my employee blows up my phone with memes and videos — even in the middle of the night — and refuses to stop

A reader writes:

I own a small business (10 staff). One of our employees, Lisa, does wonderful work and has a bright future ahead. Her responsibilities and pay reflect her outstanding performance.

Unfortunately, she is very socially and emotionally needy and time-consuming outside of work. I don’t mind the occasional meme or video, but she sends them literally every day multiple times a day, even in the middle of the night. I’ve stopped checking my phone altogether because most of my notifications each day were from her, literally more than all my friends and family and other colleagues combined.

One morning I had like seven DMs from Lisa via various accounts, I just set my phone in the other room while I got dressed and, naturally, there was a rare emergency at work. Two other employees called quite a few times before I noticed and I felt terrible I kept them waiting.

It is important to me that everyone knows they can count on me to respond in a timely manner, that’s my job. It’s not my job to have to watch 35 “humorous” TikTok videos per day. I don’t even have that app and I don’t like noise on my phone and I don’t like constant interruptions and I feel so frustrated I keep directly telling Lisa over and over and over to please respect my space and time and boundaries and she never does! She never even tries to see my side, she always just pushes her own selfish preferences and I feel disrespected and annoyed and frustrated.

I value her as an employee and the last thing I want is to snap at her and upset her, or to do anything to make her want to quit. I can see she has no idea what a burden she is, but I’ve literally been awake nights trying to figure out how to get her to back off and it is really affecting my ability to do my job. How do I make it stop without losing my valued employee?

Before we get into the rest of this: Great employees with bright futures don’t make you lie awake at night because their behavior is so over-the-top that it’s impeding your ability to do your own job. By definition, that’s not a great employee. We’ll come back to that in a minute.

As for what to say, make it about work: “Lisa, I am getting so many messages from you that I’m missing crucial work messages that I need to see. Starting today, I need you to only message me if it’s work-related — no memes, no videos, nothing at all that isn’t about work — no exceptions.”

She doesn’t need to “see your side,” as you put it — she just needs to hear a clear instruction from her manager and follow it.

(Also, does she ever need to text you about work? If not, you should seriously consider just blocking her on everything but email. You’re not required to keep every possible line of communication open if she’s abusing them, as long as she has another way to contact you about work things.)

However, it sounds like you’ve told her in the past to stop and she’s argued with you about it and refused to stop! That’s not normal behavior.

Any chance you haven’t been entirely direct with her — perhaps sugarcoated or softened the message? You’re very concerned about not wanting to upset her (despite how much she is upsetting you), which always signals a strong possibility that you haven’t been clear enough because you’re worried about hurting her feelings. Have you explicitly said the words, “You cannot keep messaging me and I need you to stop, no exceptions”? Or has it been more like, “I’m really busy and can’t always respond to this many messages”? If it’s closer to the latter, that’s actually good news — because it means that there’s still a chance you can fix this just by being clearer, firmer, and more direct. (It’s bad news in a different regard — because it would mean that you’re letting an employee run roughshod over your boundaries rather than delivering a message that doesn’t feel nice, and valuing the comfort of a severe boundary violator above your own — but that’s a separate issue!)

But if you’ve truly been very direct with her, with no sugarcoating or softening the message, and she’s refused to comply, then you really need to reconsider your assessment of Lisa as someone who does wonderful work and has a bright future with your company, because that behavior would be so disruptive and obnoxious/recalcitrant/outrageous (and frankly just off-the-charts weird) that there’s no way those traits aren’t coming out in other ways at work. “I refuse to stop blowing up your phone with memes at all hours even when you’ve clearly and directly ordered me to stop” — if indeed that’s the situation — is so bizarre that you’re going to find other problems if you dig deeper.

Speaking of which … have you checked on whether she’s doing this to other employees? If she is, and if she argues about stopping that too … and if she continues to be unmanageable even after clear and firm instructions … I’d be really skeptical that the advantages to keeping her outweigh how disruptive she is.

Read an update to this letter

{ 326 comments… read them below }

  1. Sylvan*

    I don’t even have that app and I don’t like noise on my phone and I don’t like constant interruptions and I feel so frustrated I keep directly telling Lisa over and over and over to please respect my space and time and boundaries and she never does!

    Are you telling her directly to stop sending you TikToks?

    1. danmei kid*

      “Lisa, stop sending me TikToks. Do not send me any more. Period.” It’s not that hard to say!

      Not “I need you to” or “please” … clear, concise, and to the point.

      1. Allonge*

        “I need you to” or “please” are clear and concise and to the point!

        Lisa just does not want to stop, and I suspect will not stop until fired (and blocked).

        1. to varying degrees*

          I think it’s not so much the “please” and “I need you to” as it is the “respect my time and space”. Lisa may legitimately understand that means stop sending me social media messages.

          Stop messaging/tagging/sharing (with) me any and all things on social media.
          Stop emailing me non-work related messages.
          Stop texting me non-work related messages.

          A little harsh but it sounds like Lisa may need this explicitly stated to her.

          1. Allonge*

            It’s not at all harsh!

            And I would definitely try it before firing her summarily. But, like, once only, and telling her already that breaking these intructions is a firing offence.

          2. Curmudgeon in California*

            This. It needs to be explicit, firm, and in writing:


            I need you to respect my time and attention.

            This means:
            1. Do not ever send me anything from social media, period. This includes memes, TikToks, videos, etc.
            2. Do not message me unless it is literally work related.
            3. Do not email me unless it is work related.
            4. Do not message me outside of work hours unless it is a work related emergency.

            Further abuse of my phone with non-work-related messages, videos, pictures, TikToks or memes will result in you being put on a PIP and possibly fired.

            — Manager

            1. Observer**

              Unfortunately, I think that this is on target.

              OP, if you are right about her capability, you will be doing her a favor. Because what she is doing now is utterly untenable, and WILL hold her back. Being nice about it is apparently not getting through to her.

              For someone like that, the only chance of change is being hit by some sort of 2×4 – in this case, the warning and then loss of her job is the only thing that’s likely to work.

              I wonder what she’s like in her personal relationships?

            2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

              “Further abuse of my phone with non-work-related messages, videos, pictures, TikToks or memes will result in you being put on a PIP and possibly fired.”

              This! Be sure to include something like this o.p. Tell her directly to cut it out, and make it clear that there will be CONSEQUENCES if she does.

              Refusing to honor your requests is insubordination, plain and simple. In many workplaces, that would be a firing offense.

              1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

                “Tell her directly to cut it out, and make it clear that there will be CONSEQUENCES if she does NOT” is what I meant to say.

                She’s made it clear that she does not care about what YOU want or how YOU feel. I doubt that will change. You have to give her a reason to stop that she WILL care about.

        2. ecnaseener*

          Agreed, there’s nothing wrong with “I need you to” (particularly from someone with authority to make their needs take precedent) or “please” (from anyone).

          1. CarlEatsShoes*

            There’s nothing wrong with them, but they are not as direct.
            “I need you to stop” is different than “stop.” The former implies a negotiation and balancing of needs, while the later is a clear and direct instruction.
            Same with “please stop” versus “stop.” The former is a request.
            Yes, most people would understand the softer versions, especially from their boss. But this employee is apparently not most people.

            1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

              After multiple discussions, removing the “please” and “I need you” sends the right message. So would adding “or else”, as in “stop sending non-work messages to me or else I’ll suspend or terminate your employment”. You don’t lead with that, but OP is months beyond being overly nice.

              1. SheLooksFamiliar*

                ‘Please’ and ‘thank you’ isn’t called for in this case. The OP has asked Lisa to stop, and she hasn’t. It’s time for a frank talk:

                ‘Lisa, I’ve asked you to stop sending me memes and jokes several times, and you haven’t. This has gone beyond being a nuisance, your constant sharing is affecting my ability to respond to work-related messages.

                ‘I am not asking you, I am telling you as your manager: Stop sending me social media grabs, memes, jokey messages, or anything that is not work-related. If you need to contact me about a work-related situation, contact me via (whatever method makes sense). If you ignore my instructions as you have done, I will need to rethink your place on my team.’

                1. Happily Retired*

                  “…If you ignore my instructions as you have done, I will need to rethink your place on my team.’”

                  Can I issue a general plea to stop using the phrase “I will need to rethink your place on my team”? I don’t mean any offense, SheLooksFamiliar; Alison does it as well, along with other commentators.

                  When an employee is as willfully oblivious* as Lisa, a euphemism like “I will need to rethink” etc. won’t register.

                  I think it would be much better to say, “If you (continue to) ignore my (repeated) instructions as you have done, you will be fired.”

                  * willfully oblivious might not be precise enough. Unless LW has truly sugar-coated her directions to the point of incomprehensibility, Lisa is insubordinate. And the advice above to see if she does it to co-workers is a good one.

                2. CarlEatsShoes*

                  After my three year old recently started saying “then we can reassess,” I realized I need to stop saying this (and ‘may need to rethink,” etc,) and be more direct!!

                  There is no room for nuance with dense subordinates (or three year olds!)

                3. Happy*

                  I’m not sure that OP has asked Lisa to stop. OP says that they told “Lisa over and over and over to please respect my space and time and boundaries” but Lisa may think that she’s doing that and only sending really cool stuff that OP would want to see. OP’s descriptions and concern with upsetting Lisa make me think it’s likely that OP has been insufficiently direct so far.

            2. ferrina*

              This. It’s generally best to start with the I statements and pleases, but if someone isn’t getting it, go to direct commands. Sometimes it’s that people understand these better; often it’s that very few people use I statements and aren’t sugar coating (I’ve had a boss that has done it, but more often a boss starts with an I statement and proceeds to sugarcoating).

            3. Allonge*

              My point is: if someone does not get “please stop sending me TikToks”, they need to be fired, yesterday – there is no need to accommodate someone who thinks that anything containing please is not real.

              This is not soft communication, it does not make the message incomprehensible to anyone who speaks even limited English.

              1. Worldwalker*

                Exactly. “Please” and “thank you” are social lubricants, so you can turn the social gears without hitting them with a hammer. If you find yourself needing to use a hammer to make it work, there’s a major problem with the gears. Or the employee.

              2. ecnaseener*

                Agreed, if “please” makes her think things are optional, you can’t have her doing even basic work communication.

        3. Lynn Marie.*

          “I need you to” or “please” are clear and concise and to the point!”
          For a normal person they might be. For someone like Lisa, they are garbage words that obscure the point. If you speak calmly and clearly, it is not rude to direct.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Yeah, it’s obvious that Lisa is oblivious.

            She need to be told, not asked, to stop this activity immediately, and told what the consequences will be if she does not stop.

    2. Antilles*

      Given how OP mentions a lot about avoiding upsetting Lisa and “seeing my side” and etc, I’m guessing the answer is no, it hasn’t been stated that directly.
      OP might have said things like “respect my space and time and boundaries” and to OP’s mind that *seems* like a pretty direct statement, but it’s vague enough that Lisa has missed or misinterpreted the message.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I agree it is vague. If OP hasn’t defined the boundaries by saying do not message me non work related stuff at night, Lisa might just think that means “Don’t expect an answer at night.”

    3. Anne Elliot*

      The direction instruction is Step 1. Step 2 is immediate reinforcement or consequences when the instruction is not followed. As soon as the TikTok is sent, text back: “You’ve sent me another TikTok / meme unrelated to work. Let’s discuss first thing in the morning.” Next morning, in person, in your office: “I’ve been as clear as I know how to be that you are not to text me or email me anything that is not directly related to work. Can you explain why you sent me a TikTok last night?”

      I say this because in addition to suspecting that that OP may not have been as clear and direct as they think, I also suspect OP perhaps is letting the trespasses pass, or is not promptly addressing them, by just receiving the TikTok/meme and being aggravated about it but not making the discomfort immediately rebound onto the sender. That’s why I suggest immediate follow-up that clearly says, “I am dead serious about this.”

      If it helps with the framing, consider that by not wanting to make her uncomfortable in the short term, you are enabling behavior that is going to make her uncomfortable in the long term, by negatively impacting her relationship with her boss (and possibly her coworkers) up to perhaps even endangering her employment. Please consider that you are actually doing her a kindness to address this now.

      1. ferrina*

        Yes! This is a great approach. It sends a very clear and consistent message. Don’t just say it once, then not follow up when she doesn’t listen. Keep following up, escalating as appropriate (because consistently ignoring the owner is a serious issue, and should be escalated the longer it goes on).

        1. Worldwalker*

          It’s like teaching a kitten not to jump on the counter. If you have to drag yourself across the room with two broken legs to get the kitten off the counter, you’d better do it or all the kitten will learn is “‘get down!’ sometimes means I have to get down, but not other times; let’s see which kind of time this is!”

          And while the broken leg scenario doesn’t happen, getting out of your comfy chair does, all the time. Along with stopping yakking on the phone long enough to enforce “no” with your children, etc. This is true of everything from puppy training to law enforcement and international politics: if you don’t enforce an order, you’re just teaching the other party that your orders don’t mean anything.

      2. CarlEatsShoes*

        This is a good point. OP can’t just let it slip when employee ignores. I agree that may help to correct/confront immediately.

        Without knowing more about job, industry, prior statements to employee, I guess it is conceivably possible there is a reason employee is misunderstanding instruction. (Eg , employee is in charge of cat marketing for cat rescue, and these videos are about cats). Probably not what’s going on here, but immediately correcting/confronting will remove any room for miscommunication here.

      3. allathian*

        Yes, this is once again a great example of the difference between nice and kind. The OP’s been nice and accommodating to Lisa by allowing this behavior to continue, but in the long term, doing so isn’t particularly kind. Lisa needs to learn now that her behavior’s inappropriate for this workplace, and most others.

        I guess she might thrive in a “but faaamily” workplace that most of us would consider toxic because everyone’s so enmeshed in each other’s lives.

      4. Anon for This*

        The OP would also be doing a kindness to themselves. Why should they be sacrificing their own peace of mind because Lisa is supposedly such a good employee? How does “driving me crazy” equate to “good employee”?

        To the OP: If this keeps up, I suggest you fire Lisa and hire Julie. Julie may not be Lisa, but she probably won’t be leaving you aggravated in the middle of the night, either.

  2. Harper the Other One*

    OP, if you really think Lisa has a bright future, think of this as part of your role mentoring her! She needs to know both how to respect others’ boundaries and to have an example of how to set her own. She also needs to know that, especially as she climbs the ladder towards management responsibilities, she has to establish some professional distance and can no longer rely on colleagues as her social contact. It may feel easier to have this conversation if you think of it as helping her achieve her potential rather than slapping her down (even though she definitely needs a wrist slap by this point because her contacts are excessive.)

    1. learnedthehardway*

      It would be helpful to Lisa to flat out tell her that her inability to respect her manager’s personal time and boundaries is going to be detrimental to her career. She needs to know this is not appropriate behaviour.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        I’d be more specific than that. Especially if this is in an at-will state or there is otherwise no contractual reason that would prohibit this, I would explicitly state that this behavior will lead to her being fired if it continues.

        1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

          Right, but letting her know that this behavior would harm her at any future jobs would helpful too. If Lisa is fired she might think OP was just being no fun. She needs to know this behavior wouldn’t be ok at any job.

          1. JustaTech*

            Yes to this. I had a coworker (peer), Betty, who loves to text. She’s very social, so early pandemic was very hard on her, so she was forever texting me while I was cooking, then getting upset when I didn’t respond instantly. “I’m not mad at you, Betty, I was elbow deep in a turkey and I couldn’t respond instantly.”

            I finally put my foot down, turned off read receipts and stopped responding. It soured our working relationship and even since she’s left she doesn’t understand why I’m not all chatty and chummy with her.

            Lisa needs to know this is the kind of reputation that will follow her and could impact future jobs.

        2. Worldwalker*

          And that a lot of managers would have fired her already, long before it got to this point. Probably after the first set of messages.

          1. JustSomeone*

            The idea that she would be fired after the first message is an unduly harsh over-correction. It would take a pretty monstrous boss to go “you texted me a meme yesterday, you’re fired.” Before it reaches the point where they are spending sleepless nights worrying about it, absolutely. But not “after the first set of messages.”

    2. EPLawyer*

      This is so helpful and such a great approach.

      Yes OWNER, my goodness, its your business, you get to set boundaries that the employees need to respect, needs to have a direct conversation. But it can also encompass a larger one about professionalism in general.

      Also yes, Lisa needs to get friends outside of work. I also agree with Alison, if you are using words like selfish about her, is she really all that great an employee? being a good employee is about more than just doing good work. Not that everyone has to be willing to break out into song and dance besides doing good work, but they do need to get along with coworkers which INCLUDES RESPECTING BOUNDARIES.

    3. Rain's Small Hands*

      Absolutely. Another manager wouldn’t have seen the good and would have fired her. Its time to set professional boundaries and enforce professional norms – not only for you, but for HER. I can’t imagine sending my boss tik tok videos – I’m not even Facebook friends with my current coworkers (linked in, not facebook), I add people I like to social media when I leave a job. Communication needs to be at least 95% professional, and in off hours, 100% of it needs to be work related and an evaluation of urgency needs to be made – unless you’ve agreed to being friends, which you shouldn’t do with subordinates. (And if my friends were blowing up my phone with middle of the night tik toks, they wouldn’t be my friends.)

      1. Worldwalker*

        This. Not only wouldn’t I do that to my boss, I wouldn’t do that to my friends. If I did, it’s likely I wouldn’t have either.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          I have one long time (40+ years!) friend who texts me occasionally in the middle of the night. He does not expect an immediate reply, though, and so I am okay with it. He also has cancer, which means I can’t go see him because he’s immune compromised. So he gets a pass.

          If a coworker did this I would block their number.

      2. Not your typical admin*

        I have one “middle of the night” friend. We both know we have our phones where they won’t bother us at night, and don’t expect the other person to respond until they’re available.

  3. Alex Rider*

    I would mute her text messages and leave her muted. I agree with Alison about asking other people if she’s doing this to them too. It’s incredibly frustrating that she’s not listened to you.

    1. Pink Candyfloss*

      As a manager you then risk missing actual work related emergencies, unless you have an alternate way for an employee to contact you quickly and directly. I don’t know how muting is a viable option for LW. The more obvious option: disciplinary action and even letting Lisa go, LW really needs to evaluate, if LW has indeed been as clear as they claim they have been and not been too soft on the messaging.

      1. EcoBee*

        You can mute individual people without muting everyone else. If Lisa has an emergency, she’d still be able to call. It doesn’t address the behavior, but it would minimize the stress on LW.

        1. Pink Candyfloss*

          Honestly, it will only shift the stress to somewhere else. Lisa being allowed to ride roughshod over what may or may not be clear boundaries is the problem here and until LW addresses either their own failures to be clear, or Lisa’s failure to respect that clarity, new problems will appear and things will continue to get out of hand in other ways. Muting Lisa is the equivalent of turning up the car radio to mask that terrible rattling noise your car’s engine is making.

          1. Lily*

            “Muting Lisa is the equivalent of turning up the car radio to mask that terrible rattling noise your car’s engine is making.”

            Excellent point.

          2. Skytext*

            Or putting a sticker over your car’s “check engine light” ala Penny in “Big Bang Theory” so people quit bugging you about it.

      2. Alex Rider*

        You can mute just the text messages for certain hours, for example, my phone goes to do not disturb on weeknights from 10pm to 6 am

        1. danmei kid*

          This doesn’t change the fact that OP will wake up at am to find a deluge of messages to wade through. Not getting the messages at all is the ideal.

          1. ABCYaBYE*

            Agree with this completely. OP doesn’t need to sift through dozens of unwanted messages just to see if Lisa texted that she was up all night vomiting and won’t be in to work.

          2. MigraineMonth*

            True, this absolutely can’t be swept under the rug, but at least muting will allow her to get some uninterrupted sleep in the meantime.

        2. Antilles*

          That’s not actually solving the issue though.
          As I read it, OP preferred outcome isn’t “keep the memes coming, let’s just make sure it’s not pinging at midnight”, OP is trying to get the memes cut way way back or stopped entirely.

      3. Hlao-roo*

        I think the OP muting just Lisa’s phone number (for texts) and on any social media platforms is a good way to get a reprieve while handling the situation per Alison’s advice.

      4. Dark Macadamia*

        It sounds like right now LW is letting Lisa hound them until they’re so frustrated they silence the phone entirely. Muting Lisa isn’t better than stopping Lisa, but it IS better than muting everyone!

        1. Hannah Lee*

          Muting may not even help that much, as OP says they are getting messages from Lisa from a variety of different sources. It may come through as notifications from the apps themselves as opposed to from Lisa’s number. (it’s like me trying to mute CVS updates that I didn’t ask for … I could mute the number of the local CVS I use, but the messages come from a variety of sources within CVS, usually from some 5 or 6 digit code that is rarely the same as the last message they sent)

          There’s the option to remove Lisa from contacts and then mute, or have a separate folder for “unknown senders” which will catch everything from her as well as things from the apps she uses. OP may have to check that folder for things like 2FAs prompts or other stuff occasionally, but at least that would take Lisa and her nonsense out of OP’s main message feed.

          But also, like today, OP needs to make clear that Lisa cannot keep doing this, make the stakes clear, and immediately take action if Lisa does not follow instructions. Maybe one meeting to clearly spell it out, including consequences up to and including immediate termination of employment for cause if Lisa chooses prioritize spamming a meme over keeping her job.

    2. SE*

      This is what I do with friends and family that I love but who are just a lot sometimes. It makes it easier to focus on work or whatever I’m doing without my phone buzzing 24×7

      But that’s just mitigates the impact it doesn’t solve the problem. It works for someone you DO want to have text exchanges with, but want to leave them for when you’re ready to engage and have the time. For someone who needs to just stop altogether you have a different issue. I would tell her directly that she needs to stop and that she is only to contact you electronically for work purposes, socializing can be left to in person while you’re grabbing a coffee in the kitchen at the same time or whatever

  4. ZSD*

    Oh, dear. OP, you do need to shut this down, firmly and clearly.
    Lisa reminds me of the employee mentioned in a letter a few years back who referred to her boss as “Mom.” I feel like she doesn’t understand work relationships and that behavior that is acceptable or even welcome in family or friend relationships might not be right for work.
    (It would also drive me crazy if a family member or friend sent me 25 Tiktok videos a day, but that’s a different blog!)

    1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      OP, have you ever disciplined, suspended, or terminated an employee before? Effective owner/managers know when to transition from asking to ordering to disciplining. You are beyond that point. If you are not capable of doing this, please find a coach or mentor who can help you develop these skills. It will benefit you, Lisa, and all of your employees.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Yeah, I don’t know if it’s reasonable to set up with a PIP for “stop harassing your boss with unwanted text messages”, but something like a suspension and a clear message that firing is the next step might get through to her that it’s serious.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          Actually, inappropriate use of available communication methods could fall under a PIP.

          The measurement would be clear and it would be pass/fail.
          – Lisa sends ZERO non-work communications during the PIP period = PASS, and LW would need to establish a go-forward plan for if it starts up again
          – Lisa sends 1 more non-work communications during the PIP period = FAIL, with consequences up to and including immediate termination. She won’t get an opportunity to send 2, because she’d be one and done.

          Lisa’s behavior is a form of insubordination, told to stop doing something, Lisa continues to do it. It may also be violating company policies that are not job performance related depending on what Lisa is sending. Repeatedly spamming any co-worker with non-work communication on their work or personal devices would be something that would a no-go even if they were peers.

          Either way, a PIP spells out the inappropriate behavior, defines what is needed to continue employment and makes clear this is a serious job threatening issue.

          Though personally, as a manager, at this point I’d skip a PIP and just have one serious meeting making clear that Lisa is to stop, no rules lawyering allowed. And then if she does it again, she’s out.

        2. Observer**

          Yeah, I don’t know if it’s reasonable to set up with a PIP for “stop harassing your boss with unwanted text messages”,

          Why not? For one thing, the behavior is simply bad. Any time you can reasonably use the term “harassing” without being insanely hyperbolic, you know that you have a genuine problem. If that behavior won’t stop, yes, PIPs are reasonable.

          Secondly, when your boss tells you something explicit and you refuse to do it, yes, that’s PIP territory, too.

          And if it turns out that she’s being obnoxious this way to others, that’s a major issue where a PIP is not only reasonable, it’s ABSOLUTELY necessary.

      2. JayNay*

        yes, it’s odd that OP feels so unsure about a) giving clear directions to an employee, and b) making sure the employee follows those directions.
        If this employee was doing a task wrong, OP would correct her too, i assume? here, the task she’s doing wrong is “how to have professional communications with my boss”. OP should try to remove some of the emotional aspect and focus on the work aspect.
        please stop trying to “make her see your side”. She doesn’t need to. You’re the owner. You’re the boss. No need to “get on the same page”, you can literally tell her what page you need her to be on. (I’m not advocating for meanness here, but rather for being straightforward.)

  5. Pink Candyfloss*

    LW, if you have been direct and clear and she is not respecting those boundaries, then she is, as Allison says, NOT a great employee with a bright future. I would love to know how you are measuring her performance (are you in a job where being aggressive and stepping over boundaries is a measure of success? Sales, perhaps?) and what qualities you are defining as great.

    1. Pants*

      I wonder this too. From the letter, I seriously question Lisa’s judgement and maturity. I’d be leery of giving her a front-facing role with clients, lest she do the same to them. Also, “see her side” after her boss has said to stop? At that point, there’s no “her side.”

      This is also a good reminder to not share your social media with ANY of your coworkers. I actively blocked coworkers on socials when I still had them. I didn’t want to come across on their feeds due to some stupid algorithm and open up my non-work life to them. (I keep work and not-work completely separate.)

      1. afiendishthingy*

        Yes! I always proactively block current coworkers on socials, unless we become very close outside of work.

      2. Loch Lomond*

        The “see her side” thing stood out to me too. You didn’t ask her to agree with you, you asked her to stop. What she thinks is reasonable is irrelevant.

  6. Sara without an H*

    OP, is Lisa really that outstanding? Or does she just look that way compared to your other staff? Take some time and think about this. It’s easy to fall into the habit of thinking of a job in terms of what the incumbent is like, rather than what the job actually requires.

    Please take some time and think about what good performance actually looks like in Lisa’s position, independent of her presence. In other words, if she won the lottery and left, what kind of person would you want to hire? Your answer shouldn’t be, “Someone just like Lisa, but without the social media incontinence.”

    I agree with Allison that you’ve probably been softening your language to the point that Lisa isn’t getting the message. You need to be very, very explicit with her about your expectations. Her “feelings” are not your problem here.

    And you need to be prepared to let her go. Maybe a frank conversation will solve the problem. But if not, there is someone out there who would do a great job in the position and who doesn’t have obnoxious social media habits. Be prepared to let Lisa go and hire that person.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      My suspicion is that the LW is evaluating Lisa purely on her work product. Like if her project proposals and the documentation for it is excellent (or whatever the equivalent is in her job). But, as Alison often points out, producing good work product is not the only thing that determines whether someone is a good employee. You’ve also got to consider whether that person can be a basic amount of nice to others and gets along with them – which is the big problem/question here – and other stuff.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Which brings up the issue Alison and commenters touched on…she does good work. Does she overwhelm/bombard her coworkers with this stuff? Is she sending this stuff to coworkers all day? Phones and email and IM?

        OP needs to check in with the rest of the staff and see if they are stuck because the boss doesn’t say no, so it must just be the culture. “Boss thinks she’s a rock star.”

        Also, your staff…you are saying that she blows up your phone. Your personal phone? Does all your staff use their own phones? I’d be annoyed as hell if a coworker highjacked my private number given for work purposes, and then not stop if I asked her to.

        1. Sara without an H*

          You raise a good point. Maybe it’s time to look into getting work phones for the staff — along with a very explicit policy on appropriate usage.

          1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            I think it’s a good thing just under the umbrella of “the cost of doing business.” OP should absorb the expense of phone usage if being in contact outside the office is part of the job.

  7. The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon*

    As someone with a terrible fear of “bothering” people by contacting them, including people who love me and explicitly tell me they enjoy talking with me, I am absolutely fascinated by Lisa and I hope we get an update on this one.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        +10 to both usernames (And deeply tempted to change mine to “Perihelion” for just this comment.)

    1. Robin*

      Right?? What a different world she must inhabit because I could *never*. I am happy to send my loved ones memes and the like but my BOSS?? And OUTSIDE OF WORK?? No.

      1. Antilles*

        Ages aren’t stated in the post, but to me, this absolutely smacks of a fairly new/green employee who hasn’t yet learned professional boundaries – and Lisa is therefore viewing OP less as “boss” and more as “friend”. Especially if they interact quite a bit at work, Lisa might not have really figured out how to set that line.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Eh, I’ve seen boundary-stompers of all ages and genders. Some people want work to be “like a family”, even if that family is annoying and dysfunctional.

        2. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

          Apart from the use of the term “memes” (if that is the term Lisa is using, rather than OP naming what they see), I actually experience this kind of poor communications behavior more from people older than me. Young people, in my experience, even if they don’t know about professional boundaries (you shouldn’t send memes to your boss), at least know about electronic communications boundaries (you don’t spam people with shares, especially if they don’t reciprocate or ask you not to).

        3. Robin*

          Sending TikToks does make me think Lisa skews young, which does make it more likely that she just does not know normal workplace boundaries. But still, I would have such a hard time getting myself into a headspace where I thought sending memes and TikToks to the person who controls my paycheck was the right move (and I have a genuinely lovely manager! She even hosted me and her other direct report for brunch and it was so sweet!).

          And for reference, we had memes and a good chunk of internet culture underway by the time I was looking for my first “adult” job.

          1. Observer**

            Sending TikToks does make me think Lisa skews young, which does make it more likely that she just does not know normal workplace boundaries

            Yes, it sounds like she skews young. But the thing is that this goes waaay beyond “normal workplace” norms. This is the kind of thing that can blow up personal relationships, too. Not that’s the OP’s problem, but it speaks to the point that the problem here probably has nothing to to with *workplace* experience.

          2. blam*

            I’m approaching 40 and I definitely had memes to hand in the 00s that I could have spammed my first boss with. (Hasten to add that I did not do this.) Friends of mine who are into their late 40s/early 50s still send memes. I want to say, though, that none of us send or have ever sent them on the scale that Lisa does, even to each other – I think her cluelessness goes far beyond work norms, because she would also drive me insane in a purely personal setting.

        1. soontoberetired*

          I know Martha a little bit, thrilled she found the success she did with this series so I always love to find other fans.

      1. The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon*

        Yes, and I dearly, dearly want a TV show of both that and The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon. Show within a show, maybe? I would love the comedic juxtaposition of a small inset screen playing RAFOSM while Murderbot is listening to someone talk about their feelings or something.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Right? I cannot imagine sending my current supervisor anything like this. I sent my former one, with whom I shared a bunch of outside-of-work interests, a few over the course of like ten years, but even those felt a bit oversteppy. This is very “Third Rock from the Sun”.

  8. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    I keep directly telling Lisa over and over and over to please respect my space and time and boundaries

    The idea of texting my boss ANYTHING after she says this ONCE, let alone “over and over and over,” gives me the screaming vapors. OP, how does Lisa respond when you tell her directly to quit texting you?

    1. All Het Up About It*

      I KNOW!!! I’m gobsmacked by the audacity here.

      I can’t tell if this is one of those cases where the OP/Boss is leaving out some important details about how she interacts with all her team members. Or Lisa is really just Cheap A** Rolls Level of bonkers.

      1. CarlEatsShoes*

        The only way this makes any sense to me is if OP and Lisa have (or had) a personal connection of some sort in addition to work relationship.

        That, or Lisa is really really strange.

    2. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      I think Lisa may be hearing ‘respect my time and space and boundaries’ and thinking “I DO respect you! I respect you so much that I can’t stop thinking about you and here’s some memes”.

      I think Lisa thinks she has met her manager’s request for respect because she has personal feelings of …affection? toward her.

      But if the manager hasn’t said ‘stop sending me anything that’s not directly work related, period’ then she hasn’t actually made her request clear to Lisa of what she actually wants Lisa to DO, not just to feel.

      1. DashDash*

        I agree! To Lisa, texting may (in her mind) respecting boundaries, because she’s not interrupting anyone in person, it’s just a text message to check later at your leisure.

        Who knows really, but I’m autistic and if someone told me to “respect their time and boundaries,” I would not get “don’t text me” as a bottom line; I would think “text thoughtfully.” (Not suggesting Lisa is neurodivergent in any way, this is just one example of why directness is golden, and how many ways there are to misinterpret veiled meaning.)

        1. CarlEatsShoes*

          That is a very good point. Lisa may not understand this means don’t text me. She may not find texts, DMs, etc. disruptive. Direct and clear is the way to go here. If you mean, “don’t text me memes,” then say this, rather that “respect my time” and hoping employee is able to read the tea leaves.

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

          Exactly. I’m not neurodivergent but I can see how this vague message would be interpreted as, “ok I won’t send you work requests or info when you aren’t on the clock — got it, no work! — but here’s a puppy meme that isn’t work because you also said you don’t mind the occasional meme or video!”

          1. An*

            Yes this. “Respect my time and space and boundaries” is a really unclear request.

            On the other hand “Do not send me any messages on any platform that are not work related.” Is a very clear statement, and an extremely reasonable one for the LW to make.

            Also, LW, I once saw somebody describe boundaries as things that a person is responsible for maintaining for themselves. In this case your boundary is not receiving non-work related texts/messages from Lisa. It’s your boundary not hers, and it the ways you can enforce it for yourself are: telling her she needs to stop sending you messages and saying she’ll be fired if she doesn’t. (I can’t tell if you’ve already told her to stop sending any non-work related messages, in those words, or not. If you have only talked to her about “time” and “respect” and “boundaries” but haven’t explained what you need her to actually do, then I wouldn’t talk about firing her immediately. If you have already told her the actionable steps you need to take, then it is your responsibility to tell her she will be fired if she doesn’t stop.)

            You can unfriend/block her on all social media platforms that are not necessary for work communication.

            If she refuses to stop sending you texts via sms it is your responsibility to fire her. All of these things are you enforcing your own boundaries and none of them require her to “see your side”.

            Good luck!

      2. J*

        + 1 ‘respect my time, space and boundaries’ means different things to different people. OP should clarify she means don’t send non-work related items, particularly after hours.

      3. I don't have a clever name*

        That’s a good point. If the LW hasn’t told Lisa directly how to translate respect for time, boundaries, etc. into action, Lisa might be at a loss as to what that would look like.

        Especially if she’s the type of person who would deluge their boss with TikToks to begin with, because, like many other commenters, I have no idea what has to be happening in that person’s head.

    3. Warrior Princess Xena*

      This is like the communication equivalent of the introvert/extrovert question that comes up all the time! I have a hard enough time keeping up this sort of communication with friends, let alone coworkers!

    4. Tea and Sympathy*

      I hate stupid puns and dad jokes. My sister keeps reading them to me, knowing I hate them, because she believes that THIS one is so good (it’s not) that it will be the one that I finally like.
      My guess is that Lisa believes she is respecting boss’s space, time and boundaries because she is only sending the top twenty memes and tik toks of the day, not every one she sees.

  9. ThatGirl*

    She may be good at her job, but I am fascinated by the idea that you would hate to see her quit — why? Even the best, most amazing employees leave jobs. There isn’t a single job in the world that nobody else can do. Why are you so invested in not hurting her feelings or having her leave, when she clearly doesn’t care about your feelings or boundaries?

    I agree that it needs to be made 100% clear to her that she can only contact you about work-related things. And if that upsets her so much that she quits, you’re better off without her.

    1. danmei kid*

      The pain of maintaining Lisa has not yet exceeded the benefits that LW gets by having Lisa doing whatever it is that LW finds valuable, and I would also love to know what is so great about Lisa that this behavior is allowed to continue.

  10. Uncle Boner*

    I guarantee the issue is a failure to be direct.

    I’ve noticed a LOT of young people (20s/30s) in the workplace lack the ability to say something in a direct manner and directly to the person who needs to hear the message. This is a generational issue to some extent. We even encountered this in various workplace trainings. A good example was sexual harassment prevention, where the common feedback from the young participants was “I should never need to say ‘no’…the person should just KNOW not to do that.” (this was in reference to asking a coworker out on a date).

    What I DO see is direct conversations ABOUT the person/issue with others and candycoating or non-existent comments directly to the offender. Time to learn to be confrontational, especially if you want to be a manager.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Oh, no, this is not a young person thing. Ask my dad’s Midwestern family, going back generations.

      1. peacock limit*

        Or my Midwestern-transplanted-from-the-South former supervisor. I, a lifelong Midwesterner, was practically New York levels of direct compared to his meandering and conflict avoidance.

        1. Former Young Lady*

          Utah is another great place to witness passive-aggression from people old enough to remember Reaganomics.

          (We have plenty of “bull-in-a-china-shop” personalities in the same age range as well, of course.)

      2. My Cabbages!*

        As someone from a family that’s been Midwestern since the 1700’s, I feel this in my soul.

    2. bamcheeks*

      this was in reference to asking a coworker out on a date

      As someone in my 40s, your 20-30something colleagues are absolutely right on this one. They shouldn’t need to be thinking about how to turn down dates with colleagues.

      1. ava*

        (since were doing ages, 20s female for context)

        i think this one depends a lot in the job and the context. If you work in a call center with 50 employees that gets monthly turniver, then asking a coworker if they want to get coffee really isnt harassment and they should just day “no thanks”. Smaller jobs or more serious postitions get tricker, imo

      2. MigraineMonth*

        Yeah, your teammates are not your dating pool. I think it’s probably okay to do a really soft ask to someone you don’t work closely with (as long as you’re at similar places in the hierarchy), but someone should never have to choose between going on an unwanted data and damaging a work relationship.

    3. lw*

      OP doesn’t say how old they are, people of all ages have trouble being direct (evident on this exact website,) and your young coworkers are in the right here. They shouldn’t have to deal with coworkers asking them on a date at work.

      1. Just Another Tired US Fed*

        So much crap happens in the workplace that shouldn’t have to be dealt with. But it will never stop.

        Ask vs, tell culture is a thing, and women are penalized for directness (ask me how I know). That said, many could benefit from assertiveness training.

    4. HB*

      As Dust Bunny says, this isn’t generational. What *might* be generational is that younger individuals are more likely to point out that you shouldn’t have to tell people “No, don’t do that” when the behavior is highly inappropriate. Asking a coworker out on a date actually does fall into that category more often than not.

      Not sure if I first heard of it here or elsewhere, but I saw someone discussing Ask Culture versus Guess Culture.

      1. ecnaseener*

        I feel like this goes beyond ask vs guess, if LW has directly asked Lisa to respect their time and space. Ask culture doesn’t mean you get to interpret “please respect my time” as “ok, I respect you but I’m not making any changes!” Like that’s still a direct ask being ignored.

        1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

          Asking someone to ‘respect’ something really leave a lot of room for interpretation.

          I mean, Lisa is clearly way over the line of how the majority of people would interpret what she should do, but my point is that ‘respect’ isn’t a clear action.

          To me, respect is a feeling and an interpretation/judgment/evaluation of someone’s behavior.

          The LW should clearly ask for what they want to see Lisa actually DO. If there was a camera pointing at Lisa and LW (and LW’s phone!), what would the camera see that indicate Lisa is ‘respecting’ the LW the way the LW wants?

          It would see zero non-work text messages and email.

          1. ecnaseener*

            Sure, I don’t disagree that LW should be more direct. I’m just saying you can’t chalk it up to ask culture vs guess culture, Lisa is way beyond that point.

        2. fhqwhgads*

          It’s not direct. It’s vague. Direct and clear is “do not text me unless it is about work.” “Do not text me outside of work hours unless it is a work emergency.”

      2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        Capt Awkward and her commentariat have gotten into that pretty thoroughly. I think that’s where I first saw it, probably several years ago now.

    5. Random Dice*

      You make a good point, with a terrible example.

      Yes, speak directly using clear words.

      No, don’t ask a coworker out.

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        No, repeatedly asking someone out, or asking them out as an ongoing pattern of harassing behavior, is not acceptable. A lot of people date at work. Several of my friends and a number of my parents’ friends (or parents of my friends) met at work. There are categories where it’s never appropriate (manager to employee, or something that would cross confidential information boundaries) but ‘coworker’ is not necessarily one of them.

        1. Giant Kitty*

          No, I agree with the idea that people shouldn’t have to field unwanted date requests at work.

          Work is not a dating pool or a “meet” market, it’s your livelihood. It’s a bad idea to complicate that with romantic entanglements.

          My parents met at work, my dad was my mom’s grand or great grand boss (a fact that she did not know when he first introduced himself at work by mansplaining the thing she was working on, which she chewed him out for), they were an amazing couple who were deeply in love their whole married lives, and I still think it’s a bad idea because the potential for harm is so much greater than the potential for good.

    6. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I don’t know if one needs to be confrontational, exactly, but definitely be more direct. I also disagree that it’s just a young people thing; friends my age (middle aged, TYVM) and I have been discussing lately how we were raised to be polite, which therefore meant learning how to be less direct in asking for what we need, and we’ve realized that this also means that we have been taught, whether our forebears meant to teach us this or not, to be passive aggressive. This is a thing that I’m actively working on changing about myself thanks to reading a lot of AAM and Captain Awkward; the phrase “use your words” helps me more than it probably helps a lot of toddlers.

      In any case, OP, using your words here would probably help a lot and if it doesn’t, well, then, at least you tried to get your employee to stop doing this maddening and actually disruptive thing so if you do need to let her go over it you won’t be able to give validity to any of her “how was I supposed to know?” questions that she might ask.

      1. Rain's Small Hands*

        There are generational, regional, national, and gender variations in our ability to be direct – but at the end of the day, some of us are direct despite our demographics, and some of us are indirect. Each can be a gift – although the ability to be direct when its called for is an important skill for managers, even if your own personality tends to softening.

        I used to work with a regionally distributed team. When I wanted to get my team to do something, I’d bring in the VP from the East Coast to give the direction – he was direct and brusque and always made it clear that “we have listened, made our decisions and this is where we are going. Now is the time to do.” When I needed a sell job with my team or a chance to get input and have everyone feel understood (usually early in the project), it was a VP from California with a charismatic indirect approach who made everyone feel listened to and built consensus. But honestly, she was a poor choice for getting people to do things – her approach meant people felt comfortable arguing about approach long past the point where that was appropriate and let them feel like the could choose not to participate, and he was a poor choice to solicit input since any conversation he was in, he was going to “win.” It was stereotypical East Coast Male and West Coast Female, but it worked.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          “There are generational, regional, national, and gender variations in our ability to be direct . . . ”

          I had the impression of the employee as early to mid- twenties, and then from the OP’s description of their own level of indirectness, I was transported to childhood memories of the much older southern church ladies in the 70’s and their brand of indirectness to the point of utter passivity.

      2. Just Another Tired US Fed*

        Passive aggressiveness is the worst. One can be assertive and nice, not necessary to be aggressive and mean when clearing communicating.

        I recommend “Crucial Conversations” for anyone wanting to level up in this area, it’s a game changer.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          I don’t know that I was ever on the aggressive side of passive aggressive, I think that passive aggressive can also be, which it is in my case, too timid and/or lazy to confront things that will require an awkward conversation (to use your terminology, I was passive and nice, essentially, while becoming resentful that my needs were not met). Sounds like a good book, though.

    7. Dark Macadamia*

      Um…. “I shouldn’t need to tell a harasser that harassing is bad” is a truly atrocious example if you’re trying to suggest the person saying it is more at fault than the person who needs to hear it. YIKES.

      1. Former Young Lady*

        Agreed. This will be the last time I sign up for harassment training from (checks notes) Uncle Boner!

        1. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

          Legit, as soon as I saw that nickname on this site, I knew the comment was going to be bad. Wanted to be wrong. Wasn’t.

          (I have online hangouts where “Uncle Boner” would be a harmless or even funny nick. But it’s reaaaaally tone-deaf to use on AAM.)

    8. Emily*

      I don’t think it’s appropriate to say this is a the “young people” thing. I have seen people across the generational spectrum struggle with how to communicate clearly, which is evidenced by the large amount of letters that get published on this site where problems have arisen as a direct result of lack of communication, and the letters are from people of all ages.

      I think the issue here though stems beyond just communication. OP’s concern about getting Lisa to “see their side” makes it seem like OP is viewing this more as a personal relationship instead of a professional relationship. As others have pointed out, OP is the boss and needs to set clear and non-negotiable boundaries with Lisa. I think Alison’s assessment is spot on though, I’m guessing this isn’t the only area where Lisa has deficiencies.

    9. Samwise*

      OMG, no, this is not a young person thing. I work in an office where many of the staff are hugely conflict averse — maybe about half right now, there’ve been times when it’s virtually everyone — and will NOT be direct. Staff of every age from late 20s to 70. Boomers. Even boomers who were “question authority” activists.

      It’s a “that person” thing. And when you have a certain percentage of “that person” types in an office, it starts to become the office culture.

      1. Just Another Tired US Fed*

        Or, it’s a “that culture” thing. People learn not to be direct when punished for it.

    10. SereneScientist*

      You’re off the mark here. There are a myriad of reasons why direct vs indirect communication happens–geography actually is a much bigger factor than age.

    11. Rosa Rosa Rosa Diaz Diaz Diaz*

      This is absolutely not generational at all.

      If anything, in my experience, younger people are more direct because they often have a far stronger understanding of neurodivergency. Also a lot of the younger people I work with seem, in general, more inclined to see work as primarily about work, not chit-chat for the sake of chit-chat, making them far clearer and to the point (leading to claims that young people are so rude nowadays, social media has ruined conversations, people in cities aren’t friendly, etc.)

      But really, this just about different personality styles. Nothing to do with generations at all.

      1. SaffyTaffy*

        I can sort of see it, although the answer doesn’t change what OP should do. People get crushes, and people with crushes sometimes behave goofily.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      That seems like a stretch; it’s just as likely that she’s lonely or clueless or whatever. And I don’t think it matters *why* she’s boundary-crossing, anyway.

    2. TomatoSoup*

      OP describes Lisa as “very socially and emotionally needy”, so I think that’s more likely. I know people who fit that description and their behavior is entirely unrelated to romantic feelings. It’s an overwhelming need to feel connected (and often supported or cared for) by other people that they just won’t stop the behaviors.

      1. Anonynon*

        I have a coworker who isn’t quite as extreme as the one in this letter, but does similar things and it’s exactly what you described. She has outright said that she no longer has any contact with her family, and that she feels like work is her family. I really do like her for the most part (content messages and over sharing of personal details and TikToks aside) but I definitely don’t think of her as family. I agree that this doesn’t seem at all like a romantic thing, and more just a need for connection.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yeah it reads more like “I am reaching out for social connection and this is the most obvious avenue to me” and a lack of understanding on why that’s inappropriate.

          1. Queer Columbo*

            lol, as an only child, i assure you, we are not only capable of respectful human interaction but also of maintaining healthy relationships and boundaries.

            1. Pants*

              Yeah, I should have qualified that. I get “stereotypical only child” vibes. In my friend circle, there’s only one person with Stereotypical Only Child Syndrome and she’s been pushed to the outer circle for it.

              Apologies to the solos out there! I love y’all!

  11. Dust Bunny*

    She doesn’t have a bright future if she’s so out of sync and annoying that you’re the only employer who will tolerate her, because I have to think that most would not. You’ll do her a favor in the long run if you shut this down hard.

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      Dude. You don’t have to (shouldn’t?) connect with employees on social media at all. And if you do, there are so many ways to mute, restrict, unfollow, etc individuals! Personally I would block her on everything that isn’t necessary for work, and then it can be objectively a work issue when she sends you things that aren’t work-related.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        She could be sending them directly through phone messages, though. I can send my mom Instagram photos even though she doesn’t have Instagram. I think that’s the problem–Lisa is sending them through a medium that the LW can’t just shut down (her cell phone, which she might also need to reach Lisa for legitimate work reasons). If it were TikTok or IG or FB she could just block her.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          That was my read, too, that Lisa was sending these things via regular text messages on the phone. The LW says they don’t have TikTok and don’t enjoy it, so for that one, they’re definitely not connected.

        2. Michelle Smith*

          The letter specifically states “One morning I had like seven DMs from Lisa via various accounts.” That sounds like more than texting to me, unless we are to believe OP calls texts DMs. It sounds like Lisa has access to OP through social accounts, in which case I agree with Dark Macadamia’s advice to block Lisa. I would also explicitly tell her why she is being blocked and refrain from connecting with employees on social media going forward, with the exception of possibly LinkedIn and any work related social accounts (e.g. if OP runs the company Facebook account, maybe refusing to allow employees to connect with the page would require more thought first).

        3. Dark Macadamia*

          Sorry, this wasn’t meant as a reply! But even if it’s just regular texts you can mute an individual conversation. That way LW would still get the emergency texts from other employees but not the nonsense from Lisa

          1. Snell*

            As demonstrated in the letter, this still runs the risk that LW might miss a legitimate work emergency. Lisa might need to contact her boss for a legitimate work need, but she’s become Girl Who Cried Wolf at this point. Blocking all communications from Lisa is a solution, but not an ideal one.

            1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

              It might help make her point. Tell Lisa, “you do not understand that I do not want to receive TikTok videos or non work memes to my phone. I cannot trust you not to do this. You told me that you will not stop. So going forward, please call me with any emergency or work issue, because, since I cannot block your number, I will be silencing your text messages.”

      2. All Het Up About It*

        You don’t have to (shouldn’t?) connect with employees on social media at all.

        After I left my last role, I decided this was a boundary for me. I even have a current colleague (not employee) who I actually consider a friend, meaning we go out outside of work, talk about relationship issues, family issues, have been over to each other’s houses in sweats, etc. But I am not Friends with her on social media. It’s MUCH easier to just draw that line of I don’t friend Anyone from work, than deny some friend requests, block certain people, etc., etc.

      3. Lisa’s Boss*

        I am the letter writer. We absolutely do have to connect on social media, including tagging each other, on social media in our industry. It is non-negotiable. Imagine we are teapot makers and Lisa makes beautiful teapots and I post them and tag her and that’s a huge driver of revenue and her first DMs were all teapot related pics and reels that could serve as helpful work inspo. Then it graduated to whatever she thought I would find funny.

        1. DisneyChannelThis*

          But can’t you make multiple accounts and check the work one only during work hours, then silence notifications the rest of the time??

          1. AnonyLlama*

            Yes, OP. Consider how large companies operate- they have multiple people responsible for managing the company’s accounts. Separate and distinct from any of their personal accounts.

            If you feel like you need to soften a message in order to make this kind of change, just frame it as “as our company grows, we need to set up a corporate account for our social media presence. You’ll see future tags coming now from Teapots, Inc. instead of me personally.”

        2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          That is helpful information. I can see that the boundary is not as easy to specifically define as one might think based on the letter, but I think you can still be clear and concise and make the it an “instruction” to scale it back rather than a “request.” You could modify Alison’s language to say that it needs to be directly related to work or the industry.

          I also like the idea of the person suggesting you see it as coaching and combine the instruction language with an offer to help her if she is having trouble knowing the difference by telling her “your messages were appropriate and nearly always relevant at the beginning, but now you have gone overboard. I expect you to take ten minutes between getting the idea that you want to send me something before you actually send it so that you can consider whether it is truly appropriate and work related for the next few weeks and we will see if it improves. However, this should be in addition to the “instruction” language and you should respond to irrelevant texts by telling her that it is an example of what you are talking about (do not respond when you get it though, but later during work hours). Another option is to tell her she is not to send you texts at all unless it is a work emergency except between X and Y hours of the day.

          But whatever approach you take, make it clear that this is a requirement, and that although you are willing to help give her some guidance, you need to see immediate improvement and that failure to address this situation adequately will eventually lead to formal discipline.

  12. RunShaker*

    OP said they received 7 DMs from various accounts. OP, are various accounts social media? if so, you should unfriend her (and probably all your employees for professional reasons) or if can’t, you can mute Lisa on social media. I love my social media but receiving notifications in middle of the night would drive me crazy.

  13. ABCYaBYE*

    OP I’m curious how much work Lisa is actually getting done. While some of this is happening outside of work, if she’s sending that many messages, it is probably spilling over into the work day too. I totally agree with touching base with others to see if she’s doing this to anyone/everyone else in the workplace, because that would be even more fuel on this fire. If you get the sense that others are annoyed or frustrated, or they’ve also asked her to stop and she hasn’t, there’s more importance for your direct conversation with her. Let her know, in no uncertain terms, that she is absolutely NOT to send non-work messages of any sort to you at any time. She is also not to send non-work messages to co-workers during the work day. And if they also ask her to stop, she needs to stop completely.

    1. Catalyst*

      I came to say the same thing. I think it is very likely that this is spilling into her work day and distracting her (and possibly her co-workers).

  14. Petty Betty*

    How on earth can Lisa be so great at her job if she spends so much time looking at TikTok and other stuff in order to send videos and memes to the boss (The Boss!) all day (during work! And off hours)?

    Her role at your company isn’t “entertainer” or “court jester”, I’m assuming. None of her job duties include ensuring that you (or anyone else) have amusing digital content. It’s really time to find out if she’s doing this to everyone or if it’s just you. Then, it needs to stop. For everyone, it must stop during her work shift (employees can choose to mute or otherwise block her in their off time). All work-related information to her coworkers must come in a specific way so they know it’s work-related (company email, since she’ll be on shift?). For you, no non-work communication, period (because she may need to call in sick, or text that she’ll be late, so you don’t want to block number her outright).

    I’m curious to know how much time she’s spending on curating digital entertainment, and whether she’s actually fully caught up on all of her tasks.

    1. Tio*

      That’s what I’m wondering… that is a lot of time spent on things that are not work. LW may need to reevaluate how much work they are having Lisa do if she has this much time on her hands, and giving her more might help cut down on the chatter. (Although LW definitely still needs to talk to Lisa about the boundary crossing regardless!)

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I don’t think that necessarily follows; the large majority of people with office jobs spend “work” time checking Facebook, watching cat videos or sports highlights, shopping online or reading work advice columns (hi, AAM!). It’s not really “lost” time because those mental rest breaks are required in order to spend the rest of the time focused on work.

        I’m sure if I spent as long texting TikTok videos to my boss as I do reading AAM, they would be super annoyed, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not getting my work done.

    2. zinzarin*

      Per custom on this site, we have to take the LW at their word that–other than this issue–Lisa is good at her job. That means that even if she’s consuming some amount of work time with social media posting, she’s doing it in a way that doesn’t interfere with her work product.

  15. Why is my user name blank again? (every half week or so)*

    I agree. Maybe only allow her phone calls to ring through and right now block notifications about any text messages from her. Then you can review her text messages at your leisure. This coupled with using Alison’s advice to tell her to stop with all non-work related messages so when you review messages from see if she’s following your instructions to stop (as a good employee would).

    But also seriously consider why you fear upsetting her at all while she’s already regularly upsetting you so much that you have literally been awake nights trying to figure out how to get her to back off. Her actions (which you have already directly told Lisa over and over and over to stop), it impacting your work and your ability to do your job. You are quite upset, but why won’t you risk perhaps upsetting her in order to get her to stop upsetting you when you have already asked her to stop? I mean Lisa should just stop when she’s told to. Who is so invested in their boss watching TikTok that they send anyway? But if you enforcing this natural and normal boundary upsets her, it’s FINE because she has been upsetting you by violating norms and boundaries. You’re returning the upset to the person who causing it. But if she’s upset by you setting this boundary, they something she needs to work on, not something you need to avoid to keep her happy.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      I don’t know, but mine keeps going blank too. I have not cleared cookies or anything obvious.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Actually, do clear cookies — that should reset it. You’ll have to enter it one more time, but if it still keeps happening after that, let me know!

    2. Just here for the scripts*

      I had to re-enter my user name after the server move over the weekend. Hoping the server move will fix this

  16. Essentially Cheesy*

    I think we all need to stop sugar coating things and be direct when it comes to what is a perfectly valid need. Being direct and honest is not equal to being mean. Of course, be polite in a professional manner, but it seems like this situation has progressed beyond the Being Polite to Avoid Hurt Feelings stage.

    I don’t text anyone at work. If I need to send an off-hours message, I log into work email and send a quick note. “I’m working from home tomorrow.” “Something came up and I’ll be out on a personal day”. Never a text.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      Agree with your first paragraph.

      For your second, text is a perfectly acceptable way to communicate at/about work. If that works for you great, but it’s far from a business norm.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I think it’s very culture-dependent. I don’t get a work-issued phone, so any texts would go to my personal line, which should really be reserved for emergencies.

        1. Anonynon*

          I think every job job I’ve ever had had some level of work communication via text. We don’t have access to our email during the day, so people text each other if they have a time-sensitive question or need. I don’t love it because it usually means people end up texting for non time-sensitive things as well, even if it’s after work hours.

  17. Sara M*

    Note, I’m the same “type” as Lisa.

    I do post a lot of memes, BUT I actively ask people every few months “do you still want these,” and if they don’t, I stop.

    I send mostly one-sentence type memes (rarely videos)

    I understand boundaries. If someone told me to stop or slow down, I would!

    All this is to say: there’s nothing inherent to this “type” of person that requires her to keep sending all that stuff or for you to listen. If you give her a boundary and she tramples it, that is very bad. Be clear and see what happens.

    1. BorisTheGrump*

      I think this is important. I am also someone who loves a good meme and uses them to connect with friends. And in my nonprofit field, some of them are very relevant to work and sharing memes *occasionally* with coworkers can sometimes help take the edge off of burnout. I occasionally communicate with colleagues and bosses via text, which is the norm in my field. And I am part of a number of professional Facebook groups where really important/helpful strategic conversations take place. Again, this is the norm in my field.

      But like others have said, it would only take a single, gentle, sugar-coated request to stop for me sharing memes or jokes for me to stop entirely. This is a problem with communication between this particular employee and this particular supervisor, specifically. It’s not a problem with people who text for work, enjoy memes, or even connect with colleagues on certain social media (which, again, is sometimes normal or expected).

      The nosy part of me wants to know if the memes and TikTok videos are work-related. Is this a health professional sharing health field TikTok’s? Is this a social worker sharing posts from therapy/trauma-healing accounts? Is this someone in food service sharing memes griping about demanding customers? Nosy-Boris is also interested to know what this employee is thinking when they send the messages.

      But like so many others have mentioned, I don’t think any of that is actually relevant to the advice. Supervisor needs to set a very clear boundary and then enforce that boundary, with consequences.

      1. Lisa’s Boss*

        At first, they were industry related but have since graduated to whatever she thinks I will find funny, even as I explain I don’t enjoy any of that and am only on Insta for work.

        1. Observer**

          Stop explaining, and start giving orders.

          And, as Alison often discusses, you can’t be held hostage to someone getting upset enough to quit. You’re being perfectly reasonable here, and if that causes her to quit, you will deal with it.

      1. BorisTheGrump*

        Definitely not. Maybe a one and done that’s REALLY on point, depending on the boss. But never anything approaching “constant”

    2. Snell*

      If you’re considerate about your audience’s receptiveness, then no, I don’t think you’re the same “type” as Lisa. Lisa is the “type” of person who responds to “[Boss] keep[s] directly telling [her] over and over and over to please respect [boss’s] space and time and boundaries” with more memes and videos per day than total messages boss receives from their personal and professional contacts combined. Taking you at your word, I don’t think you and Lisa are the same “type” at all.

      1. Sara M*

        Ok, that’s a fair point, and thank you.

        All I meant was, sending lots of memes is not inherently an issue, it’s people ignoring boundaries that’s the problem.

    3. It Actually Takes a Village*

      My one caveat here is that sometimes asking people won’t necessarily tell you what they really think or how they really feel.

      Another way to check-in with yourself about whether or not it’s too much is to see how much or how often your audiences are engaging with the content you send.

      If it’s very little and/or very infrequent, you may want to slow down and try to match what they’re putting in as well. In general, if you’re the only one sending memes… consider that other people are entertaining you, tolerating you, or quietly irritated about it.

      I have one acquaintance who sends a few to several memes a day every day. I have never sent her a meme. And I haven’t responded or like them in literally over a year. I hate it, but it feels so rude to tell her to stop. Instead I’ve muted her conversation and moved it to where I can’t see it. I’m not always this avoidant, but I’m using up my precious emotional energy on relationships and my career, which are much more important.

      I have another group chat of close friends where we send each other in total a few to several memes a few times a week and we react and respond to each other. I know none of us are irritating each other because we’re all more or less matching each other’s level of interest and investment, and we also have ebb and flows. We’re also close enough that any one of us could be like… “Folks, I’m burned out on memes for now, I’m gonna take a break.” and there would be no hard feelings.

      Just a few thoughts for “Lisa types” to consider.

  18. Anonosaurus*

    “I keep directly telling Lisa over and over and over to please respect my space and time and boundaries and she never does! She never even tries to see my side, she always just pushes her own selfish preferences”

    I don’t really understand why it’s necessary to go into so much detail – Lisa doesn’t need to understand the why, she just has to execute the what, and you don’t have to justify or explain yourself.

    “Lisa, please don’t contact me unless it’s about work and then only use my cell “. If she continues, first you block her, and then you have a conversation about why she hasn’t followed a direct managerial instruction. No need for chat about your boundaries and preferences – you don’t have to explain and she doesn’t have to agree with you. It’s the behaviour that has to be addressed. If she continues, the issue isn’t that she doesn’t respect your communication preferences or boundaries, it’s that she was told to stop and hasn’t paid attention. However great her abilities in other ways, that is a serious performance issue and should be treated as such.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      It is the JADE paradigm, justify, argue, defend, explain.
      OP needs to use the STOP paradigm, as in I said stop. This is not a negotiation. This is a statement.

    2. Some words*

      Also, Lisa may have a very different understanding of “Boundaries” “Respect my space and time”. Respect your space and time? What does that mean, exactly? It’s like saying “I want you to spend more time with me”. You have to quantify this for someone else. “I’d like us to get together at least once a week” doesn’t ask the listener to try to guess what “more” means to you. I’d argue that it’s respectful, not mean, to communicate clearly and directly with issues like this.

      Also, I’m grateful the company I work for has “no social media on the job” as an official stance.

    3. Common Taters on the Ax*

      I don’t really think blocking is the answer in this case, because as Alison says, an employee who blatantly ignores clear direction probably has other performance problems. It would be good to try to suss that out. I would try clear direction (I’m with those who think it sounds like the LW has tried to convince Lisa to see it their way rather than give her clear direction) and then move right into whatever steps are necessary to get rid of her if that doesn’t work.

      1. Anonosaurus*

        These aren’t mutually exclusive approaches. I’d block her on social media so that I didn’t have to wade through her stuff and she couldn’t see mine, while also managing her in a more consistent and accountable way.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      I can see someone using the words “please” and “respect” the first time, but the second time it has to be words more like “stop” “no” “absolutely never” and “not one more” or “under no circumstances”. With zero explanation as to why OP isn’t thrilled! If the boundary is still unexplored, OP should be calling her up after the very next meme. Why is OP ignoring her phone instead of picking it up to ask her employee why she’s being willfully defiant and ignoring simple instructions? It’s okay to let her know she’s beyond the pale; you’d be doing her a favour unless all her future bosses are Tiktok addicts too.

  19. SJ (they/them)*

    I am so desperate for more details about all of this – the nature of OP’s business, Lisa’s job duties, what about her work is so outstanding, what exactly was said on both sides in OP’s previous conversations with Lisa about this, the other 9 employees and whether they are involved or know about this or what — it is just so wild to me that this could be happening the way OP describes! Like…. how?? What context could this happen in where somehow Lisa is both this ultra high performing employee and is making OP this upset the rest of the time?

    Is there actually a good twin / evil twin situation going on here? I have so many QUESTIONS.

    1. bamcheeks*

      I am very stuck on “I felt terrible for leaving my phone in another room whilst I got dressed”, which nobody else seems to have picked up on!

      1. ABCYaBYE*

        Yeah that comment is problematic. I’m not sure why anyone needs to have their phone with them at all times.

      2. Some words*

        The whole concept of our culture seemingly willingly controlled by social media and cell phones horrifies me so much I try to keep those thoughts to myself. I get that I’m an outlier in this regard.

      3. Becca*

        That’s an excellent point! I work in healthcare, often people are on “on call” rotas to be available to deal with unexpected issues but that doesn’t mean they go without showering or going to the toilet for a week! Sometimes people have to leave a message or call back in 15 minutes. And it’s always a clear rule that it’s not humanly possible to be on call and genuinely available 100% of the time so they have to be at least shared with another person (usually more).

        If OP is genuinely the only person who can deal with an emergency their business model has something of a problem.

        1. bamcheeks*

          Yes, I’ve never had an on-call type job, but even thinking about my friends who do have on-call duties, I think the expectation is usually things like “you must call back within ten minutes” or “you must be within half an hour’s drive”. And that’s literally things like “we need to make an urgent healthcare decision” or “operate at short notice” or “the server that supports tens of thousands of users is making a noise that we don’t like”.

          I get that when it’s your business it’s different, but you kind of do need to make sure that either half an hour or a couple of hours either way isn’t going to make much difference, or make sure that there are other people you trust to make a decision in that emergency situation. It’s simply not sustainable to be the person who is on call for emergencies ALL THE TIME, with a few minutes turnaround time.

      4. Observer**

        I am very stuck on “I felt terrible for leaving my phone in another room whilst I got dressed”, which nobody else seems to have picked up on!

        Yes, but the OP is the owner of a small business and there was an actual emergency. It’s not unreasonable to expect the OP to have that level of availability in that context – and it makes it even more problematic that Lisa just will.not.listen.

    2. Common Taters on the Ax*

      I am thinking the business must be something that requires lots of immediate problem resolution, with one boss and then nine other people who aren’t empowered to solve the problems. Maybe a retail store, print shop, something like that?

        1. Common Taters on the Ax*

          Yes, indeed. Love me some Pa Ingalls. LTOP, I believe it was. The phrase runs through my head every time I see the word “commentariat,” and I finally decided to start using it for a screen name.

    3. Lisa’s Boss*

      Imagine we are a teapot company and Lisa sculpts and paints beautiful teapots. We have to be connected on insta because I tag her on promotional posts. At first, she only sent me teapot content, so it was relevant and potentially inspo for us to create more teapot content, too, since so many of our new sales are driven by social media.

      Neither Lisa nor I have ever worked in any kind of office jobs, so we are missing some serious professional norms. When I ask her to give me space (too vague! I will be more direct!), she says stuff like “but I wanna be there for you!” and asks for hugs (I hate hugs).

      1. Dirty Harry Kim*

        “I need more space” and “I wanna hug/be there for you!” are both things you say to your friends, not to your employee or boss. The “but I wanna be there for you!” comment is especially egregious because it shows us that she doesn’t understand the rules of professional relationships. As your employee, it is not her role to determine whether you need logistical support – and it’s DEFINITELY not her role to provide emotional support to you, as it seems she’s trying to do now.

        Alison has a lot of good material on here about redefining professional relationships and establishing professional boundaries/working relationships; I highly recommend you seek those out!

      2. DisneyChannelThis*

        Lisa I’m not going to hug you. Stop asking. That’s inappropriate to hug your boss.

        Lisa, I don’t need you to be there for me. I need you to stop texting me about non work related things.

        1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          Yeah, I feel like this really changed things. I mean, I agree still with Alison’s advice, but the response needs to be a bit more nuanced and focused on knowing which social media and messages are and are not appropriate. Also, OP needs to nip the hugging thing in the bud. Lots of people do not like hugging other people, even good friends, and most find it odd with colleagues or employers/employees. Lisa needs to learn some boundaries. But I actually liked one of the comments who said it might be good for OP to also approach the situation as coaching. I mean, yes, OP should be firmer in the message and make it clear that it is an instruction and not just a request, but the situation is a bit more nuanced and Lisa seems to have a very weak understanding of professional norms.

      3. NaoNao*

        oooo it sounds like you’re not really her boss in the traditional sense of the word, you’re a small biz owner using her products as a vendor or a freelance creator? I can 100% see what the issue is now.

        Maybe it’s time to implement more formal processes, including considering hiring out a small HR firm/team/office to level up to that more corporate feeling. If I’m, say, writing on-demand articles for an aggregator website or something, it is a very different vibe than someone who has a job description, development goals, reviews, HR, etc etc.

      4. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Nip the hugging thing in the bud. Tell her you do not like hugging and not everyone is comfortable with physically touching other people, even close friends, much less colleagues or employees. Also tell her that you want her to do well in her career, but if she does not learn appropriate professional boundaries, it will really hold her back in the long run, so she needs to stick with hand shakes; look at requests from her boss as instructions to follow, not requests to resist; and work on developing her own healthier boundaries for work/life balance, because enthusiasm is great, but also overwhelming to others and likely to lead to burnout for herself.

    1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I agreed, but the manager added some additional context where it is not quite as clear cut. Manager definitely needs to be more direct, but the social media stuff is in part very relevant and important to the work and they do need to be communicating that way, but Lisa has missed the boundary of what should be shared, what can be shared and may be helpful to share, and what is just a nuisance to share. It sounds like some coaching might actually be helpful (combined with more direct messaging and an understanding that there will be consequences without improvement). But after reading the additional context, I think Lisa deserves a chance and OP owes it to her to be much clearer (OP telling Lisa to give her some space is not a very direct or clear instruction).

  20. Heidi*

    It is possible to silence just Lisa’s texts without silencing calls (in case of an emergency) and without silencing messages from other people, but this would only mitigate the noise issue, not the problematic employee issue. I’m wondering if there isn’t more than just the frequent messaging going on. Forwarding a lot of memes doesn’t necessarily qualify someone as “emotionally needy and time-consuming.”

  21. Critical Rolls*

    It’s always interesting to get letters from bosses who feel unable to directly use their power, in situations where they should and need to. There are so many contrasting instances of bosses using their power badly, or even using power they don’t really have! Is it fear of being the bad-guy boss that holds people back? Is it relational concerns, perceptions of niceness? Is it the sunk cost fallacy? Worry about having to fire and replace someone?

    Bosses who won’t use their power when they need to are still bad bosses, sometimes just as bad as a jerk boss. They let bad employees get away with murder, which is bad for everyone else (and the business). LW, you own this business. You don’t need to tearfully negotiate for reasonable boundaries with an employee; you need to set boundaries and enforce them.

    1. cardigarden*

      Not the situation here (because OP is the company owner), but I once had a personnel capital-I-Issue in which I should have used my authority immediately but didn’t, because I didn’t know if my boss and grandboss would back me up (the new manager) against the 30-year company veteran who was causing major problems. But once we had a plan in place and I knew I had their support, I was able to address the situation confidently. (*shakes fist at the toxic job I had to deprogram myself from*)

      I don’t necessarily want to give bad managers a pass, but I do want to acknowledge that there are cases when it can be difficult to be a good manager yourself if you don’t have decent institutional backing or don’t know if you do until it happens.

      But again, OP is the company owner so taking action should be a no brainer for them.

    2. Merrie*

      I was the boss who couldn’t wield my power over the problem employee… because my management wouldn’t back me up. I wanted to put her on a PIP and then fire her if she didn’t improve, but they wouldn’t believe me about how bad she was. So I was stuck trying to negotiate her into being slightly less awful and counseling other employees on how to work around her. Don’t miss that job or any of those people.

    3. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

      Yes, this is what I have been thinking too – especially the line “She never even tries to see my side, she always just pushes her own selfish preferences”. This framing makes sense for a relationship between equals, where there’s a frustrating failure of reciprocity and the speaker has no power to change the other person’s frustrating behaviour. But Lisa’s Boss, you do! You’re her boss!

      I started reading AAM when I took up a leadership position in my uni, about three years ago, and I feel like I’m still making the transition to realising that I have the power and what that means in terms of the dynamic between me and my colleagues. So I have a lot of sympathy and some recognition here. For me, I had a bit of a lightbulb moment reading a post where a manager had yelled at an employee and felt terrible, and Alison said: people mostly resort to yelling when they feel they have no other tools to get the outcome they want, but as a boss, you have many other tools you can use. You don’t have to feel so powerless, because you have the power to change the situation.

      For some reason that’s hard to internalise! But I think it’s going to be really helpful for Lisa’s Boss to get more comfortable with her power. Because you’re 100% right, Critical Rolls, a boss who won’t use their power can be as bad as a boss who abuses it.

  22. JSPA*

    OP, this is the part of your attitude and messaging that you should change:

    “I don’t mind the occasional meme or video…”

    Your new mission, should you choose to accept it, is to get none of your entertainment nor outside-of-work socializing through the workplace.

    Nearly missing an emergency?!? That drives home that you need to make a dramatic shift.

    “I’m very fond of each of you, but the Warblesworth chocolate fountain explosion had me doing a reassessment of how we communicate, and how that led me to a place where I ended up ignoring emergency messages.

    Folks, for safely and for my own sanity, we are separating the streams.

    Not sort of…not kind of.

    From this point forward: anything that is purely social or entertaining should not be sent to anyone’s work phone or work email, or any other channel that we use for work information.

    Feel free to share private email addresses for private social communication, or not.

    If someone can’t bear to live without sharing memes, they have my blessing to set up a dedicated slack channel for that. But no work content on the social channel, and no social content on any work channel. There is no gray zone on this. No matter how apropos or excellent the bit of media may be, it does not get a pass.”

    1. Katherine Boag*

      This. I dearly love having different friends on different communications media, because then if im not in the mood for what is happening on one, i can mute it and all my other friends can still reach me. Keep everything in an appropriate medium and people can choose to participate in the social stuff as appropriate for them.

    2. AnonInCanada*

      > From this point forward: anything that is purely social or entertaining should not be sent to anyone’s work phone or work email, or any other channel that we use for work information.

      Not “should,” “MUST.” This is what put LW in this predicament to begin with. My understanding is that Lisa wasn’t given firm, clear concise orders to stop with the memes and TikTok videos. Boss needs to make it absolutely, positively 100% clear: “Lisa, this is your final warning. If I get another text or email from you that is not directly related to work, you will be terminated on the spot. Do I make myself 100% clear?” Then get her to sign a formal write-up for her employment file so there’s written acknowledgement in case Lisa wants to call an employment lawyer/labour board after being fired for cause. Which means no severance, no unemployment, no reference other than confirming dates employed. She made the bed. Make her sleep in it. Maybe she can put that on TikTok!

  23. bamcheeks*

    LW, how are your boundaries more generally? Feeling terrible because your phone was in another room whilst you got dressed is a pretty wild reaction, and it’s also extraordinarily to me that Lisa has access to you on multiple platforms. (I’m not clear on whether you mean multiple work-related platforms— email, text, Slack, Teams— or multiple social networks like facebook, twitter, instagram etc— but it seems unlikely you’d have that many work-related ones at a small organisation!)

    I’m wondering whether you need better boundaries between yourself and your employees more generally. Is it really necessary for you to be quite so reachable? What was the worst case scenario if your employees hadn’t got through to you within five minutes, and is there anything you could change so that they’re less dependent on you outside your working hours?

    1. Delta Delta*

      I get it. It’s dread. It’s happened so many times that OP knows when she goes back to her phone there will be 40 new videos or memes and she dreads it. I have had the dread (not meme-based, but dread nonetheless). I get it.

      1. Sleepy Anon*

        Yes, I have a coworker who is like Lisa. I can’t open my social media pages without a sense of dread because there are literally dozens of memes sent to me. We have a great work relationship, and I consider us to be friendly, but she won’t stop sending me memes when I’ve told her I don’t want them! She literally says “it’s ok if you don’t look at them, I still want to send them!” D:

        1. allathian*

          Depending on the platform you use, you should still be able to do something so you don’t see what she posts, but without having to unfriend her. Of course, if she persists, unfriending her is totally an option, even if it might feel like the nuclear option at this point.

          I’m not active on social media, but even if I were, I wouldn’t want to cross the streams.

          If you don’t do anything about the annoying posts, at some point your annoyance with them is going to affect your work relationship with your coworker.

    2. EPLawyer*

      Ehh, I get the feeling terrible about not being available 24/7. Its LWs BUSINESS. LW has to care more than the employees. You feel you have to be connected and available at all times, because it is ultimately your responsibility.

      The problem is, Lisa and her constant meme bombing are making it hard to do that. So they leave the phone in the other room to get a break. Which then leads to guilt about not caring about the business enough. Solve the Lisa problem and the rest can be dealt with.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I understand that at the 1-4 person stage, or when you’re basically a sole provider. I do think by the time you’re employing 10 people, you should be thinking about having people and processes in place that mean you can switch off and trust that they’ll figure it out.

        1. Sara without an H*

          bamcheeks, I think you’re on to something. OP may be running the business the same way they did back when it was at the 1-4 employee level and they were the only backup. At 10 employees, the business has grown to the point where the OP really needs to start thinking about a more formal structure, designated backups, and written policies.

          Including a policy on acceptable social media use.

          1. Lisa’s Boss*

            Thanks. We were at 1-4 employees for a lot of years, so this is my sign to strengthen boundaries and professionalism for sure.

    3. Lisa’s Boss*

      We are connected on multiple platforms for work reasons. Imagine I own a teapot company, Lisa paints designs on teapots, I post pics and tag her and it leads to sales. She paints designs that are undeniably beautiful and represent the kind of work I want to see from my company.

      Idk what slack or teams is, we only use apps that promote sales, like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest. We probably should be posting tea videos on TikTok, too, but my personal aversion to videos and noise has stopped me.

      I am definitely rethinking my boundaries in general after reading these comments!

      1. Anonima*

        Teams and Slack are both platforms for work-related messaging. It’s fast and easy, like texting, but they’re specifically used for work contexts. It might help to define boundaries better if you’re using a work-specific platform, so that your employees don’t confuse “I need to message my boss about teapots” with “I should message my boss with memes.”

      2. JSPA*

        They are internal messaging boards. Posting leaves a chain that remains visible to anyone who’s subscribed to that channel (or thread). They can look through at any time. Normally one has multiple different groups for different purposes.

        A bit like (but not tons like) scrolling or searching through AskAManager threads, but you can post photos, documents, etc.

        It is common to have one channel for each major project, one channel for each department, one channel for work announcements, one for pet photos, one for memes and silliness. In big companies, there can also be social activism, affinity groups, etc. Anyone who doesn’t want to see memes doesn’t have to click over to memes. Ditto pets. One would normally be subscribed (or on) the ones for one’s own department, for work announcements, and for projects you need to know about.

        Instead of emailing or texting Jean to ask if they emailed Joan, and same to Joan, to ask if Jean emailed the thing, you skim slack, and post a request for an update on the progress. Maybe Joan sees it first, maybe Jean does; but it’s in the open for all of you. As a result, there’s less ouroboros-style tail chasing, as the already-essentially-closed-loop has to take several more bites of time so that everyone knows what everyone needs to know.

      3. Observer**

        OK, you DEFINITELY need to get something like Slack or Teams. It doesn’t have those two, but they are a good starting point.

        The apps you are talking about are for external marketing, which is fine. But for internal messaging, where email is not the best format, you need something that lets you message people and keep conversations going. And you need it to be something that is NOT visible to the public.

        You could possibly get by with something like WhatsApp, but you don’t get real backups and you can’t keep an archive of conversations, which can be a problem when you are trying to figure stuff out.

      4. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Advice, read as many posts on this blog as possible! Especially, go to topics and check posts under “being the boss,” “advice about your boss,” and “workplace practices.” But really, all the content is good and you will find a lot of good examples that make you stop and think.

  24. Delta Delta*

    “Respect my time and space and boundaries” =/= “Stop sending memes and videos.” Lisa sounds socially awkward and a little dense. You need to be clear with her and tell her to stop, and to clarify that she should be messaging you only for work purposes.

    Any other phish fans immediately think of the line “I try to find a way to, but there’s nothing I can say to make it stop (stop stop stop stop stop stop stop)” OP might not be there yet, but she might be close.

      1. Delta Delta*

        The MSG Pollock poster with the Fluffhead sign is my absolute favorite in-joke of all time. (And I got one!) Pleased to meet you, friend!

  25. ENFP in Texas*

    “I keep directly telling Lisa over and over and over to please respect my space and time and boundaries”

    It’s not about “please respect my space and time and boundaries.”

    It’s about “I’m your boss and am telling you to stop.”

    1. Loch Lomond*

      Yes you’ve told her to respect your boundaries but not spelled out what those boundaries are. Just ask her to stop sending anything not directly work related.

  26. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    I’m torn about whether to make a staff-wide announcement after the individual conversation. Set a clear and public expectation about the types of communication that can come to you after hours. “This is about work-life balance. The only things we should communicate about with each other on phone or text (not work email) after hours should be about whether you can or can’t come in on a day scheduled – e.g., a staff member is sick or will be delayed, or boss is telling everyone that there was a water main break at the office so we need to WFH today. Everything else can wait until work hours.”
    This would let the other employees model their appropriate “Oh of course that sounds perfect” and to notice that if they’re having an issue with TikTok overload as well they could come to you. It also gives more leverage BOTH your “this is our office policy” and “you need to listen to me as a human who doesn’t want this stuff” messages.

    And if I thought that guilt would help, I might say “Recently there were legitimate emergencies during my early morning work routine which took me too long to notice because other, non-work related messages were burying them. This cannot happen again.”

    1. Podkayne*

      Please, no. My direct and indirect observations, from both management and staff perspectives, is that the true target staff NEVER think it’s about them, but so many of the non-offending staff worry if they did something wrong, e.g. “oh, I sent that meme to everyone last month! Is she talking about me?!” Or the non-offenders KNOW who the intended targets are, and resent being lumped in with the offenders when they haven’t done anything wrong. Also, the universal message to staff is that the sender is too afraid to engage the actual offender(s).

      1. afiendishthingy*

        Also, although I get that there’s a concern Lisa is harassing her coworkers with memes etc as well, you don’t want to sound like you’re forbidding your employees from being friends with each other outside of work!

    2. Snell*

      Alison actually comes upon this question (Would sending a wide, all-staff correction/policy-announcement/reprimand/warning be an effective solution to a single employee’s problematic behavior?) fairly often, and her advice is always “No, the problem employee will ignore it since they don’t believe it applies to them, and everybody else, who are not causing problems, becomes unduly stressed trying to figure out if they are the problem.” Basically same as Podkayne says above.

    3. Antilles*

      Even setting aside the (correct) concerns of Podkayne and Snell about all-staff messages, what would even be the point of this sort of announcement?
      -The rest of the office seems to be doing a reasonable job of knowing what kinds of off-hours communications are acceptable. You don’t need to set a “clear and public expectation” here; everybody except Lisa is already doing just fine and doesn’t need some model for appropriate behavior.
      -OP owns the business, she doesn’t need “more leverage” to enforce policy or tell Lisa to listen up; OP already has all the leverage you could imagine. This isn’t some equal level co-worker where you lack authority and therefore need to try to cajole or guilt-trip them or talk them into changing their behavior. OP has the power to just directly address the situation and clearly tell Lisa to stop; OP just needs to decide to use it.

  27. Dark Macadamia*

    Oops, comment misfire. LW, you don’t have to (shouldn’t?) connect with employees on social media at all. And even with just regular text messaging you can mute notifications – there’s really no reason why anything from Lisa should ever disrupt your non-work time!

    Personally I would block her on everything that isn’t necessary for work, and then it can be objectively a work issue when she sends you things that aren’t work-related.

  28. Chilipepper Attitude*

    My closest friend and I live on opposite coasts, and that means much of our communication is via memes. We even send each other memes about meme-based friendships.

    The most I sent her in one day was 12, and we joked about how much “homework” I gave her!

    My point is that it is very much not normal to send that many in a short period, even when it is friends and even when the relationship is focused on memes and social media!

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Sometimes tik tok is my white noise and I just mindlessly scroll with my left hand while I’m working on something. Works for my ADHD concentration better than other things some days.

      But it also sounds like a lot of these are getting sent off work hours.

  29. chatterbox*

    I’m fascinated by the phrasing of “please respect my time and boundaries” in this situation. Asking someone to please respect your time and boundaries is for relationships — friends, partners, even colleagues on equal footing. But an employer doesn’t have to ask their employee to please respect their time and boundaries. An employer can set standards around accepted and not accepted work communication. (Sure, ideally a small business is a group of employees with a shared set of values and boundaries and standards are shared, assumed, and respected. But this clearly isn’t that kind of situation.)

    “Here at Tiny Teapots we do not allow employees to share memes, links, or videos via official work channels. This includes company email and phone numbers used for work communication.”

    Not a question of respecting anyone’s time or boundaries, simply a matter of complying with company policy.

  30. Tesuji*

    Not to victim-blame, but this feels more like a LW problem than a Lisa problem.

    This reads like someone who thought owning a business meant working with a group of friends, and is really really bad at both boundaries and confrontation.

    Honestly, if this is what she considers an outstanding employee with a bright future, I’d have some concerns about the rest of the staff. I’d also wonder: If she’s this okay with an employee blurring the boundaries so horrifically toward her, how badly is the LW in turn blurring other employees’ boundaries? If this is a symptom of one of those “we treat everyone like family here!” businesses… well, you have to wonder how many other dysfunctions there are, and if LW is causing any of them.

    As to the actual “problem”… as everyone has noted, this is about the most non-problem a problem can get: She’s the owner. She has complete power to tell Lisa to stop. She doesn’t have to deal with any layers of management, corporate policies or red tape. If Lisa doesn’t stop, LW has both the power and complete justification to fire her. It doesn’t sound like the LW has plainly and unequivocally told her to stop, so do that.

    To me, the ‘problem’ is in and of itself, just an uninteresting symptom; I hope the LW manages to take some broader lesson from this to deal with the actual underlying problem.

  31. irene adler*

    She’s been told to knock it off, (maybe not as directly as one could) but continues sending things. Usually, one gets the hint to stop sending things if, over time, recipient doesn’t respond or comment on the videos and such. Is there someone/something out there encouraging her with this, telling her that a good employee who wants to get ahead finds ways to connect with the boss?

  32. Kate*

    This reminds me of letters to regular advice columns that go “I have the best boyfriend anyone could want, he’s perfect, blah blah blah, except . . . ” And then the “except” is violence, embezzlement, rampant cheating, etc.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Captain Awkward calls them Darth Vader boyfriends, in homage to Luke Skywalker’s line “I’ve seen good in him” about Darth.

  33. A. Tiskit & A. Taskit LLC*

    Please have a meeting with Lisa in which you are very clear and very direct about the necessity of her only sending you work-related messages – no memes, no Tik Toks, no cute cat photos, no anything else! Then document what you require of her, being just as explicit in writing as you are in that meeting, and put it in her employee file. If she continues to flood your inboxes with trivia, you’ll have at least the beginning of a paper trail to which you can add as needed unless / until you fire her for refusing to comply with this very normal requirement.

    Meanwhile, recognize that while you’re trying to be empathetic and kind to Lisa, she is being argumentative and defiant with you. However good she is at the rest of her job, this last point doesn’t bode well for her future in your company. If she assumes that she can run right over any directions you give her now, then what’s to stop her from doing that the next time you have to give her instructions that she doesn’t care to follow? Unless you want your office to become a real-life version of “Bartleby the Scrivener 2023”, nip this in the bud now!

    1. Airy*

      And LW can acknowledge that they are changing their approach without undermining themselves, e.g. “This may seem harsh because I haven’t been so direct before, but I’ve realised I should have been more direct from the beginning. You deserve clear feedback about anything you need to change to be successful in this job – and to be clear, you need to change this to remain in this job.”

  34. Lily Potter*

    As many others have said, a firm discussion with Lisa is in order.

    Do NOT, however, have this discussion in a passive-aggressive way. I can see OP gathering all 10 of her employees for a training session about respecting off-hours boundaries, with the hope that Lisa will recognize her behavior and stop it. Thing is – she won’t see herself as the problem, and you’ll have wasted the time of nine other people in the process. Be firm and direct, in a one-on-one conversation.

  35. Rebecca1*

    My workplace has a staff Facebook page, set up as a private group, and that’s understood to be where ALL memes and videos go. Now I’m wondering if this is why it originally started!

  36. Baron*

    Yes, hi, I was a Lisa for most of my twenties. No boundaries, and my bosses were my (only) friends/sources of validation. I think the one difference is that if somebody told me, “Dude, don’t send me stuff anymore,” I always respected that…but I needed to be told that, extremely explicitly, by each individual person, and I needed to be told that by many people before I started understanding that I should develop boundaries in general.

    It sounds like you have told Lisa that extremely explicitly, and it’s done nothing. My best advice would be in line with Alison’s: start thinking of this, and explaining it to Lisa, as a work problem. Make sure it’s clear that you, in your capacity as her boss, are telling her to stop, and that if she doesn’t, there will be consequences for her as an employee.

    I completely understand your comment that she’s an excellent employee. I bet her work product is great. I bet that whatever is driving her to send you 300 memes is also driving her to be excellent at some parts of the job. But “not making your boss completely miserable” is a part of every job, too, and she’s having serious trouble in that area.

  37. GooglyMooglies*

    Probably been mentioned, but OP can also mute a specific person’s messages! so they still go through but you get no notifications for them.

  38. Happy*

    Have you told her that you “don’t mind the occasional memo or video”? If so, you need to change that message. I suspect the two of you have different ideas of what “occasional” means and she need to be told to stop sending you links.

  39. Toots La'Rue*

    and I don’t like noise on my phone and

    +100 to this! When people send me videos that require the sound to be up, they’re giving me a chore and I almost never watch them.

  40. Colorado*

    Oh my – LW this sounds like very much a you problem. You need to manage her and if it doesn’t stop then let her go. I wouldn’t put up with this from a friend. An employee, absolutely not.

  41. Hiring Mgr*

    What does she say when you ask her not to do this? Does she say she’ll stop and then just forgets?

    Strange behavior for sure, but if she’s truly a top performer otherwise then hopefully a clear message will do the trick

      1. Pineapple*

        I know you’re getting a lot of good advice here, but you have all of the power to make this stop! You have carrot and stick methods for managing this employee, with the ultimate consequence being to fire her. You need to tell her that this sort of communication is unacceptable – and not let her wriggle out of any rationalizing of her behavior. You do not need to validate her feelings here!

        You: I need you to stop texting me outside of working hours and [insert other requests here]
        Lisa: But I want to be there for you!
        You: This is not a debatable request. I need you to let me know if you can follow this policy or not.

        Revisit as necessary in a couple of weeks. At that point, tell her that she might be let go if she can’t follow it.

      2. Sedna*

        If she really wanted to be there for you, she’d respect what you asked her to do. Seems like what she actually wants is for you to be there for her. Constantly. Regardless of what you want or need. Is that what you want to spend your energy on at work?

      3. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        Hi Lisa’s Boss. From everything you are posting, it seems that (a) you are both relatively new in your careers, (b) are close enough in age that the boss/friend line is blurred, if not completely invisible, and (c) you want to avoid confrontation, and (d) you can use some good mentoring on business tool. I hope I am not being presumptuous in recommending some quick steps that may help you NOW:

        1. Separate your personal and work accounts. I have two different accounts for Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Tell Lisa to post all work items to your work accounts. Tell her–clearly!–that you don’t want non-work items posted to your personal accounts.
        2. Look into Slack. It is widely used and easy to download. Then, have all of your team use it for all work (and no non-work) communications. If I’m a teapot wholesaler looking at Insta, I should not see communications between you and your team on there.
        3. This is the hardest: tell Lisa (don’t ask) that you do not want her to be there for you as a friend. You can say you like working with her and she is a valuable part of the business, but you need to keep focus on a business relationship. As I learned dealing with my children, you need to keep repeating this–kindly–until she either stops or you need to move her out of the company.
        4. I am very serious about this: mute your phone during your sleep hours. Unless there can truly be a work crisis at 3:00am, you do not need to be available. If you can go the next step and turn off your phone, you will probably sleep much better.

        Good luck!

      4. Airy*

        It sounds like she’s misinterpreted the work relationship as a friendship, and she’s likely to feel humiliated and hurt when you tell her it’s not, but she really needs to be told so she can stop undermining it and any future work relationship with a boss. You need to thread the needle of being kind while also being firm and clear. It would be a good idea to discuss it at the end of the day so she doesn’t have to spend the rest of the day trying to work normally while she’s reacting to/processing the situation being extremely different from what she thought. Best case scenario, she goes home and deals with her feelings however she needs to and comes back the next day prepared to make a fresh start. If she responds poorly/angrily/abusively, it confirms that you need to dismiss her, and it’s the end of the day anyway.

  42. oof*

    We’re all talking about Lisa but ignoring this important part:

    “One morning I had like seven DMs from Lisa via various accounts, I just set my phone in the other room while I got dressed and, naturally, there was a rare emergency at work. Two other employees called quite a few times before I noticed and I felt terrible I kept them waiting.”

    You felt guilty that you…got dressed? OP, you need to take a moment and ask yourself whether you have realistic and appropriate expectations of *yourself*. It doesn’t matter if your actual office is on fire, a literal emergency, you still get to put the phone in the other room while you get dressed. “Keep your phone tethered to your body literally every waking moment of the day” is not an appropriate job requirement. This sounds like an inability to establish any kind of work/life balance. It’s just a job, someday you will work somewhere else. I think you should be putting your phone in the other room way more often.

  43. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    You are this person’s boss. You are allowed to give clear, unequivocal direction to her to stop a behavior that even the most tolerant boss would find irritating and unprofessional. If she quits over this, or has some inappropriate negative emotional display in reaction, then that will give you even more useful information about her poor judgment and lack of fitness for a job with your company.

  44. X*

    You are her boss! Tell her directly to stop sending you garbage, full stop. If she doesn’t listen, give her the boot. There are plenty of workers out there who are just as good and have more sense.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      You are also a human! Who doesn’t have to receive garbage, full stop.

      If her behavior means that she doesn’t reach you effectively in emergencies because you had to block her, and now her employment is in jeopardy because of it, then her employment is in jeopardy, full stop.

  45. SwampWitch85*

    This makes my skin itch. I’ve worked for small companies like this before and I noticed we didn’t have any kind of policies in place for staff guidance/culture. You could you make a staff policy that communication stays strictly related to work and only through appropriate channels and not outside of work hours unless it’s an emergency. One company I contracted for had a dedicated slack channel for work and that was the only place we were allowed to communicate, and it had to be 100% work-related.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      I disagree about needing to make a staff policy about this. The letter writer needs to manage Lisa. She doesn’t need permission or the authority of a policy that says don’t send 35 TikToks a day to tell Lisa to stop sending 35 TikToks a day.

      Lisa doesn’t have to see her point of view. Why is this even a discussion that has points of view?

      This all makes me worry about her ability to manage.

      1. Backrolls?*

        That’s what makes me think a policy would help her set up and understand her own professional boundaries.

    2. Dawn*

      Making it a staff policy – especially one this unnecessarily restrictive – would be a case of avoiding directly addressing one employee’s bad behaviour and is a solid example of bad management. They absolutely should not do this.

      1. Backrolls?*

        I don’t know, she should 100% address this with Lisa but a policy wouldn’t go amiss. Typically small business like this don’t have staff conduct policies in place because it’s a small team and things get chummy and boundaries get blurred. Maybe it could help LW to model professional boundaries for her staff going forward.

    3. allathian*

      That sounds a bit rough, TBH. You can’t really build relationships with people without sharing something of yourself, particularly if you’re remote. It doesn’t have to be much, or intensely personal, but just the occasional griping about the weather or asking “how was your weekend?” can get people to remember that we’re all human and not cogs in a machine.

      I have fairly strict work/life separation in the sense that I don’t want to spend much time with my coworkers outside of work, and while I’ve had work friends turn into friend-friends in the past, I focus on cultivating good working relationships with my coworkers now.

  46. Keymaster of Gozer*

    I think one of the harder things about being a manager is saying to someone ‘look, I know your behaviour is just trying to brighten things up, but it’s having the opposite effect’

    When someone is acting like a complete git it’s easier to call them on it (in my experience) than those who are good but doing something/saying something that’s out of line.

    Time for the ‘this behaviour of yours – sending ‘jokes’ to me – has to stop immediately. You’ve been asked multiple times to stop but refused. That is rude. I’m serious about this and it could lead to disciplinary action if you continue. Do you agree?’

    The ‘do you agree’ bit can be replaced with ‘do you understand?’ – basically you’re trying to get a ‘yes’ out of her. If she says ‘no’ instead then start the formal warning procedure. Likewise if she continues afterward.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*


      One caveat: I would definitely not say “do you agree?” because it sounds like “do you share my opinion?” And “do you understand?” sounds lecture-y.

      I would recommend “can you agree to do that?”

  47. Just Another Tired US Fed*

    All other considerations aside, there are concerns that TikTok may pose a security risk in that it is a Chinese app, and they are not our friend (US). Some companies may not want tiktok used on any of their resources.

    I feel sorry for this employee who has a problem reigning in their behavior. It is strange to be so out of tune with your boss. The problem with not squashing such irritating behavior early is that when it reaches the BEC stage, you just blow up.

    Directness is not mean. A closed mouth does not get fed.

  48. Student*

    This question makes me feel so old! I am old enough to be pre-cell-phone. I think I’ve had one person send me a meme once in my life. I mutter grumpily about “kids these days” when co-workers occasionally indicate they prefer (or require!) emoji-based communication in business chat clients.

    I do enjoy an occasional meme, purely out of work. I’ve seen most of them on web sites I use for entertainment or hobbies. Never made one myself.

    If I worked with this co-worker, on day 1, I would try to explain the culture difference and direct them to take me off their meme-sharing lists, etc. On day 2, or meme #3, (whichever came first), I would block them and say something very angry to them. Internally, my personal sense of professional boundaries, old-person-grumpiness, and general simmering anger would become a red-hot, co-worker-focused rage, mixed with a large helping of second-degree embarrassment. I would struggle mightily to treat that co-worker as a full adult profession in future interactions.

    For OP, if you want to try to push her buttons instead of taking the mature and professional route that AAM outlined, just send her this message in response to any and all communications, over and over:

  49. MicroManagered*

    I keep directly telling Lisa over and over and over to please respect my space and time and boundaries and she never does! She never even tries to see my side, she always just pushes her own selfish preferences

    I really wish this letter had a “I wrote back to ask” in the middle. I’d love to know what OP’s version of directly telling Lisa to stop is, and what Lisa’s version of pushing her own selfish preference is.

    1. Rick T*

      Write her up and make her acknowledge your written directions about appropriate use of social media and be ready to fire her for insubordination. Or, just fire her now and be done with her.

      She isn’t a good employee if she flat-out ignores your directions.

  50. Wombats and Tequila*

    I want to know if she is using her work email or text apps to send all this nonsense. If so, she is actually costing OP’s company money for the bandwidth used and storage for all these ridiculous messages, as well as the bandwidth and storage of all the other employees who are receiving it. Yes, storage is cheap, but it is not free and it is not her resource to use for personal nonsense, and still a point you can bring up). Prohibiting the use of company IT resources for personal use is an extremely typical rule, and you should implement it stat.

    How appropriate is the content? Is there any content that involves things that are political, or people/children/animals being mistreated or humiliated, or with sexual innuendo? Both of these are very common themes of “joke videos.” You need to spend a minute pondering what the humor of these jokes are based on. It is likely to contain elements of cruelty, racism, sexism, ageism, ablism, or other demons.

    Finally, is she sending this stuff during work hours? It sounds like she is not only using her own and others’ work resources inappropriately, but also everyone’s time.

    If she is not sending this stuff using work accounts, just block her.

    The bigger question is

  51. Dawn*

    Lisa’s performance may be outstanding, but it sounds like she is young and “young, working at a small business” generally suggests that there are lots of other bright young high-performing people who could step into her role, and who also have some sense of boundaries. It sounds like you might have to be clear about that.

  52. cncx*

    My best friends all send each other memes all day as a love language. While I can send the odd meme to one of my former bosses, I would have never blown his phone up. I read this as maybe a boundary or maturity issue where Lisa is treating OP like a friend and not a boss.

  53. Beep Boop*

    I wonder if there’s a generational disconnect here in expectations about response time.

    Younger people often DM each other funny memes and links with no expectation that a response will come right away, and in some cases no expectation of a response at all. Often the “response” expected is just replying asynchronously with different memes or emojis.

    If the LW is responding right away to these messages, and if–as AAM queried–the LW has not been clear and direct about telling the employee to stop sending them, there’s a possibility that the employee is actually interpreting this as positive feedback. We don’t know what LW said, but I think it’s very plausible that the employee is thinking, “I love my boss and never send her work-related messages after hours, just as she requested; I send her funny links and she replied quickly, so she must be enjoying them!”

    I say this not because I’m definitely sure it’s true, but because I think it’s a reasonable possibility that would explain the facts, and I hadn’t seen it shared in the comments yet. I certainly agree that in this case, as indeed in basically all cases, AAM’s advice to be direct and clear is the right move.

    1. MicroManagered*

      Nah, it’s not “generational” to send your boss memes and TikToks on multiple platforms, 1.5x per hour all day and all night.

    2. Dawn*

      There is certainly a generational component here. 100%. But even then, this is excessive, and that’s between close friends.

      The age gap explains ssome things, sure, but it’s largely irrelevant in the face of Lisa also clearly having zero boundaries or social awareness.

    3. Snell*

      There seems like a generational disconnect between you and “younger people.” Spamming funny memes and links is rude, even among “younger people.” Also, the boss already said to stop it. That’s not a “generational disconnect,” that’s Lisa ignoring her boss’s direction.

  54. Aggretsuko*

    Lisa sounds like an electronic stalker. This is not appropriate. I don’t know if you can fire her for constant communications outside of work, but this is waaaaaaaaaay too much.

  55. Observer**

    Speaking of which … have you checked on whether she’s doing this to other employees? If she is, and if she argues about stopping that too … and if she continues to be unmanageable even after clear and firm instructions … I’d be really skeptical that the advantages to keeping her outweigh how disruptive she is.


    But also, what about people *outside* of your organization? Does she deal with clients and customers? Does she deal with vendors or regulators? I can’t imagine how this kind of selfish faux-cluelessness could be affecting her relationships with such people.

  56. Katie Impact*

    I can understand LW’s hesitance to take disciplinary action against Lisa. From the clarifications in the comments, it sounds like this is a creative industry and Lisa has a significant social media presence. In that kind of environment, if someone quits or is fired, the business is likely to lose some customers who were there specifically for Lisa’s work — and some customers may even blame you for the fact that she’s gone, regardless of whether you actually did anything wrong or not.

    But still, that doesn’t mean you can let people get away with absolutely everything. Be clear and direct about exactly what needs to change and why, so that if this all blows up on social media later on, you come out looking fair and reasonable.

  57. DisneyChannelThis*

    Most apps you can silence notifications from specific people. Android phones you can also silence specific apps at certain times of day. I think it might help if you set your own boundaries on when you check your phone and what notifications you allow your phone to make.

    Also have you considered a google voice number for work stuff? Having a second number, this is the emergency at work number call only if work is on fire, would allow you to let that number ring through for emergencies while keeping your phone on silent when you want to be living your non work life, like your example of getting dressed in another room.

  58. K. Thompson*

    I am the emergency contact for my employers’ rental tenants. I understand that some people work different hours so they will call or send messages when at their convenience but to avoid being disturbed after reasonable hours for non-emergencies there are a few things that have worked for me: 1. Set up DND (do not disturb) time parameters on your phone during certain hours. My phone also has a setting that if a contact saved in my phone calls more than once within a short period of time, the call will ring. 2. You can specifically silence certain group chats and individuals so you will get the message but it will not disturb you with a notification chime.

  59. Here for the Insurance*

    This is similar to letters published all the time in other advice columns, in that the LW is so concerned about being nice and getting the other person to understand and not be upset that they’re having trouble just cutting to the chase.

    My advice is the same as always in those situations:
    1) Figure out for yourself how far you’re willing to go. Best case scenario is she’ll stop, but what if she doesn’t? Are you prepared to fire her over this? So often LWs insist they have to have something but aren’t willing to pay the price to get it. Be realistic with yourself. Something’s not a dealbreaker if you’re not willing to break the deal over it.
    2) Stop letting your desire to be nice (which usually means conflict-avoidant) override every other concern.
    3) Stop thinking the other person needs to understand. They don’t, they just need to stop. It’d be nice if they understand, but it’s not essential. Their actions are more important than what’s in their head.
    4) Stop thinking you have to manage their emotional response. If you’re kind, clear, and consistent, then you’ve done what was right. How they take it is their responsibility to handle. If your biggest concern is that she’ll quit in a rage over being asked to stop meme-bombing you, then you’re letting her emotions hold you hostage. Because seriously, quitting over this would be beyond unreasonable.

  60. L'étrangère*

    Apart from the tsunami of good advice on the trampling of work boundaries, I would urge the OP to get better control of their phone. Establish a work group of people who can get through at all hours, and don’t put the problem child in it. Mute all but the work group automatically every night. For your own sake, don’t be a slave to notifications, in fact turn off the audio so you’re not so obnoxious to everyone around you, even if it’s just a dog.
    Then there’s social media. Coworkers, especially coworkers with either direction of a managerial relation, don’t belong among your friends. You -must- block troublesome people. Review your privacy settings so your private life isn’t flapping open to all comers, giving the impression that you have no private life or that it’s fair game.
    And then I’d also emphasize that it’s unlikely the problem is limited to the OP. Rein in intrusive messages to everyone. Talk openly at a department meeting of the desirability to limit work stuff on social media, and control messages from work even if they are not -at- work. Set limits, and set a better example

  61. raida*

    I think another approach is like it’s training:
    “Here’s examples of work-related situations where I’ve been contacted out of business hours in the past, where they were and were not necessary to do so.
    I’m going to go through a few of each to show where it was urgent or not, where it couldn’t be dealt with until the next day anyway or not, where a text as an FYI was used as opposed to a phone call and vice versa.

    I like that we’ve got an environment here where everyone feels comfortable contacting me, however I also want to be clear on my expectations.

    I have provided everyone with easy access to my contact information, for business purposes.
    I don’t want you working at 8pm when it can be done in the morning.
    I don’t want you texting a dozen times on the weekend unless I’ve requested to be kept in the loop on an ongoing situation.
    I don’t want to get not work-related messages.
    If you want to share something funny, do it at work. Not to my phone, my phone is for important work communication outside of business hours.”

    Then you’ve refreshed everyone on your expectations, and she’ll find a less supportive audience to any complaints about you telling her personally to stop in private.

  62. DoubleSecretProbationer*

    I agree with everyone. Some people do not hear you when you speak in the tone of nice. You have to be extremely firm and just say stop.

    I had a male boss that once told me that women tend to feel like they need to justify their decision, which can make them look like they think their position is weak. I don’t know if I totally cotton to that, but there is an advantage to reading not just the room, but the person, and knowing that they’re not going to respond to anything other than brutal honesty.

    “I have said this before, and I won’t say it again: I do not want to get anything other than work-related messages of emergent nature between the hours of 6 p.m. and 7 a.m. That means no memes, no gifs, no messages on social media.”

    If you are interested in coaching her, tell her so. “This is a coachable moment, and I wouldn’t be a good manager if I didn’t tell you that this habit is incredibly intrusive. Unless you have consent from your coworkers, it is inappropriate to reach out on non-work related things after hours. I did not consent to this, and in fact have asked you to stop. This lack of judgment on your part will hamper your progress here if it continues, and will get you fired. It will also hold you back at any other employer, too.”

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