my coworker keeps asking me for personal favors

A reader writes:

I need some advice regarding a colleague who is becoming very needy and dependent on me, and is making me uncomfortable. She constantly asks me for personal favors, while I have never asked her for anything. Let me list out the things she’s asked of me, and the stuff I have done for her out of kindness.

1. She asks me to go drive to get coffee for her everyday. In return, she says I can buy myself a drink with her money. I am not much of a caffeine drinker and she knows this. She also has her own car. Sometimes her card gets declined, or she knowingly does not give me enough cash, so I have to cover all or some of the bill with my own money.

2. I housesat and watched her two dogs and two cats for 10 days. She discussed paying me beforehand, but never gave me the money when she got back. I had to ask her about it a few days after the fact, which was very uncomfortable. She ended up paying me a surprisingly little amount, considering she lives far away from our work and my apartment, she has four animals (two of whom have special needs), and I had to go there on my lunch breaks and spend the night. She never thanked me. Her house and sheets were not cleaned before I stayed there either. She has asked me to house sit several more times for her, but I have been telling her no.

3. Her car recently broke down and she begged me at 11:30 the night before to drive across town to pick her up for work. Her payment to me was a caffeine drink I did not need.

4. Last week, she asked me to housesit for her all of this week, despite knowing I have a lot going on.

5. Her phone broke, and while she was waiting for a replacement, I loaned her my old phone. She ended up not being able to pick up her package and it got sent back. She has not ordered a replacement, and still has my phone.

I really need help. She is asking me for too much when I already have a really busy life.

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 257 comments… read them below }

  1. Jennifer Strange*

    I haven’t read the response yet, but the LW is FAR too nice here! It is 100% okay to say no to these sorts of requests.

    1. Artemesia*

      On the housesitting. After being stiffed once, I would never ever have agreed again.

      And to the rest, what Alison said.

    2. The Original K.*

      Yeah, I read this like “OP, you need to just not do this.” I don’t think I’d do any of this. Asking me to drive to fetch her coffee? What? Asking me to get coffee with her, together, is one thing, but unless I’m her personal assistant there’s no way I’d regularly interrupt my day to get her coffee. I’d be confused by the request, honestly.

      1. Pippa K*

        Maybe it’ll help LW to see lots of people saying “I would just not do this” to bolster her sense that these are unreasonable demands. But at the same time – sure, people who are confident and not in a vulnerable position can easily refuse, and they will happily never have to write to Alison asking for advice on this kind of thing. But for someone who is less assertive, and maybe in a position where outright assertiveness would be penalized, “just say no. I myself could easily say no.” might not be a model that works for her.

        1. littlehope*

          Yeah, I think there can be a fine line between, “OP, let me reassure you that you *can* say no, saying no would be a normal and okay thing to do in this situation,” (helpful!) and “Why have you not just told her to get knotted already, what’s wrong with you?” (not helpful!).

    3. GammaGirl1908*

      LW, it’s not rude to say no. It’s just rude to say no rudely. Just keep saying “Sorry, I can’t help.” Don’t deviate, because that will just teach her that you’ll help sometimes.

      Also, when she laments about an issue to you, don’t jump in with an offer of help (like lending her a phone). “Hmmm, that sucks” is all you need to say.

      1. stratospherica*

        To be honest, most of her requests (except MAYBE the one where her car broke down which you can reasonably chalk up to an emergency) are so out of pocket that I’d probably not bother saying sorry when refusing either. If she’s asking me to drive out to get coffee for her (not even getting coffee together!!), I’d be pointedly asking her what’s stopping her from getting her own coffee.

        Granted, that’s why Alison is the owner of AAM and not me, lol.

        1. Some words*

          Ditto that. I’m terrible at hiding my reactions. I can just imagine myself staring dumbfounded that a co-worker thought any of these were reasonable asks to make.

          Luckily for the world I am not in any sort of leadership position.

    4. nobadcats*


      I sat on cats and house for a co-irker. She paid me in advance (over $200) and left several gift cards/certificates for local restaurants (within two blocks) on the counter and insisted I use her name when deploying them. Her house was clean, the guest room was supplied with clean sheets and towels. And her six (6!) cats and I got on well. I call one of her cats “my boyfriend” to this day. Subsequently, I was her go-to, if I couldn’t do it, we had a back up. The back up would come in during the week 2x per day, feed and water the kitties and scoop the poopoobox, and I’d stay over at the weekend. I returned the favor by washing the sheets I slept on, remade the bed, and made sure everything was neat and tidy for her return.

      Sitting on pets and house is a BIG job. The fact that this co-irker thinks it’s okay fine to impose a lot of responsibilities on OP with no compensation, and probably little notification, is a huge red flag. I’ve sat on cats with special needs. It’s not fun. Giving IV fluids to a big, burly cat is not fun and takes hours of coaxing and gentle talk (that job, also paid in advance, not a co-irker, a neighbor; I also successfully got their other cat to be friendly to me, and she hated everyone).

      And it’s one thing to say, “Let me get the coffee this round.” and quite another to constantly request a coffee run and having the card declined, no compensation.

      This person is an habitual line-stepper. Cut her loose!

      1. Kit*

        Living up to the username here, I love it!

        I haven’t engaged in unpaid house/cat-sitting since I was a: brand new to the workforce, and b: doing it for a relative who lives in the same town. (Her Maine coons didn’t have special needs, either; I basically got a change of scenery and an excuse to cuddle two gorgeous babies.) And the sheets were still washed in the guest room, because that is a bare minimum standard and my great-aunt does not live by bare minimums.

        1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          I’ve done it for two bars of nice chocolate, but it was for a coworker who lives only a few blocks away, has one cat with minimal needs, and wanted me to stop in ONCE and check on the cat/give him some cuddles.

          Another time I dog-sat (friendly chill dog, my house, two or three days) for a coworker who gave a donation to a nonprofit in my name, which I thought was pretty reasonable too.

    5. Alice*

      Personally, I’d say that saying no up front is actually *nicer* than saying yes while thinking “doesn’t she know she shouldn’t be asking me for these favors?”

    6. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      “NO” is a complete sentence. Do not make excuses or offer reasons that she will try to refute. She is treating you like her servant because you are letting her.

    7. Newbie New-Bi*

      It’s worth revisiting the difference between nice and kind.

      Kind comes from a motivation of love and goodwill.

      Nice has a self-serving motivation. Nice cares about people *seeing them* as “nice” more than about actually *being* so. Nice can be about not being able to say no, or having any self-care boundaries at all

    1. HCW*

      This can be helpful advice in highly fraught personal relationships, but in the workplace, “No” without aaaaany additional response / context is likely to be perceived as pretty terse. There is an interpersonal effectiveness skill that challenges people to prioritize (1) preserving a relationship, (2) achieving a goal, or (3) self-respect. In the workplace, sometimes we have to err on the side of preserving a relationship, which might sound like, “No, sorry, I can’t today” (vs just “no”), even if someone does not actually have something for which they need to apologize.

      1. Pippa K*

        This is true, and it’s also often easier for someone who’s just starting to refuse requests and isn’t very comfortable with it yet. Sometimes the softening language is for the speaker’s own comfort.

        “Oh” is a useful word here too, if you’re trying to avoid saying “sorry” a lot (although I use “sorry” myself in its range of possible meanings). If “no, I can’t.” seems too curt, “oh, no, I can’t” works fine, because “oh” comes with so many possible inflections, from breezy to puzzled to regretful.

      2. M*

        The Canadian sorry is similar to the Southern bless your heart. Sometimes you are apologizing for assuming they weren’t raised by wolves.

        1. Marna Nightingale*

          I’d actually say it’s closer to “excuse me” than to “bless your heart.”

          A mild expression of general regret at the many troubles one must endure in the modern world and one’s own inevitable, though often blameless, contributions to those of others.

          The closer Canadian equivalent to “bless your heart” is probably “love them to death, you know, but …”

          1. londonedit*

            This is also how we in Britain use ‘sorry’ – it doesn’t always have to mean ‘I apologise for something that I have done wrong’. Usually it means ‘excuse me’ or ‘I acknowledge that I’m making a request here’ or something like that. In this situation I’d probably pre-emptively say ‘Sorry, but I won’t be able to house-sit for you going forward’ – the ‘sorry’ is just a softener, in the same way as you might say ‘unfortunately’ or ‘I’m afraid that’.

            1. Liz*

              Another standard British use is short for “I’m sorry, my foot was already there and I didn’t see you moving”. Which happens a lot on the Tube, and always mystifies tourists. (Why are you apologizing when *he* stepped on *you*?)

        2. Lenora Rose*

          As a Canadian, this isn’t my experience with sorry. Even the most shocked sounding “Sorry!?” is much more along the lines of “What. Was. That?” than “bless your heart” Marna Nightingale has it closer.

        3. MigraineMonth*

          Do you mean the Southern “bless your heart” that means “screw you and the horse you rode in on”? Because if so, every Canadian person I’ve spoken with has been horrendously rude.

          1. Jen with one n*

            I mean, don’t get me wrong, it can absolutely be used that way, but the typical Canadian sorry can be used as a, “I recognize this is an inconvenience to you, but I’m not going to budge on this matter.”

            It can also be an, “I have wronged you and I apologize,” or it can be, “Hey, you bumped into me but I’m not going to throw hands over it because maybe I could’ve moved,” or even an, “we’re both at fault here, so I’ll apologize for my side of it.”

            Fun fact, my province at least has a law on the books that says saying sorry isn’t a legal admission of guilt:,_2009

      3. SofiaDeo*

        I would think twice about a softener like “not today” because people like this hear”keep asking, another day will be better”. “Sorry, I can’t” doesn’t offer hope, while not being as blunt as a plain “no”. The problem with even this sentence is, some will push with a “why can’t you?”. I actually prefer “No thank you”. I think it leaves people a tiny bit confused, like you thought they were asking to do you a favor but you said no thanks? Anyway, it’s been pretty successful for me. “No thank you.” Like I’m turning down a cookie or something haha. You’re saying No, there’s no qualified they can argue with, and you’ve thanked them, so not a plain blunt No.

        1. Marna Nightingale*

          But “why can’t you?” is easy: “It just won’t be possible for me, sorry.”

          1. zanshin*

            I am a huge fan of delivering “bad news” in the passive voice.
            it can’t be done
            it won’t be possible
            my life doesn’t permit it….

        2. Sally*

          Hah, my kids also sometimes say “No, I’m good” which would probably work equally well deployed here.

          1. A Baby Boomer*

            I do not believe that the OP needs an excuse to justify not doing favors for her co-worker. We try to be polite, but the co-worker is counting on wearing her down. I forget that “NO” can be a full sentence.

            I would be more blunt; ‘I’m no longer running errands or taking care of your animals. You are asking too much.’ This could also be a HR issue if she’s asking the same of others. She’s got a sense of entitlement and the OP doing things for her, feeds it.

      4. GammaGirl1908*

        Most of us are aware that we need to dress up and soften a workplace no. But LW seems to need the information that declining is an option at all.

        Even if there’s a power imbalance. Even if she did this once. Even if there’s no one else to help.

        Exactly none of these requests are an emergency (even the late night one; let me introduce you to my friend Uber).

        However LW wants to soften her no is fine, but she needs to start saying it and sticking to it.

      5. DisgruntledPelican*

        Eh, I would agree with this if the person in question was asking OP to help with work tasks. But it is really bizarre for a coworker to ask you to run personal errands for them or pet-sit or house sit this frequently. There really isn’t any other advise to give other than start saying no.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          This. LW is not refusing to help with work-related tasks or having collaboration issues with her coworker. Her coworker is repeatedly overstepping and treating LW like a personal assistant.

          I also feel like people get overly literal with “no is a complete sentence”. The point of it is to not overexplain yourself of make excuses that a boundary stomper will latch onto and argue like you’re having a discussion versus just saying no. It does not mean that you don’t include basic politeness around the “no”.

    2. J!*

      Last time Alison had to put a sticky at the top reminding people that in a work context, “No.” without any softening is often not really a great solution. The first time it was run, the LW also added that there’s a power imbalance in this relationship.

      1. Raven*

        Thanks for the remind. The person doing the asking is a ‘supervisor’ that makes it more difficult to say no…

        1. A Baby Boomer*

          It’s an HR issue if she’s a supervisor. I had a department chair that had to be called onto the carpet for expecting myself the admin & grad students to perform duties as a personnel assistant, Take her to the doctor, pick up milk shakes, run into town to pick up menus for her, etc. I work for a state institution. The situation blew up on her when she tried to get me to go the DMV office to get her handicap placard. I went to HR; the requests totally quit.

  2. Aelfwynn*

    Honey, you gotta say “no.” Just “no”. On repeat. She may react badly but that’s HER problem, not yours. She’s using you and won’t stop until you put your foot down.

  3. Scottish Teapot*

    Alison’s answer is right. I know it’s hard but please just saying no. I hate it when people take advantage of kindness. Please start being kind to yourself!

  4. learnedthehardway*

    OP, She’s taking advantage of you. She knows darn well what she is doing, too. You are not her personal servant, so stop playing that role.

    Also, talk to your manager about the situation, if she reacts badly when you start turning down her requests. Explain to your manager that there is a pattern here of your coworker requesting personal favours, and leaving you with the bill for them. Tell your manager that you have started to refuse her requests and what the outcome has been.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I think this is important; it’s good to get out in front of any drama she might cause.
      Just tell your manager that you’re about to do a course correction here, and you intend to be professional and matter-of-fact, but in case she starts minor drama, you wanted the manager to know.

  5. Alex*

    Oh my goodness, this is a bit much even for a *friend* not to mention just a coworker. I suspect she keeps asking because she keeps getting results. The more you say yes, the bigger these requests will get.

    You do not have to do ANY of this, ever, and you don’t even have to give an excuse. “Oh, sorry, I can’t today.” Over and over.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I suspect she keeps asking because she keeps getting results. The more you say yes, the bigger these requests will get.

      This reminds me of the time the receptionist on the corporate floor started forwarding every call to me. Because I was friendly to her, so she asked me once as I was walking past, where should she send the call she’d just answered? I gave her a good guess.

      Suddenly I was getting interrupted with calls from people who wanted every department but mine. I’d dutifully figure out where they should go, and send them there.

      I realize what was going on, and started sending them back to her–and eventually it stopped.

      The colleague is wrong (and covetous!), but at a certain point, it is fair to say to the LW: You need to stick up for yourself. You are letting this happen. Sure, it’s a human and understandable weakness, and we don’t need to act as though you’re a scummy person. But you are NOT being a good steward of your resources; you are betraying your own self. You have to get tougher.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Agreed that while this started as a coworker problem, the coworker quickly became a known known and the ball moved to OP’s court to change the pattern if she doesn’t like it.

    2. MsM*

      I wouldn’t even include the “today.” Just, “sorry, I can’t.” Or “sorry, I’m not available to help out with that any more.” Or “pay me what you owe for the last job/return my phone, and I’ll think about it.”

    3. Artemesia*

      I don’t understand the coffee run thing. If someone I know is going to get coffee I might ask them to get me some too and give them the money — but ask them to go make the coffee run when they themselves have a car and they wouldn’t be doing this otherwise? Just weird. How about ‘oh I am not going for coffee, so I won’t be able to do that.’

      1. TootsNYC*

        if you find the original, the coworker is sort of a supervisor and the LW is a lower-level employee

    4. Ray B Purchase*

      Spot on. I suspect that after a few consistent Nos or Sorry, I can’ts, the coworker will give up.

      A silly example, but I am rewatching Degrassi right now and your comment reminded me of one of the characters who is an absolute troll to her best friend, and the best friend asks one day “Why do you hate me so much? Why do you treat me like garbage if I’m your best friend???” and the reason was “Because you let me.”

    5. yala*

      Was gonna say! I pet sat for a weekend for ONE cat (would have been two, one with special needs, but things got sad a couple days before they left) for a friend who lives nearby, and she paid me…frankly too much, because I would’ve done it for free. But that’s, like, a fraction of just the pet thing.

      All of this? For someone who isn’t even a FRIEND? This reads like how someone in a sitcom would treat a rival they were blackmailing or something, not anything like reasonable expectations of a coworker.

  6. Feen*

    Do yourself a favor: learn to say NO. The discomfort you may feel while saying no fades quickly…. the annoyance you feel at yourself for NOT saying no lasts a long, long, LONG time.

  7. Jzilbeck*

    NO is a complete sentence, and no explanation is ever required. This is a good lesson in developing a backbone (spoken from someone who had to learn this as well). OP, you have everyone’s permission here to get selfish and shut down every last ridiculous favor your coworker is requesting! Please don’t feel guilty for doing so.

    1. HCW*

      This can be helpful advice in highly fraught personal relationships, but in the workplace, “No” without aaaaany additional response / context is likely to be perceived as pretty terse. There is an interpersonal effectiveness skill that challenges people to prioritize (1) preserving a relationship, (2) achieving a goal, or (3) self-respect. In the workplace, sometimes we have to err on the side of preserving a relationship, which might sound like, “No, sorry, I can’t today” (vs just “no”), even if someone does not actually have something for which they need to apologize.

      1. Green Tea*

        This is ordinarily good advice, and ordinarily, I roll my eyes at the ‘no is a full sentence’ people giving that advice when it doesn’t apply. In this case, the coworker is SO beyond the pale and entitled that the coworker has ruined the relationship, not OP. Any toehold like the ‘today’ in your suggested script is just going to make sure the coworker keeps harassing OP with these deeply inappropriate requests. “I can’t do these kinds of favors anymore” would be a better way to put a long-term stop to the situation.

      2. Foreign Octopus*

        Thank you for this!

        I mean no shade to Jzilbeck when I say this, I just find the lack of nuance with “no is a complete sentence” annoying because there are situations in life where that doesn’t work if you want to keep a smooth relationship and one of those situations is definitely work.

        1. Artemesia*

          That’s what ‘Oh, I won’t be able to do that’. or ‘oh, that won’t work for me, I’m so covered up.’ was invented for.

          1. Rainy*

            I deploy the Chad (look on YT for the Chad SNL sketches, if you don’t know them already). “Oh no thank you” delivered in literally the most gormless voice possible.

      3. Tio*

        You also have to be careful the other way too though. Sometimes, some people find any reason you give them as a problem to be solved. You can’t do it because you have plans at that time? Ask them to do it later. You just want to make sure that you’re not opening yourself up to too much arguing or rules-lawyering about WHY you can/can’t do it.

        But also, OP, if you end up caving and going to the coffee shop again and the card is declined – come back empty handed. Do not cover it more than once. Just gotta come back and say “Sorry, your card got declined and I couldn’t cover the drinks, so I couldn’t get anything.”

  8. The Person from the Resume*

    Just say NO!

    Also Alison unless something wasn’t showing up on my screen there’s a note (Same note here about the “sorry.”) that wasn’t referencing anything above. Probably because you changed your mind about needing to tell her “Sorry” when the LW doen’t need to apologize by refusing to be inconvenienced.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Whoops, you’re right! I’ll get it fixed.

      (The original post said, “There’s nothing here you actually need to apologize for, but if you haven’t been comfortable saying no, I suspect softening the language is going to help you be more comfortable refusing.”)

  9. Trillian*

    That’s not needy. That’s exploitative. She’s a user. Users are practiced at convincing generous people that “I’m a poor helpless soul and only you can save me.”

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        And forward to 2060, because our grandchildren will have to deal with the exact same script.

        People do it because it works. Often enough to appeal more than solving their own problems, at any rate.

    1. Two Pop Tarts*

      Do not say sorry.

      Sorry implies the OP should be doing this.

      No need to soften it. “No I can’t” is plenty polite.

  10. urguncle*

    A perspective that changed my life is that, when it comes to asking for favors, there are two types of people. The first is the person who considers an ask an obligation and operates the same on both ends of that. If they are asked to do something, they do it. If they ask someone to do something, they expect the person to complete it. The second is the person who considers an ask an option and they operate on both sides of that. So, if they ask you for something and you do it, they believe you entered this willingly.
    The problem comes when these two types of people meet. I’m the first type of person, but I’ve realized some people are just the second type and once I get more requests than I want, it liberates me from feeling bad about saying no.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I think there are other types of people, the people who ask because hey, you never know, and they have discovered that it works.

      Sometimes they realize it’s a manipulative tactic, and they use it deliberately, and they never intended to do eff-all for you.

      Then there are the people who ask because hey, you never know, and they’ve discovered that if they ask, people will often say yes, and so they just keep following the path of least resistance. It’s not conscious; it’s just what becomes effective for them, so they keep doing it.

    2. Aelfwynn*

      I think there are definitely people who believe when they ask a favor of someone else, it should always be granted, but if someone asks a favor of THEM, it’s optional.

    3. TootsNYC*

      I think there are other types.
      There is the type that cynically knows that if they ask people for favors, people will often feel obligated to do them, so they start small and continue asking for ever more favors. In a very calculated way. And they never intended to return the favor in any way.

      Then there’s the type that has discovered that if they ask for favors, people will often do them, so they ask, because what the heck–it’s worked for them in the past. And then when someone helps, they come back to them becasue it worked before. They don’t CONSCIOUSLY do this. And they may or may not intend to do favors (though they probably don’t generally do other peopel favors, becuase they think of themselves as “the one who needs favors”).

      The two are much the same, but the first one is calculatedly like that, and the second is simply following the path of least resistance.

      1. GreenDoor*

        I worked for (no surprise) a politician who played on the idea that people generally like being helpful. So if you frame your incredibly obnoxious favor as a plea for “help” you usually get a yes. After all, don’t we all like to believe that we’re generous, kind, helpful, etc?

        So, OP, if you’re hearing, “I need help with cat sitting” or “I’m swamped with work but I’d love a coffee…can you help?” she might be manipulating you this way. “I’m sorry, I can’t help you” is a perfectly fine response that does NOT negate your general good nature!

    4. kiki*

      Yeah, I’m from a family where we are very resistant to ask for help or favors. If we are asking, it’s because we very, very much need it and do not have other good options. I often assumed that was the case with other people, but a lot of folks feel very free to ask for anything and see what happens. So I have to keep that in mind when somebody comes to me. Sometimes I even say, “It would really put me out, but if you have no other option I’m willing to.” I wouldn’t say that for the coffee requests or anything trivial like that, but for the emergency ride to work I might.

      With this coworker at this point, though, I think you have to say no to everything so she gets out of the habit of asking.

    5. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      oh no. There’s a LOT of people who consider the ask an obligation if they’re the askER, but an option if they’re the askEE.

      (Also, if you ask someone to do something with the expectation that they’ll automatically do it, that’s kind of a jerk move IMO.)

      1. Irish Teacher*

        And there are people who do the opposite too, consider it an obligation if somebody asks THEM to do something but an option, “only if it doesn’t put you our, are you sure you don’t mind?” when asking anybody else.

    6. ecnaseener*

      Ask vs Guess culture! Annie is asking for way too much, I don’t want to minimize that, but yeah LW definitely seems to be from a Guess culture, where saying no outright is rude, so by extension asking directly for a favor is also rude because the person “can’t” say no. The polite thing in Guess culture is supposed to be to hint at what you want and let the person offer it to you if they’re willing to give it.

      Again, Annie’s being rude no matter which “culture” you’re used to, but I suspect someone used to direct asks wouldn’t see this as confusing, just annoying.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think even in Ask Culture, “Can you take your car and drive to a store you wouldn’t normally go to and use your own money to but me a fancy coffee?”–to your cowoker!–is a few orders of magnitude beyond normal.

        (I do agree that OP, like Kiki above, is probably from a background where the direct ask means someone really, really needs help or they would never put you out, and so saying ‘no’ would be a big thing.)

      2. Frost*

        “The polite thing in Guess culture is supposed to be to hint at what you want and let the person offer it to you if they’re willing to give it.”

        That’s one flavor. Another flavor is that you hint around or test the waters until you have figured out, or guessed, that the person will say yes. Then you can ask. It’s rude to put someone in a position to say no, but it’s not rude to ask if you know they will say yes. These people are also typically unable to say no themselves bc saying no is rude.

        I find these people maddening.

    7. Observer*

      A perspective that changed my life is that, when it comes to asking for favors, there are two types of people.

      Nope. That’s a nice perspective, but it’s just not true.

      In this case there are some really clear clues that this is not what is going on here. And that is that she’s not only asking for highly unreasonable things, she is ALSO taking things without asking. Not paying for stuff she asked for, keeping something longer than was agreed upon, etc. cannot be seen as something that the OP (ie her victim) voluntarily signed up for.

      Yes, the OP needs to start saying no. But they also need to be clear in their own mind that this is a person who is abusive and manipulative.

    8. Olive*

      But being an asker or a guesser doesn’t have anything to do with being a person who doesn’t pay a fair amount right away along with profusive thanks for 10 days of pet sitting.

  11. Higher Ed*

    I’m going to guess she never ordered the phone in the first place. Take you phone back, even if you have to take it out of her hand.

    1. Sales Geek*

      You can also get your phone provider to give your phone a “vacation.” It means that they’ll turn off all phone/internet service and the phone should be useless except maybe to take pictures.

      Verizon does this; I’m not sure about other providers. They will only do this for two months (at $10/month) and then automatically turn the line back on. They’ll keep the number “active” so you will get it back when you tell the provider that it’s time to turn their service back on.

      I think you’ll get your phone back when it no longer works but I’d still recommend asking for this person to return it.

      1. Meep*

        I am pretty sure she is using her own sim card with OP’s old phone so this won’t work.

      2. Tio*

        That’s only if the phone is still under her number… I’m wondering if Annie took the phone and got it activated under her (annie’s) number while the old phone came in, because if so, she may not really intend to return it to LW. Hopefully she will, but she already seems perfectly happy to take and take.

        1. Observer*

          In that case, the OP could report the phone as stolen and get it bricked. That does mean that the OP won’t be able to use the phone either. And in most cases, I’d say it’s petty.

          In fact, I probably wouldn’t do it here either. But I’d *fantasize* about doing that, because she just being SOOO obnoxious.

          This is an old letter, so the OP is hopefully in a better position. But I would say that calling the carrier and stopping service if they were paying for it, would be the way to go. Any carrier would have done so, no doubt about it.

          1. Tio*

            Yeah, someone added context later that tis is actually her older supervisor. I know the letter’s old now, but potentially one option could have been to ask, near the end of the day, “Oh I need that phone back for the day, it has some important pictures on it I need access to copy” and hopefully get it back, then either forget to bring it back in again forever, or it gets conveniently broken/smashed/eaten by the dog.

      3. Dancing Otter*

        Don’t know about other brands, but you can deactivate an iPhone if it’s lost or stolen. (Brick? Reset?) The carrier and what SIM card or account she’s using have nothing to do with it.
        Assuming LW gets the phone back, it may be a hassle to reactivate, but I would be worrying what data I might have left on that old phone, and what the co-worker might do with it FAR more.

    2. yala*

      Honestly, I would just write the phone off. If OP wasn’t using it or planning to trade it in, it really might not be worth the emotional hassle of trying to get it back

    3. Two Pop Tarts*

      It takes 1 hour to get a replacement phone from a carrier store.

      It takes no more than a week to order a replacement through eBay.

      If it’s been more than a week, she didn’t order one. She’s saving a few hundred bucks by using yours.

      Give her a deadline. “I need my phone back by Friday, because I’m selling it and have found a buyer.”

      Normally I don’t like giving people reasons, but she’s bound to demand one, and I doubt she’ll take “because” as an answer.

  12. MidCenturyMayhem*

    This is not a person who is simply clueless and doesn’t realize they aren’t taking advantage. This is someone who has taken note of OP’s kind and accommodating nature, and zeroed in on it purposefully.

    The best course of action is to deny any and all future requests with no exceptions. “I’m not going to be able to help you out with that anymore. You’ll have to get your own/make your own arrangements.”

  13. Cat's Paw for Cats*

    OP, I’m guessing you’re very young and are not yet comfortable with the idea of people not liking you or being angry with you. There are fewer greater life skills you can learn than to say no and mean it. The earlier in life you learn this skill, the happier you will be. Be your own advocate and say no, mean it, and let the chips fall where they may.

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      Or, like my mother, older and equally unpracticed at saying no.

      OP, don’t be like my mother (and many women her age). Start practicing saying “no” now and get good at it. You are entitled to ask for what you want and to not do things you don’t want to do!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Oh… wow, did I just have an insight into the flip side of my dear departed mother’s open-hearted, ready to help persona.

      2. Fedpants*

        My mom can never “hear” a soft no. she was selling insurance to small businesses years ago (like, Aflac), and one that she had a lead on a business, but the owner kept pushing her off–i haven’t had time to review; we’re pretty tight budget right now; maybe in a few months. she took me a long on a pitch when I was home for vacation (it was a motorcycle shop, so I wandered about the show room). the entire drive home was me explaining what a “soft no” was and to leave that poor guy alone.

      3. Cat's Paw for Cats*

        Oh. That’s a very sad thought. That you would go your whole life being imposed upon without thinking you can say no. Your poor mom.

    2. Manders*

      Yeah, sometimes when you are being kind to others, you are being unkind to yourself. Not always, obviously. Maybe not even often at all. But in this case you are actually realizing that you don’t like to do these tasks, and they are not tasks that are necessary for you to do. So you are spending your own money and emotional currency every time you do something for her, and neither of those things are unlimited.

      1. Hans Solo*

        Doing these things isn’t kindness. I sometimes bristle at the idea of people being called nice and kind when actually they aren’t effectively setting boundaries. A kindness would be to go on an errand for someone who may have an injury, or perhaps surprise someone with free coffee. Giving in to manipulation just isn’t kindness to me.

  14. Usagi*

    After the first couple coffee runs / favors with insufficient gratitude etc, this isn’t even about her asking at that point. These are just… things OP is doing. Just stop agreeing to them.

    Framing it as a question of her asking is putting her in the driver’s seat of your life. Why would you say yes to this a second time? A third time? You’re not her child or her servant. Just decline as nauseum and breeze on with your life.

  15. Irish Teacher*

    “She asks me to go drive to get coffee for her everyday. In return, she says I can buy myself a drink with her money. I am not much of a caffeine drinker and she knows this. She also has her own car. Sometimes her card gets declined, or she knowingly does not give me enough cash, so I have to cover all or some of the bill with my own money.”

    Honestly, I think this is good reason not to go and get coffee for her ever again. The fact that she has her own car makes it a bit weird that she is asking somebody else to do it anyway, but knowing not giving enough cash? That makes it sound like she is deliberately sending the LW so that they will pay for her.

    She’s taking advantage and it is perfectly valid to say “no,” though I know that can be difficult, especially as people like often deliberately make it so, phrasing the question in such a way that it seems to expect a “yes” or as if saying “no” is really going to make things difficult for them.

    1. TootsNYC*

      yeah, this particular instance shows that this is absolutely deliberate.
      This is not someone who operated on the “ask” framework; this is someone who is choosing the LW to fleece because she’s discovered the LW will allow it.

    2. WellRed*

      I would say to just cancel the order. I also I’m always amused by people who say they don’t drink coffee or whatever but there’s nowhere I can think of that doesn’t offer multiple options if your coworker actually did want to treat you.

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        This was my thought.

        Come back empty-handed and say that the card got declined or there wasn’t enough cash. Then, when she asks again the next day, say that you can’t afford to waste more time running around for her for nothing.

    3. Tribbles*

      This sounds to me like someone who is jealous of the letter writer, and could be setting her up at work. “I don’t know where she is, she’s never at her desk!”
      I had it done to me when I was young and agreeable/pliable/generous. That drive it right out of me.

      1. maringe*

        But what would jealousy have to do with the phone or house-sitting situations?

        It seems the co-worker exploits the kindness of the LW. No more, no less.

    4. yala*

      This one had me kind of baffled, because EVERY DAY? And it’s not, like, in the building, or a short walk away, it involves driving to get there? Is OP doing this on her break time? Just sacrificing her breaks to be in traffic so Suzy-Usey can have her whole break to do whatever she likes AND have coffee?



    5. Rose*

      Legit she’s using OP as her own personal Uber eats. Asking a coworker to run an errand for you every single day is absolutely so wild, and the fact that she has her own car just makes it even crazier. I can’t imagine having the audacity to even ask someone to do that for me once.

    6. Giant Kittie*

      It reminds me of when I was a teenager, and my brother was usually the driver when our friend group would do something fun. We’d usually stop at a fast food restaurant drive through afterwards and after everyone covered the cost for their food, it was always short. My brother would always get annoyed and snippy and complain that people were shorting the total. It would always end up with everyone else having to contribute another buck or so to cover it because nobody would cop to being the cheapo.

      That’s because it was him. He was the one not putting in enough and then accusing the rest of us of dishonesty so he didn’t have to pay for his own food.

  16. Annie*

    You could allow your exasperation show and finally put your hand up and say “OMG [name!], this is all too much! Please give me my phone back and stop asking me for favors. I’m not willing to help you anymore.”

    1. Rose*

      Why go from saying yes to basically everything she asks (tells?) you to do to acting frustrated? Just say no!

  17. Frost*

    “she’s the one who’s being rude by asking you for so many things!”

    This is very ask vs. guess. The coworker is an Asker. OP and AG are Guessers. I don’t really find Askers to be rude unless they can’t take “no” for an answer. And then it’s not the asking that rude, it’s the failing to take a no that’s rude.

    It’s ok to say no. It’s ok to say “no” without giving a reason, too. It feels less abrupt to say, “I’m afraid I can’t,” even though “No” is perfectly cromulent.

    1. TootsNYC*

      no, I don’t think it’s “ask” vs “guess.”
      Not when the colleague’s card is declining, etc.
      This is a deliberate fleecing tactic.

      Ask vs guess is a thing–that’s not what this is.

      1. Rose*

        Also not when someone is just… asking you to do their errands for them or not paying you back. She could drive to get her own coffee. She knows OP doesn’t really drink coffee.

        It’s one thing to ask for a favor that you actually really need but IMO just asking other coworkers to do daily mundane tasks for you so that you because you’re not in the mood to do them is rude

    2. Irish Teacher*

      I agree that Askers in general aren’t necessarily rude. It’s a perfectly valid way of operating.

      However, I do think this person is rude because of the not giving the LW enough money to cover her order or giving her a card that is then declined (and it sounds like she isn’t reimbursing the LW when she returns, although I guess it’s possible the LW isn’t telling her). It also sounds like she’s made no apology for keeping the phone she was loaned for so long or given any indication of when she might give it back. I do think those things are rude.

        1. Observer*

          No, this is actually a real difference in communications styles. The problem is that it gets deployed in situations like this, where it’s just not relevant.

          1. JP*

            There’s some basis for it, but it’s a massive oversimplification, and the way people are trying to apply it to this situation illustrates exactly why it’s pop sociology / psychology.

            1. Observer*

              I agree that it’s being mis-applied here. That doesn’t make the concept not valid. Just like the fact that people talk about being allergic when they aren’t allergic doesn’t mean that allergy doesn’t exist. I could go on with dozens of situations of ideas that are essentially correct, but also often mis-applied. That doesn’t invalidate the concept.

          2. Peanut Hamper*

            It’s the whole “do you drink water? You know, Hitler used to drink water.” It’s both oversimplified and misplaced.

        2. Elsajeni*

          There’s something to it, in the same way that there’s something to the idea that, say, different cultures have different amounts of conversational overlap that they consider acceptable. But inevitably, people do use it to excuse behavior that’s rude or unreasonable in pretty much any culture — you know, in high-overlap cultures, it is still possible to interrupt rudely! In this case, I think the possible value of the ask/guess framework is for the OP to see herself in the “extreme end of guess culture” description, and maybe that will help her get more comfortable with turning down requests for favors that are unreasonable or that she just doesn’t want to do; I don’t think it’s useful to think of the demanding coworker as an example of “ask culture,” because, like, saying you’ll pay someone and then stiffing them is rude regardless of whether you thought asking for the initial petsitting favor was okay or not.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      No, Coworker has shorted the OP on money. That’s not “ask” behavior–that’s just being a user.

    4. doreen*

      I don’t think that’s all it is. I am definitely not a Guesser but just because I am comfortable asking for something even if the answer may be “no” doesn’t mean the circumstances can never make the request itself rude. ( My husband had an acquaintance who was very much an Asker and we would sometimes give him a baseball ticket if we weren’t using one. He didn’t offer to chip in for gas/tolls when someone gave him a ride, even to a place 400 miles away , because “you were going anyway”. When this guy asked if my son and I were using our tickets for a big game “because its supposed to be cold” , it was absolutely rude.) And constantly asking for favors while never doing any for the other person is rude in my book. Even if the OP never asks for favors, there’s no reason the co-worker can’t go pick up two drinks half the time.

    5. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      As the Askiest of askers: The coworker might be an asker, but the issue is that they’re a jerk. I may ask “Hey, would you grab me a soda while you’re out?” but if my coworker says yes, then I’m not going to deliberately not give them the money for it, and if I ask them to loan me a thing until I get my thing replaced and they say yes, I’m DEFINITELY not going to just keep it longer than we had agreed without huge apologies and confirming that it’s still okay now that the situation has changed, or do you need this back, I can figure out something else. Asking does not mean taking advantage of.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        This is where I am on it.

        Coworker is both an Asker AND a cheap, manipulative jerk.
        LW is a Guesser AND a bit of a doormat.

        They aren’t mutually exclusive.

    6. Antilles*

      No, no, no. This is not “ask versus guess”.

      Asker doesn’t explain why she regularly doesn’t give OP enough money to pay for her drink even though the prices are consistent (#1). Asker doesn’t explain why she discussing paying for the house-sitting ahead of time but didn’t then somehow underpaid OP (#2). Asker doesn’t explain calling at 11:30 pm on a weekday (#3). Asker doesn’t explain how she somehow hasn’t even bothered to order a phone or arrange things to go to the Verizon store (#5).

      This actually is “jackhole vs polite”, not ask vs guess.

      1. Observer*

        This actually is “jackhole vs polite”, not ask vs guess.

        Thanks for putting this so succinctly.

    7. Green Tea*

      This perspective gives a bad name to askers. Askers have less hesitation to ask for a favor if they don’t know whether the person they are asking is open to doing it or not, sure. But they’re still humans with brains who use common sense – there is still a line in the sand where every asker recognizes there is no chance that anyone would be willing to do a certain favor and it is not reasonable to ask.

      And plenty of ask culture people recognize that if they’ve asked one person for three favors and the person has never asked them for a favor, that this is becoming unbalanced and they should stop, because again, they have brains and social awareness. OP’s worker is just a jerk who is taking advantage of OP.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        It’s big in pickup culture too. “What if the counter person at the deli wants to perform a sexual act on me? I’ll never know if I don’t ask!”

        Funnily enough, pickup culture also has a thing where you have to accept the ‘no’ if it’s really, truly, sincerely meant… but amazingly, it usually turns out you should assume the other person is speaking in code and did not mean ‘no.’

    8. Ellie Rose*

      Being an asker is one thing — but there’s a line where it crosses from “these are my norms” to “what can I get away with”.

      “Can you grab me a coffee? ” + not realizing you gave insufficient money -> asking, reasonable mistake. You didn’t deliberately set out to put them in this awkward position.

      “Can you grab me a coffee” + deliberately and/or repeatedly providing money that is less than it costs or a card that is maxed -> taking advantage of the fact that you know they won’t say no even if it literally costs them money.

    9. Observer*

      This is very ask vs. guess.

      Nope. This is pure Taker.

      Not providing enough money to pay for stuff? Refusing to return something you borrowed? Not paying for a service someone did? None of this is about Ask vs Guess.

      1. Ellie Rose*

        Exactly. If the co-worker was saying things like “I can’t afford a coffee. Can you buy me one?” or “I’d like to keep this phone. Is that OK?”, “I decided I don’t want to pay you anymore. Is that alright?” then it would be asking — and who knows, maybe LW would still say yes because she doesn’t feel OK saying know — and still most of the asks are over the line into “wow actually that’s pretty rude/weird to ask a co-worker?”

        Also, having a preferred communication style doesn’t give you carte-blanche to ignore the fact that other people have preferences! I could say “well, I’m a swearer” and want everyone to accept me dropping curse words into every sentence, but that’d make me a total jerk in most workplaces, and (rightfully) probably wouldn’t go well.

    10. kiki*

      I think there are multiple levels to this where, yeah, I think LW’s coworker is more of an asker. And ask vs. guess culture is legit. But this coworker is definitely exceeding even what is considered polite amongst askers! And repeatedly asking for the same thing after LW has said no to similar requests multiple times before is definitely rude, ask culture or not.

  18. Lily Potter*

    At least half of AAM’s questions can be answered with two words: SPEAK UP.

    Or even one: NO.

    So many people refuse to do/say either, and then get irritated when you tell them that all they have to do is either SPEAK UP or say NO.

    I have far more compassion for people who are willing to do the above, but are just looking for a script to say it.

  19. Amber Rose*

    “I’m sorry, I can’t help you with that.”

    Practice in a mirror until it’s the most natural thing you’ve ever said.

    1. Serin*

      Another answer along the same line is “That won’t work for me.”

      When we’re dealing with polite people, it feels polite to give a reason — but oversteppers see a reason as an opportunity to negotiate. “I’m sorry, I have other plans at lunch” will get you “Oh, where are you going? Could you pick me up a sandwich?” and “I’m trying to drive less” will get you “You can keep the change to pay for your gas” and then the change will be twelve cents.

      Just give them a smooth glass wall with no footholds.

      Also don’t be afraid to repeat yourself word for word. It feels impolite. It IS a bit impolite. But if someone is ignoring your refusal, making the same refusal again in the same words will highlight how rude they’re being.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Yeah, this reminds me of the acquaintence I had who kept asking me if I wanted to meet up, then going to do whatever she had intended to and expecting me to just tag along, with no chance to suggest anything I might want to do. I mean, she would literally say, “hey, do you want to meet up?” “OK, I’ll call for you,” then come to my door and be like, “come on” and just go to a shop and spend half an hour trying on clothes while I waited for her, then say, “aren’t you going to buy anything?” even when half the time, the shop didn’t even sell anything in a style I would wear and that should be obvious just from seeing me.

        One time she asked me if I wanted to go to the St. Patrick’s day parade, which I didn’t. The day was freezing cold, possibly raining, the parade always starts late and is basically a parade of children from the local primary schools, a couple of marching bands, trucks from local businesses and people like the police force. I said I didn’t, as it was too cold and she replied, “ah, wrap up warm” and sounded quite surprised when I reiterated that no, I was not going to go.

        It’s not quite the same but some people will have an argument against any reason and just need to be straight up told “no” and I suspect this person is one of them.

  20. Panicked*

    As a recovering pushover, I can see myself getting into this situation. However, I have learned that “No” is a complete sentence. People that consistently take advantage of the kindness of others will lose interest quickly once they realize you’re done helping them.

  21. Adereterial*

    Can’t help but think Captain Awkward would have a good take on this one!

    Time to grow a spine, OP. Say no. An ask is not an obligation and there is nothing rude in saying no. And tell her you need your phone back by a fixed deadline or you’ll be asking her to pay for it.

  22. DiscouragedWorker*

    Agree with prior posters, but if she will not give you phone back, cut off service.

    1. CravingLemonMeringuePie*

      THIS. If she pulls this, call your phone service provider, OP, and tell them you lost the phone.

    2. KatEnigma*

      Since it was OP’s “old” phone, I assume she’s using her own provider and sim card, not OP’s.

    3. Frost*

      I took the phone lending to refer to just the phone–that is, OP lent a phone, but the coworker had her own SIM card and service.

  23. Falling Diphthong*

    I think one thing throwing OP off is that we can expect manipulative people to be malevolent and self-aware. To dress as Maleficent and cackle about how they are going to make you caffeinate them. When often people are more hapless and incompetent, and the one method they have hit on to solve their many problems is to find a nice person and glom on, sighing about how they really need someone to help them just this one time, for these rare one-off unanticipatable circumstances.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Stiffing people on coffee money and pet sitting pay is 110% malevolent. Coworker is doing this because she knows she can get free stuff out of the OP. All of these situations have alternatives, but she’d have to pay for them.

    2. Observer*

      No, this is not poor bumbling incompetent who somehow can’t manage to get their act together. It’s actually waaaay too practiced and polished. This IS “Maleficent”

    3. TootsNYC*

      I went and read the original. The other thing throwing her off is that this person is the LW’s team lead–not her boss, but outranks her and has some authority over her.
      And the LW has said no a couple of times.

  24. Ama*

    Until I was in my late 30s I was pretty soft-spoken and always came off as eager to please at work/school, and a LOT of coworkers/bosses/teachers assumed they could pawn thankless extra tasks off on me because I seemed like I’d say yes. Luckily in both high school and at my first post-college job, my parents caught me a couple times fretting that I had been asked to do something I didn’t really want to do (all extra things, not things that were part of my regular school curriculum or job duties) and reminded me that it was perfectly fine to say no and that when it was that kind of request where it was above and beyond what I should have been asked to do as an employee/student “I don’t want to” was a good enough reason for a no. If those instances hadn’t happened in my late teens/early twenties I think it would have been very easy for me to have been a lot like the OP, where I felt like I always had to say yes just because someone asked me.

    People like the OP’s coworker have a real knack for finding someone who has trouble saying no and leaning on them constantly — OP, your only way to get this to stop is to say no and stick to it.

    1. TootsNYC*

      People like the OP’s coworker have a real knack for finding someone who has trouble saying no and leaning on them constantly
      Those people are constantly testing.

    2. Avery*

      …sounds like me. In college, my roommate (who I had already had a few gripes with–she was a late night party animal, I was very much neither) asked if I would move out of our shared room because she had made a friend and decided that she’d rather have said friend as a roommate.
      I was seriously considering it and near tears when I called my parents over it.
      Thankfully, they helped me see sense, and the room that roommate ended up sharing with her new best friend was NOT the room that I had been living in the whole time…

  25. Margaret Cavendish*

    I remember this person – I really wanted to reach out and give them a hug! I hope they’re happy and self-confident and free of this toxic coworker by now.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I really want an update on this one. I too hope this OP is doing well and far away from this favor-demanding coworker.

      1. Observer*


        I really hope that the OP was able to break free of this user. And also that they learned how to push back more comfortably.

  26. Indigopen*

    I had a colleague who would regularly ask me to make coffee. A cheerful “No thank you” like I was turning down a favour from him curbed that behaviour. Not sure exactly what it was, maybe framing it that way made him re-think why he couldn’t do it himself? Maybe it just confused him? I don’t know, but it worked to get him to stop.

    (It was totally a gendered situation. Different departments, different roles, but I was a woman who occasionally drank coffee (and had no problem making a pot when I wanted some) so therefore I should make it for him.)

    1. Joielle*

      Yes! “No thanks” is such a great response to this kind of thing. It’s polite and friendly but also sort of a non sequitur. The other person doesn’t want to have to actually explain that, no, they were asking you to make the coffee for them to drink, because that makes it really obvious how unreasonable the request is.

    2. Jzilbeck*

      pretty sure this was also a scene from the movie Airplane! So maybe the colleague was afraid of being called Shirley? ;)

      Tired mom dry humor is tired dry humor. I’ll see myself out.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      Yeah I do this too. It’s much easier somehow to turn down an offered favour than it is to refuse a demand. OP was definitely being mooched on and perfectly within their rights to go straight to No, but if they wanted to, they could just carry on the pretence that the colleague was offering free drinks/payment/friendship or whatever. So saying things like: “I already brought my own coffee, thanks”, “Oh you don’t need to include me, I like getting my own stuff”, “No thanks on the pet sitting, I’m not looking to pick up extra cash”, or “Thanks for thinking of me, but I’m not available/free/interested in carpooling”.

    4. Broadway Duchess*

      Agreed! This has been my go-to for years and as a recovering people pleaser, it was the best thing for me to reframe what was happening. I always felt like I needed a (valid) reason to say no, otherwise I would do it. Treating the ask as something I was being offered seemed to give me permission to treat it as some food item I didn’t care for. That can be helpful if “no” on its own feels to harsh for OP.

  27. MartyJ*

    Wow… I would cut her off. She’s taken advantage of you and you need to learn how to say “no” to her.

    If there’s something like getting her coffee that you would be going there anyway to get coffee so you don’t feel like you’re able to say no then you should have her either call in and pay ahead of time, or use an app (ie – if you’re going to Starbucks she can place her own order through the app and then you can grab it for her). But if it was just me I would say “sorry, I can’t do that for you anymore. You either don’t pay or pay too little every time.” And if she protests reiterate what you said and then suggest “why don’t you get me coffee for a while instead.”

  28. Lily Potter*

    Upon a re-read of this, I’d be curious to know the power differential between the OP and her needy colleague. As I read this again, it strikes me that the colleague is treating OP like an assistant. If the colleague is, in fact, senior to the OP, #1 and #3 are not totally wacko. It’s not out of line for an assistant to get her boss coffee (although the boss should be paying for it!) and it’s not out of line for anyone (boss/co-worker) to ask for help in getting to work in an emergency.

    The housesitting requests are out of line unless the OP formally does housesitting as a side business .

  29. Audogs*

    Lonnng time reader, first time commenter. This is the first time I’ve questioned the validity of a letter.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Genuinely fascinating that these “fake” accusations are most often tossed at letters describing really banal and widespread experiences.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      … really? THIS is where you draw the line? We’ve seen wilder letters in the last like… half a day.

    3. Irish Teacher*

      This letter doesn’t strike as likely to be fake, in the least. There are definitely people who behave as the coworker does and they can be very hard to put off, especially in the workplace where you need to maintain some kind of good relationship.

      This strikes me as one of the more mundane letters here.

    4. Margaret Cavendish*

      As a lonnng time reader, I’m sure you’re aware of the commenting rules, but just in case:

      What if I’m skeptical a letter is even real?I have no way of knowing if the letters people submit are real or not. I assume all advice columnists get trolled now and then, but I don’t really care as long as the answer might be useful to someone.

    5. Pippa K*

      If you think this sounds unlikely to be a real workplace problem, take a look at Alison’s “wait, what?” category (linked over there on the right side of the page). Gonna blow your mind.

    6. Curious*

      I’ve seen others also question if a letter is “valid.”

      I don’t under what it changes if the letter is not. It’s an advice column.

    7. londonedit*

      I’ve no idea why you’d think this is fake. I have friends who can be like this – everything is always on their terms. It’s ‘We should meet up! Are you free on Sunday?’ and then once you’ve made plans to meet for lunch, it’s ‘Oh, I actually have to be somewhere else in the morning, and then I need to pop to a friend’s house, and I don’t think I’ll have time for lunch, so maybe you can just pop over to mine in the afternoon?’ and then when you get to theirs it’s ‘Oh great! So lovely to see you. I actually just need to drop some things over to a friend, could you help me load the car up? Why don’t you come with me, it’ll be fun, and then we can stop for a quick coffee on the way back…’ and before you know it you’ve given up half the afternoon chasing round after them. It’s hard to say no to these people – because in the above case, for example, you’ve already said you’re free on Sunday afternoon, so how can you then get out of it gracefully? Of course you can ‘simply’ say no, but manipulative people know how to manipulate, and most people don’t want to rock the boat – not with a friend, and certainly not at work with someone who’s a ‘de-facto supervisor’. No one wants their work days to be miserable, and there’s always the risk that if you start saying no to this person’s demands for coffee and house-sitting then they’ll make your life a misery every day at work. It’s easy to get sucked into these things – you agree to pick up a coffee a couple of times, and before you know it you’re being sent to the coffee shop when you don’t even want anything. And at that point it becomes more difficult to get out of it, because people like this will always come back with ‘But you did it yesterday! But you said you were going that way! But I’ll give you my card!’ and so on.

  30. Falling Diphthong*

    While there are some work (and other) relationships where “No is a complete sentence” really isn’t adequate, “coworker keeps asking me to do them personal favors” is the ideal context in which to deploy it.

  31. SheLooksFamiliar*

    Practice saying the following kindly but directly, and you’ll be surprised how quickly it will feel natural to say:

    ‘I’m sorry but I can’t.’
    ‘No, I’m not able to do that.’
    ‘I’m booked solid, can’t help you.’
    ‘Coffee? No, just go without me.’

    If you’re feeling playful: ‘My schedule is terrible, too, can you go pick up a Fresca for me when you go out for lunch? I don’t really like caffeine.’

      1. MsM*

        The only problem with that is that she’ll almost certainly try and use it to guilt OP into reciprocating. OP doesn’t have to, of course, or can think of it as the payment she’s not going to get for the stuff she’s already done. But if she’s having trouble saying no now, it’ll be way more difficult for her if she feels like she “owes” the asker.

        1. Esprit de l'escalier*

          But OP would be entitled to firmly but cheerfully reply, if asked to do more favors after that, “No, sorry, I won’t do that — you still owe me a ton of favors, not to mention money!” And could keep on saying that for a loooong time because it would still be true. (Adding the unnecessary “sorry” so it doesn’t feel rude to kind-hearted OP to say something like this.)

  32. Dust Bunny*

    I feel like a lot of people ask this in the hopes they can stay in their assertiveness comfort zones but also get the other person to change, and that doesn’t work: They get the other person to change by pushing their own boundaries and being a lot less accommodating.

    LW, what will happen if you say “no”?

    1. She has to go without coffee/without her favorite coffee? Oh, well. Or she could drive herself, since you say she has a car.

    2. Her pets might go hungry? She can hire an actual petsitter or kennel them.

    3. She can call a cab.

    4. . . . so what if she needs a housesitter? Does she really need one, or could she just put some lights on timers and her mail on hold?

    5. Most of us don’t have extra phones to lend to people. What would she do if nobody had one? She can do that.

    The thing is, this is actually a you-problem more than a her-problem. If this person wasn’t taking advantage of you, someone else eventually will because the bottom line is that you’re not saying “no” to things you don’t want, and have no obligation, to do.

    What will happen if you say “no” to her? She might not like you as much? Do you think she actually likes you now, or does she like that you’ll do stuff for her for free?

  33. Jiminy cricket*

    The original letter, from November 2018, included some background I found helpful: The LW is 21 and a student, while the moocher is 29 and serves as her “de facto” supervisor.

    1. Stream Knitter*

      That makes it worse; the moocher is exploiting her position and the LW is afraid to say “Sorry, that won’t work for me.” Wonder if the moocher’s own supervisor is aware of how Ms. Moocher is exploiting a subordinate?

      1. Observer*

        Agreed. And it also makes it even less possible that this could be the old “Oh, she’s just an Asker talking to a Guesser.”

        In the original letter, several commenters mentioned that it would be a good idea to let Ms Moocher’s manager know, to protect other people.

    2. GreyjoyGardens*

      That provides a lot more context. It seems that Minnie the Moocher has some power in the work relationship and is leveraging it for all it’s worth.

      I hope we get an update from the original LW. In the meantime, rather than a flat “no,” the LW can say “I’m sorry, that won’t be possible” (to pay for coffee, pet-sit, etc.) or “I’m sorry, I can’t do that.” And I hope LW got her phone back. I myself make it a point to never lend anything valuable or necessary, and my phone is my external brain, so I’d feel justified in saying “no” even to a boss at that kind of request. And pet-sitting special needs pets is what boarding or a qualified, bonded pet-sitter is for. (I have a diabetic cat, who also has digestive issues and needs a special diet, and you betcha she gets boarded at my vet’s whenever I’m gone, because I can’t entrust her care to anyone BUT a professional.)

    3. JP*

      Oh, no. It makes a lot more sense now why the letter writer was so willing to go along with these ridiculous requests.

    4. Irish Teacher*

      Yikes, I am pretty sure I would have had no idea how to say “no” in these situations when I was 21 and would probably have done exactly as I was asked to and felt more and more resentful.

      And yeah, I agree it makes it worse, especially leaving the LW short of money. Students generally don’t have that much spare cash and should not be using what they have to cover the expenses or even using their gas to get stuff for a de facto supervisor.

  34. But Not the Hippopotamus*

    The only thing I would add is that, with people like this, Do Not answer calls/texts outside of work.

  35. Light Dancer*

    Just saying “no” is a lot harder than it sounds (in a lot of contexts) but it is an essential skill to develop. If you allow your desire to people-please to rule your every action, someday you will find yourself doing something illegal or unethical – something that, on your own, you’d NEVER have thought to do! -all because someone whose approval you desire has coaxed (manipulated) you into thinking that “If I just do this one little thing, then they’ll really like me! And they’re right; technically it’s against the rules, but it’s really not such a big deal.” And you will be the one hung out to dry, facing life-damaging legal consequences because people like that will throw the hapless hanger-on under the bus in a nanosecond. Hopefully, it’ll never come to that, but compulsive people-pleasing can very easily lead people down a very dark path one step at a time until they realize, too late, that that path has led them into a pit of quicksand.

  36. Fluffy Fish*

    Oh my goodness.

    I get it. It can feel really really rude to say no to a favor. Especially if its something you can technically do and the only reason for no is…you don’t want to/it inconveniences you.

    Double/triple if you are a woman as we are often socialized to not say no.

    It’s not rude OP.

    It can help to practice no phrases. Be careful when giving an excuse/reason as people like your coworker will find a way around it (oh too busy today? tomorrow then.). Also be prepped for the why cant you followup question…

    You :”I’m sorry I cant do coffee runs for you any longer”
    Coworker: “But why”
    You: “I dont want to get into it, but did want to let you know I won’t be able to do that any longer so you can make other arrangements”

    And remember someones reaction to your polite firm boundaries is a thme problem, not a you problem.

  37. Sybil Writes*

    It can be hard to change from being a person who says yes all the time to saying no more often. One practical thing that helped me exercise my ‘no muscle’ was to not make a commitment in the moment. “I’ll need to check my calendar before I can commit. Let me get back to you.” This can give you the time to consider whether you want to do the favor at all or what it would take for you to do it. Example, I’d need to be paid $X before your trip in order to commit to dog sitting. Or “I’ve got an early morning meeting or errand tomorrow; I won’t be able to give you a ride.”
    “No thanks; thanks for thinking of me though,” said cheerfully and while moving away (quick trip to the ladies’ or the printer, whichever is farther away) can take care of requests for coffee.

  38. Still Nameless in MN*

    No is the only response here.

    With the possible, but not required, variations of:

    No. I will not do that for you anymore.
    No. Please don’t ask me again.

    Also. I need the phone I borrowed you back. Please return it to me tomorrow.

  39. Jayne*

    This is why I am very wary of making friends, because my natural default is to help out friends without limits. It took time to recognize that I had to value myself and my time more than whatever paltry reciprocation I go back.

    One thing to watch out for in a new relationship with anyone is love bombing, where everything you do is so wonderful, why don’t you do this one more thing. What the LW encountered seems to be more honing in on someone that is too nice to refuse requests until they get wildly out of line, but it can be combined with love bombing.

    This is dancing on a nerve a bit, since last year I had to end a friendship due to it becoming absolutely one-sided.

    Another thing to watch out for is where their requests are always reasonable and yours are always soooo much trouble. That is where I found myself with my former friend. I could drive her to the airport at 3 a.m., but her taking care of my pets was too far (after I had taken care of her pets multiple times). I finally had to decide that spending my time for/with the friends that would help me was a better use of my life.

    And be aware that if you have someone that has been using you, they may sense that you are pulling away and may act up. I had to consult with the local police department when my former friend contacted me over and over again, including at work and using someone else’s cell phone so I wouldn’t recognize the number. The police walked me through how to tell the person that I didn’t want to hear from them anymore. It took two messages for the person to not contact me. It takes some practice to get to that point of refusing and it will be tougher for the LW, since they will see the person at work.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      ^^ Yeah, this. I am generally of the Help When You Are Able school, but the second I detect a hint of entitlement – or, when I ask for a reciprocal favor and get turned down – you are stricken from the list of People I Will Do Stuff For.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, me too.

        My willingness to do favors for friends has been abused in the past, to the point that I’ve had to break off a couple of friendships when they became completely one-sided. I’ve embraced “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”

  40. EtTuBananas*

    The tricky thing about people like this is that they often escalate their requests (as it seems like happened here). I doubt OP’s coworker started RIGHT in with “can I use your old phone?”

    I’ve worked in many workplaces where it’s totally normal to do small personal errands for people like picking up coffee. Most normal people, when someone asks, “hey, do you mind grabbing coffee for me while you’re out? I want some but I’m chained to my desk because of this project. I’ll give you my card” would pick up the coffee without a second thought, knowing there will likely be reciprocity in the future.

    With situations like this, the behavior often starts within a more socially acceptable realm, and then pushes boundaries before you know it. In that case, it often feels too late to go back and fix it – but it’s never too late to say, “you know what, I don’t want to do that any more.” Good luck OP! And maybe count that phone as a loss…

  41. WLP*

    Get comfortable with being uncomfortable and silence, OP. Have a work topic/task switch at the ready if it helps.

    Shut your coworker down with a breezy smile. Unsympahetically sympathize. And you don’t need to provide anyone with reasons for anything. For me, it honestly started to become fun after awhile when I ran into these situations.

    “Sounds like you’re in a tough spot”. Unfortunately, I can’t assist. Got a lot going on myself. Best of luck finding someone soon.” Topic switch or just walk away.

    Some follow ups:

    “(Sorry,) It’s just not possible.”

    “Totally get it, but it’s simply not possible.”

    “I prefer not to.”

    “Not going to happen, Coworker,” when extra pushed.

    It may take awhile for your to lean into it, but when you do name and shame Coworker’s actions regarding non-payment, being shorted funds, etc. and adding that “it’s not right/not okay”.

  42. Adalind*

    Whaaat. This doesn’t even seem real. I’m definitely guilty of being a pushover, but even I can’t see say yes to any of this. As someone else said, NO is a complete sentence. I remind myself of that always and try not to rationalize reasons why I can’t/don’t want to do something, especially for this kind of awful person. Would love an update!

    1. slashgirl*

      If you read the original letter, the LW was 21, and the other person was pretty much her supervisor, so it’s not surprising she’d say yes to many things those of us with more experience wouldn’t.

      But, yeah, I’d also like an update.

  43. Salad Daisy*

    If this person were my sister, sure. If this person were my best friend, probably. If this person were my co-worker, no way. You are absolutely being taken advantage of. Practice saying this “I’m sorry, I’m unable to do that.” You are not going to lose a friendship, I don’t think one actually exists.

    1. Meep*

      I had to tear my husband a new one lately for expecting us to drive an hour out of our way to take his brother to the airport because he didn’t want to spend $25 on an Uber and it “was only 10 minutes” (from his place – surprise, he left before we did and arrived after we did because he lives in the middle of a metropolitan area). It came down to BIL would never go out of his way to inconvenience himself and I wasn’t going to either. OP is far kinder to a coworker than I would ever be to a goon who happens to be family.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      That was what I was thinking “if this were one of my adult kids, I’d do it only if they didn’t have a job and were low on money and I’d ask for favors in return. If it were my romantic partner, we’d have to sit down and have a conversation about how my back is nearing breaking from having to carry him all the time and this has to change today. If it were anyone else, it wouldn’t have happened. Maybe I have this selfish look about me, but I never had a casual friend or coworker come to me for even a fraction of that stuff. Oh wait, one time a woman in my meetup group passed me a note during a lecture we were both attending – the note said she was looking for someone to drive her home after a foot surgery and then spend the night with her – I’d only met her once prior to that and the one time I met her, she spent the evening hitting on my boyfriend – so I said sorry, I already have plans that day.

      As a fellow people pleaser, I implore OP to think – what’s the worst that can happen if you say no? I see zero downsides in saying no to this person’s every request. She might get offended and stop asking? Great!

  44. Adeline*

    This woman is a user who’s taking advantage of you. Put an end to it. Start saying no. I personally wouldn’t do her any more favors, ever.

  45. HonorBox*

    The behavior of the coworker is beyond rude. Knowing that the LW is younger and the coworker is older and de facto supervisor, it doesn’t change the fact that the coworker is rude. It does change the power dynamics to a point where simply saying “no” might not be easy.

    I think it is reasonable for the LW to state that they’re unable to assist with those tasks. While I wouldn’t necessarily suggest this in a “no means no” conversation with a coworker asking for favors, it probably makes sense to bring it to the attention of the coworker’s supervisor, not in an airing of grievances sort of way, but in a “I wanted to bring you in on this situation. I’ve been asked to provide personal favors to Lucinda for awhile now and some of those have come at my own personal cost. I am planning to start saying no, as I can’t afford the time and money that it is taking to do her these favors. I wanted to bring this to you, just for your awareness. Not as a formal complaint, but just to let you know in case she continues to pressure me or things escalate.”

  46. Meep*

    I totally get this sucks OP. I have been there and I hope you find it amusing.

    My brother-in-law takes advantage of his older siblings ALL the time, because he is the ~baby~. We recently went to a wedding with him. We paid for plane tickets, the Airbnb (after he tried to get a single hotel room which I refused because I did not want to see his gross naked butt), the rideshares, etc. The only things we didn’t pay for were his suit rental (both were groomsmen) and his food. He bought us breakfast ONCE to make up for his share of one museum ticket the day before. The entire bill didn’t cover the cost of said ticket. Meanwhile, any time I would grab something for my husband and I, he would wonder where “his” was like he was our toddler. Afterward, he told DH we should figure out “who owed who what”.

    He was lucky I wasn’t there or he would’ve gotten a tongue-lashing because he clearly owed us! I made DH make him pay for the plane tickets and his third of the Airbnb and let everything else go because it was better for my peace of mind. Are we ever traveling with him again after this? Heck to the no.

    Hopefully now you can look at your ridiculous coworker with the same befuddled amusement I look at this nearly 30-year-old manchild, but you can only do that if you start saying “no”.

  47. Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii*

    Get the phone back and then address it all at once so you are closing the door and she gets the point that wearing you down is no longer an option.

    Repeat as needed.

  48. Ellie Rose*

    LW: Imagine if she explicitly asked for the things she currently gets by asking you for these favors. Some of them would be ridiculous, and some, without the context of her other behavior, are reasonable questions about implied social contracts.

    “Hi LW, could you go buy me a coffee? My credit card is maxed, so I’d like you to buy it for me again like you did yesterday.” uh, no?

    “LW, when I say I want to ‘borrow’ your phone, I really mean that I’m not sure I can replace mine, so I’m not sure I’ll ever give it back to you. That’s fine, right?”

    “Hey LW, is a coffee adequate payment for a last-minute ride request?” This one is pretty normal. In some cases, it would be appreciated! But it’s perfectly fine if it’s not a good fit *for you*. She’s also either ignoring that you don’t like coffee or simply can’t be bothered to notice.

    “I don’t really feel like paying you for pet sitting after all. Is that OK?” You actually answered this implied question by asking for the money, and she responded with “Fine, I’ll pay you. I think it was worth this much” by giving you the amount you thought was too small. And again, you answered by accepting it.

    If this was the only issue, a reasonable response would be either “this is much less than what I was expecting from our earlier conversations. How about $X per day, meaning $Y total?” *or* to accept that it was a lesson learned to handle this person differently in the future, which means things like (1) saying no or (2) being specific up front AND possibly requiring payment upfront. “Sure, I can pet sit for you again for $X a day — it’s a long drive for me and a lot of my time. How about half now, half when you get back?” (or asking for it all up front. It’s a favor! you are allowed to set terms!)

    Think about where your “have to” comes from. This is very much not a situation where you actually must do any of these things.

    This coworker not even asking for some of these explicitly, so beyond learning to say no more generally, and especially to this person who is taking advantage, please also stop going above and beyond for someone who is not treating you well in return!!

    1. Ellie Rose*

      Forgot to mention: just because they’re reasonable in isolation doesn’t make them reasonable in context! And you’re also allowed to say no to ‘reasonable’ requests, whether it’s because they are unreasonable *for you* or because you simply do not want to.

      Doing favors can be a lovely thing, and I am certainly more likely to say ‘yes’ than ‘no’, but I find it helpful to examine the requests a little more if I find myself resenting them, as it helps me better work through my “I should do this”-feeling.

  49. Marna Nightingale*

    (recycling something I said in a deleted thread to make it more general)

    So something I think it’s important to remember is that it’s easy to look at this from outside and wonder why on earth OP or anyone would agree to do any of these things.

    But here’s the thing: if a co-worker asks for something really unusual and big, the most likely explanation is that they — assumed to be a reasonable, sensible, considerate person, as most people mostly are — must be in a really tight spot to be making such a request.

    If one of my coworkers asked me to petsit for them I would 100% do it BECAUSE it was a huge ask, and therefore I would be absolutely certain it was a serious emergency.

    People like OP’s coworker make use of that assumption to push boundaries, and that’s a problem, but it’s generally better for both your career and your mental health not to assume that’s what you’re dealing with until you have some evidence.

    1. Samwise*

      If my coworker asked me to pet sit for them I would say no (nicely), unless they were someone I knew did not ask unless they were in a real bind.

      There’s almost always another solution for the coworker. Have they called their vet? Have they called pet sitting services? Have they gone on Nextdoor to find a teen who would be delighted to take care of critters and make a bit of money.

      Anyone who asked me and didn’t say as a preface, I have tried to get someone thru nextdoor etc, I’m assuming they didn’t try.

    2. Tio*

      Well, maybe for the petsitting, but people also need to remember that they are not responsible for saving their coworkers, especially if it really puts them out. You have to weigh kindness against what it would take out of you. And I get the impression that the petsitting happened after all the coffee nonsense, which would put a different light on the petsitting to begin with. If it were a one off thing, sure, but with the added things she’s been asked, it’s a pattern of using.

    3. Silver Robin*

      +1 I definitely also assume that level of social awareness. Like how folks sometimes say “a best friend is somebody who would come help you out at 3am” which does not work for me because if someone called me at that hour, I would assume I was their best bet in the moment and they really need the help so I am showing up.

      This jerk is abusing that perspective and their position as de facto supervisor (mentioned in other comments). Definitely relevant for petsitting or the phone, maybe even last minute ride.

      But, patterns like asking for coffee every day should be quickly noticed and shut down by LW. And the more general pattern of neediness counts towards this too. A big ask from the type of person who uses you as their coffee gopher without sufficient funds to pay for it does NOT get the “oh this must be an emergency if they are asking me”.

      1. Despachito*

        Haha, I have always wondered about the 3AM cliché too. Because it can either be a true emergency (like someone ending in a hospital) and then I would do it for many more people than just my best friend, or if it is not, I would not expect a good friend to wake me at 3 AM.

        As to the OP, I think the other posters have already said everything. The coworker has a pretty big chutzpah, and what they are doing to OP is shameful. OP should be firm in refusing.

  50. Samwise*

    “No” is a complete sentence.

    Or if you need to fluff it up a bit, “I’m so sorry, I just can’t. Sorry!”

    I’d add another sentence to “no”, btw — “[name], I know you’ve been meaning to give me what you owe me — it’s $nnn. Thanks for taking care of this, I really appreciate it!”

    Follow up in a couple of days…

  51. Sunflower*

    “Oh I wish I could but I don’t want to” – Phoebe from Friends

    Seriously though, just keep repeating “Sorry, no.” or “Sorry, I can’t.” Don’t give excuses if she ask why. Just “I can’t.”

  52. Sunflower*

    I forgot to add that if you can afford to lose the phone, cancel your service or report it to the phone company to shut it down and get a new one.

    She is taking advantage of you because you let her. Cut her off now or it will never end.

  53. Rylened*

    I’m gonna be blunt, OP – you need a bigger backbone. This person is clearly taking advantage of you and you are allowing them to do so. Part of it is on you for continuously saying yes and allowing yourself to be a pushover.

  54. CanRelate*

    People like this thrive on finding the person who is too bewildered and surprised that someone could be this pushy and self absorbed.

    I know that all the advice to just say no is correct, but I also just want to express to the OP, it really sucks that you have to do this. It sucks to realize that there are people out there that will make it so that YOU have to know when to be less kind hearted and available. It sucks to get taken advantage of. I’m sorry this is happening to you.

    Your boundaries are valuable and important though, and you’re worthy of having them. If this is going on in other places in your life and has been a pattern, I’d recommend thinking about finding a therapist to talk to. This is a pretty alarming string of behavior when written all out together, but it probably started slowly, testing just how willing you were to be treated like this.

    Its much harder to get here with people if they are willing to look at a relationship and assess if they are getting anything out of it. You get to value yourself and your time, even if someone needs help. You need to believe you are capable and worthy of saying no when you’re uncomfortable.

    Good Luck, OP!!

  55. dustycrown*

    1 – Practice saying “No.” Just no. You don’t have to give her a reason, even if she thinks she’s entitled to one. Most of the time when people ask for a reason, they are just fishing for information they can use to try and pressure you into changing your mind. I wouldn’t even worry about upsetting her or losing her friendship, to be honest. She is using you for her convenience, and for money, it sounds like, and there’s no reason you have to participate in that. Once she gets the message that you aren’t available to her, she will move on to someone else who will accommodate her.

  56. Nicki Name*

    Coworker sounds like she’s overextended herself (two special-needs pets, maxed-out credit cards) and expects LW to overextend herself too. Saying “no” here isn’t being rude, it’s modelling healthier behavior!

  57. A Baby Boomer*

    I do not believe that the OP needs an excuse to justify not doing favors for her co-worker. We try to be polite, but the co-worker is counting on wearing her down. I forget that “NO” can be a full sentence.

    I would be more blunt; ‘I’m no longer running errands or taking care of your animals. You are asking too much.’ This could also be a HR issue if she’s asking the same of others. She’s got a sense of entitlement and the OP doing things for her, feeds it.

  58. Jinni*

    I had a boss like this at my second job (between high school and college). It was hard to say no there…but for coworkers…nope. Although I can see how someone could feel pressure especially if they had parents like this….

  59. JelloStapler*

    No is a complete sentence. :) She is taking advantage of you and you can say ‘No. I am not longer able to assist you.”

  60. Unkempt Flatware*

    I have a compulsion to correct the behavior of people like this so not only do I have to deal with the stress of the situation but I also have an internal fight with myself about how to respond. I really really want to tell people like this person, “it is wildly inappropriate of you to even ask this of anyone let alone actually expect someone to say yes”

    Does anyone else have to fight this compulsion?

  61. i babysit adults in the sky*

    USE!!! YOUR!!! WORDS!!!

    to say “No.”

    Seriously you do not have to hop in your car and get her a coffee just because she asks. You don’t have to petsit. You don’t have to loan her your belongings. “That’s not going to work for me.”

  62. Special K*

    As Brene Brown says – “Choose courage over resentment”. Stop saying yes to things that will make you resentful (and say no to EVERYTHING this awful person asks you to do).

  63. I have RBF*

    Good God! I don’t even do this level of stuff for my friends!

    “No”, “NO”, and “Oh hell no!” are all perfectly reasonable responses to this crap.

    She expects you to be her unpaid support staff – housesitting, rides at all hours, fetching coffee without enough money, etc. Just… Stop. No excuses, no buckling under to wheedling or passive-aggressive demands. Just stop, tell her no, and keep telling her no. If she asks why, you should tell her you’re not her servant, staff or parent, and are not interested in that job especially since she underpays.

  64. ThisIsMyUserName*

    OP, if No is seems too blunt — I get it! Me too! — another phrase to have in your toolkit is “That’s not going to work for me” and leave the situation (walk away, focus back on your computer, close the door – whatever fits the situation). But you need to shut this down now.

  65. Ensign Tendi*

    My god, I’m incensed after reading this and all of the comments! I’ve been a “nice” person my whole life and also have struggled with bluntly, honestly saying “no,” (though improving over the past few years). LW’s awful, shameless coworker is the worst. I can’t wait to hear a positive update though!

    1. TG*

      Haha – I typed my comment separately and feel the same way / I am so mad right now at this user!!!

  66. Moonstone*

    LW I hope you firmly put your foot down and stopped doing anything for your coworker. She was being a complete leech and you never once needed to do anything for her and you don’t ever have to do anything for her ever again.

    I know this is an old letter so I really hope LW can provide an update!

  67. TG*

    I am so angry reading this I can’t even handle it – not at you but at HER! She is a class A user and you need to JUST SAY NO every time and honestly I’d be like your card was declined several times and you owe me X (but don’t do that until you get your phone back). And get that phone back and then so not give an ounce of energy to this woman. She can figure her own crappy life out.

  68. 123*

    LW… I’m going to be blunt: this is partly a you problem. You need to set boundaries and stick firm with them.

  69. Anonymous Poster*

    Oof. DARE did a good job of telling me to say no.

    There’s also that one song, that’s all, “No no, no no, no nooo no nononononooooo!”

    Maybe just turn that on next time the coworker rolls around and walk away?

  70. Karen*

    She is a user and has worn out her welcome with everyone else…make no your new favorite word.

  71. Raida*

    Sorry LW, but this is what you need to do:

    Be clear, up front, about compensation if any when agreeing to any favours. You don’t have to offer a price, you can just decline.
    Get that monetary agreement in writing.
    If she doesn’t pay, you simply don’t do anything with an offer of money attached to it in the future because you don’t believe she’ll pay.

    You start declining.


    But YOU have to STOP AGREEING. She’s found a… well she’s found a sucker, and she’s not going to stop getting freebies out of you unless you stop giving them.

    You said it was uncomfortable to ask her for money – she knows it, mate! She knows you won’t tell her to pay you back. She knows you’re not insistent.
    Hell, I’ll bet she’s all ready to be offended or hurt or try to guilt you if you did insist!

    It’s not her, it’s you – she can’t get a free coffee (with a drive to get it?!) unless you drive off and buy it for her.

    (she sucks, to be clear)

  72. Raida*

    Honestly I kinda disagree with Alison’s approach – “I’m so busy that I’m not going to be able to housesit again.”

    I would say “I’m not interested, thanks.” and then, if she really pushes, “I’m not housesitting. You’ll need to find another solution.”

    You don’t need an *excuse* – that to many pushy people is just a hurdle for them to wrangle. “I’m trying not to drink caffeine.” could mean “Oh that’s fine LW! Get yourself a juice!”
    and “I’ve got plans for then so I can’t.” could equal “what plans? what time? what area? You can give me a lift beforehand/afterwards/I’ll just have lunch with you then you can drop me home”

  73. Vio*

    Part of me wants to say OP should call out the co-worker on their lack of appreciation and unreasonable expectations. But realistically that would just be opening a can of worms since she’s unlikely to react rationally.
    The passive aggressive answer, the one that’s fun to imagine but probably a lot less fun to actually do, would be to accept her request for a drink and buy yourself the single most expensive item on their menu regardless of what it actually is and whether you want it. Give it to a homeless person! For bonus points also get their drink order ever so slightly wrong. And if they don’t give you enough money, well get the receipt and keep bugging them to pay every time they ask for a favour. With interest.

  74. jess*

    Oh dear, this story reminds me of a “friend” who asked me to pet sit/ house sit for her, help her move (twice!), asked me to meet her to console her late at night before an important workday because she felt so down, be instantly available to work out together because “she needed the motivation”.

    I did all of these things and she treated me well only when she felt like I would stop helping her otherwise. After a while I realised how manipulative and egotistical she was and deleted her from my life.
    Can really recommend ut, it saved me so much hassle for someone who really didn’t deserve it.

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