update: I don’t like my super popular coworker … and she complained to my boss about it

Remember the letter-writer who didn’t like her super popular coworker and the coworker complained to their boss about it? Here’s the update.

About a year ago, I wrote in about a coworker (Susan) who complained to the boss because I didn’t like her. I tried being nice, but it was obvious she saw right through me. At the time, I couldn’t put my finger on why I didn’t like her – she seemed genuinely nice, and she is the darling of the office. For a while, things seemed to improve after I spoke to her (after many recommendations!)…but I think it might have been the old adage about keeping your friends close and enemies closer!

I’ll keep this brief, because I could go on about all of the intrigue and drama. Here are a few highlights:

– She likes to say, “I’m just a secretary.” This bothers me for a number of reasons, first and foremost because there is no “just” about it. Second, it only seems to come out when we have asked her to take on something new or when she doesn’t want to deal with a particular customer.

We’ve recently changed our accident procedure within our department. If an accident occurs with a company vehicle and only one mechanic is on duty, Susan should call in the second mechanic. The first accident that occurred after the change, Susan did not make the phone call. When asked, she said she is “just a secretary” and “overtime decisions” aren’t up to her. I attempted to explain the decision has been made and that she’s just carrying it out…but we eventually had to reassign the task to the first mechanic.

– Frequent emails to our grandboss detailing everything my boss and I are doing “wrong.” Is there room for improvement? You betcha. Are we sometimes just doing the best we can amidst historic staffing shortages? Often. Are we operating without much training and guidance because our predecessors were long gone before we started and left few, if any, training/SOP documents behind? Always. When we go to Susan with questions, does she offer suggestions or historic insight? No, because she’s “just a secretary” and didn’t handle any of these items in the past.

Here’s my favorite example. We had an emergency situation pop up – just one of those freak weather incidents that caused a delay in transporting. My boss decided to handle the delay personally and left the office. Because of the delay, the folx left in the office received call after call after call. Meanwhile, I wasn’t scheduled to come in for another 45 minutes – and I live 30 minutes away, so my boss decided not to call me because he knew I wouldn’t arrive much sooner. That incident generated multiple emails to our grandboss, who then questioned my boss’s decision to leave and why I wasn’t here to help answer the phone. (Apparently, this wasn’t the first conversation based on such an email – other emails had been about me but nothing my boss or grandboss thought needed to be brought to my attention – but it was the last, because my boss threatened to resign if Susan thought she could do his job better. My grandboss told us to have patience with Susan, because there have been some big changes in the office, and she is struggling with them.)

– Solo missions of mercy. As I mentioned before, Susan is much-beloved around here and is widely considered to be sweet, thoughtful, and charming. I’m not saying she isn’t – I’m just saying she makes sure she has that recognition. One of our employees was injured a few weeks ago. Because his wife is also disabled, I told him we would go grocery shopping, arrange transportation – anything they need. As soon as he limped out the door, Susan announced that she was spearheading the operation…and she did. She has sent him a couple of care packages and arranged for a former employee to transport him to doctor appointments, church, etc. The employee called to tell Susan and Nancy (another coworker) thank you. I asked Nancy about it, and I told her I was a bit hurt that I wasn’t included because I had offered to help. Apparently, Susan arranged them all in secret, and Nancy just happened to pick up the phone with a question about the grocery order and so added a couple take home meals onto it from her.

Honestly, at this point, there are days where I feel like she’s just being difficult. It feels like she is anchored in the past – we aren’t the people who previously held these roles, and we just can’t do things the same way anymore because of the employee shortage. I know her original complaint was that I didn’t like her…but, I feel like what she meant was, “She’s different.” I can’t help that. And even if I could, would I really want to be friends with someone like this? That’s a big nope. And I’m not even all that sorry that might hurt her feelings.

{ 366 comments… read them below }

  1. Falling Diphthong*

    My grandboss told us to have patience with Susan, because there have been some big changes in the office, and she is struggling with them.)

    Genuinely curious as to whether boss has told Susan to have patience with your department because there have been big changes and you’re struggling with them. Or if Susan has seized the power of being the most unreasonable person in the office, whom everyone else must accommodate.

    For the latter, I’ve observed that in any social group There Can Only Be One.

    1. EtTuBananas*

      Susan DEFINITELY sounds like she must be “The One.” It’s not uncommon for The One to couch their obstinance in niceness, because it’s more difficult for others to push back (as OP and their boss have found).

      I’ve tended to notice that some women (for context, I am a woman) tend to exhibit controlling behavior by being hell-bent on being the “nice” one. The one that always throws the baby shower, the one that always organizes birthdays, the one that always emails condolences or congratulations first.

      It’s most likely a product of trying to exert some social power in a society where women do not automatically have much power. It’s still annoying as all heck when those people are more interested in subtly hanging it over others’ heads how much they do for everyone than meaningfully engaging with others. It makes me wonder if Susan was one such person and OP caught on to that.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        And taking on those tasks ensures their entrenchment, since the majority of their coworkers plain don’t want to bother and “it makes her happy.”

      2. Weiner Mom*

        Yeah, the person I know who acts like this turns around and uses the “kind favours” she does to control and manipulate situations and people’s opinions and if you disagree with her even slightly or try to set a boundary (“Thanks, but I know which brand of raisins I prefer.”), she turns into a defensive werewolf and since almost nobody challenges her, nobody believes me that she does this because she’s “so sweet” and the other people she’s alienated aren’t around anymore.

        1. GreyjoyGardens*

          I remember Captain Awkward calling that “favor sharking.” Someone who is “so kind” and does you a “favor” you might not even have asked for – but then you owe them, big time. It’s awful manipulative behavior disguised as “niceness.”

          1. Weiner Mom*

            Oh yeah! Hadn’t thought about that term in a while! Yeah, she’s favour Jaws. She’ll jump out of the ocean with a green smoothie you didn’t ask for and she knows don’t like (or at least I don’t. Enjoy them if you do!), then forces you to take at least one sip before asking you for help loading her car full of stuff.

            1. JustaTech*

              That reminds me of a wonderful bit from a fantasy novel I read years and years ago:
              “Why should I feel grateful to someone who prepares me food they know I do not like and serves it to me when they know I’m not hungry?”

      3. Koala Tea*

        huh.. I just had an ah-ha about an old coworker… Thanks for the well verbalized insight into human patterns…

        1. BatManDan*

          yes, this was some seriously good insight. I was impressed, and thankful, as well.

      4. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        I see you’ve met my ex-sister in law. She was always doing people favours, that they hadn’t asked for or even wanted but you felt churlish turning her down, and then of course you had to send her “best SIL ever” cards as a thank you.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      Susan sounds a bit like a different variety of that letter a couple months ago, with the “super sensitive” employee that everyone had organized around NOT UPSETTING and the idea of her seeing a dead bird threw the entire place into a tizzy. She’s managed to set her personal gravity to “orbit around Planet Me.”

      There isn’t always One, but there can definitely be only One.

    3. AnonORama*

      Agree with all of this, but your last sentences has put the Highlander theme song in my head. (Randomly performed by Queen!)

  2. Dust Bunny*

    Okay, so Susan does sound like a pain in the rear . . .

    . . . but I’m still going to ask: Is she getting compensated for taking on more tasks, and has she gotten pushback in the past for being “just a secretary”.

    I had a job many jobs ago where I was expected to call clients back and explain (in this case, the state of the pets’ medical conditions) and I got a lot of guff on a regular because I was “just an assistant” and not a vet. Basically, owners saw us as a pair of mindless hands to hold their dogs while the vets did the real work.

    I also hands-down did not get paid enough at that job to put up with chronically difficult clients: If the practice owner wasn’t willing to tell them to behave and/or fire them, he could bloody well deal with them himself.

    1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

      That stood out to me too. Like, not calling the other mechanic when that is the procedure that wasn’t good. Bit dealing with difficult customers. In that case she is “just the secretary” often times those types of customers will be combative and extremely difficult and refuse to work with “Just the secretary.” So in that regards, she should pass it off to someone else. I’ve worked multiple customer service jobs and in one place there was a specific person who we were not to engage with. Whenever he called we would either transfer him to a manager or we were to tell him that someone would call him back and gently hang up on him. Same thing at my work. When mask mandates were in place, if anyone got angry or refused to wear one I was to get one of my superiors. Because I don’t get paid enough to deal with that !

      1. Dust Bunny*

        she should pass it off to someone else.

        She should be allowed to pass it off. The second place I worked just told us to deal with it (because the vets didn’t want to deal with those people, either, and the practice owner didn’t have the guts to tell them to shape up). I stayed less than a year.

        Bosses need to back employees up if they expect employees to keep handling pissy clients.

      2. HonorBox*

        One of the things we talk about in training for customer service roles is passing the buck. If you don’t know an answer or don’t feel comfortable with a situation (and it is far more often the former), you can tell someone you’re connecting them with _______ (the person who will know the answer). Or you offer to find the information and return their call. You aren’t allowed to say “I’m just a …. ” or “that’s not my job…” when you can find an answer.

        1. constant_craving*

          But that’s different. If a client is asking you something outside of your scope of work, you should still try to get them connected with what they need, yes. But if it’s the person assigning you work, not the client, who is giving you duties beyond the scope of your position it seems reasonable to let them know that and it shouldn’t then require you to get someone else to do it, especially when you likely have no authority to assign work to others.

    2. Silver Robin*

      I definitely hear you on the question of whether Susan actually has the pay and respect to be more than “just” a secretary.

      But also…if she is going to complain that things are not being handled correctly by the new folks, and then those new folks try to ask her for help because she might have the institutional knowledge for it, getting repeated brushed off by “oh, I’m just the secretary, I never handled that” is really irritating. If Susan is getting the blowback from clients for things going wrong, she should definitely be running it up the chain, but she does not seem to be acting with sympathy for OP’s and their boss’s situation, nor does she seem willing to sit down and talk out a solution with them.

      Both the OP and Susan might be in untenable situations, but that does not mean Susan gets to dump all the issues at OP’s feet. Especially since boss and grandboss regularly dismiss Susan’s complaints as unnecessary for OP to know about. Definitely sounds like Susan is overstepping.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Except that if she never handled that, she may well not have as much institutional knowledge about it as they hope and they should just move on.

        1. RunShaker*

          then Susan should say “I’m not familiar and was never provided enough info to pass on to you or OP.” saying “I’m just secretary” is dismissive and crappy. I don’t know all ins and outs for my company but I’ve been around long enough to provide some type of knowledge or direction. At least enough to help other person continue to move forward.

        2. Silver Robin*

          then Susan and OP should be allies in trying to figure out a solution, instead of Susan just dumping on OP and their boss about not doing their job and then refusing to engage when OP reaches out to talk about it.

          I also think, again, that it is really relevant that Susan complains so much that OP’s boss threatened to quit *and* that the complaints about OP are routinely ignored (OP only hears about a few).

        3. Happy meal with extra happy*

          If she never handled it, then maybe she shouldn’t be complaining to the higher ups that OP and OP’s boss are doing it wrong. C’mon, you gotta see the disconnect there.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            It’s the equivalent of that person who always says “I don’t care where/what we have for dinner” and then complains about every suggestion.

        4. There You Are*

          Then she should stop complaining about how she thinks they’re doing a bad job. If Susan doesn’t know what a good job looks like for those roles, she should shut up and be “just a secretary” and quit offering ad hoc performance reviews to the grandboss.

        5. HQetc*

          I mean, if she has enough institutional knowledge to know that things are being done differently, then she has enough institutional knowledge to talk about what she knows how it was done before and, critically, why she liked that way better. If she didn’t have at least that institutional knowledge, then what is her frustration based in? If it’s literally just “a different person is doing this and I don’t know for sure that it’s happening exactly the same” than she’s just pot-stirring.

          1. HQetc*

            I will not comment before refreshing.
            I will not comment before refreshing.
            I will not…
            Sorry for the dog pile!

    3. ferrina*

      It sounds like Susan is using “just a secretary” for both valid things and to avoid parts of her job. This makes it even more confusing- sometimes Susan is being reasonable, but at other times she’s not.

      1. WellRed*

        Right! You can’t be just the secretary when it’s convenient and also criticize others job performance.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          Well, apparently you can if you’re Susan and your boss and grandboss put up with it.

          This situation kind of screams “missing stair” to me. Susan is Susan, going about her dysfunctional, disruptive way and her boss and grandboss are just working around her, and telling other people to work around her too.

          No idea why that is happening, or why it continues when it seems to be impacting so many other people, but for LW, the best thing to do might be to move on

          1. TootsNYC*

            and she’s “hogging” the “good person” tasks in order to make herself uncorrectable and unfireable

            1. All Het Up About It*

              Yep. It’s happening because can you imagine the outrage for the people who LOVE Susan if she was let go?

              Not saying that she still shouldn’t be dealt wit, but TootsNYC has the nail on the head of why she isn’t being handled and has become the missing stair.

              1. goddessoftransitory*

                Well, they LOVE that she’s the one who does all the PITA stuff like organizing grocery runs, rides, etc., at least.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        She’s essentially running a three card monte game with her professional duties; find the task! Find the task! Is it this one? Nope, sorry! Find the task!

    4. Jessica*

      Yeah, the comment that she doesn’t do overtime decisions–is she hourly? Because if she is, she absolutely *shouldn’t* be doing overtime unless she’s being paid overtime.

      I honestly can’t tell from the letter whether Susan is setting unreasonable boundaries, or whether the LW resents her for setting healthy ones, and Susan has picked up on that resentment and is matching it with her own.

      1. N C Kiddle*

        I think by “overtime decisions” she’s talking about deciding whether other members of staff (the second mechanic) need to do overtime. She’s expected to tell them when they have to come in, but she’s acting as if she’s being expected to make decisions about whether to approve their overtime which would be above her pay grade.

      2. CV*

        I read it more as that she couldn’t make decisions about another employee’s overtime (ie. the mechanic she was supposed to call).

        1. Paulina*

          Yes. Except she wasn’t being asked to make the decision — she was being given a direct if-X-then-call-Y task and was refusing to do it when the condition was met. Probably because it wasn’t a happy task so it didn’t fit her “do the things that make you loved” approach.

    5. Mels*

      I worked in a secretarial role as a temp for 10 months (I was looking for other work in my specific field, as otherwise I would have been hired on permanently). I would fall back on the “I’m just a temp” too when it benefited me in such situations… until the head secretary shut me down. She pointed out I had been there for at least 6-7 months, was extremely competent, and a valuable member of the team. It was very flattering, but it did mean I couldn’t use that fallback again.

  3. Octopus*

    In the first letter, she was happy to pick extra work. Here, she’s only happy to pick up work that she gets admiration for.

    1. Silver Robin*

      That part. And she seems to be picky about who else she lets stand with her in that limelight.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      It sounds like the OP thought harder about the situation and came to this realization, yes.

      It does explain why she doesn’t like Susan, even though Susan at first appears like an amazing person / coworker.

      1. Julia*

        Sometimes you just don’t like someone very much. OP made it clear in their original post that they are friendly to Susan (complimenting grand kids etc) and they don’t feel like taking it to a higher level. If I was friendly with a coworker and the were salty that I wasn’t super-duper friendly I would be annoyed as heck.

        1. Paulina*

          Yes. There’s often a tacit negotiation of the tone of an interaction that happens between people. OP was maintaining a “friendly professionalism” tone, and probably acting more friendly than they might otherwise, but Susan didn’t tone down her own approach to OP. Of course this made OP uncomfortable.

    3. ferrina*

      That’s how it works:
      “I’ll do Grand Gestures so you can all see how wonderful I am and praise me, but I won’t do the day-to-day stuff that gets no praise. But you only see the Grand Gestures, not the stuff that doesn’t get done, so all you see is how wonderful I am. And if you somehow notice what I’m not doing, I have a totally reasonable excuse for that….”

      I was married to a guy that was like this. He would go out of his way to take care of a friend that was having a hard week at work- buying them lunches, cards, hanging out with them- but wouldn’t do the bare minimum of housework at home. Because he knew the friend would praise him for how “thoughtful” he was, whereas doing the dishes and picking up after the kids wouldn’t get him effusive praise. And if I called him on it, he had a “headache” or was “too tired” and wasn’t I cruel for asking him to do housework when he should be resting? There was always a reason why he couldn’t do his part in the day-to-day boring stuff, but he always had energy to go above and beyond for an outsider to see.

      1. froodle*

        I didn’t realise my Dad had re-married, but I’m going to assume that’s the case rather than live with the reality that there’s more than one of him. fistbump of sympathy should you want it.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          Argh, so true. I hope there is a special plateau in the afterlife for these people … that way they can shine out there in a blaze of sunlight …. all by themselves where they won’t drag other people down.

        2. ferrina*

          Thanks for the fistbump!
          I’m sorry your dad was one of these people. That really sucks.

          That dude’s my ex now. I’m a little worried for my young children, but seeing you here gives me hope. I just want them to know that this behavior is 100% a Him-issue and has nothing to do with them. That they are wonderful and enough and deserve a lot better than This Guy.

        3. INFJedi*

          Yeah… that description fits my dad to a T as well.

          It’s infuriating. Because I see what it does to my mum. And the thing that makes me the most sad is the fact that most other relatives and family friends don’t see it and think my mum is the one being unreasonable sometimes and that she “asks too much of him” while he barely lifts a finger in the household when it is just us.

      2. Hanani*

        Oh, I had an ex kind of like this too! In that case it was less about being “publicly noticed” and more about “which relationship can absorb neglect right now?” and somehow it was always our relationship that could absorb the neglect.

        Needing to weigh that question out isn’t automatically bad, but when the answer is always the same/puts the burden on the same person, that’s a problem.

      3. nikkole82*

        My late husband was like this. He would do all these sweet, kind, generous things with his coworkers but when he was behind closed doors, he was a raging alcoholic that wouldn’t even take a frozen pizza out of the oven for me but random coworker loved green beans, well he’s gonna find the PERFECT recipe and make it for the office to share.

        All the stuff he did for those people were to put on a show and be a ‘good man’ in front of his coworkers.

        1. Lily*

          Content warning: DV

          I had a boss once who was married to a dude like that. She divorced him (because abuse) and her own family turned against her because “He’s so wonderful! And kind! And generous!”
          Then he made his next wife un-alive.
          Her family shut up after that. She cut ties with them anyway.

          1. BatManDan*

            Just curious, she cut ties with them before the second marriage / crime was committed, or before, when they didn’t support her divorce? I’m astounded that almost no one seems able to believe that whatever they see is NEVER the whole picture. (not saying it’s always this level of “different / opposite,” just that we are ALL looking through a keyhole at other people and their lives.)

      4. All Het Up About It*

        Are you my aunt? I have so much sympathy for you because that’s a hard place to be. People wouldn’t understand why she left him, but it made so much sense to me. How exhausting to be the person doing everything at home while your “partner” is getting all this praise for extracurriculars. I wanted to shake people who assumed that she HAD to have fallen in love with someone else. It’s like, “No. Just because Uncle Tod is a good neighbor, brother, son, etc. doesn’t mean he’s a good husband and partner.” Congrats to you for recognizing that and I hope you had support during the process.

        I’ve definitely worked with Susans before, though thankfully not to this extreme. But people who get praised for organizing some event, bringing in some amazing food, etc. Sure that’s all well and good, but is “Chef” in your job description? No? Then I probably would appreciate if you’d sign those reports I’d sent you more, than I am appreciating eating this cake during this luncheon.

        1. ferrina*

          Sending so much love to you and your aunt! Glad she was able to leave him! It sounds like it was tough and she faced a lot of social fallout. I’m so sorry. I hope she’s doing really well, is really happy and having the time of her life!

          Nope, no support for me. One of the first thing he did is the same thing Susan is doing- building up a cadre of supporters. Any friends I had turned in to joint friends (and if they were joint friends it wasn’t fair for me to complain to them, because then I’d be poisoning his relationship with them. If he did that about me, it was totally different). If I tried to go somewhere without him, he’d be The Saddest Boy who would sit at home oh-so-lonely while I was gone. It was very cruel for me to want to go somewhere without him, because then I’m excluding him just like those high school bullies (yes. because me wanting to have 1-1 time with a friend is bullying /s). He told stories about how dramatic and emotional I was, and how I dumped him because I had such unreasonable standards. So he got all the friends in the divorce.
          I’m rebuilding my own network now, and it is 1000x healthier! I didn’t realize how many eggshells I was walking on!

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            Tell him if he wants “fair,” he can go to the midway. Or join 4H and win all the blue ribbons he wants.

            And those “joint friends” have hopefully figured out that he’s not quite the Oliver Twist-esque version of put-upon orphan of the storm he insists upon, or at least gotten an inkling that his Woe Is Mes don’t add up.

        2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          Your aunt is all the more heroic because that kind of person will have friends everywhere, so you leave them, you basically find yourself without any friends. Even the kids will take his side because he’s the fun parent, the parent with the money, the parent that has contacts who will be useful for this and that.

      5. There You Are*

        My ex also belongs to this club. Birthday cakes, over-the-top gifts, dropping everything to rescue someone when their car broke down… all performed for other people who would then gush about what an amazing guy he was.

        My birthday? What birthday. I can’t possibly expect him to remember when it is, when he has so much going on!

        My holiday gifts? Things he would use to make other people fabulous meals (Instant Pot, homemade ice cream maker, air fryer, expensive cookware set); i.e., gifts for himself.

        My car breaks down? “We have AAA, call them.” (Me: “I did; they said it would be 4-5 hours.”) “Well, I can’t drop what I’m doing just to come get you.”

        Hilariously, he was shocked and *angry* when I ended the 17-year relationship.

        1. ferrina*

          wow, there’s a lot of these guys out there! It’s amazing how “surprised” they are when you are done with their shenanigans.

          And seriously, that glassbowl wouldn’t even help you out when your car broke down? That’s one of the most basic levels of having a partner!

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            These guys don’t have partners. They have audiences. And when the audience doesn’t applaud they flip out.

          2. Artemesia*

            An early sweet memory of my husband (My second husband, of 50 years now) was him bicycling to me with a gas can on his handlebars when I ran out of gas. Never a critical word. We have tried to have a ‘no fault marriage’ and mostly both live up to it — but he more than me.

            Let me tell you, when you are old and get stupider and make more mistakes — it is really nice to be married to someone whose first response is not ‘whose fault is this.’

            1. There You Are*

              Oh, wow, your last sentence dredged up a memory. My ex came stomping down the hallway and practically yelled, “What did you do with my stapler?!” And I was super confused because I hadn’t been anywhere near his stapler.

              We had five cats at the time so I said, “We have cats. They like to knock things off desks. Have you looked on the floor?” He replied, “The stapler is *too heavy* for them to move. WHAT. DID. YOU. DO. WITH. IT.”

              So I got up and followed him to his desk, then walked a little past him when we got there, and — sure enough — there was the stapler on the floor on the far side of the desk.

              Did he thank me and apologize?

              Of course not.

              He insisted that I’d put the stapler on the floor because I’d known where it was.

              Couldn’t possibly entertain the idea that I knew to look on the far side because you could see the close side and under the desk when you walked into the room, so the only place left to look was on the far side. Nope. I had thrown his stapler on the floor and lied about it. That’s the only possible explanation.

              But this was also the man who would call me from the grocery story and say, “They don’t make Heinz ketchup anymore,” when he couldn’t immediately find it in the spot on the store shelf where he thought it should be.

              Not, “I can’t find the ketchup, which is the main product this global company sells, so I should keep looking or go ask an employee.” Not even, “I can’t find the ketchup; I wonder if they’re out of stock or have any in the back.”

              Nope. The ketchup wasn’t where he expected it to be so the only possible explanation was that Heinz must’ve decided to close all their ketchup factories.

          3. BatManDan*

            Shoot, I even woke up in the middle of the night to drive 45 minutes to help my ex-wife WHEN SHE WAS ALREADY MY EX-WIFE with a car issue, and then chose not to get mad when it turned out she had forgotten to disengage the parking brake. And no, I/we weren’t still in love, and I wasn’t hoping we’d get back together. It’s just what friends do.

      6. MigraineMonth*

        There was a line in a book I read a while back about someone whose absentee father was always lauded as a hero: “Your father was a great man. I wish he’d also been a good one.”

        1. Anonymous cat*

          Do you remember the book?

          I’m sure I’ve seen a similar idea in a movie or tv series and can’t remember which one. Someone is telling the hero that they knew he would be a great man, they wanted to see if he could be a good one.

          And I think the speaker was hoping that a third character would influence the great man.

          I know that’s vague but now it’s going to bother me all evening!

      7. CommanderBanana*

        Oh, you must have been married to my father at some point. People who know him superficially think he’s the greatest guy. He has a great façade, but there’s no substance there.

      8. Random Dice*

        My friend’s narcissistic mom is the same way.

        There’s never been an extravagant gesture she wouldn’t do – oh, drive 8 hours in heavy snow to do something over the top? All over it.

        Bothering to visit or even call her grandkids? Yeah no. She can’t modestly tell that story to her friends so they can admire her.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      This is turning into an interesting example of difference-in-kind vs difference-in-degree. With Susan doing stuff that might be reasonable in some circumstances, but not in all the circumstances where she’s applying it.

      Of course, if your company rewards people who do this (e.g. taking only the most visible projects that will enhance their reputation) you shouldn’t be surprised that people then do it.

    5. Dust Bunny*

      I mean, if you’re the person who always gets the grunt work, this isn’t really that surprising.

    6. Chairman of the Bored*

      I am also only interested in doing extra work when I get credit for it, or otherwise derive some advantage from doing it.

      If the work in question is some thankless task that I can just opt out of, why would it do it?

      1. Boof*

        Well, if you are Susan, presumably because it is part of your job to do some of the grunt work? Not right to let one employee hog the credit while fobbing off all the scut.

      2. Ermintrude (she/her)*

        That isn’t a problem when there’s another/others who are employed to take care of those matters and one isn’t just ‘Susaning’ their way out of it.

      3. Anonymous cat*

        Because it isn’t right to stick other people with all the unpleasant chores and only do the “good” ones yourself.

    7. Pescadero*

      Well… I’m happy to pick up work that I receive rewards for, and unhappy to pick up work I don’t receive rewards for.

      This is a transactional relationship. I work purely to get something back in exchange.

      If I’m expected to take on extra work – I’d better get extra reward.

      1. All Het Up About It*

        But we don’t really know if she’s being asked to take on “extra work” that she wouldn’t get praised for. She’s certainly acting that way, but refusing to make a phone call that should absolutely be a “secretary” task…. That’s not extra work. Her argument is flawed.

        When I was a secretary, I had to call the hot-shot drivers when a shipment needed to be sent that way. I didn’t say “It’s not my job to decide when a delivery can’t be sent via regular pick up.” I wasn’t making that decision. I was fulfilling an administrative task.

        If Susan’s reasoning, was “It’s hard for me to make this call because I also have a limited amount of time to file the accident report, schedule a replacement rental, and notify the salesperson to contact their clients regarding delays” that’s her being asked to take on too much work and not being compensated fairly. Pretending that making a call is making a decision…. Nope.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        I think the problem is that she’s taking on extra work outside of her role for public praise, but isn’t doing all the tasks required by her role (e.g. following policy by calling extra mechanic). Don’t do the extra credit but skip the assignment.

        She’s also doing quite a bit of complaining and shit-stirring for someone who’s “just a secretary” and can’t be expected to help make decisions.

    1. Random Dice*

      I’m just trying to imagine what would happen to someone who goes to a great-grandboss to complain about the work being done by their boss.

      I mean… heads would freaking roll at a functional organization. (Which… this kind of sounds like it isn’t?)

  4. ferrina*

    The original letter makes so much more sense. I wish your boss had been more clear with you from the get-go. To whit:

    “Susan has a tendency of declining to do tasks she doesn’t want to do and emailing the grandboss when she’s annoyed about something, without talking to us first. Oh, and it doesn’t matter if it concerns her or not. We need to strategically stay on her good side, and if we do end up on her bad side, I need to know so I can politically handle it with Grandboss. I need you to suck up to Susan for a little bit so I can get some ducks in a row with Grandboss- once we’ve established some rapport in a couple months, we should be able to go back to normal professional interactions”

    Is this a bonkers conversation? Yes, absolutely. But I’ve had to have a similar convo with a direct report when working at a toxic org where one person got to act with impunity. Sometimes that’s just what you need to do to survive at a place.

    1. mb*

      If Susan is, as she claims, “just a secretary”, then she has no business sending out these complaint emails to the grandboss, but also declining to provide institutional knowledge. As the boss, I would have had a conversation with Susan about this. She’s either “just a secretary” or she isn’t. And declining to do a task she’s received explicit instructions for with impunity – this is not on.

      1. linger*

        I’m wondering what response, if any, Grandboss gives Susan’s complaints.
        It wouldn’t be entirely surprising if her overstepping has, at least once in the past, got her an overt “just a secretary” which she’s weaponising elsewhere, though it’s probably more likely she’s just inferred it from observing that her complaints aren’t being acted on. What we know is (i) Grandboss seems extremely conflict-averse in general, and (ii) the response to date doesn’t seem to have shut down her complaining.
        Which is to say, OP also has a Grandboss problem.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I’d say the Grandboss is the primary problem. OP’s boss threatened to resign if Susan thought she could do his job better, and Grandboss told both of them to just put up with Susan’s antics.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Right?! If a staff member were sending frivolous emails to the grandboss in my department, she’d be talking to their boss about getting them in line. I think she’d investigate first, but once it turned out to be frivolous, she’d nip it in the bud.

      2. Miette*

        Seriously. Susan is due for a smack down and you and the boss need to get your ducks in a row. She’s seriously overstepping – and undermining you both.

    2. Echo*

      I’ve seen how this can go down and I would advise the boss to keep OP out of it and stand up for OP.

      At an old job, I had a difficult coworker, “Louisa”. Louisa was a big fan of CCing your boss, department head, and VP if she thought you had made a small mistake. Lots of coworkers would hang out in Louisa’s office and chat with her about her kids and their hobbies for hours.

      When this happened to me, I did nothing and my boss did nothing.

      This happened to my coworker “Teri”, her boss told her “oh, you’ve got to suck up to Louisa, that’s the way things are around here, bring her coffee and donuts and she’ll be your best friend”.

      Guess who got a hug from Louisa on their last day at OldJob. It was not Teri, it was me.

      1. Ermintrude (she/her)*

        Ugh, I would rather not. Good on Teri for not playing that game, I reckon.

        1. linger*

          I could be wrong, but somehow I got the reverse conclusion from Echo’s account, viz: Teri sucked up to Louisa (as suggested by her boss), and so ultimately got no respect from her, whereas Echo (like her boss) refused to be drawn in, was able to demonstrate independent competence, and so earned Louisa’s respect. Or something like that?

          1. Paulina*

            Or Louisa hugged Echo as her last attempt to get Echo to join the “everyone loves Louisa” crowd.

          2. Buu*

            I’m sort of convinced Susan wants OP or their bosses job and is trying to show how much better she’d be at it.
            Can totally see a situation where the office is understaffed yet she’s not getting any career progression possibly since people look down on secretary jobs, so she’s got ever more resentful her tactics aren’t working.

            It’s not OPs thing to solve it so. But if the bosses won’t reprimand her. Possibly just having a firm job description and a new job title if she is doing a bit more around the office might pacify her a bit. Especially if stuff like events organizing or staff moral was part of the job, it’d be easier to call her out on the secretary line. Also means the social stuff are things that can “be taken off her plate” if she can’t get through the less exciting tasks.

            Sadly I some think she will ever stop completely though.

  5. WorkplaceSurvivor*

    Wow, Susan sounds incredibly tiring. She sounds like she’s outsourcing her emotional regulation to everyone else- to the point where she’s bringing in people’s *bosses* when she’s not accommodated. And guess what? That’s not being a “nice” or “kind” person.

    OP, I would emotionally divorce yourself from all things Susan as much as possible. Expect her to always center herself and make choices that protect her own reputation of “I’m nice, and I’m a helper”.

    1. ferrina*

      She sounds like she’s outsourcing her emotional regulation to everyone else

      I’m definitely getting this vibe too. It’s not enough to be nice- you need to be effusive. You can’t just give a compliment- you need to heap praise. And if you aren’t doting enough, Susan will complain to the grandboss about….something. It won’t be related, but it will be enough to make sure that you get punished. This screams of someone trying to fill their own internal needs with external validation and blaming their negative emotions onto others (“I’m upset but clearly that’s because OP did this thing!” and it doesn’t matter how reasonable the thing was, Susan will find a way to make it unreasonable).

        1. ferrina*

          I was thinking of it more as grooming the flying monkeys. She’s positioning herself as kind and caring and helpful to an outside audience, so that when someone speaks up about what she’s actually doing, there are people jumping to her defense.

          Love-bombing happens to the targeted victim and is generally focused on a single person, creating that temporary rush of emotions so they get invested. It’s a prelude to the abuse or a temporary soothing strategy, not a sustained effort.

        2. Ermintrude (she/her)*

          And the cultivating of a great reputation as a shield against correct accusations of their abuse. :-(

      1. Slightly Less Evil Bunny*

        Agree. I never saw the original letter, but when I went back and read it, it struck me that while the LW attributed “suck up” behavior to Susan, it seemed like everyone else was actually doing the sucking up. To Susan!

        That immediately made me wonder if there had been some previous issues due to insufficient Susan praise.

    2. MigraineMonth*

      I’m stealing the phrase outsourcing one’s emotional regulation for future use.

  6. JMA*

    The whole “solo mission of mercy” example is just weird. So OP told the injured employee that they’d help, but Susan did all of the actual help and was thanked for it. OP is unhappy that Susan seemingly does things for the praise, but OP did nothing but say they were going to help and then expects praise? How is this not hypocritical?

    I can totally see Susan’s personality being grating, but OP seems to have zero self-awareness.

    1. Kaden Lee*

      Right, but OP wasn’t given the opportunity to help because nobody was given the opportunity to help. OP is unhappy because she wasn’t able to help after offering to do so to the person needing the help.

      1. Kai*

        But she went to the family & whined about her hurt feelings?
        The family who needed help & didn’t need her hurt feelings on top of everything they were dealing with?

        That’s weird. If you want to help… help. Go bring them donuts as a treat or something. Anything. OP didn’t have to wait for Susan, she could have helped at any time.

        It’s weird. OP sound weird to me, not Susan. Therefore, I feel she’s an unreliable narrator.

        1. Silver Robin*

          OP did not go to the family! Nancy is another coworker. “The employee called to tell Susan and Nancy (another coworker) thank you”

          Of course OP could have done helpful things, but if everyone in a group (business, friend group, volunteer org, whatever) is deciding to help Person X, then it makes sense to coordinate. OP probably thought Susan would reach out and include them in the coordination. If OP reaches out alone, the family would be right to say “Oh, Susan is handling our requests, she has all the info. Please talk to her!”

        2. My Useless 2 Cents*

          She didn’t go to the family and whine. She made a comment to a coworker that she was hurt at not given the opportunity to help.

        3. mb*

          She didn’t whine to the family – Susan was trying to do it all and take all the credit – coworker Nancy happened to field a call about the groceries and contributed. So Susan and Nancy got the praise. OP mentioned to Nancy that they were a little hurt that Susan kept OP out of the loop, and considering that the whole thing was OP’s idea in the first place, I can understand why. Susan may have even been trying to make OP look bad – like they said they would do something but didn’t kind of thing.

        4. Leenie*

          She didn’t go to the family to complain. She expressed that to Nancy, the other coworker who was thanked.

          1. Leenie*

            Oops! Should have refreshed before I commented. Didn’t mean to pile on with another iteration of the same comment.

      2. Olive*

        Why did she need someone to give her an opportunity to help? She could have contacted the employee herself to ask about grocery shopping or to offer to drop off some meals.

        1. Silver Robin*

          because coordination is helpful? Folks who are trying to rest and heal do not need to coordinate everybody who wants to help. If they already know Susan is managing the workplace’s response and OP contacts them separately, they would be right to say “Oh, Susan got us our grocery help and she has all we need, please talk to her!” The outcome is the same: the help has already been provided and OP was excluded from that effort even though they had explicitly volunteered.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Very routine advice for this sort of thing is to have a point person in the office so the person who needs help doesn’t have to try to add coordination on top of everything else.

        3. Elle*

          Yeah, I thought this was weird too. If she wanted to help, she could have. Susan didn’t, like, steal that from her or anything. I would honestly caution OP about being overly swayed by Susans in the future- it sounds like this is getting to her in an unhealthy way.

        4. Cherries Jubilee*

          Because their office discussion was that everyone would get together and each pitch in, and then they heard nothing, and then all of a sudden it had already been done so that only one person got all the attention.

          Everyone was waiting for the person who volunteered to take the lead to actually reach out and organize something with everyone.

          1. Kaden Lee*

            yes exactly, thank you! It definitely read as a “too many cooks, so you be the lead and I’ll follow” situation except the lead just did it all.

          2. Allonge*

            OK, but that does not stop OP and the rest of the office to organize a second round of groceries or like a gift card, if they still want to help. In the meanwhile the family that needed groceries got them.

            I get that Susan is annoying! But this is a bad example of a bad thing she did. I read the original post and it seems like there are plenty of legit complaints.

            1. Melody Powers*

              Yeah I really think OP didn’t have to depend on Susan including them, especially when they don’t trust Susan anyway. OP could have done something separate from Susan. The family thanked the people who actually did something and that’s perfectly fair to me.

              I will admit that I’m very biased on this topic though. I went through an emergency that had everyone around me making offers to help that most of them never actually followed through on. And there are plenty of more serious complaints about Susan here. This is just one that hit me personally.

              1. parrot*

                I don’t think OP was upset about not getting thanked. From OPs point of view, when Susan and Nancy got thanks, it looked like Susan coordinated the office-wide care package and deliberately excluded OP. Then when OP mentioned she would’ve liked to have been included, she learned that Susan had actually excluded EVERYONE.

                OP and the rest of the office can (and should) arrange more care packages, but offering to organize something and then cutting everyone else out is a jerk move

            2. Aitch Arr*

              Then OP would have been accused of “going rogue” and “not letting Susan lead.” I bet money that would have happened.

              1. Allonge*

                Sure, but 1. OP would have helped which apparently was the goal and 2. that’s a legit complaint against Susan, which OP can raise with the bosses.

                Now, bosses seem to be a bit useless in this case, which is a much larger issue overall than Susan. To paraphrase the advice often given here, OP has as much of a manager problem as a Susan problem. That sucks.

    2. Silver Robin*

      I did not read it that OP was sad about not getting thanked; OP was hurt that they had volunteered to help and got excluded from the effort to help. No communication of “oh, thanks for offering but we have everything covered!” Everything got done where OP could not see it so they did not even get the opportunity to help their coworker. While in and of itself, this is relatively minor, it follows the pattern of Susan directing attention on herself and her favorites, at the expense of others.

      1. ferrina*

        This is how I read it too.
        OP had an idea on how to help, and Susan immediately took over that idea and cut out OP. Maybe Susan said “I’ll send out an email” and then did nothing. I knew someone that operated that way- as soon as she got into a project, she’d act like she wanted to collaborate and you’d be waiting on an email, then you’d follow up a few days later and it turns out that she’d been working with others and not inviting you to the meetings.

        1. Silver Robin*

          It is so gross too, because it is subtle and hard to pinpoint. None of these are awful moral crimes, but it is a pattern of exclusion and it feels icky to be on the receiving end. But then OP writes it out or explains it to folks and it sounds like it could just barely be innocuous if you do not see the pattern.

          1. All Het Up About It*

            Yes, yes, yes!

            It seems that several commenters are in that camp thinking that it’s a poor example or the OP should have just helped on their own. I think it’s an EXCELLENT example, but I’ve dealt with these types of people a lot.

            Everyone brings their own experiences, right?

        2. Shan*

          I work with someone who I generally really like, but they’re a monopolizer when it comes to things like this. They take over every effort immediately and don’t let anyone else participate in any meaningful way. It’s really sucked the fun out of these kind of things, when it’s expected you’ll just hand over money, and they’ll get to make all the purchases and get all the praise (and despite this person’s protestations, you’d better believe they expect praise).

        3. Sparkles McFadden*

          Yes, it seems like a minor, somewhat petty, example, but I get exactly why OP used it.

          I had a Susan at one of my post-retirement jobs and she would insist on organizing anything of a personal nature. She would present sign up sheets only to certain people and tell the rest of us “Everything is covered.” Then, she’d go to the boss and the person the event was for and say “I had to do so much more because Sparkles and Sheila didn’t want to help at all. They’re both so mean and selfish.” At a baby shower my Susan organized (where she “accidentally” left me off of the invitation email), I put my gift on the gift table and, by the time of the gift unwrapping, it was gone. Susan had thrown it in the garbage (yeah, I went to look for it because I suspected this). When I gave the gift to the expectant mom (after rewrapping it because it had been in literal garbage), she said essentially told me I didn’t have to get her a gift because Susan already explained that I didn’t like baby showers and wouldn’t be coming. (What?) I actually replied “Oh, and did she tell you I punched a puppy on the way here?” and at least half the room laughed so that was how I knew who was Team Susan and who wasn’t.

          1. ferrina*

            Amazing response! That is so beautiful!

            Susans really are like this! Some of the things they do are so minor that it’s easy to write it off except that it keeps happening. Then some of their things are so bonkers that it is hard to believe that it’s real- like putting a baby shower gift in the actual trash! Our minds have trouble believing that Susans are really like this because seriously, who does stuff like this?!

            Good on you for calling her out in the most hilarious way possible!

    3. Dr. Rebecca*

      I’m reading it as Susan took over immediately, whereas OP was going to start later in the day, and then *found out* that Susan had taken over, and didn’t want to create a ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’ situation.

      Like if you say you’re going to order in lunch, and then someone does it before you can. You don’t need *two* lunches right then.

    4. mb*

      I don’t think it was that OP did nothing – more like OP said they would help – Susan overheard and then immediately took over and deliberately left OP out of the operations, just so she could take the full credit. The other employee only had involvement by accident – which Susan probably didn’t want because she wants to both martyr herself (I did EVERYTING, it was ALL ME, nobody helped) and then get praised for being a saint. I actually think Susan’s secondary goal was to make OP look bad – she SAID she was going to do it, but I, Susan, had to do everything. OP just needs to try to ignore Susan as much as possible, and shrug their shoulders when Susan is acting batshit bananapants.

    5. theletter*

      This issue isn’t that OP wasn’t thanked for offering to help, it was that she wasn’t included in the effort to help.

      ” Apparently, Susan arranged them all in secret” is the key phrase here – OP offered to be part of the solution, was willing and able, but then was not included in the assignments of tasks. Susan managed to cut OP out of the loop, which is weird for big favors like grocery store runs.

    6. Double A*

      I think it’s because it’s part of a pattern. Susan only does the work that gets her public recognition and doesn’t help pick up behind-the-scenes slack AND complains to the big boss about other people’s behind-the-scenes work. This is why it’s been hard for OP to pinpoint what bothers them; no one thing is egregious, but put together it’s a pattern of Susan building herself up while tearing others down.

    7. ConstantlyComic*

      The impression I got was that OP offered to help and asked or expected to be kept in the loop about plans to help, but then Susan decided that she was going to be the entire loop so she’d be the only one getting thanked for it (especially because Nancy was only able to get involved because she stumbled upon what Susan was doing).

    8. Butterfly Counter*

      They way I see it going down.

      *coworker injured*

      OP: Oh no! Our coworker is injured! Let’s all get together and help them with transportation and meals and things for the next few weeks until they can get back on their feet.

      Susan: Yes! I’ll be in charge and let people know how they can contribute!

      *crickets chirp, weeks pass*

      Healing coworker, back at work: Thanks so much to Susan and Nancy who were the only ones to help me during my trying time.

      OP: *who had been waiting on an email or call from Susan on what she could do to help since Susan was spearheading the task* Dang it! Susan-ed again!

      1. All Het Up About It*

        I read it as even worse.

        Days pass instead of weeks and Nancy mentions she went for a scheduled grocery run.

        OP: Oh I really wanted to help. I wish I had been included in the group task email.

        Nancy: There was no group task email. Susan took on all tasks herself. I only got to volunteer because I accidentally intercepted a call while she was out to lunch.

    9. Pam Troglodytes*

      I don’t think it’s weird or minor. OP wanted to help and had a great idea of how to help, which Susan overheard and then announced it to all because She Is Great and Good and Kind, and all shall be astounded by her kindness. Susan sucks up all the goodwill and kindness for her own kudos, leaving no space for others to form their own social bonds of kindness. I’d be bloomin annoyed too, and very wary of her and the fawners.

      1. Paulina*

        Yes. Susan takes over anything that is likely to get appreciation, especially non-work tasks, and refuses actual work tasks that wouldn’t lead to appreciation (like making the needed phone call to the second mechanic to tell them that they’re being called in).

  7. Thank God (or something) I no longer work there*

    I worked in a government job where 3 departments were combined into one. The “sweetheart” of one office was anything but however she was the most knowledgeable about the ins and outs of the department so they treated her with kid gloves. Her manipulation included when she retired insisting on no party but crying that she wasn’t given one. It’s difficult to manage someone like that though not impossible, even in government. My best advice is to make sure all your interactions with her are professional and you document your side of every interaction with her that you suspect she is documenting.
    Though you are not her boss…My reaction to He doesn’t like me! was always are they polite, professional, and honor reasonable requests from you? Then it doesn’t matter if they like you or not. This isn’t kindergarten!

    1. WorkplaceSurvivor*

      The “document document document” is such good advice!

      I’d also recommend you use your own reputation as protection. By that, I mean if you’re a generally polite and helpful person to everyone, you should feel pretty confident that people will say “That doesn’t sound like Jane” when the office Susan brings their sob story to their boss.

      But also still document lol

    2. ferrina*

      Depending on how the workplace dynamics are, it may be worth it to work on an exit plan. The Susan I worked with was years from retirement and had no plans to go- why would she when she had a good thing there? She could act with impunity and whine to the CEO when she didn’t get what she wanted.

      It never got any better over 4 years, and I eventually left for other reasons. Places that let Susans run rampant usually have other issues.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        Places that let Susans run rampant usually have other issues.

        ^ This!

        Just in the simple example of the call process when mechanic 1 isn’t available, the fact that the unavailable (and likely more expensive to the company) mechanic 1 has to do the task of calling, instead of the person who is available and has been assigned the task of calling doing it … why? That seems like a management team who is not willing to think things through or address them when they come up, and instead just takes the path of least resistance. While that might be an okay for a handful of things on a case by case basis, that is no way to run a business as SOP. Other things will fester and eventually the people who actually do stuff will be focused on all the “band-aid” tasks instead of their core functions.

        At a previous company, we used to refer to people like Susan’s as “no ops” They may sit in a chair, at a desk, like a real worker. But the stuff you actually need them to do somehow never manages to get done without other people intervening or hand holding or some amount of drama (which may not surface until the least opportune time) People learn to work around them.

        Even though they are a problem, they are almost always a *symptom* of a bigger, more pervasive problem: bad management.

        That last part makes me advise LW to start looking for a different job, because unless boss, grandboss are willing to address the Susan shaped elephant in the room (by clarifying her role, holding her accountable for things that ARE her responsibility and refocusing her when she wanders out of her lane) this will not get any better, and will likely have some collateral damage to someone around her, possibly LW.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        Yes! Companies with Susans usually have turned them to “dull roar” and as long as they don’t get too outrageous or overstepping they can run their own little fiefdoms.

  8. Pastor Petty Labelle*

    Oh yeah, Susan wants the attention for the positive. But anything negative and its I’m just a secretary. I can’t do anything outside my job. Except when I tell grandboss how other people should do their job.

    This isn’t change she is struggling with. This isn’t just that you OP are different from the old people. This is Susan being Susan. She is just this way. Something needs to be done because she is already turning into a missing stair. You CHANGED A POLICY that made complete and perfect sense to accomodate her. INstead of just saying — Susan this is how this works. It is part of your job to do it. if you cannot do it tell me know so we can start transitioning you out. I’ll be if she realizes her job is on the line a LOT of bs will stop. Or if it doesn’t you can let her go and find someone who doesn’t bring so much DRAMA to the job.

    1. Belle of the Midwest*

      I was just coming here to say the same thing. Susan is absolutely a Missing Stair.

    2. My Useless 2 Cents*

      My experience with an office Susan wasn’t that she changed when management stopped bending to her will and she realized her job was in trouble. However, she did whine and complain and show her true colors a lot more so that when she left (voluntarily) most were happy to see her go. She tried coming back about a year later but manager wouldn’t hire her back. (I am a horrible person that that still makes me happy)

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        I have faith THIS Susan will stop. OP said it was the LAST email sent after boss threatened to quit over Susan’s behavior with the transportation issue. So Susan knows when to cool it because she went too far.

      2. Goldenrod*

        I am very suspicious of people like this, who are SO overly beloved at work. In my experience, these types of people are so beloved because they perform “being wonderful” all the time – and put a lot of energy into this performance.

        My office’s “Susan” was beloved by all except those of us who worked closely with her, because we could see how self-involved she really was.

        Also, I am a secretary but I would never say “I’m just a secretary” – that’s not professional, and it’s not a good excuse to not do a work task! As others have pointed out, if she felt the assignment was not appropriate to her role, there are other ways of communicating that.

  9. Kai*

    Tbh, the OP sounds a bit jealous of Susan.
    She sounds like a good coworker, & her handling of helping the family (grocers, doctors etc) is a genuinely nice thing to do. The OP, to me, sounds like she is centring herself, making it about her hurt feelings & not about helping the family. That, to me, is what’s weird.

    Look. If you & others have the same issues with people, it’s probably them. But OP has admitted it’s just her texting like this to Susan.
    I suggest she do a deep dive into what is making her so jealous. Perhaps OP knows people may not particularly like her, so she’s projecting to Susan. OP sounds not great to work with, really.

        1. LNZ*

          I’m legit shocked how many commenters are falling for Susans crap without even realizing

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Susan has refused to do part of her job. Susan complains to Grandboss about how OP and her boss do their jobs — to the point boss threatened to quit if Susan didn’t knock it off. Which surprise, surprise she managed to do. But then when asked for suggestions or solutions just plays helpless.

      OP is not jealous. She wants someone to do their job without all the intrigue and DRAMA.

    2. ferrina*

      Just because it looks nice doesn’t mean it is nice.

      Susan is not a good coworker- she declines to do parts of her job, she doesn’t collaborate with others, and she regularly stirs drama. You might say “But she does collaborate! What about all those people at her desk!” That’s not collaboration, that’s socializing. When it comes to working together to find solutions, Susan consistently does not do that. It’s Susan’s way or no way.

      For the groceries- yes, it’s nice to the family that got the groceries! But note that Susan went solo when she knew OP wanted to be involved. Why did Susan do that? It would have been so easy to collaborate with a coworker. But if Susan had collaborated, she would have needed to share the credit, and she didn’t want to do that. So was Susan’s thoughts really on how she could help the coworker? Or did she just see an opportunity to make herself look thoughtful?

      Here’s a fun test- see where Susan gets her ideas from. If her “thoughtful” gestures are all originally someone else’s idea (like OP’s idea to get groceries), she’s not actually thoughtful- she’s stealing the ideas of thoughtful people and enacting them to get credit.

      1. Allonge*

        Here’s a fun test- see where Susan gets her ideas from. If her “thoughtful” gestures are all originally someone else’s idea (like OP’s idea to get groceries), she’s not actually thoughtful- she’s stealing the ideas of thoughtful people and enacting them to get credit.

        Ideas are a dime a dozen – actions help, not ideas. Susan sounds annoying but she actually delivered the groceries, so on this point I am not quite sure I agree with you or OP. I totally see OP being at a BEC stage with Susan, rightly or wrongly.

        1. ferrina*

          Yeah, I’m coming at this from my own experience. The Susan in my life was constantly stealing ideas from other people. He couldn’t be bothered to think about others, so he would let others do the thinking for him, then he would do the Grand Action.

          So I would say “Allonge is having a rough week. I’m thinking I’ll invite them out for lunch this weekend. Maybe I’ll take them to the farmer’s market and we can pick up some of the fresh blackberries that they really love. I’m planning to connect with them on Friday, so I’ll ask them then. They’re super busy, so I won’t interupt.”
          Come Friday, Susan had taken you out to lunch and brought you a pint of blackberries. You’re gushing about how thoughtful Susan is while I’m thinking “I’m so glad Allonge is feeling better! But also….that was my idea and I was looking forward to spending time with Allonge.”

          1. ferrina*

            Note- this also sets up a false image of Susan. You now think that Susan was so thoughtful to remember that you like blackberries. Isn’t it amazing that Susan listens and remembers those details about other people?!

            but…..Susan doesn’t listen. She didn’t remember. It was someone else that did those things. And next time Susan doesn’t listen and doesn’t remember, you’re confused- wasn’t Susan someone that listens and remembers? Surely Susan is just having a hard week. And really, it’s expecting a lot for someone to always remember these things….when it was all a lie to begin with.

            1. Allonge*

              Hi, just to say I read your comment about your ex above only now, and I understand better what you mean – I am sorry you had to go through that and good for you for getting rid of that guy. You deserve a lot better.

          2. Allonge*

            I don’t doubt this was a frustrating experience/person for you, but I am still on the side where if this was the only issue for OP, there would be no issue.

            Never have I ever in my life resented not one but two separate people being kind to me. So what if there are a dozen people who remember or upon prompting, appeciate that I like blueberries and lunches with friends? I suppose the end of it is – if someone told you that your kindness does not count because someone else was also kind in a similar manner, that was just as bad a take as some of OP’s Susans’.

            Also, and with the greatest respect – if Susan or the Susans in your life are liable to ‘steal’ ideas, stop sharing them with her.

            1. LNZ*

              If someone has to manipulate you into accepting their kindness by going to your boss, then it’s not real kindness. Susan showed her hand by complaining IMO.

              1. Allonge*

                Which is why I keep saying there are legit issues with Susan. ‘She helped a coworker who needed help without asking me to contribute’ is just not the part to be upset about.

                But please also read the hypothetical I was responding to.

      2. Melody Powers*

        I don’t really see where it’s the idea that matters when people need help. The people who did the legwork got the thanks in this case, as it should be.

        With all the pushback on this particular example, I feel the need to point out again that there are definitely legitimate problems with Susan here. I just really hate the idea that offers to help (the thought/being thoughtful) are more admirable than actually providing that help.

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          I think the issue is that Susan not only stole the idea, but switched it. Instead of: We’ll all take turns to help out coworker. Susan implied that she’d delegate who would be taking turns with which particular tasks, took over the idea and switched it to: Susan does all the work and gets all the glory in helping this coworker.

          Yes, the coworker got what they needed as they healed. But instead of a whole office coming together to help in collaboration, only Susan (and another coworker who lucked into hearing about it) get the recognition.

        2. ferrina*

          Yeah, I phrased that badly.

          Ideas don’t matter if they aren’t executed well- people that have ideas but don’t execute, don’t deserve credit. People that have ideas and only do part of it and insist they get credit because they “meant well” don’t get credit either.

          But be wary of the Credit Hog!

          They like to wrap themselves up in the trappings of Nice Person, but their motives are corrupt. They are only doing the thing because it will earn them Nice Person Points ™, not because they actually care. Credit Hogs can be very sneaky (because they won’t get credit if people know they are only doing it for the credit).

          Ideas can serve as a litmus test on whether the Nice Person is actually nice or a Credit Hog. Credit Hogs tend to do a lot of very obvious execution without a lot of ideas. They lurk until someone else has an idea, then they very publicly execute the idea. They may even actively solicit ideas from other people! This is all in lieu of *shudder* thinking about someone else. Genuine Consideration is considered toxic to Credit Hogs, and they generally avoid it as much as possible. They will cut others out or “forget to mention” the activities to others. It’s not about a show of solidarity or group support- it’s about Credit Hog Did The Nice Thing!! Look At Credit Hog!

        3. Llama Identity Thief*

          But neither of these are the point in contention. Making it sound like you’re going to loop in other people to help only to do all of the helping yourself can be frustrating. If I’m actively looking forwards to helping out one of my associates, and another one announces they’ll spearhead the operation just to do all of the helping themselves…I don’t know that I’d be hurt by the outcome, but I’d be side-eyeing the person who did the announcement. It’s not “idea vs action,” it’s “setting up to be the locus through which everyone can help, just to cut off that avenue.”

          And to counter the “well why didn’t they just help outside of Susan” I’ve seen elsewhere, when the favors needed are grocery shopping (where doing more of it means you’re just saddling the injured coworker with more food than they can use) and ride providing (something you only need one car for at any given time), trying to help outside of what was already provided would just instead provide headaches to the injured coworker.

          It’s not fair to criticize the OP of not taking action, when Susan specifically set things up where there were no more helpful actions to be taken.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            Exactly. Coordination can’t take place on two separate loops or it’s going to generate more stress, not less, for the person whom it’s supposed to benefit.

            Drawing again from my well of Pizza Experience, this is why we never do surprise orders–the person sending the food may genuinely want to assist someone, but that person, who isn’t expecting the food, most probably has other dinner/grocery plans in the works and now has to cope with a random pie just appearing right when they were expecting Thai or someone had brought over a casserole. That’s not even factoring in things like are they even home to receive it? Is it covered with an ingredient they can’t have? and so on.

    3. WellRed*

      People who don’t do their jobs and complain about how other employees do theirs is NOT a good coworker.

    4. Olive*

      I think things have reached a BEC stage where everything Susan does infuriates the OP.

      It seems most likely that Susan has some deeply annoying flaws, can shirk work she doesn’t want to do, and also can be a helpful and compassionate person in other situations – she actually delivered on helping the other employee and nothing was stopping the OP from also offering help. Sometimes we applaud people who refuse to do work they aren’t being paid to do. The fact that it can fall on equally struggling coworkers is the flip side of that. But picking at Susan’s language of “just” a secretary is unnecessary.

      Once things reach that point though, I think the only thing for the OP to do is to decide whether she can emotionally let go of all this, focus on her job, and avoid Susan as much as possible, or if it’s time to start looking for a new job.

      1. Aitch Arr*

        OP didn’t have the chance to help the co-worker though.
        She took Susan at her word that she (Susan) would spearhead the help and instead did it all herself. (Minus Nancy, who only by chance got the opportunity to help.)

    5. Ermintrude (she/her)*

      Maybe OP is a sourpuss here but they’ve got a solid lock on how Susan manipulates people and situations. Susan-like people are good at seeming great until one finds out how and why they’re manipulative by falling falling afoul of them and/or standing up to them.
      I think OP has the right of Susan not being an actually good person.

    6. Kella*

      Buying groceries for the family who needed them is kind. Announcing that you’re going to organize the collective effort is also kind.

      BUT it was clear the rest of the office, including OP, very much wanted to help the injured employee, Susan said she’d organize that, and then actively avoided including anyone else in the effort, even going so far as keeping the fact she was doing that a secret. As a result, she got all the credit for helping and no one else got to help.

      It is possible to do a kind act for a selfish reason.

  10. mariemac*

    I definitely think Susan cultivates her positive relationships and likability as a power move. Maybe a more opaque power dynamic, but it sounds intentional. I am curious about the overlaps between people who do this and their role/function in an organization. Like, does Susan feel the need to feed this aura of likability because she may not feel a lot of power in other places as “just a secretary”? Would be hard to say without knowing more, for sure.

  11. Elizabeth West*

    Susan is not sweet, thoughtful, and charming; she’s manipulative and loves to be the center of attention. Sounds like Grandboss has swallowed her line along with the hook, the sinker, the pole, and almost the boat.

    1. Elitist Semicolon*

      She reminds me of a character on an episode of 9-1-1 who was adored for being a sweetie and respected for handling dispatch calls quickly and effectively and then it turned out she was hanging up on people and telling them things like, “I don’t have time to listen to you whine” instead of sending an ambulance or whatever.

      1. Mister_L*

        Never seen 9-1-1, but in Scrubs Dick van Dyke appeared in one episode playing an elderly doctor. At first the character was beloved by the whole staff as “everyones grandpa”, until J.D. realized that he had not kept up with new developments in medicine in years. In the end the character was let go / allowed to retire with many blaming J.D. for him no longer being around.

    2. JK*

      I completely agree! As I read this and the original post I just kept thinking she’s an attention seeker! I have lots of experiences with those types of people because they seemed to be drawn to me like a magnet back when I was a people pleaser with no boundaries. So I think her “complaint” about the OP was really her trying to say “I’m not getting the type of attention I want from OP.” In my experience, typically if you continue not to placate them and they aren’t getting what they want they will eventually move on and leave you alone. However, it’s a bit unfortunate in OP’s case that Susan’s behavior is being enabled and having a direct effect on the OP and their boss’ jobs.

  12. JP*

    OP, you should get her one of those motivational posters as a gift to hang at her desk that says “Character is what you do when no one is watching.”

      1. Little Miss Cynical*

        Forgive me if I’m wrong, but by not carrying out the direct instruction to call the mechanic when that is company procedure, could that not be solid ground for having a serious conversation about insubordination and a potential disciplinary if it continues?

        1. Hannah Lee*

          Well, it would be.

          If anyone in Susan’s chain of command chose to notice and address it.

    1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      Would it make the situation or relationship better? No.
      Would it be satisfying? Hell yes.

    2. STAT!*

      Ha ha I was sitting there in my pants by myself eating beans from a tin at the moment I read this! (Well not actually but close enough.)

  13. Orange Coffee*

    I once heard something along the lines of: “ when people don’t have opportunities to move upward or exercise formal leadership, they might seek social or informal influence”. It sounds like Susan fuels on exercising power within her “just secretary” range. That sounds exhausting…

    1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      Oh, yeah that’s a great point. It’s not necessarily the case here and there’s no way for us to internet randos to determine if it is, but it’s a useful angle for the LW to consider.

      It seems there isn’t the will to do any real correction of Susan’s behavior so if the LW wants relations with Susan to improve (and it doesn’t seem like they especially do) they should consider if this might be the case. If Susan is clinging to her weird soft power because she feels like she doesn’t have any otherwise, then giving her a little more agency and ownership (slowly and with careful monitoring) could help!

      There’s a LOT of ifs and that scenario, though, and honestly just ignoring her until the LW moves on to their next thing is probably fine.

      1. Ohhhhh!*

        This is related to the comment above from OrangeCoffee- ( I once heard something along the lines of: “ when people don’t have opportunities to move upward or exercise formal leadership, they might seek social or informal influence”. It sounds like Susan fuels on exercising power within her “just secretary” range. That sounds exhausting…)

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      This comment reminded me of Arsenic and Old Lace, with Uncle Teddy in the basement building the Panama Canal. He’s being put to use, but only because his personal nuttiness meshes so well with the two sisters’ goals…

  14. Keymaster of Gozer*

    I don’t think Susan is going to change, and it looks like management aren’t going to do anything about her so, sadly, this looks like a case of find a new job :(

    (Leaving a firm due to a coworker who drives you up the effing wall might seem a bit drastic at first but trust me, it’s a weight off the shoulders)

    1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      It wouldn’t be a case of leaving due to Susan, though, not really. OP would be leaving because management won’t use their authority, which is a much bigger issue. Susan is just the outward evidence.

      Also OP mentioned several times that she and her boss are newish, the firm is understaffed, and they’re having to recreate operating procedures because the old ones were never documented. That sounds exhausting even with competent management, and definitely a reason to leave.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Yeah, sounds like a crumbling building where it’s best to get out before the struts snap.

  15. PNW planner*

    reminds me of an employee that thankfully just left. quick to point out what everyone else should be doing or mistakes, but when asked to do anything she didn’t want to do or give an opinion that carried responsibility would be quick to respond I’m just the front desk.

  16. Quill*

    Susan honestly feels like the kind of PTO mom who has to be in charge of everything but seldom does any of the real work. She’s always on greeter duty and never on clean up crew.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      Heh, like in Superman III, where everybody goes to the high school reunion but Lana is left to clean up the gym the next morning by herself.

  17. LB33*

    If she’s tight enough with the grandboss to be emailing about other employees’ performance, sounds like she has free reign to do or not do whatever she feels.

    Separately, I didn’t really see a problem in the example of the colleague that she coordinated the help for?

    1. mb*

      like others pointed out – it seems innocuous but it isn’t. Susan heard OP mention the idea of coordinating help such as groceries, etc. Susan jumped on it and said she would spearhead it – but then tried to do it all and take all the credit. The only reason Nancy was involved was because she accidentally fielded a phone call about the groceries. Susan was definitly trying to keep everyone out of helping, and probably more specifically trying to keep the OP out of it. She doesn’t like OP because OP doesn’t kiss her a$$, so she definitely doesn’t want OP getting any credit.

      1. LB33*

        When OP said Susan did it in secret, I thought that meant she *wasn’t* trying to take credit, but I see what you mean now.

      2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        I mean, if you look at it that way? Or maybe Susan saw an opportunity to help someone in need, so she … helped. OP didn’t have dibs on it. Maybe she likes a little appreciation, nothing wrong with that.

        1. Cherries Jubilee*

          She basically tricked her coworkers into holding off on pitching in their help, under the guise that she was going to coordinate some thing so that everyone could help. Then she did it all herself, which looks to the recipient as the only one person cared.

          People are probably waiting on an email, like, bring groceries here by X time if you want to pitch in, and then one person will bring them all over together. And instead of that, Susan made it the Susan show and cut everyone else out of the good deed.

          Yes, others can also bring over groceries after they found out that that happened, but it’s not like that doesn’t change the dynamic of how it looks to the recipient.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            At that point, anything the others do looks like they were guilted into it by Dear Sweet Susan, who inspires the best in us all!

        2. jasmine*

          Announcing you’d take charge is implying that you’ll organize everything, including coordination with other people. If Susan just wanted to help, she could have done it quietly, or said “I’ll pitch in too.” She deliberately put herself in charge and then didn’t involve anyone else.

        3. Kella*

          Susan didn’t individually offer the injured employee help. Susan specifically offered to organize things so everyone at work could help. But she did not do that. She told no one (except the injured employee) that she was helping the employee by herself so no one got to be involved in helping.

    1. Minerva*

      Yeah, but Susan felt the need to complain to the boss because OP doesn’t like her, even though it seems to have no impact on their work.

    2. Critical Rolls*

      The Susans of the world disagree. I had a coworker once, when I was pretty new to the working world, and we just got on each others’ nerves. I found her wrongheaded and patronizing, and I’m sure she thought I was a know-it-all kid. So I tried to keep our interactions short. She went to our manager complaining about how disrespectful and cold I was as shown by my lack of chit-chat. I’m sure the look on my face was comical, and I blurted out, “But she can’t stand me! Why would she want to chat?!” Fortunately my boss was no fool and agreed that, although I needed to make sure my dislike wasn’t leaking into my tone, keeping it brief was probably a good idea.

  18. The Rural Juror*

    Oh wow. Did Susan work for my previous company for about 6 months? I worked for someone like this for a short time, but I don’t think she liked the non-reactions she got from me and my coworkers. It was a tiny company and hard for her to feel adored there since she was the newest employee and we were all set in our routines and worked like well-oiled machines. No one was unkind or unfriendly to her, she just couldn’t be satisfied when we didn’t fawn over her. She was constantly interrupting my work because she wanted to chat, then would be huffy when I would say, “Ok, now I gotta get back to it.” after humoring her for 5-10 min. It was never enough!

    The most glaring memory I have was when one of the co-owners brought in their new puppy while she was at lunch. The puppy was so timid, it took it about 20 min to warm up to me. I sat in the floor of my office and let the pup sniff around and then come to me when it was ready. When “Susan” came back to the office, I was still sitting in the floor talking the the C-O and the puppy was sitting calmly on my legs. The C-O told her the dog was extremely shy, but she said something like, “Oh! Nonsense! All dogs love me!” and leaned down and plucked the dog off my lap very quickly. The poor dog got scared and started crying in her arms so the C-O had to tell her to give the dog over to him.

    I think it hurt her feelings, even though she was totally in the wrong for not listening. She quit like a week later. I think she realized that we weren’t the crowd to bend the way she wanted us to behave towards her. Like I said, we weren’t unkind or unfeeling! She wasn’t getting what she wanted from us.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      I feel so sorry for the puppy.

      But this is the perfect example of this type of person — so self-centered in their need to be liked by EVERYONE and EVERYTHING, they need think of the effect on others.

    2. AngryOctopus*

      I mean, I’ve said things like “oh, I have animal magnetism” when animals love me, but that’s also when they come right to me, or warm up after 10′ instead of 30′. I would never just grab the animal!

      Susan is 100% like this. Needs to be the ‘best’ or ‘most recognized’ for doing things for people, and doesn’t like it when she’s not. OP, she bugs me too, and I don’t even work with her! I think it’s good that your boss is already on top of it, so just continue to do your thing, because your boss has your back for if Susan complains about something!

  19. Capt. Liam Shaw*

    I am probably going to get piled on for this….

    Honestly LW, I getting some bad vibes from you on this update. I think you just need to move on from this job and Susan. That you are okay with hurting this woman’s feelings is concerning because that is really unprofessional for your situation. I get you don’t like her or how she does things is one thing. It really feels like you are just BEC with her. Save your sanity and move on to somewhere less stressful for yourself.

    1. Melissa*

      I am not sure if she needs to move on from this job, but I agree she needs to step WAY back from her relationship (her internal relationship) with Susan. Susan sounds flawed. Most of us are. Susan also sounds annoying. But honestly, nothing described here is a mortal crime– OP said “I can buy groceries,” but then Susan’s big personality flounced in and organized a meal train, so OP’s offer got overlooked. Oh well. Susan’s interactions with their bosses are also annoying, but again, not fatal. Just ignore her and separate from your emotions on this one, OP.

      1. sparkle emoji*

        I think the issue OP is upset about is that Susan didn’t actually organize an office meal train– that would mean letting a number of people help and contribute– she became the one-woman meal train. Others (including both OP and the other coworkers) were not afforded the opportunity to help, except for Nancy, who stumbled upon the chance by answering the phone while Susan was away. I can definitely understand why someone might decide to take on the whole meal train themselves, but people wanted to help. There appears to be a pattern with Susan of using the helper role for the soft power it provides her. Given Susan is complaining to OP’s grandboss about OP and causing work issues by refusing to do her actual job duties I don’t think the issue can be solved just by OP managing their emotions.

    2. jasmine*

      I’m a little confused about all these comments framing this as an OP problem. Even ignoring the rest of the update, if my coworker sent emails to my grandboss complaining about me, I’d not like them and their personality would be irrelevant.

    3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Where is she hurting Susan’s feelings? OP was the one who was hurt by being cut out on helping a coworker.

      Guess what? It’s a business. SUSAN needs to act like a professional, just as OP is. OP expects Susan to do her DAMN JOB not just throw up her hands and say I am only a secretary to avoid anything she doesn’t want to do — while telling grandboss how others should do their jobs?

      1. Boss Scaggs*

        I wonder what changed in between the first letter and now – at least as for as work performance OP says Susan’s was excellent.

        1. Silver Robin*

          OP probably saw behind Susan’s grand gestures and noticed how much was left undone

      2. Critical Rolls*

        Yeah, I’m not getting how OP is “hurting Susan’s feelings” other than by not performing an unreasonable degree of fondness for a professional relationship.

    4. Boof*

      Well, I agree that OP should think about whether it’s worth staying in her job if Susan’s going to stay the way she is / if there aren’t other issues and Susan’s just the symptom OP notices, I’m going to take OP at their word (and lack of evidence to suggest otherwise) that they are not doing anything to overtly hurt Susan and don’t particularly like being a source of their Ire. I’m not sure why you’re implying that despite this, OP is somehow willfully hurting susan’s feelings, and I guess by extension susan’s impact on OP’s feelings don’t matter?
      And at the end of the day; actions matter, we can’t control other people’s feelings, and it’s it can be hard to control our own as well. OP seems to be behaving reasonably. The fact that Susan is apparently constantly tattling to the higher ups instead of directly addressing any of this makes it looks like Susan is a problem and management is probably a problem too for not shutting this down more.

      1. cottagechick73*

        I agree, there is not a clear villain like we see in many many stories here. Both Susan and the OP know that they other grates on their nerves and both seem to want to lean into it. But I think that Susan is a drama llama, but is good at hiding the “raw neediness” of it so people don’t recognize it right away. My MIL was exactly the same way – fawn over me, let me be the martyr. OP just needs to just ignore her theatrics.

    5. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

      Yeah, Susan is awful, but OP has jumped in with both feet. This isn’t really an update. Letter one was “Susan is awful, what can I do?” and letter two is “Susan is still awful.” I’m dealing with a bad dynamic between co-workers at my job, and honestly, I’m tired of them both. Yes, A did an annoying thing. But B’s response is out of proportion. Rinse, repeat. Susan is Susan, she’s not great, let go, she’s “just a secretary.” The emails to the grandboss are your manager’s problem.

      1. jasmine*

        I’m a little confused about what y’all think OP has done? The update doesn’t indicate there’s a fight or rivalry going on.

        I read this as the letter going “I don’t like Susan but maybe it’s my problem” and the update changing to “I realized that I was doubting myself before but it turns out Susan really is a problem”

      2. Kella*

        The first letter was NOT “Susan is awful, what can I do?” like even a little bit. The first letter was, “I don’t particularly like Susan, but I’m professional and kind with her, and she complained to my boss that she can tell I don’t like her. What do I do?” OP was fine just dealing with Susan prior to *Susan* complaining about OP.

        I think the purpose of this update was for OP to better verbalize what it is she doesn’t like about Susan, since she couldn’t describe it well in the original. I feel like the conclusion of the update is, “Now that I see these specific patterns in Susan’s behavior, I know this conflict was a Susan problem, not a Me problem.”

    6. mb*

      But the OP wasn’t trying to hurt Susan’s feelings. OP didn’t care for Susan but was kind and professional. Then Susan sent emails criticizing OP and OP’s direct boss, and complained about OP not liking Susan. Neither the boss, nor grandboss, thought the OP did anything wrong. Would you like someone who was trying to cause problems for you because you didn’t buy her any gifts and kiss her ass? Plus Susan refuses to do parts of her job – cricizes others but then refuses to provide any help – so not a good coworker. Sure OP should try to care much less, but the OP’s vibes are just fine IMO.

    7. MigraineMonth*

      I’m not clear on what OP did that you think was unprofessional. It sounds to me like OP continued to be congenial and professional towards Susan, and Susan continued to complain about OP not fawning over her. If being professionally congenial with a coworker hurts their feelings, that’s really the coworker’s issue.

    8. Double A*

      I think Susan’s feelings will get hurt in the course of OP not fawning over her. It’s more OP won’t appease Susan unreasonably and that will hurt Susan’s feelings, which Susan will act on in petty ways. That is what the OP is saying they will accept

    9. Kella*

      OP says she gets the impression that Susan complained about her because OP is “different”. OP was specifically saying that if OP being different hurts Susan’s feelings, that’s not an issue she’s going to worry about much. If someone else is upset because I’m wearing their least favorite color, I’m not going to worry about the fact that I’m upsetting them too much, because that is clearly a Them problem, not a Me problem.

  20. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

    Yeah, half this stuff sounded like legit annoyances, but the other half sounded like OP was annoyed because Susan annoys her, not because Susan did anything bad.

    1. Happy meal with extra happy*

      Nope. It sounds like every other letter that gets criticized because the letter writer didn’t provide the “right” details and examples to support their story. Not enough examples – well, sounds like it’s not a big deal. Including minor things issues with bigger concerns – let’s focus on the minor issues, not the big picture, and say that I don’t see the big deal either. And if the letter writer writes a novel-length, footnoted, sources cited list of all issues – well, this is way over the top and clearly you’re exaggerating.

  21. Little Miss Cynical*

    Forgive me if I’m wrong, but by not carrying out the direct instruction to call the mechanic when that is company procedure, could that not be solid ground for having a serious conversation about insubordination and a potential disciplinary if it continues?

    1. Nea*

      As someone who has been “just a secretary” and an office manager, that moment waved a parade of red flags past my desk. It’s one thing to play at (or honestly be) confused by procedural changes. But “If no A, call B” is clear, direct, and unmistakable.

      That she didn’t follow that procedure when it was developed – and then doubled down on being somehow unable to follow it because she thought it was out of bounds is shocking to me.
      That she claimed she couldn’t make a phone call “because she’s just a secretary” while somehow having the authority to second-guess every action two other people in the office do is long past serious conversation about insubordination time.

  22. Lisa Simpson*

    I worked with one of these. She was the beloved angel of the department, even though she was a) bad at her job b) training new staff with the “wrong” policies and procedures, c) engaging in substantial bullying of new staff, which culminated in d) her making a mistake that pulled our boss back from medical leave early, causing her surgery to heal improperly!

    It culminated with her getting a new job and ghosting us for four months before she actually quit. She made the schedules, so she just quietly dropped herself to ultra part time and stopped answering calls and emails while we all floundered trying to figure out what was going on.

  23. KK*

    Sounds to me like OP is exhausted watching the dog and pony show of admiration for Susan and wants no part of it (rightfully so). And although OP remains cordial, friendly and engaged, it’s not enough for Susan’s ego and Susan took it up the chain.

  24. Rachel*

    OP doesn’t like Susan.

    Susan doesn’t like the OP.

    This is actually fine. I think there is a tendency to always look for a good guy or a bad guy in these contributions. I also think there is a tendency to think you can only dislike someone if you have an objective reason to do so.

    Both of these tendencies are harmful. It’s better to acknowledge that sometimes two people don’t click but neither of them are wrong.

    With basically no effort whatsoever, I could craft Susan’s side of these stories that make her the Good Guy and OP the Bad Guy. Because this is not a cut and dried situation.

    OP, it’s fine that you don’t like a co-worker. Most people have co-workers, members of a friend group, or even family members that they don’t like but deal with pleasantly. It’s fine.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      Yes, but this coworker is then actively engaging AGAINST the OP, simply because the OP doesn’t kiss her ass. Remember, this started because OPs boss said “you need to be aware that Susan complained about you, and while I see that this complain has no merit, she might act differently towards you and I think you need to be aware”. This is not a sign of two coworkers who just don’t get along. Any crafting of making the OP the Bad Guy is going to ignore the fact that higher ups feel the complaints from Susan had no basis in reality.

      1. Olive*

        I actually think this was inappropriate behavior from the OP’s boss. He should have handled Susan’s complaint himself, by letting her know that he’d investigated, not found a reason to pursue further action, and strongly warned her that she was expected to behave professionally. Telling the OP that Susan complained about her was stirring the pot.

        1. Fluffy Fish*

          I tend to agree. Susan and OP aside, there appears to be bad management that continues that isn’t helping anything.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            Yes. Susan is a weed, but the management here are gardeners that won’t do anything about her.

    2. Kella*

      Right, but you need to be giving this advice *to Susan*. OP had no problem with their relationship previously. Susan is the one that complained about OP, even though OP was making an effort to be friendly and professional. Susan is the one with a problem. OP’s update is basically that identifying these incents helped her realize that she doesn’t need to worry about what Susan thinks so much because Susan is often unreasonable.

  25. Boss Scaggs*

    In the original letter Susan is mentioned more than once as being excellent at her job. It sounds like now she’s going through the motions at work and just gossiping all day. I wonder if Susan’s having some kind of health or personal issue because it seems she’s struggling all around.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      health or personal issue does not excuse the refusal to do a simple task like call another mechanic.

      health or personal issue does not explain claiming she is just a secretary whenever she doesn’t want to do anything.

      Health or personal issue issue does not explain sending emails to grandboss explaining how OP and her boss could do their jobs better.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Yep, the “why” doesn’t matter. That’s for Susan to figure out. It’s the “what” and the “how” that LW needed help with.

        And yeah, having issues of any kind doesn’t mean you get to treat other people like crap.

        1. Boss Scaggs*

          We’ve just seen so many instances of admins getting dumped on, not getting paid their worth yet being expected to do it all, etc, I always have to take that into account. Doesn’t excuse bad behavior, but I’m curious nonethless

          1. Peanut Hamper*

            I actually have a friend who is that exact position, and instead of treating people like crap, she is taking it up with her management structure. She is still acting professionally. So even if it happens (and it happens a LOT–no disagreement there), yeah, it still doesn’t excuse her behavior.

    2. sparkle emoji*

      It sounds as if there have been changes to a number of procedures and Susan has been digging her heels in at said changes(calling mechanic 2 when 1 is unavailable). Maybe Susan’s work was only excellent so long as she got to do her job how she wanted.

    3. BuildMeUp*

      I don’t think the fanfic is helpful. The OP was new to the job in the first letter, so imo it’s just as likely that the OP just *thought* Susan was good at her job and over time realized that all the coworkers fawning over her was masking the issues.

  26. Lobsterman*

    This seems like a conflict between two people who would both be much happier if they learned what ordinary professional boundaries are and how to act within them.

    1. Silver Robin*

      OP seems to be acting entirely within normal and professional boundaries, both in the previous letter and this one. What has OP *done* that is an overstep?

      First letter: this person gives me weird vibes but I am trying really hard to be nice to her because it is probably just me

      Second letter: this person refuses to collaborate, constantly complains about me, excludes me when I volunteer to help, insists on doing only certain aspects of her job, and is so incorrigible about it that she only shaped up when my boss threatened to quit. So now I firmly know I dislike her but she is what she is so I figure it out.

      Where is OP unprofessional in this?

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        I mean if someone is accurately picking up you don’t like them despite being your trying to be nice – something is going on.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          You still have to act professional and DO YOUR JOB even if you think someone doesn’t like you. Susan refused to do a very simple task of her job — call the other mechanic. Not a big deal. But she made all this DRAMA about it.

          1. Fluffy Fish*

            I don’t disagree. I stated There’s legit work gripes.

            But that is not within OP’s control. She’s not Susan’s boss.

            The only thing we can ever control is our self.

        2. Quill*

          Or sometimes people dislike you for no particular reason and then complain that *you* are the one who doesn’t like *them* because you just aren’t part of their clique.

          Work isn’t high school. You can be perfectly cordial and have no personal relationship whatsoever and that’s okay.

        3. sparkle emoji*

          OP’s boss said their behavior towards Susan was fine according to the first letter. It sounds as if Susan’s issue with the OP was that OP didn’t preform appreciation in the way Susan wanted. I don’t think OP did anything wrong just because Susan wants gifts and effusive praise. Susan’s expectations from her coworkers are unreasonable!

        4. Nysee*

          No, the Susans of the world have weapons-grade sonar as to whom they can manipulate and have under their ‘spell.’

          It’s not that OP doesn’t like Susan; OP just didn’t fawn all over her and tell her how wonderful she is. It also sounds like Susan has the grand boss in her back pocket..

        5. Kella*

          And one of those things could be that the person picking up on it is insecure and paranoid about people not liking them, which is not relevant to work at all and doesn’t merit a complaint to the boss.

        6. BuildMeUp*

          It seems very clear that Susan is reacting to the OP being perfectly cordial and even friendly but not outright fawning over her and bringing her gifts like the other coworkers do. That’s a Susan problem.

    2. Happy meal with extra happy*

      If you’re going to call OP out, at least have the courtesy to say what you mean (what professional boundaries is OP violating?) instead of this vague posting.

  27. ZugTheMegasaurus*

    I genuinely cannot comprehend how Susan is doing anything wrong. Sure, attention seeking is annoying, but it’s annoying BECAUSE it’s solely attention seeking. If she were looking for attention, she would make a big production out of volunteering but not follow through on it once she got her kudos (and I’ve definitely known a few of those). Both this letter and the original one give me real BEC vibes, like OP is angry that this woman sent care packages to an injured employee, and also that nobody thanked OP for it (even though Susan was the one who ordered and sent it)? Maybe I’m missing something, but it just is not making any sense to me what’s supposed to be so awful about her.

    1. Silver Robin*

      did you miss the parts where Susan refuses to do her job and was so frustrating to work with that OP’s boss had to threaten to quit in order for Susan to shift her behavior?

      This is about patterns of doing the flashy thing and refusing to do the not flashy thing.

      And read the other threads about OP being hurt, OP was upset about being excluded from the effort, not about lacking thanks from the hurt coworker.

    2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Did you miss the part where she sends emails to grandboss about boss and OP claiming they aren’t do their jobs right? While refusing to carry out a very explicit instruction as her job?

    3. Happy meal with extra happy*

      So you think it’s okay for Susan to consistently complain to OP’s grand boss about how OP and OP’s boss are doing things wrong, but then when OP asks how those things should be done, Susan says she has no clue? Like, you don’t see how much professional harm that has the potential to cause OP and her boss?

    4. mb*

      I hate to pile on here, but seriously? Susan complained about OP to OP’s boss – a complaint that her boss found baseless. Susan refuses to do simple tasks she’s instructed to do – like if situation A happens, call the other mechanic. Susan writes emails to the grandboss saying that OP and OP’s boss either aren’t doing a good job or are doing it wrong. To the point that OP’s boss threatened to quit if Susan did this one more time – but when asked for information about doing the job correctly, claims she doesn’t know and that she’s “just a secretary”. I mean, let’s ignore the whole grocery/care package thing for the injured coworker and just look at the other stuff – that’s a terrible coworker and a big problem that grandboss is being negligent in not addressing.

    5. HR Friend*

      I agree. By LW’s own admission, their department falls short in some areas, and it sounds like Susan is complaining to her boss about the impact on her department. It’s not up to her to fix the problems, as LW suggests. Susan’s just raising what sound like legit problems with her boss. What else is she supposed to do?

      The “emergency situation” makes no sense to me, as Susan’s not mentioned as being involved at all. Just boss/grandboss conflict and LW’s unavailability. It’s not at all clear why boss almost quit due to Susan’s involvement.

      Re: the care package. LW offered, vaguely and in passing, to help the coworker. But then Susan stepped in and actually organized the help. If LW wanted to be a part of it, why not ask?

      I agree that LW just doesn’t like this lady. And LW’s boss is not helping. They should do more to address Susan’s complaints without involving LW.

      1. Happy meal with extra happy*

        Did you read the letter? Or are you just assuming facts that support your position? Unless you’re calling OP a liar, they specifically say that Susan frequently emails their grand boss “detailing everything OP and the boss are doing that is wrong”. That you can twist that to “Susan complaining about the impact on her department” is concerning.

        The emergency situation is an example of Susan’s constant complaints. Susan emailed the boss multiple times, saying that OP and the boss screwed up when there was nothing done that was their fault/could have realistically made a difference. It’s not even clear if Susan was impacted, and even if she was, she unfairly and unjustly blamed OP and the boss.

        Susan didn’t do any organization of help – she took over the project and did it all herself, even though she said she would be spearheading it, meaning that she would organize the help. That’s obnoxious.

  28. Fluffy Fish*

    OP look I get that you do not like Susan – and it’s pretty even split between legit work grips and just personal dislike.

    But it will never be professional to showcase your disdain for someone at work. No one is saying you have to be friends with her. No one is saying you have to like her. But you do have to behave professionally. And that can be really hard especially when you feel like well she’s not being professional so why do I?

    All I will say is you will never regret behaving professionally.

    1. Silver Robin*

      where is OP showing disdain to Susan at work? this letter is not evidence because, importantly, this is not OP’s workplace

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        I just replied to you above:

        I mean if someone is accurately picking up you don’t like them despite being your trying to be nice – something is going on.

          1. Fluffy Fish*

            Could be. That’s not something OP can control.

            I’ve had a Susan, except my Susan was borderline abusive rather than incompetent. And my mental health got really bad at work due to it because I was so focused on how unfair it was that he got away with it and what an absolute glassbowl he was. And despite what I thought were my efforts at being the bigger person, I was forced to step back and look critically at my interactions because I was miserable, and the only thing in my control was me.

            And the reality was, I wasn’t being as professional as I thought. Nothing terrible of course but because I was letting him get to me it did come out in my tone. And the shit part is – even though he was the jerk, it still reflected on me and was contributing to my own unhappiness.

            So anyway. The beauty of advice is, if it doesn’t resonate with someone, they can disregard it. If OP is happy with their approach – wonderful. If OP finds some comments here that help, also wonderful.

        1. Boof*

          It seems like the flip side more accurately applies here by what is described in the letters: if someone is accurately picking up that a coworker just wants to keep a professional distance and not be BFFsies, that’s on the clingy person to respect professional boundaries.

          1. Fluffy Fish*

            Could be and if that’s the case then my comment would’nt be of any use for OP.

            I added a comment above in response to someone else regarding my Susan to give insight as to my original comment. In essence BEC mode is a thing and is always worth considering – not for the Susan’s of the worlds benefit – but for our own mental well-being and happiness at work.

            1. Boof*

              I get it, LW should try to avoid focusing too hard all the petty and inconsequential stuff susan does – particularly all the self-aggrandizing helping stuff probably. LW should probably resign themselves to thinking “helping is still good whatever the motive” and move on, unless it involves something that has a clear negative consequence (ie, if susan does something in secret for the solo thanks, did the person get much less help/support than originally intended? Or duplicate efforts because others went ahead with their own plans after radio silence from susan?).
              But, I think we need to be a little careful about talking ourselves/others into tolerating bad treatment or bad environments in the name of “we can only control ourselves” – and I admit that phrase gets my hackles up a little ever since I read the expose on NXIVM which seemed to be all about “self help” that was really “gaslight yourself into having no boundaries”. I totally agree though if OP has done all they ought maybe it’s time to move on, it sounds like the overall work “Are we sometimes just doing the best we can amidst historic staffing shortages? Often. Are we operating without much training and guidance because our predecessors were long gone before we started and left few, if any, training/SOP documents behind? Always.” environment described is pretty frustrating too (“

        2. jasmine*

          You’re allowed to not like people at work so long as you still behave professionally with them. I have a coworker who I’m pretty sure doesn’t like me, but I would never complain to her manager about it- it’s annoying but she hasn’t done anything wrong or unprofessional.

          There are a lot of comments today not taking OP at their word.

          1. Fluffy Fish*

            I’m not not taking OP at their word. I’m not even sayin OP is not behaving professionally. If they are then perfect – this wouldn’t be of any assistance.

            I added a response above to someone else that provides additional insight into why I said what I said in regards to me own version of Susan.

            The only thing we ever control is ourself.

            1. sparkle emoji*

              You may not be outright stating that the OP is behaving unprofessionally but a lot of people are getting that message. All of your comments assume that OP and their boss are not good judges of OP’s behavior towards Susan and that OP must be being rude to Susan in some way that’s not reported in the letter. OP stated in the original letter that they were professional and kind to Susan, just not over the top, and their boss saw no issues with their treatment of Susan. Continually implying OP is acting otherwise is not taking the letter writer at their word.

  29. Cat's Paw for Cats*

    I don’t think Susan is the primary problem. I’m looking instead at grandboss and wondering if he has lost his everlasting mind. I also fail to see why Susan is in any way popular with other staff and indeed question whether this is even true. She is a spy and a self-aggrandizing co-worker and I seriously doubt if she is as well liked as OP thinks. As always, there is no such thing as a staff problem, only a management problem, and there the solution lies. Grandboss needs to step up and do his job properly.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Susan is popular with other staff because they don’t want to face her wrath if they don’t act like she is the greatest ever.

      I agree management needs to do something. Now. it’s already gone on too long. I guarantee everyone will breathe a sigh of relief when they don’t have to deal with Susan’s drama anymore.

      1. Rainy*

        This is my interpretation as well. I’ve suffered through two Susans at two different workplaces. Neither was *popular* per se but each was outrageously catered to because they were nasty pieces of work who would try to make every second at work as miserable as possible if you didn’t excitedly support their every whim, and each had a boss who, saying this as charitably as possible, bent to whatever wind was most proximate.

        When management humours a Susan, Susan’s targets start looking for the exit.

  30. New Senior Mgr*

    I applaud your self-awareness. Susan sounds exhausting. Harmless, but would definitely require a lot of my energy (and patience).

    1. JP*

      I don’t know that she’s harmless. She does seem to be actively trying to get OP and OP’s boss in trouble, it just isn’t working.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        The one lucky break for OP an OP’s boss is that when a grandboss is hands off/reluctant to engage, it’s with everyone and it means Susan doesn’t have the leverage she might want to really mess up their professional lives.

  31. Parenthesis Guy*

    She knows you don’t like her, so she’s not going to add you for “missions of mercy”.

    And I’d like to know if she got a raise for being asked to do all of these new tasks, or if she’s making $20 an hour and people are wondering why she isn’t doing more.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Being told to make one phone call is hardly adding an onerous burden to her job duties.

      As for being asked for solutions — well she sure seems to know enough to tell grandboss that OP and her boss are wrong. Why wouldn’t you ask her for solutions since she seems to know how everything should be done?

  32. Happy meal with extra happy*

    Gosh, I’d be really curious to know if all of these Susan supporters who seem to all be coming out of the woodworks now all happen to have similar IPs…

    1. Boof*

      Seems unlikely; they probably relate to susan/ have a more pressing memory of a coworker who was unreasonably cold to them rather than an overbearing coworker.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          I don’t think Boof is saying that the LW was unreasonably cold to Susan. Rather, people who have had an overbearing coworker will likely relate to the LW and comment along the lines of “Susan sounds awful.” Conversely, people who have had a coworker be unreasonably cold to them will likely map their situation onto Susan, relate more to her, and comment in support of Susan.

        2. Boof*

          Nope! I just think the few “susan fans” may be projecting a personal experience a bit on what’s happening and relating to Susan; perhaps inaccurately given none of them seem to endorse sending what sounds like a constant stream of emails to higher ups about what sounds like small things that ought to be addressed directly.

          1. Rainy*

            Ahh, I see–apologies for the misreading! :) I think that’s a pretty decent hypothesis. Although it’s definitely more hilarious to think that Susan is here seeing a bunch of people flinch in horror at her behaviour.

    2. Rainy*

      Do you think we actually have Susan among us?! Everybody put your hands on the planchette and chant “Susan, are you among us”, quick!

  33. My cat is the employee of the month*

    Ugh, I worked with a Susan and she was exhausting. She’d volunteer for all these extra tasks, but couldn’t keep up with the work she’d already been assigned and wouldn’t tell the people involved. I’m not sure what happened, but she quit dramatically during an audit, and everyone just shrugged and moved on. It took 2 people about a year to deal with the backlog of work that she’d left undone, and they wondered the entire time what she’s been doing all day instead the task that was her primary job.

  34. Sparkles McFadden*

    The takeaway from this, LW, is that your initial reaction to Susan was just good sense. You gave it your best try, and Susan is determined to do only visible tasks that garner recognition, praise, and, most of all, undying gratitude. She has also appointed herself the arbiter of “the right way to do things” and will happily tattle on anyone not following her imaginary plan of how things should be, forever and always.

    So, you now get to not care about Susan at all, and I think you should feel free to bask in the glow of the angry bonfire of Susan’s irritation over your indifference to her.

    Thanks for the update and best of luck!

    1. mb*

      This is so well said. I think just not caring about Susan at all would drive Susan bananas. Like, don’t compliment her grandkids or anything. Strictly work, and in a professional manner. The more you try to get along with her, the more power you give Susan.

  35. Nonners*

    This sort of reminds me of a former long-time teammate…or, actually, two of them.

    One was big into arranging social events and a few charity drives for things. She was very persnickety about everyone contributing, and sometimes contributing in a specific way she envisioned. But she got upset if anyone participated in a way that, in her mind, competed with her own. People who use public-facing charity and “do-gooding” to get praise really get my hackles up now.

    Another was darkly gifted at taking over work from others and making sure she had a hand in or fully owned ANY project she thought would give a chance for recognition. Queen of excluding people from their own projects and work. It’s kind of mind-boggling that she got away with it so much.

  36. Happy*

    I’m so glad to have an update on this one. I’m not surprised that Susan turned out to be unsufferable.

  37. anywhere but here*

    All of the people saying they see no problem with the incident about helping the employee need to go back and re-read what actually happened. Susan said she would spearhead it, gave the implication that she would organize who was helping with what so that everyone could pitch in, then did everything herself, with the exception of one person who only incidentally was looped in to participate. The fact that Susan helped the injured coworker does not negate the fact that she deliberately orchestrated it in such a way that *only she* was helping the coworker and deliberately excluded the person whose idea it was!

    1. Rachel*

      It is condescending to think that people who disagree with you did not read the update accurately.

      This is a situation where it is possible for people to read the same thing and get two (or more!) different perspectives on it without anybody being wrong.

      Most contributions are like that.

    2. Allonge*

      Susan did not handle this well, to say the least.

      At the same time OP is capable of following up with Susan or upon receiving no updates, call injured coworker to see what (else) is needed. Susan did not build an impenetrable wall behind a moat guarded by man-eating lions around injured coworker, and OP has had a chance to learn not to trust Susan before.

      You really want to help someone – handle it directly.

    3. Emily*

      Yeah, I’m frankly shocked by the amount of people who don’t get that, and also by the amount of people who are framing OP as the problem (though I think it explains why the Susans of the world are able to get away with their behavior). I do think OP needs to think about if this is a job she wants to stay at long term because from this update it sounds like grand boss is enabling Susan.

    4. LNZ*

      Honestly, the comments are really bringing home how some people just have bad reading comprehension

  38. The idiot who headbutted with a highly political manipulator!*

    This kind of person exists in every social group setting unfortunately even at work! They present a sweet exterior and manipulate everybody to get their way.

    Do not head butt with them. They can twist every one of your comment, every situation in their favour. Just steer clear of them!

  39. The idiot who headbutted with a highly political manipulator!*

    just clarifying – by that name, I mean me – I am the idiot who headbutted with a highly political manipulator!

  40. Office Drone*

    I read through both the original letter and the update, and came to the conclusion that Susan is well-named. She reminds me of Ramona’s classmate of the same name in the Beverly Cleary children’s novels. The toxic sweetpie with the boing-boing curls who is teacher’s darling, copies Ramona’s work, and draws all attention and fawning to herself.

    It might be worth reading the final installment of the series (“Ramona’s World”) to get some insight into the fictional character—and, perhaps, her real-life doppelgänger.

    1. boing boing*

      okay, but as a person with very curly hair, Ramona needed to keep her dang hands to herself ;)

  41. Emily*

    Yeah, I’m frankly shocked by the amount of people who don’t get that, and also by the amount of people who are framing OP as the problem (though I think it explains why the Susans of the world are able to get away with their behavior). I do think OP needs to think about if this is a job she wants to stay at long term because from this update it sounds like grand boss is enabling Susan.

    1. Emily*

      Apologies, this was an accidental duplicate post. It was meant to be a response to “anywhere but here”.

  42. knitcrazybooknut*

    Hey OP, when you first wrote in, you talked about your dislike for Susan, and said you were aware that you didn’t like suck-ups, and that you knew it was a you problem.

    I would guess that your radar was pinging when you saw Susan’s behavior, but you didn’t quite know how to identify the manipulation you were seeing. Susan is deliberately cultivating a group of people who will go to war for her. As her group grows, so does her power. As her power grows, she can opt out of more and more of her job, until all it consists of is doing nice things for coworkers who shower her with gifts.

    You did not fall in line with Susan’s long-term plan. So she complained to your boss about you.

    If Susan has the grandboss’ ear, and it’s seen as perfectly appropriate for her to email your grandboss and complain about you and your boss, then you are already cruising towards disaster. I was appalled that she wasn’t at least admonished for doing that, and that she emails them repeatedly!

    Your boss sounds at least competent, and possibly awesome. But you both have a limited shelf life at your job. Susan will rule the roost until someone steps in and manages her, possibly out of the company.

    Best of luck to you – and remember that your instincts were right!

    1. froodle*

      Ugh. Susan sounds like an insufferable pillock, but it sounds like she might be the symptom rather than the disease.

      A grandboss that allows such Susanly behaviour as “frequent emails to [your] grandboss detailing everything [your] boss and [you] are doing “wrong” is only going to lead to the perpetuation of Susanhood, and in weeding this one out you might find that, hydra-like, a fresh batch of Susans arise in her place.

      Better to make your exit, and leave the Susans alone with their greeting cards and care packages and inability to make a phone call.

  43. Jack McCullough*

    You know, I have a hard time understanding why this woman is popular with anyone in this workplace.

    She’s an apple polisher, she’s a back stabber, she uses her job title to shirk legitimate parts of her job.

    Maybe she’s not so bad that she should be fired, but this is not good.

    I suspect you would be well advised to keep your opinion about her to yourself, and to avoid her as much as possible.

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      She’s probably not as popular as she seems. Some people are probably afraid that being on Susan’s bad side will mean that the grandboss will have a problem with them, so they do whatever they can to stay on Susan’s good side.

    2. Snell*

      So here’s something from my own experience:

      I worked in the same building as unpleasant coworker “Susie”. She did things like rant and rail against the solar energy projects the regional gov’t was funding, and solar energy in general, and she did this first thing during morning chit chat. In her interactions with me, she’d constantly insinuate that my job was unnecessary or outright harmful (?!?!?), but when I offered to bring her concerns to [admin who was ever so slightly senior to me], she’d back off immediately. I got stressed spending time in the same room with her, but I kept to myself and kept my feelings to myself.

      Maybe a year and a half later, at a more socially-geared lunch (happened at work but work-talk not allowed for the duration) for my unit (of which Susie is not a part of), Susie came up in conversation, and everyone got the same look on their faces, at which point, I realized it really is not just me, and Susie is unpleasant in general at work. Everyone in the room knew immediately what the deal was with Susie.

      One of my coworkers mentioned that sometimes they leave Susie’s favorite snack on her desk in the hopes that that will put Susie in a better temper that day. I will say that doing anything like this has never once occurred to me. You wondered “why this woman is popular with anyone,” and, well, I have to agree with some of the other commenters that part of it is appeasement, not actual social affinity. Everyone at my work knows Susie is so unpleasant, therefore…Susie gets her favorite candy.

  44. Susannah*

    OK, any sympathy or understanding I might have had for Susan (wanting to be liked is a very powerful force in lots of people) went out the door when I read she was sending emails to grandboss about LW and boss. And she’s “just a secretary” – who nonetheless thinks it’s her place to evaluate everyone else?
    LW, I import you not to try to like her. I don’t even work with her, and I don’t like her already.

  45. Quake*

    Am I the only one confused about the “favourite example”/bad weather incident? I genuinely can’t comprehend what happened and what Susan’s role in all of it was. And what emails are they talking about? Out of the blue Susan wants the bosses job? I’m VERY confused.

    1. londonedit*

      There was an emergency and Susan took it upon herself to email Grandboss to tell them that Boss had decided to leave the site and OP hadn’t come in. Which sounds like Susan was just trying to make them look bad in front of Grandboss – there were legitimate reasons for Boss to have left the site to deal with the emergency, and even if the OP had been called in they wouldn’t have arrived until 15 minutes before the start of their regular shift. But Susan decided to email Grandboss to throw Boss and OP under the bus and make it sound like they were neglecting everything. The ‘Boss threatened to resign and said Susan could have his job if she thought she could do it better’ thing doesn’t mean Susan actually wanted Boss’s job – it’s just one of those phrases, like ‘Well, if Susan thinks she knows all about how to handle an emergency like that, why don’t I leave and then she can be in charge of it all’.

    2. Kiki*

      It sounds like the organization is badly mismanaged/understaffed and the burden continually flows downwards onto the admin person, Susan, who is perhaps rightfully annoyed.

      OP explains that in the emergency situation, everyone in the office (e.g. Susan?) got an overwhelming number of calls and no one more senior was present to help. Even though the reasons WHY the senior staff were absent make sense, that doesn’t make it any easier for the folks tasked with picking up the slack or give additional job duties without appropriate compensation.

      It’s very unprofessional for Susan to continually complain to her grandboss. But on the other hand, the vibe is that OP and the boss disdain Susan and perhaps dismiss her complaints. It sounds like a pretty dysfunctional dynamic all around.

  46. Random Academic Cog*

    I’ve worked with a couple of Susans and had the great misfortune to be birthed by one. The easiest thing is to go along with them, understanding that most of the coworkers behaving this way are genuinely duped by these people.

  47. F*

    It sounds more like Susan knows her contract and isn’t getting paid for all that. Bravo to Susan.

    1. Jane Anonsten*

      My mom was a secretary for 40 years, usually on contract. I seriously doubt that “make phone call to mechanic” is outside the SOW.

    1. Mister_L*

      How can there be another god, when clearly Susan is meant to be the center of the universe?

  48. Ruth*

    Sounds like OP found someone with covert narcissistic tendencies. sadly there’s not much you can do but document.
    Maybe look it up so you know what you’re dealing with.

  49. Seeking Second Childhood*

    Susan brought over the groceries–but I’m curious who paid for them and whether she did it on her own time with her own gas.

    Some companies will have a budget for condolence gifts. Susan as admin might be the one to send the funeral flowers or planter– did she redirect that to groceries?

    If Susan is using employer money, she is accepting co-worker thanks for something the company did.

    When I thanked our administrator for a condolence gift, I heard “I’m glad it helped. I try to pick the right thing– but you should know that (Employer) paid for it.” (Which was code for thank the boss who keeps that in the budget. )

  50. Jo-El*

    Had a “Susan” where I worked who was 100% identical to this one. She tried the same crap with my new boss of complaining about anything and everything. I knew I’d want to work for this guy forever when he stopped her cold and told her (paraphrasing) “You have obviously been here a lot longer than anyone else, myself included, and are a wealth of knowledge that should be used. You’ve mentioned about 8 or 9 things so far so what I need is a document detailing the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for each of them you think would be best. I’ve found that a good SOP is around 10 single-spaced pages and I need them on my desk in 5 calendar days so I can evaluate them. I assume that since they are your ideas that you would naturally want to head up a committee to implement those changes?”

    Shut her down SO FAST! Haven’t seen Carlos in a decade but I miss working for him SO much.

  51. NotASusan*

    Is Susan an Admin Assistant at a hospital? Either I know Susan or Susan is a specific and pervasive personality type. Perhaps the name Susan will come to shorthand for this much the way that “Karen” has taken hold.

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