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

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager and I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

There will be more posts than usual this week, so keep checking back throughout the day.

Remember the letter-writer whose coworker kept interrupting her work and said it was “good practice” to keep the writer focused? Here’s the update.

By the time my letter was published, things had come to a head. After a “last straw” interruption, I asked Jane to please not speak to me at work unless it was about work, as I really need to concentrate. She then asked me for my personal number, so she could call me to chat sometimes. I didn’t want this, so I said that I’m really not interested in being social with people from work. This isn’t actually true, I have many work friends who I see outside of work, but I couldn’t think of anything else in the moment. She was obviously hurt by this and left a long message on my work voicemail about how people like me are depressing and a sign of what’s wrong with the world, etc.

I kept my head down and tried to avoid her for a few days, but she kept making passive-aggressive comments about me, doing things like coughing loudly in meetings when I spoke and then loudly announcing that she was so sorry and didn’t mean to break anyone’s concentration. Another time, when we were in the break room another colleague asked me to pass the coffee creamer and Jane remarked that she didn’t know that coffee creamer was on the approved list of things people were allowed to ask me about. I was contemplating how to resolve this when the letter was published.

The support of your readers was really exactly what I needed. Having so many people tell me that they would have found the constant interruptions frustrating and unmanageable was very validating. So was the reassurance that a reasonable boss wouldn’t blame me for not being able to handle that behavior. And luckily, my boss is extremely reasonable. I went to her and outlined everything from my first letter, utilizing your script, plus the latest happenings. I played her the voicemail message, and her eyes got huge. She promised me the behavior would stop, and asked me to come to her again if it didn’t.

I don’t know what she said to Jane, but all the passive-aggressive comments stopped. And even better, I was given an OFFICE! It’s small and windowless so it had been disused for a while, but it’s so much better for my concentration. I’m now away from the open-plan floor, and my productivity is through the roof. I’m getting great feedback and I’m really happy in my environment. And I know my boss has my back, so I feel even more content in this workplace.

{ 199 comments… read them below }

  1. My heart is a fish*

    Man, I really want to know what the conversation between your boss and Jane looked like! In my experience, getting officially told to stop being passive-aggressive makes those types ramp it right the hell up, so my feeling is your boss must have been very deft. Great resolution!

    1. Amber Rose*

      Oh, to be a fly on the wall in all of these conversations where good bosses take action against unreasonable coworkers.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        If anyone remembers this might be a GREAT topic for the open thread this week

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Most of them are very unexciting with a few who double-down in HR-involving ways (and not always the ones you expect it from!). When you describe behavior like Jane’s out loud to them, most have the human decency to be embarrassed and quickly commit to whatever you’re asking them to do, especially when “up to and including termination” is part of the conversation.

    2. JSPA*

      If OP mentioned ADHD at any point to Jane, and then Jane doubled down, Jane may well have had “creating a hostile work environment” explained to her, i.e. “you are not only being a jerk, you’re opening yourself and the entire company up for a lawsuit, and we would be happy to fire you in a hot minute rather than deal with that.”

      1. quill*

        My greatest respect ever went to a teacher who, upon learning of a prank committed by me and a friend, which was ultimately harmless but had some minor potential not to be, sat us down very calmly, said that she knew what we did, she knew we would not do it again, and that we would be in her class next year… but not at the same time. I like to think that bosses really effective at shutting this down carry that same air of “both of us know you’re being a jerk. You will stop doing it. I’ll be watching.”

        After all, if Jane is going to stir up drama that’s inane to sixteen year olds, she deserves that kind of shut down.

    1. the cat's ass*

      Yay OP! An office, a boss who has your back, and a de-fanged Jane (who sounds like a loon, BTW). Win-win-win! Excellent update, 10/10, would recommend.

    2. quill*

      Not only did OP solve the coworker problem, the solution made things even better all around! Unless you’re Jane, who needs to learn about boundaries.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        But honestly it sounds good for Jane as well, because her career was going to be a trainwreck of shortish stays if she didn’t figure out professional boundaries. Some people just get them naturally, but most of us need to be explicitly taught about professional boundaries.

        1. Migraine Month*

          If she figures out that boundaries apply to her personal relationships as well, it could improve her life in many, many ways.

      2. Observer*

        It must have been difficult for Jane. But it really could be the best thing for her – she needs to learn how to behave in a reasonable manner.

        If the boss’ eyes “got big” when she heard the message it must have been pretty bad. That’s not viable for long term work in a shared space.

    3. RB Purchase*

      It was such a strange relief for to see how well OP’s boss handled this that I almost cried.

  2. ZSD*

    Based on this update, I can only assume that Jane is twelve years old, and the company is violating child labor laws. She coughed loudly whenever you spoke?! What the heck is wrong with Jane?

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*


      I really don’t understand how adults like this continue to exist. Everyone I know and work with would be rolling their eyes at Jane if not asking her why she is acting like a spoiled brat. Part of me copes with people like this by remembering that SHE is the one embarrassing herself, and there’s nothing for her victims to be embarrassed about.

      It doesn’t always work, but it’s the best coping mechanism I’ve got right now. LOL

      1. Bongofury*

        I laughed at the comment about coffee creamer. If I was the third party in that conversation I would have laughed at Jane and said “There is a land called Passive Aggressia and Jane is their Queen. Apparently.”

        Calling out people’s being crappy makes them really uncomfortable.

        1. morethanbeingtired*

          Yes, I have found that there’s nothing passive aggressive people dislike more than confrontation!

        2. Glitsy Gus*

          Yeah, that or, “What?… Dude, Jane.. .What???” It’s just very weird behavior. Things like that really only embarrass the one saying it.

    2. Sharpiee*

      Which proves that isn’t “friendly” even though she tries to make herself appear that way. She is really quite hostile and manipulative.

      1. Gerry Keay*

        Yeah, this seemed someone who was on a mini power trip and was enjoying getting a rise out of LW.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I bet she had a cow. Imagine somebody acting like a sixth-grade bully and then getting a dressing-down and their victim gets their own office. I suspect there was some world-class whining outside of work. >:)

          1. Mangled metaphor*

            I wonder if OP had ended up giving Jane her *personal phone number* to keep chatting outside work (OMG!) where the power trip would have ended. The cow with the office might have been a calf, because the claws would still have been in place after hours.

      2. JustaTech*

        Bubbly and high energy can easily be mistaken for friendly until the power trip comes out.

    3. Miss Muffet*

      I was also thinking this OP has incredible restraint for not just saying “Grow the f*** up, Jane” in the moment with the coughing or the creamer. Good god.

      1. Tin Cormorant*

        A comment like that would have definitely gotten a “what are you, twelve?” out of me in the moment. I would not have been able to resist.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Not going to lie. I would have flipped out hardcore internally (externally would depend on how much bandwidth I had) because those instances are just so WTF. I’m just trying to imagine being a third party in either of those situations. Jane would definitely have ended up on my list of people to avoid if possible

    4. Hills to Die on*

      I have seen a VP do the coughing thing and it was …bizarre.
      Janbe seems more than passive aggressive – emotionally and socially immature to boot.
      When people like this get talked to by management, they either go whole hog and escalate, or they cower and back way off. So glad she is the latter.

    5. Justme, The OG*

      I know a lot of 12 year-olds and they’re much better behaved than that. I would assume 8, which makes the labor law breaking much more egregious.

    6. fhqwhgads*

      Also I’m twitching at intentional coughing indoors right now. Not at all the point of the letter, but I’m so sharply attuned to “someone coughed somewhere, oh no!” at this point in the pandemic… I probably would not have been chill. Jane’s an ass.

    7. NotAnotherManager!*

      My first thought upon reading this was also, “What, is Jane a twelve-year-old?” and then realized my own recently turned 13-year-old would not behave as Jane did and that I probably owed an apology to tweens in general.

      Several years ago, I had an employee who was a recent college grad who had to be explicitly trained on workplace norms because she didn’t seem to quite understand that she could not have her friends over to visit (we work with highly confidential information that is need-to-know only and can’t be shared with most other company employees!) or why her coworkers didn’t want to constantly receive memes or watch funny videos. She ended up moving on, but I often wonder if she found a place to work that was more open to her social-club preference for work environment.

      But still, she was not a jerk to her coworkers, just clueless, and responded to direct feedback just fine.

    8. SemiAnon*

      I read over the first post, trying to figure out what could be going on inside Jane’s head, and the best theory I can come up with is

      1) Jane is socially clueless, bad at reading people and kind of impulsive. She genuinely thought she and the OP were friends and her constant interruptions were a bonding thing they had, and any protestations OP make were part of the joke.
      2) OP finally got through to Jane that work interruptions were not good. Jane still thinks they are good buddies, and so asks for her phone number so they can buddy after work.
      3) OP finally really gets through and Jane realizes that they aren’t friends, the OP doesn’t particularly like her and wants to be left alone. Jane is blindsided by this, and hurt, and instinctively lashes out at the OP, through childish passive aggressiveness, and voice-mail aggressive-aggressiveness.
      4) Jane is hauled into her boss’s office, raked over the coals and told to knock it off if she wants to remain employed. Either the fact that she’s been an ass over the whole think gets through, or the threat to her job gets through, and she disengages from the OP.

      1. BlueChimera*

        As someone who is (unfortunately) not *too* far from this level of social cluelessness, I think you’ve nailed it. For the most part, I’m too self-conscious to be Jane, but I can definitely see her reasoning a mile away.

      2. pancakes*

        “She genuinely thought she and the OP were friends and her constant interruptions were a bonding thing they had, and any protestations OP make were part of the joke.”

        How does someone think that without disregarding what’s actually happening in plain sight (repeatedly interrupting someone who is asking not to be repeatedly interrupted because it’s derailing, and who is signaling that they don’t want to chat) in favor of a more illusory impression that she constructed herself (apparently along the lines of, “I’ve chosen to keep trying to strike up conversation with this coworker, therefore we’re getting to be good friends”). The only way it really works is relentless or air-tight self-focus. Which seems to me likely to be the very same quality that makes socializing extra difficult for people like this.

      3. pancakes*

        I should add, “instinctively” lashing out is hugely problematic in itself as well. It’s basically someone taking the stance, “I feel really bad, the other people around me are going to feel really bad too.” I doubt very much that would be a conscious thought they’d have, but it’s a thought I often have when I see someone behave that way. It’s almost like a type of emotional noise pollution. Instinctive behavior and considerate behavior are two different things, and there are few circumstances where being considerate about volume, intensity, and appropriateness should be excused. Work generally shouldn’t be one of them.

      4. Laura*

        I disagree. Jane felt uncomfortable for reasons she didn’t understand (to do with the difference between what she needed- positive attention on demand- and what was happening ) and so did things to get any reaction and hence get the discomfort to go away.

        She wasn’t thinking on a conscious level- or at least her conscious thinking was actually a post hoc rationalisation of her behaviour in order to keep her self image in mind:

        When dealing with big feelings about small things we all revert to mice clicking on the food pellet dispenser because looking at the cause of the feelings is too hard – and usually installed in childhood.

        1. pancakes*

          Not exactly, no. We don’t all behave the same way, and we don’t all have the same childhoods to start with either. There’s a pretty wide range of human experience and behavior but most people don’t actually lash out at coworkers due to big feelings about needing attention they aren’t getting. I’ve been working since I was 15 or 16 and I’m in my mid 40s and that’s not something I’ve seen happen more than once or twice. It was not a good move for the person who blew up, not unlike the way Jane’s behavior was unwanted and swiftly disciplined by her boss.

  3. Victoria Neuman*

    Jane sounds like a trial of a person. Good for you, LW, for handling it so gracefully for so long. And congrats on the office!

    1. Dont be a dork*

      How kindly you described Jane! I’m glad this worked out for OP, and I hope that whatever was said to Jane, she takes it to heart and applies it to all her relationships.

  4. A Simple Narwhal*

    What a great update! I can’t believe Jane dug in so much (and left such a trail of evidence!) but I’m glad OP’s boss stepped up and squashed it immediately. And they got their own office! Full marks all around.

    1. yala*

      Right? Like, the PHONE message? She left a recording of herself harassing a coworker and thought…what, exactly?

      I think that’s the bit that sticks in my brain–I just have no idea what plane of reality Jane lives on.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        That it wouldn’t be saved or that it painted the OP in a bad light as unwilling to talk to others (hence the message would just get deleted, not played for a manager).

        Jane really didn’t seem to be able to read the room at all.

  5. learnedthehardway*

    Good for you and good for your manager! I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall for that conversation – purely for the learning on how to manage people like Jane, of course, lol.

  6. Foley*

    OMG I want your boss as a (work/life/relationship) coach.

    The reaction from people like Jane is to ramp up higher before they ramp down, so this is amazing. It also shows that Jane had an awareness of what she was doing if she was able to stop, which begs so many other questions.

  7. DrOO7*

    WHY do people like this exist?
    I’m glad you had a boss on your side and that Jane stopped.

  8. Cake or Death?*

    Unfortunate that it got worse before it got better, but still, what a great outcome!

  9. Someone in BioPharma*

    That voicemail was the best present that Jane could have given you. No need to explain things to your boss and maybe have your boss say that you were blowing things out of proportion. Instead you had a recorded example of exactly what Jane was doing.

    It reminds me of criminals who record themselves committing crimes and then post the videos online and are surprised when they are arrested.

    1. Alex B.*

      I thought the exact same thing when I read that bit. Nice job Jane giving LW the evidence needed to get the boss on their side.

    2. Amber Rose*

      My favorite headline right now is: Author of “How to Murder Your Husband” Convicted of Murdering Husband

      Many people are bad at thinking about consequences.

      1. KRM*

        “How could they have known it was me when I wrote down EXACTLY WHAT I’D DO AND THEN I DID IT???” I don’t know how they found me!!!!

        OP I’m kind of glad she left that VM, because even though you had witnesses for the meetings and breakroom pettiness–this one was a whole new level. I wish I knew what was said to her, but I’m assuming it involved the possibility of immediate termination.

        1. Nea*

          LW is public about having ADHD, which puts Jane’s constant distractions under the heading of harassing someone specifically over their disability. Which is absolutely immediate termination territory.

          1. merpaderp*

            As well it should – “distraction buddy”? “Practicing focus” by constantly interrupting with non-sequitors. No.

            1. Nea*

              Even without the ADHD, I can’t imagine a competent boss not taking the opportunity to tell Jane, “If you have time to constantly interrupt someone else, you obviously don’t have enough work to do.”

              1. allathian*

                Yes, this. I don’t have ADHD, and I like talking to people at the office, even if I wouldn’t particularly enjoy working in an open office (except one, where they had white noise generators that at least I didn’t find at all distracting or too noisy, but that meant that you couldn’t hear a conversation 10 ft away), but I’d also find Jane’s behavior extremely distracting.

                The point is, though, that even if many (most?) NT people would find it distracting, Jane knew that the LW would find it even more distracting because of their ADHD, so yeah, I’d say that qualifies as harassing someone about their disability.

      2. Orwellian*

        To be fair, the book’s title wasn’t “How To Murder Your Husband And Get Away With It”. Still, I’d probably take a couple stars off the rating.

      3. Just a different redhead*

        ‘minds me of a particular episode of Colombo where the murderer followed a novel plot of his that was written down by his writing partner…

    3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      The voicemail and the weirdness in meetings. You can’t tell me no one else noticed that Jane only started coughing when the LW was speaking.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        If I had noticed I’d probably as a bystander start bringing cough drops to meetings and insist Jane have one right as OP started their presentation.

    4. Meganly*

      Reminds me of when I was monitoring twitter for mentions of my company (back in 2008 when such things were new), and found a picture a dude posted of him proudly robbing one of our trucks (which were full of files, not money or valuables?? Super weird choice for a robbery, dude). He had his photo, full name, and city in his completely public profile. I’m not sure what he expected, but I don’t think it involved getting charged for his crimes.

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      I only wish my difficult employees would leave such clear and irrefutable evidence to put in their termination files. I’ve seem some stuff, and I bet that VM would have made my eyes to wide, too (most from the stupidity of leaving it). There are some folks who don’t seem to know that we archive IMs for compliance purposes, and I’ve had a few incidents of “I didn’t say that!” followed by a copy of the IMs where they did. In writing.

      1. Gnome*

        I literally had a coworker email me, copied to our mutual boss, they they were not going to answer my question because it is in their swim lane and not mine. A question I asked because… It’s not my swim lane and I needed to know the information. And boss said… Nothing. Next boss also didn’t care (it came up because of escalating hostility from this person) who then… Denied it happened, then said it was to protect the work from me. After saying the answer to “does X exist?” Was no. They were protecting a non existent thing from me by not telling me if it exists. All said in front of Boss. I left that job. Sometimes the evidence doesn’t help.

  10. Dark Macadamia*

    The idea of being told so directly that she’s being annoying and then asking for your personal number is HILARIOUS. “Yes, Jane, I would love you to have 24/7 access to me, our work interactions that I just asked you to stop are simply not enough!” Great job sticking to your boundaries.

    1. Kes*

      Jane’s lack of logic is kind of incredible. The best way to practice keeping yourself focused is… to be distracted all the time? My coworker is annoyed when I talk to them, so… let me ask for their phone number? How does this make any sense?? It’s a little mindboggling. Plus the layer of petty on top as revenge. So glad the boss dealt with it when OP went to them.

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        It does sound like Jane considered them to be work buddies and thought the distraction was like a cute inside joke they both enjoyed, so the most generous read is that she thought “oh, you don’t want to chat at work, so let’s move the chats to our personal time!” But jeeeeez

        1. ThatGirl*

          Yeah, I can see that as “ok, let’s chat in the evening then!!” but that is clearly not the problem or solution.

          1. JustaTech*

            I had a coworker like this, except I had offered to chat over IM during the work day. But no, she wanted to text me while I was cooking dinner, knowing that I was cooking and couldn’t text, and also knowing that I strictly separate “work time” and “personal time”.

            Like, I’m sorry you’re lonely, but asking the two least social people in the company to meet your very high socialization needs is just never going to end well.

        2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Yeah. I’m thinking Jane was living in oblivion and thought everyone was enjoying her little interruption game so much that they would want to play it at home.

      2. kiki*

        It’s interesting because I have encountered the mindset of “you have to learn to deal with distractions so I will go out of my way to distract you” before. I think it’s in an offshoot of, “my job is to toughen people up for the ‘real world’ so I will go out of my way to be cruel to this person, not because I’m mean but because how else would they learn? I am doing them a favor.” I faced a lot of this during school years and honestly found the “real world” to be way more accommodating. No, I don’t get everything I want, but if I need equipment or a different environment to focus, most companies have worked with me.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          I agree with you. Even with children, it’s ridiculous. I am a teacher, but I stare at this “if you think your teacher is tough, wait until you have a boss.” Um, no. Not that I think myself particularly harsh, but…school rules are generally FAR tougher than college or workplace ones. There are exceptions, but in most cases, adults can be trusted to go to the bathroom without somebody needing to ensure only one person goes at a time (so that bullies don’t follow their victims to the bathroom or friends don’t go out together to hang around talking for half an hour). They do not require constant supervision. For many reasons, schools have to be stricter than workplaces, etc, because they have a duty of care.

          And that’s before you even get to the people who think “I must be strict because I need to teach you how awful the world is.”

          In this case, though, it is even MORE bizarre because at least a parent or teacher has some responsibility to teach a child who to act/teach them responsibility. Jane…doesn’t even appear to be the LW’s boss. She has no business at all trying to “teach the LW to deal with distractions.” The LW knows at least as well as she does what is best. Judging by their comparative actions here, I’d say the LW knows far better. So even if that “my job is to toughen you up” HAD validity from parents or teachers or bosses (which I would debate anyway), it would certainly have none coming from Jane.

          1. merpaderp*

            As another upthread mentioned the letter writer was open about having ADHD so I wouldn’t be surprised if abelism was at play; she may be relegating the op to a more “child-like” role due to their disability.

          2. Migraine Month*

            That comment about “toughening kids up” suddenly reminded me of something that happened when I was younger.

            When I was seven, my family moved to a city in a different country for a year. I was really stressed and developed a nervous tic where I would squeeze my eyes shut and blink rapidly. My favorite teacher told my parents that if they wanted her to, she would smack me whenever I did it in order to break me of the habit.

            Fortunately for me, my parents did not agree, and the tic went away on its own when I was no longer as stressed.

            1. kiki*

              Wow, I’m so sorry your teacher was like that, even if it sounds like they had enough redeeming qualities to be your favorite.

              It is shocking to look back on how often manifestations of stress and mental health issues were treated as something to punish folks out of. And it’s depressing to look at things today and see that it’s still a prevalent response.

              I think there’s this idea that strong people are strong all the time, but it’s in our vulnerability that we gain strength. I had a now-ex boyfriend who felt that the best way to help me deal with my anxiety was to intentionally do things that made me very anxious– his own version of exposure therapy, free of charge. What I’ve learned in better relationships since is that my anxiety diminishes when I feel like I have a place to be vulnerable. When I know I have a place or people I can go to for softness, I have the strength to face the hard things.

            2. pancakes*

              Wow, I would like to have a little talk with that teacher!! That was terrible. I’m so glad your parents weren’t on the same page as her.

          3. Stopgap*

            And if a boss IS too tough, an adult can quit their job. A kid might not be able to transfer to a different class.

        2. Observer*

          It’s bad to do this to a child who you are responsible for educating or to a student. *BAD*. But it’s beyond absurd and bad to do it to another adult who you are NOT tasked with educating.

          1. kiki*

            For sure. I think part of the issue is that people who have this mindset aren’t actually interested in helping anyone at all, they just need justifications for their impulsive desire to control everyone around them. So the absurdity of trying to teach unrequested lessons to an adult peer doesn’t cross their mind because helping was never really their true goal.

        3. TootsNYC*

          right? like a parent being mean to toughen their kid up for the real world, instead of creating a loving, nurturing, and encouraging atmosphere to be a refuse and a source of strength when they run up against the real world.

          1. pancakes*

            “Adulthood is going to be terrible, full of pointless or unwanted things you’ll need to yield to, get your act together kid because we’re going to start getting you ready for it,” basically.

        4. NotAnotherManager!*

          My next least favorite is, “You should know this by now!” Obviously, if I knew it, I wouldn’t be making the mistake, would I? The “toughening up” and “you should know this” people are destroying my sweet, sensitive, but highly ADHD and on the spectrum teenager who desperately wants to do well and needs help with how to versus shaming on skills they don’t yet have.

      3. Irish Teacher*

        It’s also incredibly patronising. “You should put up with me because you need the practice.” Who is Jane to say what the OP needs practice in? Especially since it seems like she has a very poor understanding of professional norms herself and is in no position to give advice!

      4. Nanani*

        It makes sense through the “Jane is the main character of the universe” lens where surely LW only said no because of big bad work. Everybody loves Jane, main character of the universe that she is, so of course it makes sense to have access to LW outside of big bad work.

        (The universe where Jane is the main character is not this one)

  11. Michelle*

    Man, you really handled that like a boss. As did your boss. I’m so glad everything worked out. I needed to read this. Congratulations on the way better work environment. :)

  12. That One Person*

    Glad somehow your boss got it through to Jane to treat this like work, not a classroom or what have you. I can appreciate wanting to have a good relationship with people you work, but that has to be with the understanding they’re not all going to become your best friend (and it’s probably easier if they aren’t to avoid fallout or loyalty based issues). Hopefully if Jane’s lacking in personal relationships she can find a shared hobby group where the silliness can be acceptable and appreciated rather than an issue. I’m super glad you’ve got your concentration back OP and that your boss was able to make some good accommodations!

  13. OrigCassandra*

    Jane whinged at you, about you personally, wholly insultingly, on your work voicemail? I got nothing but “wow” for that, OP. Glad your boss had the sense to shut Jane all the way down.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      I commend OP for thinking to keep the voicemail as evidence. My first instinct would have been to hit ERASE as soon as I heard Jane’s voice.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        My first instinct would be to copy it and send it to my outside of work friends with a “WTF”

        1. pancakes*

          That would be tempting. My thinking is, playing it for them on speaker phone in a private place is better op-sec, and no less wtf!

      2. pancakes*

        A lot of the time it’s not a great idea to delete something like that right away, because the storage space is usually trivial, and sooner rather than later it’s going to drop out of view of the most recent messages. (I mostly use visual voicemail on my phone because I prefer to read rather than listen, and the quality of auto-transcribing has really improved).

  14. cwhfstl*

    Great update. Your boss sounds amazing. I am impressed they were able to get Jane so completely reformed. A good manager is a wonderful thing.

  15. Dust Bunny*

    people like me are depressing and a sign of what’s wrong with the world, etc.

    Like, how much attention do you need, Jane?

    Seriously, this is just so weird. I’m friendly with a few coworkers outside of work but they earned it by not being overbearing and petty.

    1. anonymous73*

      The irony in that statement…no Jane, YOU are a sign of what’s wrong with the world because your reaction to someone asking to respect their boundaries is to be an asshole about it.

    2. MistOrMister*

      I had to go back and read the original letter because I didnt remember it at all and my first thought was, wow Jane is a crazy person. Nothing about the update changes my mind. I feel sorry for Jane in that she clearly has trouble reading the room and I assume has trouble forming the friendships she wants but man, you can’t glom on to people like that!!

      1. EPLawyer*

        She doesn’t have trouble reading the room — she is refusing to read the room. When someone says “please don’t do X” DECENT people stop DOING X. if you continue after being asked to stop, you don’t have good intentions, your heart is not in the right place, you are not socially awkward, you are just a bully.

  16. els*

    Wonderful update, OP; I am thrilled for you. Not only that your original problem has been resolved, but an OFFICE. That… is the dream.

    1. OyHiOh*

      Seriously. I’ve done some of my best work in a small interior office (technically had a window, but looked on an interior hallway – in my brain this doesn’t count as a real window).

      1. ThatGirl*

        All of our offices except like, the C-Suite people, are interior – they have big sliding glass doors with a frosted design, so light gets in but there’s privacy. I actually like that because it means those of us who are not office-worthy get the natural light from the windows, the offices aren’t hogging it all.

      2. Artemesia*

        I prefer a window but when I once had such an office, I just put up a Magritte window poster and it was fine.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Absolutely!!! This was the best part of this update. Well, no, getting Jane to knock it the eff off was, but this is so great! I know for sure I couldn’t get anything done in an open office setup, glad OP has the chance to get so much more done now. Nice job, OP!

  17. kiki*

    I’m so happy your boss took this issue seriously, cut off the behavior from Jane, and gave you an accommodation that helps you overall, even beyond the Jane conundrum. I feel like this is a case-study in what good management should be. So often managers write stuff like this off as interpersonal drama that isn’t their business to manage, but this sort of thing has tremendous business impact.

    Also, my eyes also got huge when you mentioned Jane left you that voicemail and was trying to get your personal number. That’s honestly unhinged behavior. It’s one thing to be a bit socially clueless and it’s another to completely bulldoze through clear signals and try to get even closer to someone.

  18. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    I played her the voicemail message, and her eyes got huge.

    Yeah, I bet they did. The message is seriously unprofessional and could be seen as harassment.

    I’m so glad your boss had your back, OP. Congratulations on your new office!

    1. EPlawyer*

      Pretty sure the conversation with Jane involved the words hr, legal, and termination. That’s the only thing that would have stopped the behavior cold.

    2. Unkempt Flatware*

      It would have gotten a very flat, “no, Jane, people like me just don’t like people like you”

  19. Mystery Lady*

    Good for you. I’m so glad things worked out.

    I doubt you’re the first person to complain about Jane. And I fear you won’t be the last.

  20. Murphy*

    The coffee creamer thing just….wow. That’s like sitcom level dialogue.

    I’m glad your boss was behind you!

  21. irene adler*

    OP, so glad you triumphed over Jane!
    As for Jane: Gah!

    Wondering: whatever happened to giving out the phone number of the county morgue when one is not interested in giving out one’s personal phone number?

    1. anonymous73*

      Sounds fun in theory, but someone like Jane who doesn’t respond well to hints would not take that and think, hmmm they don’t want to give me their number. They would continue to harass OP and try and make sure they got their actual number.

    2. ThatGirl*

      That might be fun for a creep at a bar, but I don’t see giving out a fake number as going well for a coworker. Better to be direct.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        This works only in locations where the 867 exchange doesn’t actually work… which fortunately I live in currently.

        For you want my phone number and won’t take no for an answer: area code-867-5309. Some people get it, but not everyone does.

        1. Pikachu*

          Tell them 719-266-2837.

          It’s Callin Oates, an emergency hotline for when you immediately need to hear a selection of Hall & Oates songs.

          1. MarsJenkar*

            I’d be tempted to give them a phone number composed entirely of 0s and 1s. (Area codes and 7-digit numbers in NANPA territory–the US, Canada, and parts of the Caribbean–never start with 1 or 0.)

            1. pancakes*

              People would mostly realize right away that you don’t want to give them your number and are trying to be cutesy about it. Probably best to be more direct.

    3. Not a moose*

      Have pity on the poor morgue attendent! They would be getting 15% calls from people experiencing one of the worst days of their lives, 10% bureaucratic calls, and 75% calls from every creepy guy from every bar in the county.

      Though there is potential for a meet-cute love story where a guy (who isn’t a creep) gets the morgue number and he and the attendant fall in loooove

      1. pancakes*

        That would make for a good Midsomer Murders side-plot, haha. A romance for Dennis Rainbird / Alistair Gooding.

  22. MicroManagered*

    I’m always amazed at these ones where the original letter starts with “Jane seems nice enough but she’s a little annoying” and the update is like, Jane doubled-down on her behavior and now it verges on stalking/harassment.

    I’m glad your boss took care of it, OP!

    1. Doobeedoo*

      Yes! The original letter described Jane as “a very nice person”, but her behavior showed she is NOT.

  23. Not really a Waitress*

    I am emotionally drained just reading this post. Office Dementors are a thing. What an absolutely lovely outcome

  24. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    Jane sounds very much like one of those people who not only believes ALL attention must be on her but also permanently goes looking for something to get offended about (‘oh I wasn’t aware you could discuss non work coffee with people at work…guess your rules are just discriminating against ME’ is how I imagine her inner dialogue)

    I think you handled that with a lot more grace and decorum than I would have. Very well done :)

    (I’m of the ‘what the heck is your problem Jane? Go do some work’ persuasion)

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Just remembered a guy I used to work with way back who got told by our boss to stop creeping on all the women. His reaction of ‘oh so I guess men can’t speak to women at ALL!’ and subsequent attempts at ignoring every woman in the building kinda remind me of Jane.

      (It’s been a long time since that job but I *think* Creepy McCreeper just resigned in the end)

  25. WillowSunstar*

    I once had a coworker who interrupted frequently and he always used a work-related question, even though it was something covered in the documentation or that we had already gone over multiple times. People who interrupt because they are bored/lonely/etc. really do need to find ways outside of work to get their social needs met. There are lots of ways that don’t necessarily have to involve alcohol, loud music, or organized religion. Book clubs, sci-fi fan clubs, Toastmasters (public speaking not drinking), taking a class at a community college, volunteering, etc. I do not rely upon work for all of my social interaction and would hope others do not, either.

    1. Chris too*

      I agree with you, but sadly some of us *do* have to rely on work for our social interaction at some points. I was a live in caregiver for my very frail but mentally sharp mum. She was able to walk from her bed to her en-suite but no farther. I’d leave food and drink at her bedside table and nervously go to work, and that, and grocery shopping, were my big adventures.

      Jane would make me twitch but if a coworker seems socially needy, for me anyway, it helps me to know where they’re coming from. Not that one can ask but people will often share a bit, unprompted. FWIW on those strength finder assessments “context” is important to me…

      She still needed to be reined in, though.

      1. Artemesia*

        during my career I got most of my social stimulation at work — my husband and I were raising kids and had demanding jobs so we didn’t have much of a social life — although we had each other. but it wasn’t by interrupting people who were working. You can go to lunch with colleagues etc etc and socialize in times and spaces where other people want to socialize.

        1. pancakes*

          Yes – social interaction at work isn’t a bad thing, but there are times and places for it, and mutual interest is important. Going out to lunch or even sometimes running errands with friends can be a great way to break up the day.

      2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        For other American readers: the “en-suite” that Chris too mentions is the bathroom that is attached to the bedroom. (Chris too, my condolences to you, and I hope your mum had a peaceful passing.)

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      We had a guy at one job who would come into our IT Team room and start talking at us. He was from accounting. The stuff was only peripherally related to work. There were only three of us in the room, and he disrupted all three of us from any concentration tasks. Ticked me off, and he couldn’t take the hint that we didn’t want to spend a lot of time gossiping with him.

    3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I’m always torn between feeling bad for the person who is bored/lonely/etc because they are in the situation where this is the only way to get their social needs met and wanting to shut them down because they have decided my cube is the best and primary place to get their social needs met. I’m so glad that now my only socially needy coworkers have 4 paws and tails

  26. Elsa*

    As a fellow ADHDer, I know how hard it can be to trust your own perceptions and judgements some times. I’m so happy and proud of you! In your 1st letter, I can see how hard you were trying to give Jane the benefit of the doubt (“nice” but “clueless”). But, it’s clear from your update that Jane is not nice and is completely aware of what she was doing.

  27. MistOrMister*

    Getting mad at someone who doesn’t have time for non-work conversations when you interrupt them while they are working is so juvenile. And to my mind, it is worse when the person is engaged in a work conversation with someone else. Granted, if someone doesn’t want to be interrupted while they’re working solo, they shouldn’t be. But the people who insert themselves into what is clearly a work convo to discuss personal things are so clueless it defies logic.

    I had a coworker who was a little Jane-ish. I was training someone once and she came over to show me pictures of a haircut she was thinking about getting. She got upset when I told her I didn’t have time to look at them right then (not to mention, she had already shown me very similar pictures the previous week). I later heard she went to everyone in our group telling them that I didn’t like her. I wanted so badly to tell her to shove it where the sun don’t shine.

  28. CoveredinBees*

    Ooof, just rereading the first letter made me. You know what is great practice for staying focused? Staying focused. It would have been fascinating to watch that meeting telling Jane to chill out.

  29. Adalind*

    You handled this impeccably. I definitely would have flipped out on her. What a wonderful update. Thank you for sharing!

  30. CW*

    Jane doesn’t sound like someone I would like to work with. I am not a social person, and I just want to be left alone. Working with someone like Jane will just test my patience to the max, and make me tempted to tell the person to “shut the hell up”.

    Now, I say tempted because I wouldn’t actually go that far, but the temptation is still there. I can only fake smile for so long.

    1. pancakes*

      This isn’t really a social / not social issue. Social people don’t enjoy being interrupted by people they’re not mutually interested in being friendly with. “Social” doesn’t mean “not choosy about who to hang out with.” People who are social also sometimes want to be left alone when they have work they need to get done. “Social” doesn’t mean “always unfocused.”

  31. Helvambrielle*

    OP: Keep your antennae up. Jane is a covert narcissist, and narcissists are vengeful. I’m not trying to be alarmist, but Jane is definitely way angrier at you than she was before, she’s just not allowed to express it at work anymore via passive aggression. This woman is disturbed.

      1. Unkempt Flatware*

        Let’s just change it to “behaves in ways that narcissists behave” because this is still very very good advice and OP needs to keep her guard up.

      2. Helvambrielle*

        Thank you so much for your input. Narcissist is not a diagnosis. Narcisssistic Personality Disorder is a diagnosis.

        1. allathian*

          Yup, but it would still be more prudent to say “Jane’s exhibiting some narcissistic behavior” or whatever. Many people do, at least sometimes. It’s only when it gets extreme that it merits a diagnosis, and we don’t armchair diagnose.

          That said, the manager has LW’s back, so if Jane continues to treat the LW in an unprofessional way, Jane’s job would be in jeopardy. I bet the threat of getting fired is what stopped the behavior.

  32. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

    Jane seems to lack impulse control. I hope she can learn that about herself.

    LW, this comment about your office: “It’s small and windowless so it had been disused for a while”. I encourage you to bring in plants and put up posters of nature. (Maybe even with a curtain rod and small curtain, so it’s like a window.) Not seeing nature or natural light is bad for us, emotionally, but “studies show” (they really do) that seeing *pictures of nature* can have almost as much positive effect on us that seeing actual nature does. And enjoy your nice, quiet, private, separate, closeable-door office!

  33. Bookworm*

    Whew! What a great update! Sorry the office has no windows but it sounds like it’s definitely better for you overall. Thanks for letting us know how it went!!

  34. Observer*

    This update certainly confirms that the people who thought that more explanations were needed were wrong. And also, that the problem had nothing to do with you ADHD, and everything to do with Jane.

    I feel bad for her. But her behavior was impossible. I’m so glad it worked out for you. And I’m really impressed with how you handled it.

  35. yala*

    I LOVE this for you! A reasonable boss who takes care of the problem, gives you additional tools to help you succeed. and opens the door for you to come to her if the problem happens again.

    Jane just sounds like a nightmare tho. If I’d been the coworker who asked for the creamer, I would’ve been so uncomfortable. I can’t imagine she isn’t making everyone else a bit miserable too.

  36. Gnome*

    I wouldn’t have trusted any managers to handle this and I am SO GLAD yours did, OP.

    I probably would have started calling out the passive aggressive comments, especially around others. “What an odd thing to say.” And walked off. Ok, I would actually say a lot more that would make it completely ineffective, because people like this make me feel like my sanity is on fire, but still…

    1. Canadian Librarian #72*

      On Jane’s part, I mean! Happy to hear there was a good outcome for the LW :)

  37. TrixieD*

    I can’t imagine working with Jane, and I don’t have ADHD!
    So glad your issue was dealt with appropriately. Congrats on your new office!

  38. Gnome*

    My boss just left and I kinda really want OPs boss to apply. I don’t even know if they are in the right industry.

    Do we need some kind of AAM management certification? Because I want this to be a thing.

  39. MEH Squared*

    I love everything about this update (well, except for Jane escalating, but that was to be expected). OP, you handled the situation with tact and then increasing firmness. Your boss handled it, well, like a BOSS. This was the best possible outcome including your new office. Enjoy!

    P.S. I went back and re-read the original post. Just wow, Jane.

  40. Eww*

    he was obviously hurt by this and left a long message on my work voicemail about how people like me are depressing and a sign of what’s wrong with the world

    Um… WTF. Hell, I’m glad the boss backed you on this because that seriously creeps me out. Not wanting to constantly chat to someone and be distracted from work isn’t “depressing”.

  41. Schmarchitect*

    I have my own Jane in my office and I’m loving how this worked out for you- in my case it’s a “Jack” who latched onto me early, got my cell number after my office told us to put it in our email signature and will text at random times of night about extremely personal things, he cries every time he gets any kind of negative feedback, and he’ll butt into conversations ala Jane ALL THE TIME. Luckily, my problem’s hopefully about to be solved. I got an offer for an incredible job last night and will be leaving within the month! Unfortunately, based on his history, he will probably cry when I announce my departure.

    1. Nanani*

      and this is why personal cell numbers don’t belong in signatures or anywhere public facing!

      If it was a work phone that stays in your desk when you’re not on a business trip, that would be one thing, but forcing you to put your PERSONAL NUMBER??Gaaaaah
      your workplace is clueless to the point of being dangerous, and Jack is exhibit A of why

  42. All Het Up About It*

    I’m so glad I went back and read the original letter. I remembered it, but I had forgotten about the “Plan H for a vacation in Hawaii” part and I needed the visual of an adult worker performing the hula in the office today.

    I’m also so pleased with this update on so many levels as others have said. I myself, while curious about the conversation between Jane and the manager, am even more curious about how other co-workers view this individual, who sounds very, very… interesting.

  43. Persephone*

    As someone who’s recently been diagnosed with ADHD (and ASD), I’m wondering if what Jane was doing would fall into/adjacent to discrimination territory; since she was deliberately changing her behaviour due to OP’s neurological disorder, and using OP’s disorder against her in retaliation.

    This is just theoretical lol—am wondering for my own sake. (And not USA, so not really taking about legal).

    1. pancakes*

      It seems unnecessary to wrangle with that question because her behavior was easily unacceptable, instant discipline-worthy, very potentially termination-worthy harassment. Repeatedly pestering a coworker, telling them they should accept it for bonkers reasons, leaving them nasty voicemails, etc., none of that is ok.

      1. Persephone*

        Her behaviour after OP held firm, definitely. But prior (i.e. the original letter) is what I’m wondering about.

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