    #3 — even if most people on your team specialize, there should be space for a generalist/cross-team role. You could ask to act as a flex team member, going to projects that don’t have a clear specialist associated with them or whose specialist is already super busy. Or maybe there is a specialty that you do like but that is orthogonal to how you see others’ specializations lining up, e.g. if everyone else is specializing by client industry but you prefer to specialize as the marketing writer and do client writing across client industries.

  33. Not Your Sweetheart*

    OP 3, like Alison said, talk to your manager/employer. I work in a completely different field, but we have “floaters” who move between teams. They fill in when teams are short staffed or to help with training or big projects. I love doing this because I meet more people, see more locations, and get to do a little bit of everything.

  34. I should really pick a name*

    LW#5
    Forget using LinkedIn for your manager, stick to email, text or phone contact. So long as they are willing to be a reference to you, whether they add you on LinkedIn or not is irrelevant.

    Also, a side note, you asked about sending them a message on LinkedIn to ask what’s up. If your problem is that they’re not accepting your LinkedIn request, do not try to use LinkedIn as a method to contact them.

  35. anonymous73*

    #2 this one’s easy. Drop her…now. If nobody else will work with her that’s not your problem. If you continue to allow her to take advantage of you, she will continue to take advantage of you.

    1. irene adler*

      I’d go even further. Take on a new client to take the slots previously occupied by the no-show.

      Why should the OP lose income in this situation?

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Well it’s pretty easy to imagine OP is already losing income in this situation. The 11 slots a month this person is booking and canceling with no notice could go to paying clients.

      2. Batgirl*

        Full the slots with a new client, but don’t bother to cancel them with old client until 12 hours before each booking. Kidding. Sorta.

  36. just another bureaucrat*

    #4 I’d go for whoever liked you best, coworker, boss, person in another area you had coffee with, and call them, offer to pay them to ship it back to you. I’d lean on a relationship if you’ve got one to get the stuff back and talk about the sentimental nature of it. It’s not the cleanest most orderly answer, but I think it’s one pretty likely to get you your stuff. I would hold the boss to HR route until after I’d tried a personal connection because if they are going to block it for some reason you don’t want the company to have moved the stuff elsewhere if at all possible. It’ll be easier to do if it’s just “eh, everyone’s too busy and lazy to do it, could you please do me a huge favor, I’ll pay for shipping” than “they won’t and it’s been moved to Weird Ungettoable place.

    1. Daisy Gamgee*

      This was what I was going to advise, so I will heartily agree. I just really hope the items are still present to be retrieved. Good luck, LW#4.

  37. Dust Bunny*

    OP1 I showed up at work as usual on the day my mother had heart surgery. My coworkers were aghast and kept trying to get me to go either to the hospital (this was pre-COVID) or at least go home in case something happened. I told them I would rather have the distraction of working–if the surgery went wrong there was nothing in the world I could do to help and I wouldn’t be by her side, anyway, so I’d rather be here and not thinking about it. So maybe telling them you’re not ready to focus on it would be an acceptable “out”?

    1. Dust Bunny*

      (And, yes, I realize that in this situation it would be a fib, but it’s already not your coworkers’ business so who cares?)

  38. anonymous73*

    #1 My mom passed away 6 months after I started a new job. I was heartbroken, took the allotted time given and then went back to work. My manager let me know that if I needed more time to let him know, but I needed to get back to work to help take my mind off being sad all the time. Other than offering condolences, not one co-worker said anything to me about losing my mom or being back to work so soon, because IT WAS NOT THEIR BUSINESS. I can’t tell if your co-worker is nosy as some suggest, or has intentions to “help”, but she clearly has boundary issues. Don’t lie about the funeral date changing, and if she (or anyone else) brings it up again keep it short and direct. “It’s complicated and I don’t want to discuss it.”

  39. Lexie*

    OP1, no one gets to tell you if or how you should grieve and you don’t owe anyone an explanation for your choices. However, if you feel the need to say something to get people off your back about just say something like “I’m doing what I need to do for myself”.

    1. cleo*

      I like this a lot.

      I’ve had similar situations regarding my abusive grandparents’ funerals and I don’t think I could have used Alison’s first suggestion – I would have felt way too vulnerable and like I was implying there was some juicy story behind me not wanting to go to the funeral.

      For me, it’s more comfortable to say vague things like “we weren’t close” or “grief is weird and I don’t really do funerals”

  40. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #2

    Why is this woman still considered a client, and why isn’t she required to pay in advance for an appointment? All those appointments she books with you and then cancels are blocks of time your paying clients do not have access to, as well as money you’re not making. I haven’t yet encountered a personal trainer who doesn’t require payment prior to booking. My own trainer requires his clients to buy a block of sessions (anywhere from six to 24 at a time), which he then books weekly or whenever you want.

    I think you need to fire this client yesterday. Or at the very, very least, require her to pay her late fees up to date AND pay for her next appointment before booking it. And you might consider a prepaid model like my trainer has.

    1. irene adler*

      Or institute a new rule: 3 cancellations without payment and you can no longer book with OP.

    2. Liz T*

      Seriously, she’s notorious for cancelling–in effect does NOT have a 24 hour cancellation policy, since they’re not enforcing it!

      Why on earth would LW not require this person to prepay?

  41. Chriama*

    #2 – why are you trying to solve this person’s problems for her? Set your own boundaries and let her choose how she wants to act! Sometimes people have a lot of emergencies, but at a certain point you need to protect yourself. Instead of worrying over whether her emergencies are legitimate or not, just focus on your own policy and let her decide if she wants to keep being your client or not.

  42. Other Sherri*

    For LW#2 – If you don’t want to really let this client go, try what my physical therapists’ office does with chronic cancelers – only allow her to schedule one appointment at a time. I’ve never experienced this, but I read and agreed to their policy. If you cancel four appointments, you’re placed on a ‘one at a time’ restriction. You can book one appointment at a time. Once you show up to that appointment (or cancel I guess), then you can book another one.

    At least this would not block 12 appointments in your month that could be used for other clients.

    But really, let this one go!!!

  43. Drummer*

    OP 3 – From what you’ve seen from your workplace’s new structure, would a “bridge” position be valuable (and fit in with what you’re interested in)? I work in a field that, by its nature, tends to be made up of specialists, which can sometimes lead to there being tasks/communications/etc. that are inadvertently dropped — Team X thinks Team Y is taking care of it and vice versa, or Team A only has about half the skills and Team B the other half, and no one knows who should do it, or people just don’t notice if something isn’t getting done because it doesn’t fall into any team’s niche. My current role is one of those bridge roles and I love it — every day is a bit different, I get to work with people across my organization, and I can see a huge impact on those around me as I’m actively helping to patch up existing problems in their workflows.

  44. animaniactoo*

    OP1 – “I’m afraid you misunderstand. I am available for work because I am not planning on going to the funeral regardless. The reasons are complicated and I don’t want to get into it. Thanks for your concern, but there’s no issue or concern here about whether I am able to take the day to do it if I was going to attend.”

  45. CCC*

    #4 sounds like their stuff is stuck behind a “somebody else’s problem field.” I’d try making it more annoying to not send them than it is to send them; likely it wouldn’t take long. Figure out the best person to talk to about it, and call them every day. Literally every day. If they say they will do it later, say you’ll follow up tomorrow. If they say they are sending it next week, call every day saying you’re making sure that’s still the plan. Leave voicemails if they don’t answer. If they say “someone” will do it, then ask for “someone”s contact info and then start calling both of them every day.
    After a week or two, likely they will either block your number (and you know you probably need to do something legal), they’ll send it, or they’ll admit that they lost/destroyed the items (which seems pretty likely).

  46. Jill*

    #5 – just because she gave you a glowing review does not mean she still wants to be in contact with you. Cut your losses and move on.

  47. Polecat*

    #1: You do not have to tolerate people being intrusively personal at work. The suggested language to push this person off is far too soft. I wouldn’t even tell them it’s a complicated situation that’s not their business. that’s too much information. You can literally say, that is none of your business. I always respond kindly one time. That’s what people get from me. If they push, I then speak directly.

    Example, a coworker I didn’t like came into my office after my mom died. This is not someone I was close to. She came in to tell me that she was sorry to hear about my mom and that her mom had also died several years ago. I said thank you I appreciate that. And then she started talking about how hard it was and how difficult it was for her when her mom died and she knew what I was going through and blah blah blah blah blah. And I said nicely I’m sorry about your mom. I’m not talking about this at work because it’s good to come into work and have a break from thinking about it.

    I mean I gave her the information in a non-threatening way, didn’t make it about her. But made it clear I wanted to stop the discussion. And she said oh no but I know exactly what you’re going through because I told you my mom died too. And then she just kept talking. So I said, I’m not talking about this at work and stared at her until she left.

    You need to approach the situation with the idea that it’s not going to be a discussion. You don’t have to worry about what type of discussion you’re going to have… You’re not going to engage in one. You come up with your one or two sentence answer which includes the information that you’re not going to be discussing it further. That’s it.

  48. 867-5309*

    OP3, senior marketer here.

    Taking gigs with some specialization does not mean you cannot still take a career as a generalist. I have, at various times, worked in internal communications, media relations, ghost writing, social media, digital marketing, performance marketing, strategy, change management communications, etc. I accept things that look interesting and then in a couple years move to a new opportunity – sometimes at the same company. Skills are highly transferrable between marketing functions so I would not feel like taking a specialization path for one job means you won’t be able to do something different later. Also, there is a difference between, “I WILL ONLY BE ABLE TO DO THIS THING FOR THIS ONE CLIENT” and “my work will center on paid media but I work cross functionally on different account.” Many jobs are the latter in an agency and do not mean that your job is this narrow scope. The variety just comes in a different form.

  49. Just my 4 cents*

    OP #1 – I’d say, “I appreciate knowing that I could take off for the funeral if I wanted to, but I’m not planning on going.” You need to do you. I know some people who cannot go to any funerals due to the anxiety and existential crisis/dread that it causes them.

    OP #3 – I’d definitely talk to your boss. If they want to keep you, they need to know why you like your job. I love the variety that working at a smaller organization gives me. If that were to change I’d definitely be re-evaluating my situation.

  50. Former Trainer*

    #2 – I used to do some training. It was a side job/hobby job so I didn’t have quite the pressure to make money as if it were my full time work, but one thing I did do was use a real client and scheduling management software. I won’t endorse any specifically, but if you’re in the industry you probably have heard of them. Set it up so that they have to have a card on file, they have to make and cancel appointments through the software, and if they cancel inside the window, they’re automatically charged. If you make it done by “the system” rather than you, it feels more official and everyone will just go along with it without a fight. Or at least that was my experience. Let the software be the business person and you can focus on what you love to do.

  51. CeeBee*

    ummm, that’s not a client – a client pays – what you have is a nuisance – you don’t owe her anything – she prolly owes YOU at this point – cut your losses and move on

  52. Not A Manager*

    LW1 – “I don’t want to attend the funeral, and I don’t want to talk about this at work. Thanks for understanding!”

  53. Esmeralda*

    I don’t see that in the original letter. And aren’t we supposed to take OPs at their word?

    OP, go to the work event. If anyone says anything about the funeral, use that excellent suggestion made upthread “Everyone grieves in their own way.” If anyone pushes after that, tell them you don’t want to discuss your personal life. Repeat as needed.

  54. Not really a Waitress*

    #1 I had a family member pass away 3 years ago. It was one people assumed I would need to take a month off for. I took 2 days (plus a weekend.) It was more relief than anything that they passed. They did not want a funeral. We contacted family on the Thursday (the day she died), set up the cremation on Friday at the funeral home, then cleaned out all of her clothes and donated them on Saturday. Sunday we drank. Monday I was back to work.

    My boss tried to send me home and I told her I had nothing to do but stare at the tv. That if I felt I needed to leave, I would, but it shouldn’t be an issue.

    Some people just grieve differently. That’s what I tell people.

  55. Anon Manager*

    LW4- I had a former temp worker who this happened to, who had been let go at the start of the pandemic as part of our company’s hiring freeze. People who were supposed to do this claimed that her stuff was no longer at her desk. She contacted me directly, and when I went back on the office, surprise her stuff was still there. When I pointed this out, it still took them a while to get around to it. I agree with Allison’s suggestion that you reach out to a former manager if you can, or someone who can get more directly involved. It’s probably just not high on the list of priorities, and needs someone to make noise about it

  56. neeko*

    As a person who was a manager at a fairly toxic retail job where I had to explain to people that it was ok to take time off for funerals, weddings, etc that they actually wanted to go to without fear of repercussion, I am seeing the co-worker not as a nosy parker but as someone attempting to helpful. But I also have tricky family stuff and am weird about all funerals so I get OP1’s dilemma. I would stick to a brief and firm, “I’m not missing it because I think I have to work and I don’t want to get into it at work type deal” and keep it pushing.

    1. LGC*

      Yeah, I agree (as someone who works with people who come from those types of environments or might not have experience with work norms). That said…the coworker’s reaction was obviously Not Helpful as now LW1 has massive amounts of anxiety.

      I think I said in another place that LW1 could address it, but…honestly, they might not even need to. If it comes up again, yeah, bring it up (or if coworker runs her mouth to others, yeah), but there’s a decent chance it doesn’t come up again.

  57. Allison*

    #5 Something similar happened to me, I came back from vacation to learn that my boss had been let go. I was devastated, but didn’t reach out because I wasn’t sure it would be appropriate – mistake, I should have messaged him and said something to the degree of “I’m sorry to hear about your sudden departure, I don’t know what happened but I’ll miss working with you,” there was no reason not to – and when he didn’t accept the request, I thought he was mad at me. I spent a year and a half thinking this guy was mad at me. One day he reached out to reconnect because he was hiring and wanted to know if I was available, I wasn’t and even if I was he couldn’t afford to match my current salary, but I asked about the LinkedIn request: he admitted he saw it, but had assumed we were already connected and that was why he ignored it!

    I recommend shooting them an email and say “I don’t know how often you use LinkedIn, but I realized we never connected on it while we were working together, and I like to use that platform to stay in touch with former colleagues and managers” and see what they say. It’s possible they only use LinkedIn when they’re job hunting, or maybe your request got lost with a bunch of others, or maybe they thought you were already connected and this was some sort of error.

  58. raida7*

    1. A coworker is upset that I won’t be at a relative’s funeral

    A co-worker of mine had a simple cover-all response to anyone at work asking more than once about anything personal – “Sorry, this isn’t a work conversation.” with a hand up in the ‘stop’ manner – and that’s how they’d end it. Maybe repeat it again, without the ‘sorry’ at the start, and “is *not*” instead of “isn’t”

    Made it very clear that it’s not to be brought up at work, you aren’t entitled to personal information, we are not friends outside of work, I’m not interested in your opinion – we are at work and I am going to do work stuff, drop it.

    rude? sure – but only in response to someone not picking up cues

  59. cchrissyy*

    LW1 – I’m sorry about the intrusive coworker! I think what i would do is mentally consider that conversation to be a one-time incident which you wish had not happened but it is 100% over, not anything ongoing you expect to discuss ever again. Then, if the coworker does bring it up, you will shut it down with something very direct like “i don’t want to talk about that” or “sorry no that’s personal let’s focus on work”. I would offer absolutely no more context, no thoughts, no cover story. this person was out of bounds and since it caught you by surprise you didn’t handle it quite they way you wanted to, but that’s ok, and all you have to do now to make sure it’s really over is to practice your short phrase that shuts down the entire topic.

  60. Certaintroublemaker*

    LW3, others have given good suggestions about being a backup or generalist for everyone else. Another option may be to be the lead for a subsection of clients.

    I work in marketing and communications in a larger organization, and I love being able to do a wide variety of work. We used to be a small team of generalists, but are getting more specialists. However, I was able to get a position as a generalist for certain departments within the org. So I get to develop the comm plans, write the marketing copy, design the collateral, design the websites, etc., just for those groups. However, I can also, for example, call on the digital content creator to take some photos or b-roll that I need.

    Does your agency have a specific segment of clientele—like restaurants, local small business, or nonprofits—that you like working with? Maybe you can “specialize” in being the lead and primary producer for that segment of business.

  61. AnxiousCounselor*

    LW2, EVERYTHING that Alison said here is good. It’s hard being rigid about your openings and what your expectations are in terms of attendance (I’m a therapist – it’s probably the hardest part of the job), but not only does it send the message to this person that what she’s doing is ok, but it’s also sending a (likely unintended) message about what value you place on that time. I’d recommend everything Alison said here and possibly go one step further – her behavior is speaking, and so she doesn’t get to pre-schedule appointments anymore. She gets one at a time, and she has to pre-pay for it when she schedules. If she can be consistent for three months (or however long you’re comfortable with – and it’s ok if the answer is “never again”) then you may be able to loosen up, but she needs to attend all appointments that she schedules. If she keeps cancelling for emergencies, then maybe the work isn’t for her at this time.

    Either way, that’s an astronomical amount of appointments to cancel, and I can’t imagine that you’re not losing income from her doing this.

  62. Erica*

    Oh, the people from happy families who blithely assume everyone else is, too.

    Could y’all just… stop doing that? Please?

  63. MissMeghan*

    LW1: I don’t usually disagree with the advice here, but I feel like any answer that doesn’t get at the coworker’s concern that you feel obligated to come in to work is going to sound like an excuse and won’t get her off your back. If your goal is to end this line of inquiry with the least stress possible this is what worked for me in a similar situation: Tell her you understand she is concerned that you feel pressure to come into work, but that’s not at all what is happening. You are making the decision that works best for you, and you have plenty of support to handle this personal matter on your own. Lastly, insist that you don’t want this brought up anymore at work because it’s not what you need, what you need is the normal work environment. At least for me this got a well meaning but way off base coworker to stop.

    LW2: I think the more you don’t enforce boundaries with this client the stronger your resentment is going to build. You can’t control your client’s behavior, but you can enforce your own rules and drop her. Speculating on her life isn’t productive for you, and it doesn’t change the outcome. It only builds resentment and eventually could change the way you view other clients’ emergencies. With your trainer/client relationship this degraded you have to ask if serves her or you to continue it. Maybe she’s someone who is trying to learn to prioritize herself but never says no and winds up never getting the chance to get to the gym. You don’t know, and you don’t need to in order to move forward.

  64. Imaginary Friend*

    LW2: A lot of owners of small businesses will tell you that most of their problems come from just a few of their customers. The 80/20 rule often gets invoked, or the 90/10 rule. And it’s hard to fire a customer or client because they are bringing you *some* money, but at the cost of so much aggravation and also lost potential income from other customers they didn’t have time to work with.

    Everytime I read a story like this, the small business owner who fired a bad customer was a happier person – they’re not losing money on the bad customer, they don’t have to spend time with the bad customer, and they have time in their day to work with a good customer. Please fire this person who thinks they’re going to come in three times a week but only manages one time a month. They’re already ignoring rules that you have in place – very reasonable rules, too. (Do they think that you get paid regardless? If you work in a gym, maybe they think you get paid by the gym and that’s why they’re so willing to complain about the late fees to you.)

  65. ElleKay*

    LW#4 – As someone who just handled a similar issue from the other side… How easy can you make it for them?

    I just spent about 2 years with a former students’ personal belongings left ‘in storage’ in my office. When the pandemic started and she had to fly home with short notice she left her luggage here. At the time we assumed it would be a short break… 2 years later and she’s decided not to return to school at all but her things were still here.

    I spent literally months just trying to tell me what she wanted me to do! What shipping company did she want to use? What company was actually trustworthy to send to her? Could this all go freight or did it need to be handled differently? etc. etc. etc.

    I finally ended up dragging it to fedex and literally having them ship her suitcase despite my bosses loud objections that I shouldn’t have to take it to the shipping location and that the student should have been coordinating everything from pick up to packaging to payment. I finally overrode my boss just to get it out of here.

    So, can someone go pack it all up for you and bring it to a shipper? Or meet them for pick up? Can you verify a shipping company that works for you, will deliver to your current location, and who is reliable to trust with your belongings? (Among other things, that has some kind of insurance in case your stamp goes missing?)
    Can you arrange literally everything for them and make it as easy as possible for them to just not fight anymore?

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