how should I deal with an anxious and needy coworker?

A reader writes:

I have a coworker in her late 20’s, Patricia, who has been a part of my team for about five months now. I have been employed at this company for two years, but have been called back into the office after work from home was revoked. Patricia is supposed to be a social media manager, while I work in a different function of marketing.

Since my time back in the office, I have become more aware of how Patricia’s extreme anxiety is starting to impact our team. Patricia often asks to sit in on meetings she was not invited to, for no other reason than that she likes to work in a room with other people. The one time I let her, she interrupted the meeting with questions completely unrelated to the meeting I was trying to conduct.

Patricia also seems to constantly hit issues that require a group effort to solve. At a recent marketing off-site, she showed up with nothing packed and no plan for how to get any clothes for the excursion. Patricia has complained about missing Zoom messages and asks people to send messages for her. When I pointed out that she should probably put Zoom on her phone, she just didn’t install it.

Most recently, she has taken to showing up at the office at 2 p.m. I wouldn’t care since I’m not her manager, but she has started to message me after working hours expecting me to put together a social media plan for her. Which is not my job in the slightest.

I would be more understanding if Patricia were a new coworker adjusting to an office environment. But she doesn’t show any signs of improving or trying to improve. She still asks to sit in on random meetings, still expects other people to attend to her Zoom messages for her, and doesn’t seem to listen to any gentle suggestions to improve. What should I do?

Since you’re not Patricia’s manager, you can’t control her behavior but you can control how you let it impact you — and it sounds like simply maintaining firm boundaries on your own side might eliminate most of the impact on you.

For example:

  When Patricia asks to sit in on a random meeting you’re holding, you can say no: “No, it wouldn’t make sense for you to join us. It’s just for folks working on the new oatmeal launch.” If she says she wants to work around other people, say, “Sorry, no — it would be a distraction to have more people there.”

  If Patricia ends up sitting in on a random meeting that someone else is running (so you weren’t the one she asked about joining it), if she chimes in with unrelated questions, are you in a position to say, “We’ve got to focus on the barley data, so can you save that for later?” Whether or not you’ll have standing to do this will depend on the seniority of your role and who else is in the meeting. But if you can, you should. It’s very likely that other meeting attendees will be grateful, and seeing you assert that boundary might give some of them the push to speak up themselves in the future too.

  If Patricia tries to pull other people into solving an issue of her own making (like when she showed up without supplies for that off-site meeting), decline to get involved. If other people want to rush in to help, that’s up to them but you don’t need to. Of course, it might end up affecting you anyway if it delays everyone’s ability to move forward with other things — but I’ll get to that in a minute.

  If Patricia complains about missing Zoom messages, ignore her complaints. Stop suggesting that she should install Zoom on her phone; she already knows, and trying to help is just making it your problem to solve.

  In fact, stop making suggestions for improvement to her in general. It’s not your job, she’s not going to take those suggestions, and trying to help is just keeping you enmeshed and aggravated.

  If she asks you to send messages on her behalf, decline. “Sorry, no, I’m busy — you should send that yourself.” (Some people will say that you should drop the “sorry” since you have nothing to be sorry for. You certainly can drop it if you want! But using softening language like that can make interactions sound more collegial — including to third parties who might overhear them — and, importantly, it can be the difference between something you’re comfortable saying and something you aren’t. More on that here.)

  If Patricia messages you after-hours to ask you to do her work for her, say no. In fact, don’t respond to the message at all until you’re back at work and then tell her no. For example: “I don’t normally put together social media plans — that’s always been done by the person in your position — and I wouldn’t have room on my plate to take it on.”

All of that is just you declining to participate in whatever weirdness is going on with her. She can be as incompetent and needy as she’s going to be, but you don’t need to step in and solve that.

That still leaves the annoyance factor, of course! It’s annoying to see someone behaving the way Patricia is. And it sounds like sometimes her behavior does affect you, like if her lack of preparedness at the off-site delayed everyone else. But this approach will cut down on a significant amount of it.

However, you also have the option of flagging this stuff for Patricia’s manager. Probably not all of it — asking to sit in on meetings doesn’t rise to that level, for example — but you definitely have standing to mention to her boss that she’s asking you to do core parts of her job, and probably also that she’s missing Zoom messages and asking others to handle them for her. You could frame it as “I didn’t know if you were aware of this and figured I should let you know it’s happening. Here’s how I’ve been handling it.”

But mostly, your strategy should be to just decline to play along.

Read an update to this letter

{ 169 comments… read them below }

  1. Hlao-roo*

    Specifically for the after-hours messages:

    If she is contacting you on your work laptop/cellphone, can you put the device away when you are done working for the day so you don’t see work messages from anyone?

    If you still need to respond to some work stuff after-hours, just not from Patricia, can you mute her at the end of everyday so everyone else’s messages call your attention but hers don’t?

    I know I would be annoyed by the message notifications from a coworker even if I weren’t responding to the messages, so removing the notifications as much as possible should make your non-work time more pleasant.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Agreed. I keep my notifications on for emergencies or things I absolutely need to see before work the next day, and the low volume of messages I get off hours makes that work for me. If one person was repeatedly bothering me after hours, I’d definitely mute them.

    2. blood orange*


      I’m a person who likes to be flexible when someone really needs something after hours, but generally I keep pretty firm boundaries for non-emergencies. I don’t have email alerts on my phone because I’m checking my email during work hours. If there’s an emergency, I’ll get a message on Teams or a phone call.

      This is partly for work/life balance, but also because I get really anxious if I see a work thing that can technically wait until morning but in reality I’ll think about it all night. Or worse, something that is urgent but I can’t do anything until morning. I’d rather just see it when I can deal with it. So, turning off notifications from someone who is asking me to do their job after hours would be a must.

  2. Eldritch Office Worker*

    I’d argue that asking to sit in on meetings AND being disruptive in them, or pushing back on a no, would rise to the level of alerting her manager. Personally I’d keep a log of these behaviors for a couple of weeks and say to her manager “this was bothering me, and I wasn’t sure if I was overreacting so I noted some things that have come up. Given the patterns I’m seeing I wanted to make sure you were aware.” I do think that depends a little on your level of seniority. If you’re a manager yourself or the equivalent, that would make more sense than if you and Patricia are peers.

    1. Mockingjay*

      I agree. Patricia’s behavior is problematic to the point of impairing business operations, not just annoying coworkers. She doesn’t prepare for business events, she is not doing core tasks. Her manager needs to be looped in.

    2. RIP Pillow Fort*

      Honestly I would too but I know that’s colored by how my meetings are.

      But having Patricia in meetings is within OP’s control to stop which I think makes it less a management problem and just asserting a boundary with Patricia.

    3. Unaccountably*

      I’d definitely want to know that about a report of mine. It sounds like it would affect relationships with other departments that I’ve worked to build and I’d want to put a stop to it.

    4. MurpMaureep*

      As a manager I’d want to know if my employee were trying to insert herself into others’ meetings, especially if she was being disruptive. But also agree that depending on the organization and the culture, seniority and position could play a role in how this is approached. If OP doesn’t feel comfortable talking to Patricia’s manager, she could talk to her own and let her know what’s going on and the consequences. That should prompt at least a conversation at the manager level about why Patricia is behaving the way she is.

    5. too many dogs*

      That’s good advice, especially keeping a log. That gives you documentation, in case this keeps happening.

    6. linger*

      The bigger problem may well be that Patricia doesn’t even have a manager at all aware of her work output. The title “social media manager” is ambiguous between “SME for social media content creation” and “manager level (with little oversight needed)”, and the behaviour described (“adopting” other teams such as OP’s) strongly suggests she’s just been left on her own. (TBH I’d be anxious too in that kind of role.)

    7. Becca*

      Came here to say this. I’d want to know if one of my direct reports was doing this. If it was the only thing they were doing weird and everything else was stellar then I’d understand if no one brought it up, but I think it’s useful info about her judgement in the context of everything else going on.

    8. GreenDoor*

      I would also want to know about a pattern of attending meetings to which she wasn’t invited. I don’t care where you work….if you have all kinds of time to sit in on meetings that you don’t need to be in then your work better be regularly tuned in top notch and on time…either that or I need to assign you more work because you’ve got too much time on your hands. I’d be irked, as this appears to be a huge time waster she’s engaging in. I agree with taking this point to her supervisor.

    9. tamarack and fireweed*

      Yes, and if the OP and P are peers, then the OP should go to their own manager on that.

      (I’m having an “ow, crap” moment since I’m currently dealing with a similar situation, but it’s not in the workplace, but instead in a community organization. The disruptive, weirdly anxious, and entirely too needy person is a volunteer, so I can’t go to their manager… There are more complicating factors, since the whole thing is attached to my workplace, which is a university.)

    10. The Other Dawn*

      Agreed. I’m a manager and I’d absolutely want to know if one of my team members was inserting themselves into someone else’s meeting that has nothing to do with them.

    11. The OTHER other*

      I agree, all through the story I was wondering where was this person’s manager, how come they are not aware of all this? Also it’s WAY past “gentle suggestions to improve”. This coworker sounds not just incompetent but disruptive. I’m surprised she’s lasted five months.

  3. ThatGirl*

    There’s anxiety and then there’s…. whatever this is. I can see some of this as a result of extreme anxiety and neediness, but I don’t know how that would tie into showing up for the day extremely late or not being prepared to do any of her job. She sounds both anxious and wildly incompetent.

    In any case: let it be her problem, and don’t play along.

    1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      My anxiety manifests in over-preparedness so I’d never show up super late, or ask people to send messages for me, I’d have Zoom on my phone. I do get that anxiety is different for everyone, but this does feel like more incompetence/entitled behavior (expecting others to do he let work) than anxiety, save for the not being alone. Which I’m not sure that’s the real reason, or if she just wants to feel important being in meetings.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        The key is in how you started this comment: “My anxiety manifests…”. Other people’s manifests differently. I am anxious avoidant, meaning that my natural tendency is to put my head in the sand until the you-know-what hits the proverbial fan. I get paralyzed and can’t do anything or figure out how to get started and trying to do so results in weird and unpleasant emotional overload.

        Funnily enough, your manifestation of anxiety is my coping mechanism for that. I was encouraged by a previous manager to overprepare to help assuage my anxiety over having to pivot or be put on the spot for something last minute. Aren’t brains fun? (Hugs to you as we both navigate our conditions).

      2. Meep*

        I had a coworker who was very anxious and very incompetent. She was constantly worried she would be fired (she had been fired from every other job up to this point) and therefore, would push her work onto others. Rather than you know, learning how to do something. Once her manager stopped letting her bully, I mean manage, others, it came to light. She also has NPD, though.

    2. whingedrinking*

      There are some people whose anxiety manifests in avoidance/paralysis – you get so worried about screwing something up that you just don’t do it. But either way, I agree, it’s not the LW’s problem.

      1. Wednesday Smith*

        Yes! It happens to me sometimes. But as you said, asking other people to do your job can’t be the answer.

    3. Clobberin' Time*

      People can have genuine mental health issues/neurodivergence AND be entitled, selfish jerks at the same time. Even assuming that Patricia does in fact have an avoidant anxiety disorder, she’s choosing to manage that by outsourcing her coping skills to people who didn’t sign up for it.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Oh, I know that first-hand, but I am wondering (as others have noted) if Patricia has blamed it on anxiety or if the LW is projecting that.

        1. Observer*

          It’s an interesting question, but I think that it’s not really relevant. It seems to me that the best thing the OP can do is avoid that whole conversation.

          1. Koalafied*

            It’s kind of relevant in that the title of the post declares her to be anxious, but there just…doesn’t seem to be any clear indication in the letter that Patricia’s behavior has anything to do with anxiety. I had a similar reaction reading the letter – being confused why it has this title.

            1. Observer*

              Yes, the post declares that. But it’s still not relevant, because the OP’s path forward is the same regardless of whether or not the coworker has anxiety. So it also doesn’t matter how the OP knows this.

              1. Koalafied*

                Right, it’s not relevant to the LW’s question, which is the relevant point that the readers are making. “It’s not relevant so let’s just call it anxiety” makes less sense than “It’s not relevant so let’s not speculate on why.”

            2. Happy meal with extra happy*

              There’s a difference between someone acting anxious (which, based on the descriptions given by OP is what Patricia is doing) and having a diagnosis of anxiety. Calling someone anxious is not diagnosing them.

            3. Jen*

              Yeah, I was really confused by the end of the letter. From what OP wrote here, I wouldn’t have jumped to anxiety as the explanation.

              1. Clobberin' Time*

                My guess is that it’s Patricia’s affect when she wants people to wait on her. She doesn’t get mad or imperious, she acts helpless or upset, and that’s perceived as “anxious”.

    4. NeedRain47*

      I don’t think anxiety is the only problem here. It reads to me like she’s got a need for attention which she fills by acting either helpless (not packing for event) or inappropriate (chiming in during other peoples’ meetings). Regardless, the advice to not engage is right on.

    5. Jessica Fletcher*

      Right, I don’t see why LW has decided this is because Patricia has anxiety. Maybe that should have been removed as we aren’t supposed to diagnose people.

      1. WorkingMom*

        I agree. Whether or not Patricia’s behavior is due to anxiety, it is not LW’s situation to address. Alison gave great advice on setting boundaries and reaching out to management. If Patricia needs accommodations due to her anxiety, it should be addressed by HR, not by LW doing Patricia’s work after hours, handling her Zoom messages, or including her in meetings that do not pertain Patricia’s work (I would think Patricia’s manager would want to know that she is attending random meetings instead of doing her work).

  4. Sylvan*

    Has she disclosed to you that she has an anxiety disorder, or have you speculated that anxiety is the reason for her behavior? Because I’m not seeing anything in the letter that points to anxiety. It seems more like she’s not very good at what she’s doing and she needs to be told “no” sometimes. Stop letting her join meetings.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      It sounds like weaponized incompetence to me, honestly. From the details here anyway – obviously we only have OPs perspective and OP is very annoyed – but it sounds like she’s been given solutions to problems and is trying to get other people to do work for her.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        “weaponized incompetence” almost everyone has a co-worker like this. Never prepared, doesn’t know the basics of their job and relies on others to help them out. When I had to work with this person, I would simply say, I’m busy, check with your manager. This stopped them because they knew better than to plead ignorance to any higher-ups.

        1. An Australian In London (currently in Australia)*

          When I had to work with this person, saying “check with your manager” wasn’t enough.

          So I started helpfully checking with their manager for them, Cc them.

          “Dear Prudence, Sadie needs some help with this. I’m don’t have the slack in my schedule to do this for them as they’ve asked; whom should we farm their work out to instead?”

          It was startling that it took more than one of these to fix the problem, but it did not take more than five.

    2. ThatGirl*

      Yeah, like I said above, I could maybe see anxiety as a reason for some of it, but I’ve HAD coworkers with anxiety who didn’t act like any of this.

      1. Sylvan*

        Yeah. I have anxiety and I’m just not seeing it, but it’s always possible for two people to have wildly different symptoms.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          There is a “freeze and shut down” flavor of anxiety that I’ve definitely observed in some coworkers but I’m not seeing that here.

      2. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

        It seems like LW is assuming that Patricia has anxiety based on her apparent need to not be alone while she’s working (i.e. inviting herself to meetings that she’s not needed in). To me, it just flags as highly suspect behavior, especially when taken as a whole, with all her other inappropriateness. LW would be well advised to bring all of this to Patricia’s manager and get it shut down. No good will come of allowing this to continue. She might not be doing it with underhanded intent, but it’s better to err on the side of caution here.

      3. Koalafied*

        And that’s really the key of it – anxiety is a mood/emotional state that can drive behavior, but it’s not a behavior itself. Seeing someone described as having “extreme anxiety” I was expecting to hear about how this coworker becomes visibly distressed or talks about feeling emotionally overwhelmed/worried/anxious or explains away her own behavior as being related to her anxiety – things that very clearly concern her mental state. But all I see is things like being forgetful, socially unaware, a distraction, incompetent at various parts of her job, etc., and I wouldn’t particularly associate those behaviors with “obvious inner emotional turmoil.”

    3. CPegasus*

      Yeah, I’m not sure what this is but at least for me, anxiety manifests in being OVER prepared. There’s a lot of detail that doesn’t make sense to me though – why did she need to have extra clothes for a marketing meeting? And why did this require a group effort instead of someone telling her to stop at Target on her way to the location? I’m not sure whether OP is at BEC with this person or they’re just so overwhelmed that they’re leaving out key details in an attempt to be concise.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I agree there are some details missing but a marketing off-site, at least in my world, means a group activity of some sort, not a meeting — for instance bowling or mini golf or axe-throwing or whatever, where you might need different apparel.

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        It just sounds like it was some kind of event that included travel (potentially overnight) and some kind of activities that involved appropriate dress. And like with other things pulled other people in to problem solve for her.

        Should that be anyone else’s problem? No. But a lot of people are helpful by nature and having one unprepared team member can be very disruptive, so I can see how it would play out.

    4. Lilo*

      I also don’t think it really matters. Letting her disrupt meetings or try to foist work on others is in no way a reasonable accommodation for anxiety. Reasonable steps are things like allowing time for appointment, allowing work at home time, office placement, music in the office, etc. This just isn’t reasonable.

      1. Sylvan*

        Yeah, you’re right about that. (And I can’t speak for everyone, but having boundaries is helpful. When I know what’s expected of me, I don’t have to worry about it.)

      2. Lilo*

        (I should note my list is no way exhaustive, but accommodation isn’t a magical get out of consequences free card. It’s a specific thing that shouldn’t be unnecessarily disruptive and must be worked out with a supervisor or ADA office.)

    5. to varying degrees*

      Yeah most, if not all, doesn’t seem like anxiety as much as she doesn’t want to do her job for whatever reason. Maybe they wanting to sit in on meetings (maybe), but that’s negated by the fact that she proceeds to participate in them. And I’m completely baffled by the offsite thing? Was she expecting others to provide her clothing? Or pack for her? Personally I would bring her manager in on all of this. This is his circus, he needs to deal with it.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I agree. OP is looking for some diagnosis to explain why this person is a giant PITA in the same way people will say that a rude coworker is on the autism spectrum.
        Some times a selfish, spoiled, demanding needy person is exactly that. Trying to understand why/empathisize doesn’t change the reality that OP needs to set up and stick to boundaries.
        Honestly, that would help her in the long run anyway. Trust her own judgement. Fail at an assignment yet own it and move on.

        1. Clobberin' Time*

          Right. There is this weird tendency to try and find a “good” reason that somebody is being a selfish, entitled jerk, which, however well-meant, is kind of ableist.

    6. Dust Bunny*

      I think the LW is trying to avoid saying this person is incompetent by looking for another explanation.

      And it might very well be legitimate and paralyzing anxiety, but Patricia is not handling it well and it’s becoming her coworkers’ problem, which is not OK.

      1. Bubba*

        I have anxiety and I agree. Even if Patricia’s behavior is the result of anxiety it is up to her to develop better coping skills and/or work with her manager to find reasonable accommodations. Expecting her co workers to deal with things for is unreasonable.

        1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

          There’s so many flavors of anxiety. I was surprised about the meeting intruding because my anxiety is social and about doing the ” wrong ” thing. I also may be underprepared because I’m a messy sort who forgets things but I’d just apologize to the people and/ or hope they didn’t see my misstep

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Yeah, my flavor of anxiety is that I’d rather die than be seen as intruding where I didn’t need to be, but to each their own.

            1. Bubba*

              My flavor of anxiety is that I would love not to have attend any meetings ever whether I would be intruding or not. Also, just me :)

          2. Bubba*

            Just to clarify, by stating that I have anxiety I didn’t mean to imply that I am therefore in a position to judge of whether Patrica does or doesn’t have an anxiety disorder. I just mean that I sympathize with her if that is what she is going through but, she still needs to change her behavior.

  5. Lilo*

    If I was Patricia’s manager, I’d want to be looped in on most of this. I know there’s a bit of a “don’t tell” but her behavior is pretty disruptive.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Yeah, there’s an art to allowing people’s incompetence to become evident to their manager, without seeming like a tattletale. Unfortunately most managers aren’t going to act until they feel the pain of their employee’s issues. You can help ensure the consequences are being neutrally transmitted to this person’s boss (“I wasn’t able to do this for Patricia as it’s outside my role, so I wanted to make sure you’re looped in”). Part of it is just not jumping helping to save them, as Alison describes well, but the last part is ensuring the boss feels the impact somehow. There’s an expression I don’t generally care for, “give them enough rope to hang themselves with” that comes to mind (I’d like to find an alternative to that expression that has the same meaning).

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      If I were Patricia’s manager, I would really want to know that she is hanging out with people that she doesn’t need to work with. Covid isn’t gone, and flu season is approaching. Yes there are vaccines, but no vaccine is perfect. As few people as possible should be in face-to-face meetings in small conference rooms.
      I hate it, but this is my “new normal”.

      1. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

        This is kind of an odd takeaway from the rather long list of issues that Patricia’s behavior is causing for LW and others in their office. It’s not a non-issue, exactly, but it’s hardly the most pressing problem here.

      2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Hm I didn’t think of that but valid especially since she is bothering people by being in there.

    3. Anne Elliot*

      Yes. Although Alison’s advice is solid, as always, I disagree that the meetings thing is not worth bringing to her manager. That behavior is just weird, and IMO odd enough to be inappropriate. You are placing the onus on your coworkers to either accommodate you in meeting you have no business being in, or you are placing them in the position of having to refuse a request that should never have been made. “I like to work around other people” is a personal issue. As a manager I would want to know that so I can either assist my employee to find ways to accommodate that preference appropriately, or to assist her in coping with the org’s inability to accommodate it.

    4. morethantired*

      I would at least go to my manager with the issue to ask how I should handle it as it’s getting in the way of me doing my own work. Because I’ve worked at places where the message is better coming from another manager like “My employee came to me because your employee is distracting them with requests to join meetings and not being prepared at events.”

  6. Tinkerbell*

    Also worth nothing: seeing you push back and establish boundaries might help your co-workers to do the same thing – especially if you have newer co-workers who aren’t sure if they have the capital to resist or not (since it sounds like Patricia has been there a while and may have some seniority.)

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Oh interesting, I read “has been on my team five months” as “was hired five months ago” but you’re right she could have been at the company for awhile.

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

      Maybe, but if others are going along with it, be prepared to be labelled “mean” …or other things. Alison’s advice is spot on, but often the blow back is on the person setting normal boundaries.

      1. Antilles*

        Sure and that’s why using an explanations (“we’re trying to limit this to only the oatmeal team”) or an apologetic tone/bearing “sorry but…” is important – it helps to limit the blowback from others.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Yep, be polite if you have to push back. But also some things – not responding to things after hours, for instance – are passive boundaries, which are real but don’t require confrontation.

      2. Sloanicota*

        Very much a “know your audience” thing. If your team is so wishy-washy that they’d prefer to have interrupted and ineffective meetings for the rest of time vs ever risk hurting someone’s feelings, yes; I’ve seen this in some really woo-woo cultures for sure. But if your team values efficiency and their own time, they may appreciate having this disrupter politely disinvited, and may follow OP’s lead themselves. YMMV.

      3. hbc*

        I guess, but if you’ve got a group of people who’re all “let Patricia interrupt with things that have nothing to do with the meeting and keep us sitting here longer, that’s much better than keeping to the agenda,” you need to start selling tickets to that freak show. The worst comment I’ve personally heard about similar situations is “I wouldn’t be able to shut Patricia down like OP did,” but it was said in a wistful, admiring tone.

  7. RIP Pillow Fort*

    Honestly, I’d jump to informing her manager about her lack of social media plans and how she isn’t prepared for out of office events. Because that’s directly affecting you and your work the manager can’t address it if they don’t know it’s happening.

    That’s pretty egregious for a new hire to ask someone to do key parts of their job for them. How is Patricia producing anything that allows her to keep her job? I mean seriously.

    1. Khatul Madame*

      I agree. I would forward her request for the social media plan to Patricia’s manager and ask whether this was coordinated with them. I might even copy my manager, or have a word with them.

      1. Anonym*

        Yeah, definitely let your manager know that she’s trying to get you to do her job. You want them to have your back on this.

        Patricia seems to be very consistent about trying to get people to do everything for her, so it’s part of a larger and very odd pattern of behavior.

      2. Sloanicota*

        It’s an option. for sure. Maybe a bit aggressive for my tastes (you’re not going to be considered objective on the subject of Patricia after this), but perhaps you can approach it in a workplan way, like, “we don’t seem to have the capacity for this task, how shall we approach this?” The boss may very well immediately pick up what you’re laying down.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I don’t personally see it as aggressive. I think you can use the similar language to what Alison suggested for Patricia – “this isn’t typically under my purview, and I don’t have the capacity to take it on. If there was a discussion I missed about reassigning this, I’d like to connect because I have some concerns” sent to both bosses is an earnest CYA that doesn’t come off as aggressive or BEC about Patricia.

        2. RIP Pillow Fort*

          I disagree with it being aggressive.

          Patricia is asking another employee to do X task that is not in their purview. You can wordsmith exactly how you want to approach the boss about it- but you don’t have to treat it like it was a potentially legitimate task to be taken over.

          I would probably to with “Hey Boss, Patricia has been messaging me after hours about developing a social media plan. I’m looping you in because I know we don’t do that type of work and it’s part of a pattern of X behavior I’m seeing. I’m telling her X and even suggested Y to help but it isn’t getting resolved. I’m going to be speaking with her manager about it. Do you want to be involved or should I just proceed?”

    2. Dust Bunny*

      My manager would absolutely want to know if I were doing something like this. Not all managers ignore stuff until it hurts them.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I fee like a broken record sometimes telling people “I want to hear about concerns before they become problems”.

        1. Pugetkayak*

          I could say this until I am blue in the face and people still won’t. The amount of times I hear about something that there would really be no way of knowing about after so much time is very disheartening.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Yep. And when I ask people come back with “I didn’t want to bother you…” but now I’m both bothered and annoyed.

    3. Captain+dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      It seems fairly clear to me that it’s not just the lack of social media plans, it’s being clueless about most or all of her job.

      BTW, I think the “not wanting to be alone while I work” isn’t the real reason. I bet the motivation is more like she knows she’s failing and thinks there would be useful information in those meetings.

  8. Snarkus Aurelius*

    All Patricia wants is attention. A lot of attention. The more she gets, the more she wants.

    I had a former coworker who had a nasty habit of bringing questions only one person could answer to all staff meetings and ASKING THAT PERSON IN FRONT OF 50 PEOPLE on a weekly basis! You read that right. She did it at every weekly meeting, and our spineless boss never stopped her. It was the most annoying thing because the answer could take several minutes. She would always smile and use this “aw shucks” tone every time so you felt bad about getting annoyed with her.

    This woman had a PhD in a complex field. She absolutely knew she could ask these types of questions privately or over email. But she never, ever did. She did MANY things for attention on a regular basis. (I could go on!)

    AAM has great suggestions, and they worked for me. Anytime she did it to me, I’d say, “I’ll email you.” Anytime she did it to anyone else, I’d break out my laptop and start typing away, giving her zero attention.

    And that’s how you make the Patricias of the world go away: starve them of attention.

  9. Checkert*

    I am happy that my situation is not nearly as bad, but I can certainly sympathize with how maddening this is! I am in a team lead position (read: NOT supervisor) and my team member spends so much time complaining about the amount of work they have (and “helping”/telling others how to do their job) that they don’t get their own work done, while also accusing me of keeping all the ‘cool’ new work to myself and not giving them more. Hopefully OP can get some support on their coworkers performance because I know day after day it can really grind away, even if each day it’s just a small thing, it compiles and builds. Good luck to you, OP, and no better time to look into yoga/meditation/other centering processes to help manage the frustration :)

    1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      Got to love people who can’t get their work done complaining that they don’t have more interesting work to fail to get done.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        I worked with someone who complained they didn’t get to decorate the custom wedding cakes. Our boss said it’s because you can’t even decorate cupcakes for kids birthdays without a lot of handholding and angst. You need to prove your competence and skills before you get to work with the really important stuff. Yes, cupcakes are boring but doing a half-assed job isn’t how to advance to the next level.

        1. Sloanicota*

          It’s actually a kindness to point this out to employees sometimes! It’s one of those things that seems intuitive but for some folks … it just whizzes over their heads. Until I see X and Y improvement from you, you can’t progress to Z task you desire is clear, direct, and helpful.

        2. Galadriel's Garden*

          Ha, this! I started with project managing small, bite-sized little process improvements – I built a track record of being able to execute on them before anyone started giving me actually meaningful projects to oversee, and I’m just *now* getting those this year. It’s important to establish competence in the core skills of any job before being given more complex and difficult work!

      2. MurpMaureep*

        I used to manage a guy who always had some excuse for his (relatively simple) work not being done, yet found all the time in the world to sit in another malcontent’s cube and complain about how underappreciated and unfairly treated he was.

  10. Constance Lloyd*

    A bit of an aside, but I really appreciate that Alison always includes softening language and how/if to use it. I love that there’s a push for people (often women) to apologize less, but all the nuances of human nature and office culture mean that isn’t always the best option and it’s just nice to be reassured that softening the message is better than not delivering it at all. Especially with more junior roles that place a lot of weight in being a team player (ugh).

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Yes, softening language definitely has a time and a place. Some people over-use it, some people under-use it. I also appreciate when Alison includes options/guidelines/explanations for softening language.

      1. Constance Lloyd*

        Absolutely. I’m a big fan of a sorry followed by an otherwise direct and emotionless denial. No emotional hedging, no over-explaining. “Sorry, no, that won’t work.” It’s definitely helped me be more blunt in my responses.

        1. Av*

          oh, yea, that’s good! and i do use that

          i also tend to just add “sorry!” in general to requests if i know it’s going to be inconvenient. still make the request as normal, just to acknowledge that it’s something less than ideal for the person I’m talking to

          the one thing i refuse to apologize for– saying sorry all the time!

    2. LB*

      It’s also that, “sorry” doesn’t inherently mean you’re apologizing, and it’s really annoying when people pretend otherwise – the faction who wouldn’t say “Oh, I’m so sorry,” to a bereaved person because “Well I didn’t kill her!”

      Language doesn’t work that way and everyone knows that, so the “Don’t apologize” crew gets old real fast.

      The softening “sorry” can be short for anything you want it to be:
      “No, I can’t help, sorry [that you thought I could for some reason]”
      “Sorry [that it’s come to this], but can you hold that question for later?”
      “Sorry [that we’re having this conversation yet again but], I can’t help with that!”
      “Sorry [for you, since it must be stressful to be such a hurricane of a person], that’s not within the scope of my role.”

      1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        Sorry [for you, since it must be stressful to be such a hurricane of a person]
        I needed that laugh :D

      2. Av*

        i use it to mean “i acknowledge that what I’m saying isn’t what you want to hear, and im not doing it to be mean”

        1. KN*

          This is a nice framing! I’d never thought it that way, but I like the idea of “sorry” being used to introduce some space between the person delivering the message and the content of the message. Not in a sense of shifting responsibility, but just… making it clear you’re not personally happy about whatever negative consequence the person is experiencing, even if they brought it upon themselves.

        2. Ann O'Nemity*

          This is often how I use it as well. Like “sorry to be the bearer of bad news but….” Or, “I’m sorry I have to be the one to tell you this, but….”

        3. Constance Lloyd*

          Yes! I used this the most with a very needy former who could not make N independent decision and messaged me multiple times a week during work hours to ask work related questions… for months after I had changed jobs. But I wanted to be nice because she was kind of a friend, and undergoing a major medical issue that required an actual organ transplant to resolve. She deserved kindness, but I couldn’t be her resource anymore. I had left her with resource documents containing all of the procedures and FAQs she could possibly need, so it was easy to respond with a quick, “Sorry! Really busy today, but the answer should be in X document in Y folder. If you read that and have any questions Manager can’t answer shoot me a text and I’ll try to respond after I’m done with work!”

          Did I have to help? No, but like I said this woman was working 40 hours a week, plus occasional overtime, while waiting for an ORGAN TRANSPLANT. I wanted to be kind, while making sure I was no longer a useful resource for her. It worked! She learned to stop asking me for help with the job I no longer had, got her transplant, and we’re still friendly enough to swap dog pictures and birthday cards. Without Alison’s tips on how to effectively use softening language I would have absolutely kept answering her questions instead of shutting them down.

      3. Humble Schoolmarm*

        Thank you for this! I’m from a very famously “sorry” culture (I participated in a rare triple sorry after a near grocery cart collision just yesterday), but what commenters from outside rarely grasp is that our sorries are much more like the ones you’ve listed than an actual apology for a minor misdeed. Sorry (lol), but it’s an annoying misconception.

        1. allathian*

          Oof yes, I’m in a similar culture, and I’m definitely not accepting blame for something I haven’t done even if I say sorry it happened.

    3. Anonym*

      And her acknowledgement that a using a softer version may actually be easier for some people to pull off – I think this is really important. It’s nice and all for us to fantasize about OPs bluntly and firmly setting people straight, but the important thing is that it happens, period. If doing so more gently makes it more doable, then that’s the right path and will get the results.

      1. hbc*

        I think that’s crucial for people who think the world will cave in if they say, “No, I won’t do that and you’re wrong to even ask.” Giving a baby step to say, “Oh, I’m so sorry, but I can’t do that because of X, Y, and Z going on, I feel so bad about this” and then not getting fired or yelled at or whatnot is important for some people in the rewiring of their amygdala. It’s like a gateway drug.

    4. Sloanicota*

      Yes absolutely. Most of us are navigating work relationships where we’re going to have to see these people day after day. Yes, being very direct may achieve a short term goal, but since we’re forced into a long term relationship, maintaining daily harmony is a real thing! It’s not just that people need to get over it and go nuclear every time!

  11. Empress Matilda*

    For example: “I don’t normally put together social media plans — that’s always been done by the person in your position — and I wouldn’t have room on my plate to take it on.”

    I would skip the last part, because it suggests that you might be willing to take it on if you were less busy. You could just say “I don’t normally put together social media plans — that’s always been done by the person in your position” if you want – it’s really her problem to solve, so you don’t need to get involved any more than that. But if you feel like offering one more suggestion, it should be something like “If you need help with that, you should talk to [her boss].”

    1. Siege*

      I would actually skip the “normally”. While I overall agree that softening language is a good way to keep things collegial, in this case “normally” suggests “you could be an exception if you just make your case” in a way that including the “sorry” in the previous suggested script doesn’t. People like Patricia hear the exception, not the “I do sometimes do this in limited cases for my projects” or whatever OP is trying to suggest if they use that language. We’re not required to be honest about our workloads and job descriptions with people who will use that honesty as a wedge to get what they want.

    2. velomont*

      Could you instead say: “Putting together social media plans is not my job”?
      Also, OP’s manager would want to know if someone else is essentially assigning other work to his/her staff.

      1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        I wouldn’t say “it’s not my job” in those words because sometimes that specific language leads people to consider someone not a team player, not willing to help out in a pinch, etc. I think the variations of “that’s your job” are less likely to land that way.

    3. Faith the twilight slayer*

      Blessings upon all of you for your softening phrases, because I would just straight up ask “are you really asking me to do your job?”. There’s a reason I’m in finance, and am basically a one person department.

  12. Petty Betty*

    I would expect that if anyone were to give Patricia a softening excuse/boundary like “we’re going to have a full room/be very loud/extremely crunched for time/space” she will give an airy “oh, I don’t mind” reply. Be prepared for that. Be firm. Respond “but I do, and I am ensuring that those who actually need to attend are comfortable.” You can follow up with a “[please] find another workspace during this meeting” or “we cannot accommodate you in our meeting today”.
    Also, don’t be surprised if she still tries to come in anyway. She’s made herself a fixture at these meetings so now she expects it (and maybe some others do too?). Be firm. “I’m sorry, but this meeting is for us today. I’ll let you know if we need you, thanks” and guide/shepherd her out the door.

    Expect others to be curious. Be cordial and say that you’re limiting meetings to ensure minimal disruptions of schedules.

    1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      That is a good point about her coming to the meeting anyway. If she’s enough of a boundary breaker to ask to come to irrelevant meetings and suggest other people do her job for her, she’s probably enough of one to go to meetings she was explicitly not invited to. People like that often rely on the social rules that they themselves disregard to prevent people from responding.

      1. Dinwar*

        Reminds me of a quote from Yellowstone.

        “I don’t want trouble!”
        “Yes you do. What you don’t want, is resistance.”

  13. Colette*

    One of the really important things to realize in life is that people do things because they get what they want when they do them. That means that if you stop giving them what they want, the behavior will stop.

    If she texts you at 10 PM and you answer, you are rewarding the behaviour. If you ignore the text and calmly tell her the next day that you can’t help, you are discouraging it.

    1. EPLawyer*


      If you set firm boundaries, one of two things will happen. Either she will start doing her damn job or she will get fired for not doing her job. If she gets fired, this is NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. It is because of her own actions. Let me repeat — THIS IS NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. A lot of Alison’s advice comes down to you comes down to this. You are trying to make it your responsibility to “fix” her. Which is kinda commendable, we want to be kind and helpful to people. But this is NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY.

    2. Kind of like cheap ass rolls*

      Yessss! I’ve dealt recently with someone like this in a club. She loves to tell everyone she’s a “Type B” person & everything always works out. It works out because there are scores of people following behind her picking up the pieces and the slack. She forgets the microphone? Somebody will drive somewhere and get one? I knew this about her and when she asked if I could make the literature for a luncheon honoring a club member, I told her I needed all the information at least 2 days before the printing deadline. One day before, she sends incomplete information. Like, no information about the honored guest! And couldn’t get the info until 5 hours before the event. I told her my deadline had been very clear & I’m not going to go crazy staying up all night when she missed the deadline by a lot. SHE ended up staying up all night and the literature looked terrible. And I had to let that go. It was one of the first times she had any real fallout from her “Type B” life with her “cheap ass rolls pamphlet.”

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Good job letting it go and not scrambling. Sometimes that’s the hardest thing – we end up enabling because the consequences are difficult to just let happen.

        1. Kind of like cheap ass rolls*

          Thank you. It was hard to let it happen. Instead of a glossy tri-fold pamphlet we got stapled pieces of paper that looked like a kidnapper’s ransom note, and with ink that ran when it got wet. Very hard to let her have consequences that affected the guest of honor & attendees

          1. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

            I salute your fortitude!

            I think a lot of the success of this kind of incompetence comes from ensuring “innocent parties” will pay the price if someone doesn’t fix it. It’s a lot easier to step back when the consequences will fall only on the incompetent person.

  14. Alex Rider*

    About meetings, I would just tell her no. She’s disrupting the meeting and she isn’t supposed to be there. I may have a more strict perspective because I work with social security numbers, and confidentiality is paramount, but this would be the one thing I would shut her down hard on. She doesn’t need to be there.

    1. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

      This stuck out for me too, as I commented above. Taken by itself, I would just write it off as her being quirky. But with all her other behaviors, it’s suspicious. “I just like being with others” is not adequate justification for her to be sitting in on strategy for things she’s not involved with, ESPECIALLY if she’s disruptive. It’s wildly inappropriate.

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      Yeah, meetings are bad enough as it is if there are too many people. Having someone there who doesn’t need to be there that interrupts with off topic stuff would drive me nuts. Just say no.

  15. learnedthehardway*

    I think in addition to all the ways it has been suggested that you deal with Patricia herself, that it is time to loop in your manager and her manager about the issues. It’s beyond simply irritating – she’s affecting your ability to do your work, and to have work/life balance, she’s disruptive to meetings, she’s getting other people to do her work, and she’s being deliberately incompetent.

  16. Ann O'Nemity*

    Regarding talking to Patricia’s manager, I think the LW is at the point where they can address the pattern of behavior – including the little stuff! I’d even consider saying, “Normally I wouldn’t bring up the smaller concerns individually, but it falls into a pattern of behavior that is cumulatively affecting my/my team’s work and productivity.”

  17. Chairman of the Bored*

    “how should I deal with an anxious and needy coworker?”

    As little as possible.

    Patricia doesn’t work for LW, and her problems are only LWs problems to the degree that they cause an actual problem with LW’s work or create a serious safety/legal/moral issue.

    Address those actual problems as they come up, and otherwise just let Patricia do whatever she does and try not to worry about it.

  18. RJ*

    I’m not going to armchair diagnose Patricia’s behavior, but you do need to cut off the dependence she seems to be forming in the workplace before it escalates. Talk to her manager about these issues and hopefully your company has an assistance program she can reach out to in order to get some professional help, if necessary.

  19. Definitely Not Draco Malfoy in a Red Sweater*

    An additional note — might be worth it for LW to let her own manager know that her bandwidth has been overloaded with Patricia’s ask so she’ll be pushing back a little in order to focus on her own top priorities. That way if Patricia complains or teammates notice a shift, the manager is already prepared with context.

  20. MurpMaureep*

    How is Patricia aware of the meetings she’s asking to attend?

    Does she stalk calendars? Ask others what’s happening? Walk around the office looking for meetings in progress (!)?

    Perhaps a simple (if non-direct) solution is to remove her ability to see calendars and/or not give her information about others’ projects. If she’s actually just walking into meetings, then yes she needs to be told directly that she’s neither needed nor welcome.

    Honestly I’m boggling at someone wanting to be in more meetings!

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I think some people like meetings because they make it look like you’re working when you might be completely zoned out

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      Honestly I’m boggling at someone wanting to be in more meetings!

      Right? I’m often trying to ditch meetings – unless I am looking for context/information/buy in from stakeholders.

  21. Observer*

    OP, please don’t bring up the anxiety. In fact, I would suggest that you reframe your thinking here. This is not about her anxiety, so it doesn’t matter whether this is the root of her problem or not. The issue is that her behavior has become extremely problematic, and something needs to change.

    Feel free to decline any work that is not yours, refuse to allow her into your meetings, and not pick up her calls after hours.

    Loop in your boss in an FYI way for the times that she’s disruptive. You can mention things like her asking you to do her job to her boss, but then forget about it. As long as you don’t need to do her work, her lack of performance is not your issue. For any other behavior that winds up being disruptive, eg she sits in on your meetings and derail, let her supervisor know and specify what the problem is (eg she’s annoying is not actionable but “she’s derailing meetings” is.) and make sure your supervisor is aware of this.

  22. CommanderBanana*

    At a recent marketing off-site, she showed up with nothing packed and no plan for how to get any clothes for the excursion.

    I’m sorry, what?

    1. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      I had a Scout like that – his mother was like, well, he’s to pack himself. He had the clothes but nothing to eat on or with, which is such a basic part of what to bring.

      He did something similar, I heard, on a family camping trip. All things were packed and in one room. All kids were to bring their stuff to the car. “Oldest kid, is your stuff in the car?” “Yes.” And it was not. Still in the living room.

      That scout was odd in so many other ways as well.

      1. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

        It’s one thing to see this behavior in a child. It’s reasonable to expect kids to still be learning how to be more responsible by being allowed to suffer the consequences of their negligence. But Patricia is an adult. It’s alarming that she’s displaying this sort of low functioning while having a responsible adult job. It goes beyond her just being quirky and annoying – she’s fundamentally unfit for the type of employment that she’s being paid for. People like her gravitate to people like the LW, who feel a sense of obligation to fix things. LW needs to stop being that person and let Patricia hang herself on her own incompetence.

    2. Just Me*

      Yeah, I feel like this should get a lot more attention. That’s not just quirky, that’s basic adult responsibility and would make me question her ability to function in her job (and life, honestly).

    3. Dark Macadamia*

      yes!!! I need to know more, because the idea that this was an overnight/multi-day trip and she showed up with NO luggage is astounding… but if it was just a day trip you’d think people would show up prepared and not need extra stuff. Did she show up for a hiking trip in office wear? Did everyone else bring their scuba gear or whatever and she didn’t? Did she seriously show up for a lengthy conference or retreat as if it was a normal day at the office? I also want to know how this all turned out lol

    4. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      Yeah, I would like more details on this. Did she not bring a hardhat and other suitable PPE to a construction site tour? Did she not think to bring socks so she could wear the rented roller skates at the skating rink? Did she show up at the airport with nothing but a purse and a laptop for a multi-day conference trip? Some of these are more easily understandable and easy-to-fix than others. (Roller rinks often sell socks, for instance, since that’s a “happens fairly often” problem and socks are an easy thing to store and sell without too many sizes needed to cover the size range you have in rental skates. Conference hotels, on the other hand, probably don’t contain clothing stores designed for you to purchase multiple days of business clothing in case you forgot to pack anything, although they will likely be able to supply toothpaste or a comb if needed.)

  23. Jessica Fletcher*

    At my company, I wouldn’t tell Patricia’s manager myself, but I’d let my manager know, and they can address it with Patricia’s manager or with Patricia. I could see a manager wanting to know that Patricia keeps disrupting meetings she wasn’t invited to, and is asking other people to do her work.

  24. Uncontrolled Controller*

    Something that is not specifically mentioned in the post or in the comments is the hierarchy of the department (are Patricia and the OP peers and do they have the same manager or different managers).

    I know it depends on the culture of the organization, but if OP were one of my direct reports, and Patrica was their peer, I would prefer that they bring these types of items to my attention, and ask how they would like them to be handled, before either directly pushing back, or going to another manager.

    Who knows, OP’s manager may have already been asked that Patricia be allowed to sit in on meetings, or had agreed OP would have capacity to help with the social media campaign, but both did not know Patrica was messaging OP after hours, and it slipped their mind to actually let OP know.

    Discussing these items with your own manager I think would be the logical first step, as it potentially could provide context, intervention that your manager has more capital to implement, and agreement/backing on how you should approach this.

    If one of my direct reports was in this situation, Patricia was their peer, and I was just becoming aware of all of this, my instinct would first be to thank OP for bringing it to my attention and let them know I would find out more and get back to them, and then have a discussion with Patricia’s manager to find out what is going on. I would then use that context to work with all parties to figure out how to proceed once I have context. If my direct report when directly to a peer’s manager without looping me in, I would find that to be an overstep.

    1. Observer*

      but if OP were one of my direct reports, and Patrica was their peer, I would prefer that they bring these types of items to my attention, and ask how they would like them to be handled, before either directly pushing back, or going to another manager.


      Why should someone need the permission of their supervisor to push back on unreasonable requests from a peer? Unless you are dealing with children or people with a terrible track record, this is not reasonable.

      Who knows, OP’s manager may have already been asked that Patricia be allowed to sit in on meetings, or had agreed OP would have capacity to help with the social media campaign, but both did not know Patrica was messaging OP after hours, and it slipped their mind to actually let OP know.

      Agreeing to things that affect someone’s job and workload and NOT TELLING them is really bad management. I get that it sometimes happens – we’re all human and we all make mistakes. But it’s bad enough – especially when the requests have been going on for more that a couple of days – that it’s utterly unreasonable to expect people to act as though that is something that is a probable scenario. Unless the manager has a habit of not giving people the information they need to actually do their jobs.

      1. Uncontrolled Controller*

        It sounds like they have been pushing back, and have been getting no where. They have only let them in on a meeting once, and tried to suggest other solutions (like installing zoom), and are still encountering issues. My take is that the OP is looking for next steps as what they currently have been doing is not working, not permission to do anything.

        I am not against trying to work things out, and think that should definitely be the first step, I just think the next step if it is not working would be to loop in their own manager to see if they have more info or know how their manager would like it addressed. Alison (and everyone in the comments at the point I wrote this) included going to Patricia’s Manager as a next step, but did not ask if it had already been discussed with OP’s own manager, which I think would be a reasonable step to take before “tattling” to someone’s boss about a coflict.

        I agree it is bad managerment to not tell someone that something was agreed to that affects their job and workload, but sometimes the impacts of what can seem like small decisions aren’t apparant until they go live, and sometimes people are human and drop the ball.

        Here’s a hypothetical I could see happening in the real world. Patricia’s manager “Mallory” came to me and said “hey, Patricia on my team is really interested in the new Llamma Acceptance Marketing campaign” and thinks people might be talking about it on social media. Is it cool if she is included on the meetings just to listen in so she is aware of what is going on so she can respond appropriately” I would probably be fine with that.

        Should I mention it to OP, absolutely! But maybe I am hyper focused on some other big time sensitive project, I am remote and working in different locations, we don’t have our weekly for 6 more days, it didn’t seem like a big deal so slips my mind. OP never brings to my attention that Patricia is derailing those meetings, and I think nothing of it.

        In this hypothetical, I 100% think the first solution should be OP directly asking Patrica why she is there, trying to keep the meeting on track, etc. But if she continues to cause problems, I feel like the next logical step would be to loop me in on if I know why she is trying to be on these meetings, and not immediately going to Patricia’s boss.

        In some organizations that might be the right move, I just found it it odd that both Alison and the commentariate didn’t even mention/ask if the OP’s manager was aware that there was a problem, and had a chance to weigh in or provide more context/ideas if available.

        I consider myself a super hands off manager, who 100% has my employee’s backs and try to make sure they have the support they need to do their jobs. I have a weekly one on one with each of my direct reports blocked on the calendar for discussions on my in depth topics, which are often canceled due to all items in the last week being resolved via email or other meetings. However, if one of my direct reports went directly to another manager after having issues with a coworker like in the example above, and then that other manager comes to me and says “hey, sounds like Patricia and OP are having an issue regarding the Llama Acceptance meetings, what’s up”, I would prefer to be apprised of the situation, and wonder why they didn’t bring it up to me in a one on one if they were having issues.

        Again, we don’t have full context on the OP’s organizational structure or if anything like the above was going on, but I was mainly commenting on why discussing with OP’s manager isn’t one of the reasonable possible steps to take to address the issue.

    2. Dinwar*

      “…I would prefer that they bring these types of items to my attention, and ask how they would like them to be handled, before either directly pushing back, or going to another manager.”

      Definitely a cultural thing. Where I work it’s expected that you try to resolve a problem before bringing it up to any authority, and the accepted format is “I have a problem, here are three options for how to fix it, which would you prefer?” Going to a manager without at least trying to address the issue would be seen as incredibly petty.

      As for the meetings, the manager shouldn’t be the one giving permission to sit in on the meetings. The one running the meeting should. Half the reason I get stuff delegated to me is so that my manager doesn’t have to deal with this crap. Managers can certainly ask that someone be allowed to sit in on meetings–I’ve done it often enough, when the meeting would help the worker understand the context of what they were doing and the like–but the priority is always to accomplish the purpose of the meeting. And besides, Patricia is being disruptive. And even if you have permission to sit in on a meeting, you DON’T have permission to disrupt it. (If the meeting doesn’t have a purpose, you shouldn’t be having it in the first place!)

  25. PotsPansTeapots*

    This sounds like my partner’s problem co-worker. She (co-worker) seems to run on a schedule that’s not the business’. For small things like moving furniture, she’s incredibly fastidious, but is underprepared for her key job duties, like sales.

    Co-worker is in her late 30s and has never worked in a job that she didn’t get as a nepotism hire. I kinda wonder if something similar in Patricia’s situation.

  26. Marketing Unicorn Ninja*

    Can I just ask who actually *wants* to go to more meetings? I don’t even want to go to all the meetings I have to go to, let alone join other meetings!

    1. Wisteria*

      It’s not that I want to go to more meetings. It’s that sometimes there are meetings where I know there will be things discussed that I want to hear even though I am not a decision maker, and I have no other avenue to learn these things.

      1. Marvel*


        (I am the person who wants to attend all the meetings. Because I am very nosy and want to know everything that is happening at all times.)

    2. Jack+Bruce*

      I only want to when I start a job, and it’s more being eager to learn and do my new job. But after a couple months, I am always happy for fewer meetings.

    3. allathian*

      Someone who doesn’t want to do their own work but needs an excuse that makes them look at least somewhat productive while they’re avoiding actually working might.

    4. The Other Dawn*

      When I was just starting out in an office job, I thought having to attend meetings meant I was important (I was not). But I learned over the years that meetings can be pretty damn boring, even though usually necessary (though sometimes not…). Nowadays I don’t necessarily want to go to meetings, but I do want to go to meetings that may discuss things that could potentially impact my department, even though I’m not involved in the project or whatever it is the meeting is about. And also when starting a new job so I can meet people and learn more about my job and the company.

  27. Dumpster Fire*

    I’d love to see Patricia’s resume, to see if she claimed expertise in the skills she needs so much help with! It could be that she’s spent her life getting other people to do her work, never developing her own skills; but then claiming others’ achievements as her own….and now that she has acquired a job based on those achievements she can’t live up to her claims.

  28. MissM*

    The fact that she’s showing up at work at 2pm out of the blue says something is not going right for her. I don’t know what your relationship is with her manager, but this is starting to sound like Patricia could benefit from a very very gentle reminder of the EAP benefit. I hope good things for her but you can’t drown yourself either

  29. LegalBeagle*

    I would err on the side of bringing this to her managers attention. Call me cynical, but this reads to me as someone not fulfilling the demands of their role and looking for ways to seem busy or invaluable to cover for the fact they’re not meeting expectations. Especially as she asked you to do some of her work for her.

    In the meantime, Allison’s suggestions about boundaries (as always) are fantastic.

  30. Wes*

    An employee is showing up at 2pm, spending a lot of their time in meetings that have nothing to do with them, and not fulfilling the requirements of their job. If this isn’t being addressed, Patricia’s manager must be even more of a trainwreck than she is.

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