my coworker keeps asking me to find and re-send him emails

A reader writes:

I have a coworker, Louis, who I’ve been fed up with since he’s joined our team.

Situation: Sometimes, not terribly often, Louis asks me questions that I know he’s already gotten the answer to via email. We’re part of a larger team, but mostly it’s just us on a joint client project. His usual process seems to be, “If I try something once and it doesn’t work, ask Jane (me), because she’ll find it more quickly.” If I mention it’s in an email somewhere, he’ll ask me what my problem is and would it really be that terrible to just quickly send it to him again/walk him through the process for a few minutes? And no, it wouldn’t, but the reason he’s asking me instead of looking it up himself is because it’s just easier on him (I’ve seen him do this to others and don’t believe it’s because of sexism).

Context: When Louis joined our team, he refused most of our attempts to teach him the ropes. He would cancel meetings that we’d set up, mostly because he’d rather start a bit later or didn’t see the need (his words), and told everybody in our company how easy our team has it (because others were shouldering the work — and yes, in hindsight, I should’ve told my manager that in no uncertain terms, but she’s very hands-off anyway). He learned most of the important stuff when he was alone at the project for a few weeks, with me at another location, and he absolutely had to. He still has questions sometimes, and I usually answer those, even if it’s been covered before. I have many more grievances that may absolutely cloud my judgment (i.e., he doesn’t care much about keeping our main client happy, he didn’t take me seriously at ALL during his first six months here, his actual work is … not good, he’s noticed that he doesn’t know all he should and keeps mentioning how little he was taught when he first joined the company(!)).

Question: How do I deal with his questions when he could find answers elsewhere (process documentation, emails)? I know there are more issues to address, and I need to push for him to take on more of our “shared” tasks, but I’m unsure how to reply to “why can’t you do this small thing, it would really help me” (said in a rather fascinated tone, like what possesses me to deny a simple request made by a fellow human?).

The words you want: “Sorry, I’m swamped right now.”

Obviously that shouldn’t be necessary; you shouldn’t need to defend your choice not to do his work for him. But since he pushes you on it and implies you’re a belligerent wastrel for not helping, just start responding to his requests with variations of, “Sorry, I’m swamped, but it’s definitely in an email somewhere.” And then if he asks what your problem is (!) or otherwise pushes back on that, you can simply ignore him. Or, if you want, say, “Like I said, I’m swamped and can’t stop what I’m doing.” Or if you have an expressive face and are willing to use it, feel free to give him a look that conveys, “Why are you asking me to stop in the middle of a busy day and do your work for you?”

Alternately, you could address it more head-on! As in, “It’s really weird that you act like I’m wronging you when I don’t take extra time to dig up old emails and resend them to you. You should assume you’re in charge of tracking those yourself and I’m not going to hunt them down for you.” But Louis sounds like such a jackwagon that I’m not sure it’s worth bothering, when you can instead just flatly decline in the moment.

{ 415 comments… read them below }

  1. Ess Ess*

    I would agree to “walk him through the process.” Then get up, walk over to his desk, and show him how to use the search function in his email. Done!

      1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        And you can search the deleted emails usually too. I know unless I go in my deleted folder and delete it, my emails are in there for a long time. I have come across a few people who didn’t know they could search deleted ones too.

        But like Alison said he’s a jackwagon so it’s unlikely he doesn’t know this. He just sucks.

      2. Da Texan*

        It is singularly unhelpful to respond to questions with “it’s in an email somewhere,” particularly if you are feeding information to someone more senior than you.

        Burying information in email chains is a surefire way to make sure it gets ignored or downplayed or forgotten.

        I do not see what OP’s colleague is doing as so outrageous and think that OP’s complaint is part of broader issues she has with the co-worker.

        If she is senior to the co-worker she has every right to tell him to search for emails himself, but if she is junior to him that would be a terrible idea. Even if she is a peer, it would not be wise.

        1. Ama*

          No it’s Louis’ responsibility to keep track of information he has been sent. It also sounds like it’s information that’s being sent to both OP and Louis via email not info OP is “burying in an email chain.”

          1. Da Texan*

            To be blunt, if I were your manager and you told me that in response to a request to re-send an email, you would not be in my good graces.

            1. Student*

              You are fan-fic rewriting the actual scenario. They are co-workers, per the first line in the letter.

              To be blunt, if you were my co-worker and asked me to sort your emails for you, then I would not proactively lift my tiniest pinky finger to ever help you again.

              Managers get the email resent to them. With serious side-eye, and a small mark added against them in the grand tally of “Should I really be working for this person? Maybe it’s time to change jobs.”

              1. Amber*

                Right! My boss has come up to me somewhat sheepishly and asked me to resend him an email that we both got as he deleted it…. and of course I give it to him but if it was more than a few times I would be getting pretty frustrated!
                Also the LW says they are coworkers so it doesn’t really matter

              2. Baldrick*

                One might fan-fic this and suggest that the Texan is named Louis, and isn’t able to search their inbox. No good reason to be insistent that Louis is right!

              3. Ellie*

                I have to resend things to my manager all the time. He is brilliant, but he has a hundred things to do every day, and some of them slip through the cracks. Its nothing personal, its no reflection on him, and I happily forward them through (and if there’s a really important email going out, I’ll get him on chat and point it out to him, so we can avoid the whole situation).

                This is not what this is, this is a co-worker, who has repeatedly been shown how to do his job, and tries to deflect his lack of knowledge onto OP, making it her problem to deal with. ‘Sorry, I’m swamped’ is the most professional response, but I do like the idea of walking over to his computer and searching his emails for him, hopefully in a slow, deliberate fashion, so you get to waste as much of his time as possible. I get the feeling OP will only have to do that a few times before he moves on to someone else.

            2. constant_craving*

              This isn’t a manager. It’s a peer who declined training opportunities because he wanted to start work later and who is ignoring written documentation he has of processes because it’s easier to ask his coworker to do his job for him.

              If this were a one-off, you’d have a point. But this is a regular occurrence. Occasionally needing something re-sent is understandable. Expecting your coworkers to constantly re-send you things so you don’t have to learn anything on your own or keep track of your own information is completely unacceptable.

              1. TootsNYC*

                It’s also very different if someone says, “I searched for this and I’m having trouble finding it–any chance you’ve got it somewhere easy to find?”

                1. RabbitRabbit*

                  Yes. Goodness knows I’ve had times where search terms aren’t bringing anything up, but I’ve made sure to say “I used X, Y, and Z search terms and can’t find it; am I overlooking something?” Even asked to just get the date it was sent so I can go looking myself. At least put in the effort instead of appointing a coworker your equivalent of Google.

                2. Bunny Lake Is Found*

                  This is exactly the thing. If someone messages me and says “I’m in a meeting and can’t search my email, can you send me the last draft of a Llama Manager contract?” I will send it, no problem. Or “I searched and all I have found is the version of the agreement from May. I could have sworn there was one from July. Can you resend it to me or confirm the May one is most recent?” Like, I get it, things get lost, misfiled, etc. but if this is happening on the regular either Louis is a total disorganized mess, something is dodgy with his email (happens), or he’s just an entitled boob. Based on his other behavior, I’m calling it boob.

                3. iglwif*


                  I get a truly eye-popping number of emails every day, many of which I’m CC’d on and don’t necessarily need to read right away, and people above me in the chain of command presumably get exponentially more. There’s just an absolutely massive amount of information we have to keep track of, or at least keep track of the whereabouts of, and we do our very best to share, absorb, and document all this stuff, but we’re only human.

                  I’ll always make a good-faith effort to find things myself before throwing myself on the mercy of someone else. But sometimes I just can’t find what I need. When I find myself in that situation, my approach is “OMG, $colleague, I’m so sorry but just can’t find the {email | Sharepoint | spreadsheet | Confluence page | Jira ticket} I know this info was in — could you possibly forward/resend/link me to it?”

                  This occasionally happens to everyone I work with, and because we’re all aware the problem is us and approach one another with that understanding, nobody minds re-sending or forwarding from time to time.

                  If any of us acted like Louis, though, I would expect that person to start getting a lot of “sorry, I’m swamped!” replies.

            3. There You Are*

              Good gravy. Even the VPs in my company preface resend requests with, “I hate to bother you. I’ve looked for it but can’t find the email from Customer where they sent their design specs. Do you have it?”

              As in, THEY look for it first before to walking to a junior-level person’s desk and asking them to find and send the email.

              To be blunt, if you were my manager it would only be because you got transferred to my department and not because I interviewed with you. And after the first instance of “I can’t be bothered to type ‘customer name’ in my Outlook search box so I got up from my desk, left my office, and walked over here to you to tell you to find it for me, ” I would be interviewing elsewhere.

            4. Totally Minnie*

              Well then, it’s a good thing Louis isn’t the LW’s manager, isn’t it?

              It’s perfectly appropriate to tell your same-level coworker that they need to find the email containing the answer to their question.

            5. Otd*

              And if my manager did that in the way Louis is, I would consider the manager to be pretty incompetent and someone I’d leave a company because of. So I guess it’s even.

            6. House On The Rock*

              It’s very clear Louis is her coworker. Also why the weird insistence on imposition of hierarchy?

            7. Misty_Meaner*

              To be blunt, if you were my manager and couldn’t figure out how to search emails by sorting by either “Subject” or “Sender” or “Keyword”, I’d think you were an idiot.

            8. JSPA*

              Hes a training-resistant new hire, who (also) can’t bother to RTFM unless there’s literally nobody else to ask, or to shove the tasks onto.

              If he were indeed higher ranking, minimally competent, and shorter on time than the people who report to him–you’d have a point. (You…did read the letter? You’re not just pulling a Lewis yourself, or pulling our legs by channeling him?)

            9. Sarah M*

              Okay, but to be blunt: if my manager was incapable of performing basic office tasks (e.g., doing an email search) himself, I would have to conclude that he’s incapable of performing any tasks at all. You don’t get to play at stupid without quickly earning a rep for *being* stupid. In this case, the Incompetence Weaponizer is LW’s co-worker, *not* her manager, so no he doesn’t get to waste her time.

            10. fhqwhgads*

              Louis isn’t her manager. He’s a peer. Telling him “it was emailed to you” is reasonable. He has to keep track of his shit. She can search her email and fwd it, or she can tell him to search his email. If he’s halfway competent he’ll find it faster than asking her to do it for him and waiting for it. This is absolutely a “google it yourself” type of situation.

            11. JB*

              From the perspective of someone who had that manager: you wouldn’t be in my good graces either. Having to duplicate and triplicate work I’d already done, in writing, not at the last minute, was infuriating. It sent a very clear message that all my efforts doing it the first time were worthless. It was also a complete waste of resources, as the inbox search bar didn’t need paying and I did.

          2. calonkat*

            What Ama said. It’s also Louis’ responsiblity to know how to search his own freaking email, or to google how to do so. If their email isn’t searchable for some reason, then he needs to figure out how to build some sort of reference library of text files or pdfs or something.

            Unless Louis is a 3 year old (because anyone older than that would probably be better at email), who somehow landed this job, he was hired as an adult who should be capable of managing the basics of his position.

            Anyone can have a hiccup in searches, delete things by accident, or just be at the end of their rope. But Louis is suffering from a learned helplessness that everyone else is being forced to rescue him from all the time.

            I suppose if he suddenly announced he didn’t remember where the restroom was, that the OP should be required to drop her work to escort him (after all, it wouldn’t be good to just say “it’s thataway” with a vague wave of the hand)?

          3. Roger*

            In this case, the unhelpfulness is a plus: if anything Louis should face *more* hurdles in trying to get a peer to do his work.

        2. Just so Tired*

          Sending an email that has information and then referring someone to that email is not “burying it”. If I have to find an old email for someone, they can sure find it for themselves.

        3. mb*

          I find it interesting that you think the OP should stop what she’s doing to show Louis how to do something, which he’s been shown before, or to look for emails to resend to him, to the point of it interfering with her own work. If you are asking people to do this all the time, I think you should maybe learn how to search your emails – a one-off request is fine, constant requests are not.
          Are you Louis?

        4. O-H-I-O*

          I really hope you’re being facetious. If someone sends ME an email with information *I* need, it is MY responsibility to file it or flag it or whatever. I am NOT going BACK to that person with “uh, I’m too lazy to SEARCH MY OWN EMAIL so you should search YOURS and send it to me again.” Like seriously, dude, what is wrong with you?

        5. H3llifIknow*

          At what point, Louis, did you get the idea that Louis was “senior” to the OP? It is explicitly states they are PEERS. Do you make your PEERS do your work for you because you are too lazy/incompetent/unskilled/stupid to do your own? If so, you have no business being in the role you’re in.

        6. ceiswyn*

          Why is it not OK for OP to tell her colleague to search his emails for information, but fine for the colleague to tell OP to not only search her emails for the same information but also forward it to him?

        7. JSPA*

          1. this is a peer expecting others to do his job. Not a boss.

          2. “It’s in your email” is functionally equivalent to, “You have a copy, it’s in a folder marked “mail,” and your search function will turn it up at least as fast as mine will.”

          3. He makes a big show of having plenty of free time (because he’s delegating chunks of his job to his overworked coworkers).

          4. Do you really think he would be gracious if she assigned him chunks of her job, and pouted if he didn’t do them? Chances that he’d treat her as a consumate professional? I’m guessing zero and zero.

        8. Caroline*

          Sure, but this is part of information that was sent to both of them, not just her. Somehow she is able to mostly keep track of stuff and he… isn’t. He wants a PA. She is not willing to become one.

          If he whinges to guilt you into ”doing this one tiny thing” (repeatedly and needlessly), just say ”Jack. You may not realise, but you ask me to perform iterations of this very frequently. We both get sent the info. You need to figure out a way to store stuff where you can find it again, because it’s getting annoying to be asked so often.” If he then tries to parse out ”often” or ”why can’t I ask for help” or any other self-pitying feint, just laugh and say ”oh. No thank you. ” and carry on about your day.

          1. LW*

            I love the idea of saying “no thank you” like he’s politely offering me a chance to be helpful to him.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              I had (still have really – he’s just been smacked because new manager doesn’t like learned helplessness) a Louis. What those of us who got hit the most with his requests did was made a stock supply of screen-shot included “how do I do this” pages. Like how do I search my email? How do I print an email? How do I log into timekeeping to put in leave? Any questions asked more than once got their own how do I do this directions. It was a super passive -aggressive approach- but the original manager who hired us all was so unavailable to fix the issue that just sending him directions on how to search for something was our best option.

          2. House On The Rock*

            I may have to steal “oh. No thank you” as a response to unreasonable requests. I can already think of a couple in the past 24 hours that would qualify.

            1. Lisa L*

              I have found “No thank you” to be an extremely helpful reply. One of my favourite instances was when I was a relatively new hire at a library and a patron who had been overly friendly slid me his phone number on a slip of paper. I looked at it, slid it back and said no thank you with a smile and went back to my task.

        9. Mockingjay*

          It IS outrageous. It’s nothing to do with seniority and everything to do with laziness.

          In my industry, emails are a lawful artifact and we send a lot of vital information that way. Everyone is expected to retain emails. How we keep them is up to us individually, but we should be able to search our own files for information that was sent to us. I get a lot of “help me find this, waaaah,” “you’re so good at searching/saving/organizing,” etc. Too bad I’m too busy to look.

        10. The Shenanigans*

          Sure it would be a pain if you had to search it manually. I remember those days. That’s when I learned how to create folders for organizing documents. It’s not hard. And, these days, there are search functions plus ctrl + F. He’s being outrageous because it takes him more time to find her and ask her a question than just to search for himself. The only reason to ask her instead of doing it himself is simply to be a jackwagon. I wouldn’t put up with a co-worker doing that. If a boss was doing that, I’d be looking for a new job.

    1. Daisy*

      Tell him how to use the search function. You point to the place on the screen. Make him click with the mouse.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah this is exactly what I would do. And I would totally act like I had thought all along that that was what he meant.

    3. el l*

      Yep! If the guy doesn’t understand how to use that in his email – point out that it’s 2023.

    4. McS*

      Yeah, my usual response is to make it obviously more work for everyone. “Walk him through the process” absolutely does NOT mean that you do the task and explain the steps while he watches. It means he does it while you watch and answer questions. And if it happens another time and he has the same questions, you don’t keep going until he opens a doc and starts taking notes. Make it weird. And if he asks why you’re being difficult, “it’s not efficient for the team if one person is searching emails for someone else and I want to make sure you can do this on your own when I’m on vacation.”

      1. NYWeasel*

        I haven’t had a need to break this response out, but the next time my Louis asks me where X is, I’m going to ask “What have you already done to look for it?” which will press them to admit they haven’t looked yet.

    5. Ann O'Nemity*

      Nooooo. I mean, I get the passive aggressive / condescending impulse to take this approach, but I worry it would only encourage him to further weaponize his incompetence.

      1. mb*

        yeah, you’ve done it so often that he should know, and he can google it if he doesn’t. At this point, a flat no is what’s required.

    6. Hydrangea Macduff*

      And then he turns out to be a person who deletes everything instead of archiving :/

    7. LW*

      I love this. I’m already thinking of ways to implement it (including, as others are mentioning, coming across as totally helpful, but also very insistent on finding out what’s wrong with his search function).

    8. Just Another Cog*

      And then present him with some laminated printed screenshots of the exact process to refer to next time. ;)

    9. I Have RBF*


      “Oh, is the search function not working on your email client again? See if the help desk can fix it.”

      I have no shame at sending the office pest on a run-around.

      1. Mangled Metaphor*

        I’m married to tech support. He already comes home with enough genuine PEBCAK stories, I’m not sure he’d appreciate adding revenge PEBCAKs. What did the help desk ever do to you?!

        1. House On The Rock*

          I used to work with a woman who always insisted that her screw-ups were the fault of software (e.g. “my version of Excel did it differently” when her calculations were wrong or she missed very obvious errors – think not noticing she was dividing by zero, or referencing an invalid cell). She would, invariably, put in support tickets with the help desk to “prove” her point. Eventually the help desk manager went to our manager to say she wasn’t allowed to waste their time anymore and he had to deal with her…she was on a PIP soon after.

    10. tiffany*

      I used this technique so much working in tech support at a University when academics just wanted the thing done for them

      Them: ” is broken”
      Me: “Oh, have you filled out the form listing the details?”
      Them: “I couldn’t find it/it didn’t have what I needed/etc”
      Me: “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that. Let’s fill it out together, and then when I know how it’s falling short I can ask to get the form updated”

      Get them to screenshare, and then go so… very…slow…. while filling out the form.

      Me: “Oh, it says it needs the serial number here.”

      *Flicks between tab with serial number and form filling it our three characters at a time”

      Usually after a few minutes they say that they’ll fill it out themselves

      Me: “Are you sure? I’m happy to help and make sure I understand why the current process isn’t working for you.”

      I’m sure they all thought I was an idiot, but also they became more self sufficient and I didn’t get in trouble for routing around the current process like they wanted me to

    11. Juli*

      No, don’t show him. Tell him how step by step. It’s better training is he had to do it himself instead of one again having someone do it for him. Muscle memory and such.

    12. tamarack etc.*

      Also, a breezy “oh, I think it’ll be no harder for you to search your email than it would be for me to search mine!” might help.

      1. Caroline*

        Or (with a confused face) ”Hmm. You’re so right. It is a small thing. Remind me why you are unable to do a small thing like this?”

    13. Scottish Teapot*

      This is the way. Show him once. Find a website that demonstrates this as well. Write this link down on a post it him the link and say “in case you forget how to search, here’s a link”. He then has no excuse. He needs to search for an email the way everyone else has to. Once he’s been shown it’s no longer your responsibility.

    14. Lea*

      One thing I have said to people in these situations is gently explain that they need to develop a filing system that works for them or use on that exists.

      I had to ask someone to do something because I am legit swamped and they basically didn’t do it so I half assed to and sent it back for them to fix.

  2. CowWhisperer*

    This my teacher hang-up – but document, document, document. This dude sounds like he’s planning to throw you and anyone else he can under the bus when the PIP comes.

    Write down the cancelled meetings, tasks he doesn’t do and times he irritates the client.

    A detailed list with dates is powerful – and loop your boss in.

    1. Elle*

      Good call on the cancelled meetings. I had someone in another dept throw a fit saying that I never got in touch with them outside of email and how were they supposed to know it was important blah blah. I had to go back and find proof of the multiple meetings I set up that they didn’t show up for.

      1. Mockingjay*

        This is why I never accept cancellation requests. The meeting stays on the calendar but shows as cancelled. It’s very useful.

    2. Kate*

      Absolutely 100% agree. Do not underestimate him. Cover your butt now, going back in time as well.

    3. TG*

      Agreed – I’d also let your hands off boss know. I’d sent an email something to the effect of x asks me repeatedly for emails he has already received – for example and list of 3-4x. He should be able to locate those on his own. Then I’d also document that you have had to show him anything he asks about and if this repeats, note it to your boss. Key in on anytime this is taking from YOUR tasks and also that you had tried to show him this when he started and he cancelled meetings. Just matter of fact but make it clear what a time suck he is. I would hope your Manager gets the idea pretty quickly what a tool this guy is.

      1. it’s not tattling, it’s self preservation*

        I was surprised that looping in the manager wasn’t in the original guidance. If for no other reason that if it comes down to it, Louis is going to screw over Jane.

    4. Laser99*

      Excellent point. He will tell their grandboss that the LE “refused to help me, that’s why I didn’t update the TPS reports.”

  3. Peanut Hamper*

    Louis is either too lazy to search for emails or doesn’t know how to search for emails.

    The latter problem can be fixed, and fairly easily.

    The former problem, alas, cannot be fixed. I’ve managed for a long time, and laziness and apathy are the two things I’ve never figured out how to deal with.

    My sympathies, LW.

    1. Donn*

      I wish I were kidding about a former colleague who can’t search for emails unless you tell them exactly who sent it.

      If you can’t tell this person either “Alison Green” or “,” then forget asking them.

    2. Samwise*

      I have students like this.

      It does not go as they wish.

      Student: Do I need to take these two courses?
      Samwise: [explanation of pertinent course requirements for different majors], so take a look at the degree audits to see

      later that day
      Student: So, do I need to take these two courses?
      Samwise: Let me know if [explanation] is confusing. Did you look at the degree audits?

      next day
      Student: Do I need to take these two courses?
      Samwise: [Name], I know it feels like I’m giving you a hard time. You know how to look up degree audits, we have done it together a lot of times. You need to understand how to do this for yourself. Let me know if you have trouble understanding the degree audits. We can meet and you can show me where you are having trouble.

      haven’t heard a peep since then

      1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        Do they think you’ll just tell them, oh never mind, you don’t need to take those!

        1. Samwise*

          It’s usually a genuine question, and I can answer it pretty quickly by doing what I tell them to do. Learned helplessness on their part (I have theories about why they learned it and who taught them haha).

          Similar to the students I see in class:
          Student: Did you get my email last night.
          Samwise: Yes I did. And I answered it too.
          Student: So, what did you say?
          Samwise: Take a look at my email. Let me know if you still don’t understand.

          I did have a student say once “Can’t you just tell me? It would be faster!”
          Samwise: Yes, I could tell you and yes it would be faster. But then you wouldn’t learn the very important life skill of reading email answers to questions you asked and someone spent time writing back to you. It’s basic manners, [Name]. Better for me to waste some time now, than you pissing off a professor or a boss at work.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            That has a good chance of stopping even intentionally aggressively incompetent people.

          2. NotBatman*

            Gah, this! I also teach and also deal with this all the time. I’ve learned to reply to the statement “I don’t know how to do this assignment” with “did you read the directions?” because the answer is usually no.

            But yes, the only way Louis is going to learn is if you take away his ability to lean on others. He’ll either learn to stand on his own two feet or (more likely) fall flat on his face, but either way he’ll stop making his colleagues do 125% of their jobs.

  4. Beth*

    OP, is your manager aware of these issues? I know you said in hindsight you should’ve looped her in during Louis’s onboarding, but has she clued in since then?

    If not, you should consider flagging the situation for her. Not these emails necessarily–on the scale of the issues you’ve listed, Louis occasionally asking you questions that he should be able to answer for himself is fairly low stakes. But even a very hands off manager would usually be interested to know that a team member of theirs has refused training, produces poor work, doesn’t care about your clients, doesn’t shoulder his share of tasks that are meant to be split between you, doesn’t take the team’s work seriously, and is additionally low-key rude to his teammates (treating you like his research secretary isn’t good team behavior). That’s not just a personality conflict that she might expect you to handle yourself; you’re raising serious concerns about his ability and willingness to contribute to the team.

    1. JelloStapler*

      Especially if he is now claiming it is because he wasn’t trained enough (training he refused) and thats why he is incompetent.

    2. Jesshereforthecomments*

      I agree and I’m surprised that wasn’t part of Alison’s response. OP, you need to detail everything for your boss to show how he’s impacting your work and your morale at work. Tell her that you’re no longer able to keep interrupting your work x times per day or x hours per week (yes, I would count all the times he interrupts you or how many minutes/hours you’ve spent holding his hand). Tell her how you’re going to handle it but also ask that she coaches him (aka actually does her job once she knows of the issues) to take responsibility for his work and his own learning/development.

    3. Massive Dynamic*

      Might be prudent to give the mgr a head’s up that this is a recurring issue and you’re going to start deflecting/refusing to assist going forward. That way you get the jump on Louis who will absolutely whine to the boss about you.

    4. CD*

      Co-signing looping in the manager. Even a hands-off manager still needs to be prepared to, you know, manage their people. Even if she doesn’t immediately start cc’ing her manager, it would be reasonable to push these questions over to the manager. “Sorry, I’m swamped but that sounds like something Manager can answer for you.”

      1. Da Texan*

        I suspect that the manager feels that recirculating important information could be beneficial and would ensure that it does not get buried in a tsunami of email.

        1. mb*

          Your constant assertion that information is being buried in a tsunami of email is a figment of your imagination with regards to this letter. Louis can search his own emails and look up the processes he needs like everyone else.

          1. I Have RBF*


            I needed something that had come to me in an email over two months ago. It took me several tries, because I couldn’t remember who sent it, but I found the email. Than I added the information to my notes.

            I regularly get hundreds of emails a day. I have filter rules to tame the beast, and I know how to use search. It’s not rocket science, FFS.

            Coworkers are not dictionaries, search engines, or trivia repositories.

          2. Elsajeni*

            Also, honestly, even if the workplace processes are objectively bad and he’s being drowned in an overwhelming quantity of email or information that should be stored somewhere easy to reference can only be found in a weird email thread from three months ago with the subject line “Fwd: Re: Fwd: Fwd: Beware of the Leopard” — which can be real and annoying workplace problems! — there are appropriate ways to deal with that, and none of them are “whine at your coworker until she forwards you the Beware of the Leopard thread for the third time”!

        2. somehow*

          So the problem isn’t Louis, who apparently doesn’t care to create…I dunno…FOLDERS or some other system for keeping track of emails. Oh, no. No, no. The problem here is that LW doesn’t interrupt her own work enough to protect Louis, the poor thing, from having to create a system for himself.

          How does that work, exactly? I mean, how is your reasoning valid? Because the way I read the letter, the email has been re-circulating, and Louis willfully chooses not to keep up.

        3. Stopgap*

          Do you not know how to use an email search function? Because it’s very easy: There should be a box that says “Search Messages” or something like that. Click on it, then type one or more words, followed by the “Enter” button. All the emails in your inbox with that word/those words are then displayed. The trickiest part is figuring out what to search for, but if you know what you’re looking for, you can probably guess.

        4. Misty_Meaner*

          Emails are searchable. It doesn’t matter if there are 20 or 200. They are SEARCHABLE. Louis (aka you?) is being a lazy jackhole. If it’s important information, Louis (aka you?) should file/flag it as such when it comes in so it doesn’t “get buried in a tsunami of emails.” Sounds like YOU are as inefficient and helpless as “Louis” and want other people to “fix it for you.” Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Get over yourself, Louis.

        5. House On The Rock*

          If one of my staff came to me with this, the answer would not be to encourage her to “recirculate email”. Your desire to shift blame away from Louis and onto LW is deeply odd.

          1. Sarah M*

            Methinks that someone is the Office Louis in his own workplace, and is therefore deeply committed to defending this behavior.

        6. JSPA*

          This is getting silly. If you’re overwhelmed by your own inbox, you have my sympathy, because it sucks to feel overwhelmed. But that’s not some sort of default condition, and you keep acting as if it were some sort of universal misery / anxiety / problem to work around instead of fixing.

          I can have 20K messages, and still put my hands on what I need. Other people judiciously delete.

          This dude has been in his job only briefly. He’s on a 2-person team.

          If he can’t keep his emails findable, or copy-paste the key info proactively into his alternative format of choice, maybe he’s over his head because he’s in the wrong job, or maybe he expects to float into management by “being a delegator” (a k a foisting his job on others).

          But he isn’t doing the job he was hired to do; and “waaaah, I can’t keep track of my information, so Ima guilt and wheedle and shame you into doing it for me” isn’t a reasonable option, and shouldn’t be treated like one.

        7. Writer Claire*

          Please cite from the original email where LW says that Louis is her manager. Because otherwise, it appears you didn’t actually read the letter, or you had trouble parsing it.

          I’m also puzzled how you missed the part where Louis asks LW to do tasks for him “because it’s easier.” He is not her manager, and LW’s manager has not assigned her to be his minion. If you believe the opposite, please cite from the letter to support your opinion.


    5. ferrina*

      Adding to the chorus- tell the manager.

      Detail how Louis’s work (or lack thereof) impacts your work flow. Detail how he damages or risks your company’s relationship with the client. Provide specifics, and lay as factually as you can. Not “he doesn’t care about the client”, but “he did not respond to the client email for 5 days, at which point the client reached out to me.” Include what trainings you’ve offered and how he’s avoided them- you can even say “He’s complaining about not receiving training during onboarding, which is not accurate- we tried to schedule training sessions, but he cancelled them and refused to participate.”

      Say all this in the spirit of “I’m afraid this could be a risk for the company, and I want to ensure you have the information you need so you can make a decision on what to do.”
      After that, wash your hands. If your manager takes action, you may not see anything for a few months (a good manager wouldn’t tell you if a coworker were on a PIP). If your manager refuses to do anything about Louis, you have a manager problem.

    6. Not Bob*

      Also don’t forget to mention how pushy he is. Asking you what your problem is, is really rude.

    7. Smithy*

      I will add that when there are many issues at play (with a person, a team, etc.) that a manager previously was unaware of or not aware of in full – I think it’s a good exercise is to figure out if this is a case of many small issues that snowball into a giant issue (i.e. repeatedly asking for emails and other small requests has a negative cumulative impact on the OP) or is there one or two large issues that are representative of all the issues.

      If there is one or two “big” issues, then I’d focus on documenting a singular challenge – and while it can be framed with an umbrella of having some “larger challenges”, just rely on one clear example to document. If it’s many small issues that snowball into a giant issue, I’ve found it helpful to pick a period of time or an issue to document how many small issues are combining to make one big issue. One example of this was documenting every step I had to take over 6 weeks and how many people I had to involved in an attempt to schedule one meeting. The issues I was having with this team were far greater, however instead of going to my manager with overwhelming documentation – what I was able to show was an inordinate amount of time, resistance and pushback around scheduling one 30-minute meeting.

      When someone is your peer, I have found this approach helpful and avoids ending up in a place where it seems like two peers who just haven’t been able to find their groove working with each other.

    8. Csethiro Ceredin*

      Agreed! I can’t imagine saying “I don’t know what your problem is” to a colleague.

  5. Farts*

    How do I deal with his questions when he could find answers elsewhere (process documentation, emails)?

    What do you say when it’s your manager asking you this and you’ve already sent them or told them this previously?

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      You resend them the email where you told them that, and say cheerfully “here you go! Let me know if you have any other questions and I’ll be glad to address”.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      When it’s your manager, it’s probably in your best interests to send them the file path of the process documentation (or drop the binder on their desk, or adjust for however process documentation is stored/shared at your workplace) and to resend/reforward emails to them.

      1. Lcsa99*

        This. It is different when it’s a superior and a colleague. When it’s your boss you send it to them (and maybe roll your eyes). A colleague needs to learn to do it themselves.

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yes if it’s my manager I say “let me resend that so it’s at the top of your inbox”. And only if it’s my manager.

    3. Dr. Rebecca*

      “Oh, actually, I think I already sent you that on [date], but it’s attached here just in case!”

      The more chipper your tone, the more firmly you can imply that they should have (known to) used the search function before wasting your time.

        1. Dr. Rebecca*

          Why, thank you! I put the responsibility back on me, fulfilled the request, and layered in a heavy subtext of “you dumbass.” *takes bow*

    4. mango chiffon*

      Had a manager like this…unfortunately the only way out of it was when she eventually left the organization under reasons we never found out after all of her direct reports went to HR about her for a host of other problems

    5. EasternPhoebe*

      This happened with a past boss all the time. I would just forward the email I sent them previously so they could see that I did, in fact, already give them whatever doc or info. I never quite trained my boss to search their own emails, but sometimes they would, a small victory.

      I think it’s important to be helpful, but when you are actually *busier* than your boss (and also not their executive assistant or something), it is worth trying to get them to think harder about whether it is worth asking you to drop your work to dig up an email they already received.

    6. Hannah Lee*

      I’ve dealt with two people in the last few years who often wanted me to resend emails.

      One is the company president. With him I’ll just say sure! And resend it, even though I may have opinions about his inability/unwillingness to use the search in Outlook. The only time I push back is when he implies that the reason he doesn’t have x info is because I didn’t send it. In those cases, I go into “hmm that’s funny, I sent it this morning around 10. Do you see it? Is it in your spam filter? is there something wrong with Outlook? Should I have IT look into it?

      With the other dude, who i expect couldn’t be bothered and rather just have the girl do the menial task of digging up an old email, I immediately focus on “did it not show up when you searched it in Outlook? Did you search All Mailboxes, in case you filed it? And then walk into his work place and stand there waiting for him to show me . .. and then give a gleeful “oh there it is! Great!” when it inevitably pops up in the search results. Because if he wants to turf digging through old emails to me, I’m a)going to turf the physical action of searching back to him and b) I’m going to stand over his shoulder while he’s doing it, resist his multiple attempts to cede his keyboard to me, and just pester him until he finds the answer himself. Basically, if he’s asking, the response he’s gonna get will be more annoying and time consuming than just looking it up himself.

      Or I’ll just say, “oh I’m swamped” with a tossed off I think it came through mid-afternoon yesterday in case he is actually trying to search himself.

      1. coachfitz13*

        Ok, you got me. What’s “turf” as a verb when not referring to getting a new lawn or sports field surface?

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Google says an informal definition of “turf” is “force (someone) to leave somewhere.” In Hannah Lee’s comment Louis is “turfing” or removing the task of searching through his emails from his to-do list and attempting to put it on someone else’s. Hannah suggests sending the task right back to Louis.

          (I am amusing myself by picturing Louis and Hannah throwing little pieces of turf back and forth at each other over cubicle walls.)

        2. SarahKay*

          Throw (metaphorically), informal, possibly a UK phrasing, but that’s only speculation because I am in the UK and have used it myself.
          e.g. At the end of an evening when I’ve had friends round I might say “Sorry, but I’m going to turf you all out now, I’ve got an early start tomorrow”.

        3. Dr. Prepper*

          “Turf” became an abbreviation in the medical field when docs were still hand-writing medical records and notes and it was SOP to abbreviate everything to save time. It came from “trfr” the abbreviation for “transfer” which was to either move a patient to another ward like the ICU or to change services which determined which doc was in charge of the patient’s care.

          It was famously made popular in a loosely truth-based fictional book “The House of God.”

          1. mystiknitter*

            I worked with docs who swore, swore!, they were in the book, and it informally became required reading for me and the other underlings at our healthcare organization. Kinda funny that even we could identify which characters were their younger selves. Healthcare was more fun back then…

      2. Ama*

        Honestly if our CEO (who was my direct boss for 8 years) asks me to resend something, she usually *has* tried to find it or is in a meeting and it’s quicker to send me “hey do you have X?” then to try to think through what would pull it up in the search bar (especially if she’s on her phone).

        If I ever ask a colleague to resend me something I know I should have, I always explain why. Either I’ve already spent half an hour trying to find it, or I’m traveling and can’t easily look for it, or back in the old days when our server log in sucked and would inevitably decide to lock you out 10 minutes before a meeting. I always make it clear it’s a special circumstance and only because I’m not able to do it myself for some reason.

      3. badger*

        if I have someone imply I didn’t send the thing, I forward the sent message that shows that I did.

        1. amoeba*

          That’s usually what I do in any case, because it’s quicker to find in my outbox and already has any relevant information/explanations/whatever I included at the time attached to it! The fact that it’s proof I did send it is a nice added bonus…

    7. Frinkfrink*

      I’m now freelancing, but at my previous job depending on how exasperated I was:

      1. Re-send/forward the email with a chipper “Here you go!”

      2. Re-send/forward the email with the relevant sections highlighted obnoxious yellow

      3. Re-send/forward the email with the relevant sections copy-pasted into the body of the new email and highlighted obnoxious yellow

      1. COHikerGirl*

        I only use obnoxious yellow when proving a point. All my other highlighting is nice soft easy on the eyes colors. Not many pick it up, but if you ever see my spreadsheets (accountant), it becomes obvious.

    8. BRR*

      You just do it. If you think your manager would be receptive, you could try asking if they would like you to organize/present information in a different format. But it’s not really a situation you’ll be able to change that much.

      1. I Have RBF*

        “Here you go! Is there a better subject I can use for this type of thing that would make it easier to find in the future?”

        The reason is, sometimes emails with important process stuff come in under unrelated subjects, like “Patching” when it is really about the shutdown and startup process for a particular set of hosts, and I have hundreds of emails with “Patching” in the subject.

    9. Anon for This*

      As a manager I can tell you that it is often easier to ask my employee to re-send than to search for it, particularly when I know I will have very little time to deal with my inbox on a day in which the calendar is filled with meetings. While it doesn’t take much time to search on the sender, depending on how many e-mails that person sends me I may still have to spend some time sifting through a pile, particularly if the subject line isn’t very helpful (e.g., that document you requested) or if the request/reply is tacked on to an e-mail about a different subject.

      With your co-worker, unless it is a hair-on-fire emergency, they can do their own searching.

      1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        This. I just scanned the folders where I keep my reports’ emails and there are 17000 emails. The older ones are in a different place. Recent emails I can usually find but if it was from a month ago, well, I can also usually find that but not always. Search terms only go so far.

        1. H3llifiknow*

          Then you should be organizing and filing your emails better. I have multiple folders and sub folders. I have dozens of rules set up for keywords, subjects, from, etc… and my email goes back over 10 years. I don’t keep duplicate emails, (i.e. if I forward an email, why keep it? If I respond to an email, I either keep the email with my response or the original,not both, etc…) But having 17000 emails is a ridiculous amount and that’s on YOU for not properly categorizing them.

      2. Da Texan*

        As a manager I can tell you that it is often easier to ask my employee to re-send than to search for it, particularly when I know I will have very little time to deal with my inbox on a day in which the calendar is filled with meetings

        Precisely this. Recirculating also ensures that important information is top of mind and not buried.

        Your job (at any level) is to help your manager get a gold star on her own performance review, not to “train” your manager to do things your way.

        1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          Your job (at any level) is to help your manager get a gold star on her own performance review, not to “train” your manager to do things your way.

          I don’t think I agree with that. My job as a manager is to ensure that my team is getting our work done in the most efficient/effective/accurate way possible. If that means changing my processes a little so that it works better for my reports, or facilitating inter-team communication that they don’t want to get bogged down in, that is quite possibly a worthwhile use of time.

          Sure, it’s good for me to work to make sure that my boss looks good to his boss. But it’s also my job to tell my boss when something he’s insisting on doesn’t make sense for the team, and try to find a solution that meets his goals while also being workable for us.

        2. Totally Minnie*

          I noticed you skipped over this part of the comment you’re replying to:

          With your co-worker, unless it is a hair-on-fire emergency, they can do their own searching.

          Louis is a coworker, not a manager. It is not a hair on fire emergency. He just doesn’t want to do his own searching.

        3. JB (not in Houston)*

          It is really weird how invested you are in defending Louis’s refusal to do his own work. If I were Louis, I would be far too embarrassed to admit to someone that I didn’t know how to search my own emails or do my own job, but I don’t have the confidence of a mediocre white guy, something Louis apparently has in spades.

          1. somehow*

            What’s even weirder to me is how invested Da is in ignoring the fact the LW and Louis are co-workers.

            1. Otter*

              I’m impressed that Da or Louis can’t possibly be expected to keep track of emails, yet it’s totally acceptable to assume that LW can. Like she’s special or something.

              I agree that email search functions aren’t great and email easily gets out of control. Which is why I file emails that are important using tags or folders. I’m an adult, and I figured out how to make it easier on myself.

            2. Misty_Meaner*

              Or, after reading the letter, SUSPECTS he is the “Louis” referred to in the original letter. Suuuuuuper defensive. Also, just completely clueless and incorrect.

        4. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

          No, your job is to deliver on whatever your agreed objectives are, usually to the benefit of the whole organisation.

          If a manager occasionally asks for things because they’re busy/without a certain tech function, that’s completely fair, but if I would always want to operate as efficiently as possible, which includes not wasting the time of people I manage.

        5. somehow*

          Oh, HELL no. Good managers let their team members shine, especially since it’s the team doing the real work. As such, a manager’s performance review naturally reflects the healthy, robust, and collaborative dynamics that are alive and well on the team.

          You new to management?

          1. House On The Rock*

            I highly doubt they are a manager…or will stay one for any significant amount of time.

          2. amoeba*

            Yeah, like, what the hell? I mean, sure, if the team does good work for the benefit of the org as a whole, that will probably also lead to a good performance review for my boss. But the definition of my job is most definitely not “make them look as good as possible”! In fact, if the boss isn’t great, I’d argue that that might actually be quite counterproductive for the good of the org…

        6. Seltzer Fiend*

          If your business processes rely on people arbitrarily recirculating information based on vibes and individual priorities…I would rethink your business processes. This seems like a very inefficient way of ensuring everyone is on the same page.

          Also, as a manager, it’s not my reports’ job to get me a gold star. It’s their job to excel at the things we hired them for so that our department meets our goals.

        7. House On The Rock*

          That is absolutely not everyone’s job at every level. It’s not my staff’s job, nor is it mine. All your comments demonstrate very odd, misplaced ideas about work and workplace norms.

        8. Dhaskoi*

          If that means doing my manager’s job for them my manager is an idiot for not being able to do their job, I’m an idiot for allowing myself to be exploited, and my manager’s manager has a completely false understanding of their actual ability and is making decisions based on bad information.

          Unsure why you think this is a desirable outcome.

          Also, who do you keep pretending that Louis is OP’s manager?

        9. FD*

          Gosh I hope you’re not a manager. If you’re not a manager, the notion that your primary job at any level is to help your manager “get a gold star” on their review, instead of doing whatever your assigned duties are is misguided and means you are likely consistently focusing on the wrong things in your job. If you’re a manager it’s concerningly egocentric.

        10. Esmae*

          Getting a gold star on their own performance review is my manager’s job. Responding to my manager’s requests and following their instructions is part of my job, so I’d absolutely resend or forward the email if they asked me to, but this is just ridiculous. I’m not my manager’s personal life assistant.

        11. Dirtbag*

          But the needed information clearly is top of mind already – that’s why Louis, or the mythical manager, is asking about it.

        12. iglwif*

          Louis isn’t LW’s manager.

          Also, it is very much not my job to help my manager get a gold star on his performance review, or my direct reports’ job to help me get a gold star on mine. It’s all of our jobs to get the work done to the expected standard, and endlessly recirculating emails is not how that happens in any even vaguely functional workplace I’ve ever been in.

          One time I reported to C-suite dude who couldn’t figure out how to search his email. He also couldn’t be bothered to learn how to mark up PDFs (he would print them out, write comments on them, and have his assistant scan his chicken-scratches), use Track Changes in Word (same notation), or schedule a recurring meeting (so instead of one invite for a meeting that happened every month, you’d get six separate invites for six months’ worth of meetings). Those weren’t even the biggest problems I had with this dude, but they sure didn’t inspire respect or confidence.

    10. Misty_Meaner*

      Apples and oranges. A senior authority and a PEER are NOT the same. Louis is being lazy and helpless. A Manager may indeed just not have the time/bandwidth to search for information that he/she believes you may have at your fingertips. Regardless, if you’re treating your MANAGEMENT the same as your PEERS, you’re likely to have a problem at some point.

    11. FD*

      Managers who do this are likely to not change. With a manager, you’re probably going to have to deal with it, but it’s also quite reasonable for that to factor in to whether you want to stay in your current role.

    12. Fluffy Fish*

      In addition to what everyone else said, remember that a manager’s time is generally more valuable than their subordinates. It’s not a moral judgement, it’s a financial business issue.

      If the company pays the manager $50 an hour and you, $20, it’s a better use of your time cost wise to find the email than your managers.

      If this happens frequently, you might want to add yourself as a cc (or bcc) on emails to your managers and have them go to a certain folder. Then you can just search the folder instead of the entire mailbox.

  6. RVA Cat*

    I can’t help but think of a certain historical Louis who failed upward through nepotism until heads rolled…literally.

    1. wilma flintstone*

      I would like to take a moment to admire ‘jackwagon’ as the jewel of a word it is.

        1. somehow*

          It’s a brilliant Shakespearean-esque insult word, lol. On that note:

          “More of your conversation would infect my brain.” — Coriolanus (Act 2, Scene 1)

          “Heaven truly knows that thou art false as hell” — Othello (Act 4, Scene 2)

          And so on…

          1. Zeus*

            I love that last one especially because saying “as hell” sounds so modern to my ear, but apparently it’s a lot older! Shakespeare had some great insults.

            1. Phryne*

              Going out on a limb here, as I don’t actually know, but my guess would be that the Shakespearian expression is ‘to be false as hell’, rather than just sticking ‘as hell’ after an insult as emphasis as it would be used today… But would love to hear from someone who actually knows.

  7. Grumpus*

    I’d be interested to know if he actually asks OP what their problem is (in those or similar words). That’s so aggressive and unprofessional that I would pull him up on the language right there (“Wow, did you really just ask me what my problem is? That’s a really odd thing to say to a colleague.”) and maybe report it to management.

    1. Myrin*

      The fact that it’s so aggressive and unprofessional is what made me think that he probably indeed says that verbatim!

    2. AngryOctopus*

      Yeah, that would get an unblinking stare and possibly a head tilt from me. And I’d be telling my boss! Just in a wondering tone, saying “Louis asked me about X which I had emailed him 2 days before, and I told him I emailed it, and he asked me what my problem was. I’m not sure why he would do that?”

    3. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I’m not prone to clapbacks, but I’d have a very hard time not answering literally — my problem is that you are asking me to stop my work to do yours, when you have the exact same access to the information as I do.

      1. Elle*

        This exactly. I mind my mouth at work but when someone asks me a direct (snarky) question, I’m gonna answer it. Granted, whenever this happens, my dept director’s response is always “wow, you were actually way nicer than I would have been.”

    4. Rainy*

      I honestly cannot imagine how Louis has not yet had his head exploded by the power of LW’s mind alone, because if someone said that to me ONCE, let alone more than that, the fallout of my “WTF” look would have leveled city blocks.

    5. Kes*

      Yeah, ‘what’s your problem’ is very aggressive language – it definitely seems like he’s trying to cow OP into just going along. I’d be really tempted to reply ‘what’s YOUR problem, Louis? Would it really be that terrible to do your work for once?’ (I wouldn’t actually say that. But I wouldn’t let his language stop me from declining to do his work for him and telling him that it’s not my job to do his work)

    6. LW*

      Oh, he did. And in an “I’m genuinely starting to worry about you, this is really weird behavior” way, too.

      1. SereneScientist*

        WOW. I’m actually stunned at his audacity. No additional advice besides what Allison and other commenters have suggested, but lots of empathy for this ridiculous situation.

      2. mb*

        My face is far too expressive – he would have gotten eyebrow raises and death stares in response already. Thank goodness I don’t have to reign in my face where I work.

          1. Misty_Meaner*

            Sadly, people with the level of audacity possessed by Louis and DaTexan, do not get “fazed”. They simply count on people who actually have a conscience, a work ethic and some humanity to give in. Ughhhhh

      3. Aquamarine*

        Grrr, that’s so incredibly annoying! “How very perplexing… LW doesn’t like to do pointless tasks for me that I could very well do myself, hmm…”

        Can you accidentally forward him the link to your AAM question instead?

      4. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

        Could you ask him to expand?

        “What’s your problem?”

        “What do you mean? Why do you think there’s a problem?”

        1. Silver Robin*

          Oooh, like one somebody makes an hateful/harmful joke! Asking them to explain is a great tactic, I wonder if it would work as well in this case. Definitely seems like a good idea to try

          1. Sweet 'N Low*

            Asking for clarification is basically my favorite thing ever in all situations. It works fantastically in these situations where someone has said something rude/offensive because it forces them to actually spell out their BS, but I also like to use it in a more genuine way. I do the thing where I read WAY too much into people’s facial expressions/words/actions etc., and so whenever I find myself doing that, I like to genuinely ask questions about what I’m seeing.

      5. Good Enough For Government Work*

        In the words of my legendary countryman: the cheek, the nerve, the gall, the audacity and the GUMPTION!

      6. Zelda*

        Time for that “Has Louis somehow been given the impression that he is my manager?” coversation with your actual manager. I think we’ve seen quite a few letters on similar topics

      7. Kevin Sours*

        The willpower it must have taken to not just tell him “not my circus, not my monkeys” and then flounce.

    7. Misty_Meaner*

      I can totally “hear” in my head a coworker saying, “Geez what’s your problem? I’m asking a simple favor and you can do it a lot faster than I can.” So, yeah I fully believe that Louis (aka DaTexan) DOES say that, or some variation on the theme. What a jackhole.

  8. AngryOctopus*

    Ughhh my last boss was somewhat like that. He’d insist you resend him emails where we sent data. And he was the one who wasn’t paying attention in the first place. So for example he would be working with my junior colleague for 2 weeks on his lab meeting (rant for another time, colleague didn’t need handholding like that and it was just lab meeting). I’d send him data on Friday 1, which is when I said I’d have it. Friday 2 he’d ask me where the data was. I’d say “I sent it to you last Friday”. He’d then say “well, can you send it again??”. He did that so much (even when we said, “just search your emails”, he’d insist us sending it was faster) that we just started forwarding the message we already sent.
    He would also have meetings with us where we’d say “Batch X will be in Tuesday. We’ll get it Wed after QC, but because that’s in the afternoon, we can’t actually run the batch till Monday because of cell prep.” Then Friday he’s asking for the data and insisting we had enough time to run it (uhhh, with a 48 hour incubation time, we’d still only have a treated plate of cells?). Or we’d say “data analysis is backed up and project A has priority and a huge data dump coming in, so we won’t have analysis for 10 days on this. 4 days later, he’s asking for data and acting like we’re all lazy because we don’t have it. It was SO ANNOYING.

    All this to say, OP, I think Alison’s suggestion is your probable only path forward, but if he’s anything like this guy, he’ll ALWAYS ask, because you just might do it for him! But just keep declining to do so. Also, if I heard him mention not being trained in my earshot, I’d be all “oh, I guess you shouldn’t have cancelled all those meetings we set up with you when you onboarded”, but I’m petty like that. And I have enough capital to get away with it, so YMMV.

    1. Arts Akimbo*

      “oh, I guess you shouldn’t have cancelled all those meetings we set up with you when you onboarded”

      Standing ovation!

    2. Da Texan*

      He’d then say “well, can you send it again??”. He did that so much (even when we said, “just search your emails”, he’d insist us sending it was faster) that we just started forwarding the message we already sent.

      His request was entirely reasonable and his rationale correct.

      1. pope suburban*

        No. It is not everyone else’s job to function as Louis’s personal assistant because he cannot be bothered to use a simple search function. It is, at bare minimum, a time sink, because instead of Louis searching his inbox and proceeding with work, we add the steps of Louis stopping work to pester someone and that person having to stop their work on top of the “search email” step. Which, incidentally, is not “beneath” anyone; Louis is responsible for knowing how to do his job, and knowing how to get procedural information is part of that. Less literally, the knock on morale when one person treats the rest of the team poorly and refuses to shoulder his share of the work is also a cost. I cannot believe that anyone would defend this. It’s terribly grating to deal with and frankly, my answer to Louis’s disingenuous “Is this is this a problem?” would be- once- yes, for the reasons I outlined above, followed by a continued refusal to play Sori or Google for him. This is not adult behavior, full stop, and should not be indulged.

          1. Misty_Meaner*

            If he isn’t “The Louis,” he is definitely “a Louis.” I’d end up losing my $hit after a couple of those “it’s easier for YOU to do my job than it is for me” BS convos.

        1. Da Texan*

          AngryOctopus above complained that her boss asked her to recirculate emails. Not Louis, who I gather is a co-worker.

          Angry Octopus’ job is whatever her manager says her job is – including recirculating emails.

          1. pope suburban*

            The funny thing is, time works the same way for everyone, so someone else being rude in the way Louis is rude is the same exact time-sink. It is unacceptable and unprofessional to treat everyone around you as a personal search engine or servant. If this needles you so deeply, perhaps a more productive use of time would be to examine why and perhaps change some habits, rather than to try to browbeat people all over the comments section. There are plentiful resources to start this process online, though I will pass on Googling them for you.

          2. A stats person*

            Different person, but my job is emphatically *not* “whatever my manager says my job is.” If I am required to do certain kinds of things then it won’t be my job anymore because I will have been fired or quit. Could this situation be one of those things? If my manager were awful enough, it sure would!

            1. pope suburban*

              Indeed. “Other duties as assigned” refers to occasional one-off projects or things that evolve as a job requirement. It does not refer to some sort of obligation to me to do my coworkers’ jobs for them. Those duties are already assigned, to them, and therefore not in my scope of work.

          3. New Jack Karyn*

            In the time it took the boss to ask for the email to be re-sent, he could have searched & found it himself. Probably less time. And he wouldn’t have needed to loop in Angry Octopus, wasting her time as well.

          4. somehow*


            He is a coworker, as *explicitly* stated in the letter, and he’s unreasonable. I ‘gather’ you haven’t read the letter very closely, if at all, because you’re not being helpful here.

            LW: You are entirely justified. Tell your manager; their being hands-off doesn’t preclude you from doing your part to protect yourself from a co-worker who pushes back on your not doing his work for him by inquiring what your ‘problem’ is.

          5. Tech Support Drone 367382Z*

            Actually many office jobs usually have a formal or semi formal job description, and the job description of a manager usually includes maintaining the efficiency and productivity of their team and compiling the information needed to do so. It’s very unusual for a manager to not know where their own emails are.

          6. Misty_Meaner*

            My job is what is outlined in the contract I signed, not what the manager on site may decide it should be. If my manager was as incompetent as you are about losing emails and finding information that’s already been provided, I guarantee, he/she wouldn’t be my manager for long.

            1. amoeba*

              Yup. Organising my manager’s email is very definitely not part of my job by title, description, or anything else. I’d say that goes for most people, unless you’re actually their assistant or whatever, and even then I’d argue there would be better uses of your time! And even assistants should not just do “anything the boss tells them to do” – this is not “The Devil wears Prada”!

          7. House On The Rock*

            This is not how work works. Your ideas about workplace norms are wildly incorrect and seem to be modeled after shouty cartoon bosses like Misters Rubble and Sprockets.

          8. Not A Manager*

            “Not Louis, who I gather is a co-worker.”

            I’m beginning to see what the problem is, here. Did you actually read the OP? It’s explicit that Louis is not only a co-worker, but a newer co-worker who refused to be properly trained by the LW.

            If this is how you operate, your own co-workers must find you… charming.

            1. Dog momma*

              had a nurse that I needed to train in how to review organ transplant requests. bc we all needs to know how to process them. When I told her I was ready for her to sit with me, her response was..just give me a copy of the letter when you’re done. I went straight to my manager, explained the situation and said..” she knows everything ( not, made significant errors), so IM DONE. and walked back to my desk. A month later, I gave my resignation.

          9. fhqwhgads*

            I’ve never had a boss do this sort of thing – ask me to resend them something they already have – more than once a year, and when they do they acknowledge that they are re-asking. If I worked for someone who did this constantly and was implying I’d never sent the thing, I’d get a new job and work for someone who has their shit together.

      2. Tech Support Drone 367382Z*

        Compare these processes, A and B.

        A1. Use the search function on your own email to find the email you want. Process complete.

        B1. Contact someone else to ask for the email you have already received.
        B2. They use the search function on their email to find the email you want.
        B3. They send the email again.
        B4. You receive the email again.
        Process complete, assuming they are thinking of the same email you’re thinking of; if not, return to step B1.

        Which process has fewer steps?

      3. Misty_Meaner*

        No, it isn’t. Louis. Searching his OWN email by either sender or subject will take far less time than for the sender to go back their OWN email, sent folder, find the email by “sent to” and then forward it. You lazy misogynistic jackholes have no respect for other peoples’ time or any integrity about doing YOUR OWN JOB.

      4. Mirror Match*

        Hi Da Texan,
        I can’t find the original comment that started this reply thread, could you reply to this one with the text of the original comment? It would be so much faster than me having to scroll alllll the way up the page. Thanks!

  9. Alex*

    I would just start taking a really long time to respond to him.

    Make it so that asking you *isn’t* the easiest way to get the information.

    1. Goldenrod*

      “I would just start taking a really long time to respond to him. Make it so that asking you *isn’t* the easiest way to get the information.”

      THIS. Taking a really long to time to respond (if ever) would be my first go-to strategy. Conveniently lose *his* emails just like he loses yours.

      If it were me, I’d stop engaging altogether–but a short reply turning him down works too. Just don’t EVER answer a question twice, or he’ll never stop asking.

      1. cnoocy*

        Seconded on the delay. When I had this issue, I started taking my time getting back to the coworker, and would often get a “never mind, found the answer myself” a little while later.

    2. Mollie*

      OP, I needed the response to this question, too. It’s the penalty of being organized so that you can easily find the information later, plus a nice person. Louis sounds extra awful and doesn’t deserve it.

    3. Frankie Mermaids*

      Yes!! I have a coworker who always emails me first before looking for files on the shared drive. I am very much an empty inbox person so I normally just answer her immediately. The other day I was away from my desk for 2 hours and her not-at-all urgent “urgent” email was followed by a second “never mind I found it” 30 minutes later.

    4. miss_chevious*

      Yep, this. You need to train him (sort of the way you train a dog or a cat) that he’s not going to a reward for his behavior. Turn off notifications (if that’s feasible), or filter his emails into a folder you check periodically. Don’t provide reinforcement of the behavior and see if that reduces the frequency of it.

      1. La Triviata*

        Could you just smack his nose with a rolled-up newspaper? squirt him with water from a spray bottle? (sorry … couldn’t resist going to pet training).

    5. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, I usually hate passive aggression, but this is the one situation that calls for it. When he asks for help, cheerfully say, “Sure thing! I’ll show you in an hour after I finish this llama report.” And then promptly forget about it. If he brings it up again in an hour I would probably help him, at least at first.

    6. NobodyHasTimeForThis*


      Don’t reply to anything he sends you via message or email for this sort of situation for at least 30 minutes and keep stretching it out.

      If he comes to your office to ask you a question, tell him you don’t have time to talk right now and you will find him when you have a moment. Make it a long moment.

      I used to be on call for the night shift engineers who had the authority to make decisions but were scared to. When I stopped being available instantly by

    7. ferrina*

      Exactly. Make it hard for him to ask you. Make yourself an inconvenient option.

      Some options:
      -Don’t respond to his email. If he asks you about it, “sorry, got pulled away and didn’t have time. Hope you were able to find what you were looking for!” If he asks you in person, say “so sorry, I don’t have a spare minute for the next couple hours. Send me an email with what you need and I’ll try to help you later.”

      -Act like you have something else on your mind. “Huh? You said you were looking for the llama shampoo orders? No, you were looking for something else? [heavy sigh] This [Project X] has me so preoccupied today.”
      Don’t actually talk to him about his problem- immediate start talking about your problems

      -Ask him to help you on something before you can help him. “So sorry, I’m swamped with X? Hey, do you have time to help me on this? If you can help me pull by pulling the first page of data for the TPS report, that will help this go faster and then I can help you out”

      -Misunderstand and assume it’s a tech issue. “You couldn’t find it in your email? It sounds like you need to reach out to IT about the tech. Good luck!”
      Him: No, my search is fine, but I want you to send it to me again.
      You: It’s not in your inbox? Oh no, definitely reach out to IT and let them know that your inbox isn’t working correctly. (if you’re talking, add “I need to get back to X project- sorry!”)

      -Train him. Every. Single. Time.
      You: Is it not in your inbox?
      Him: I don’t see it. Resend it.
      You: What search terms are you using?
      Him: What is your problem? Just resend it to me!
      You: I can help you refine your search terms. I’d hate for you to be in a situation where you can’t find something. I’ll set up a training time.
      Him: I don’t need training, I need you to resend it!
      You: Is it not in your inbox? If your search terms are strong, and it’s not in your inbox, that’s an IT problem.”

      Most of these tricks rely on not actually having a conversation with him. You can’t have a conversation with someone who is only talking and not listening. Instead, you respond to an imaginary conversation (he’s already doing this where his imaginary version of you is happy to resend emails ad nauseum).
      Is it passive-aggressive? Absolutely. But it can also be effective.

      1. LW*

        I kind of love this! I’m so taking a screenshot of your comment, just in case the rational approach continues to fail …

      2. Not that other person you didn't like*

        Don’t respond to his email and when he asks about it tell him to find and resend it to you.

        1. somehow*

          For the win! Brilliant. Would pin this to the top of the comments for all to see if I could.

    8. TootsNYC*

      this is the psychology-textbook definition of passive aggression.

      People act as though passive aggression is automatically bad. It is not; it can be. But it can also be a reasonable way to interact with the world, in certain situations.

      Make it work for you.

    9. Hrodvitnir*

      I feel like this is a good approach in the run of the mill versions of this situation, but when someone is demanding “what’s your problem??” it’s got well past indirect communication IMO.

      OP’s manager needs to be looped in, and they need to be very clear that this is not happening. So much sympathy!

  10. Jenga*

    “I’m in the middle of something. I can try to get to that today, but I can’t guarantee it. It would probably be quicker if you just search your inbox.”

    1. Pink Candyfloss*

      “I can try” will be heard by Louis as “I will do it”.

      With people like this you cannot soften or equivocate.

      “No.” Or if you feel like you need to be polite: “Sorry, no.”

      1. EasternPhoebe*

        Agree, he will just spend all day waiting for you to do it and complain when you don’t. A no out of the gate is the way to go.

      2. Lenora Rose*

        You could use the first and third sentences and skip the middle one entirely, for the tactful but no-wiggle-room version.

  11. Magenta Sky*

    “What’s your problem?”

    “I have a coworker who expects me to do his job for him.”

      1. Magenta Sky*

        I suspect it would be considered rude and unprofessional.

        Not that it would stop *me*, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else.

        1. Kes*

          I wouldn’t say it in exactly those words, but I think you could say ‘actually, Louis, it’s really not my job to do your work for you. I’m sure you can find this yourself if you do a search in your inbox’

  12. Ari*

    I used to do training and end user support for a company system. I spent weeks writing a job aid with a table of contents, screenshots, and detailed instructions, only to have people email me asking how to do the simplest of tasks. I had to start pointing them to the job aid every time (page 40, here’s the link), unless it was an actual system problem. We had over 3,000 users, and I didn’t have time to hold everyone’s hand simply because they didn’t want to look it up for themselves. But then I’m the type of person who will Google something twenty different ways before I interrupt a co-worker to ask for help. Bothering someone else is my last resort except in emergencies.

    1. Da Texan*

      But then I’m the type of person who will Google something twenty different ways before I interrupt a co-worker to ask for help. Bothering someone else is my last resort except in emergencies.

      This practice is not the virtue you seem to think it is.

      1. Student*

        Strong disagree. It’s a know-your-industry thing, but in my industry it is always better to spend some time looking up the answer first.

        1. TiredOfOverpaidEntitledMissingStairs*

          Same here. Trying to figure things out and find them first is more respectful of colleagues

      2. mb*

        It actually is a virtue –
        1. Taking the time to look it up means you learned something.
        2. Bothering busy people means you may wait an hour or two for an answer, so it’s faster.
        3. You are not creating a good working relationship if you are constantly burdening other people to send you something you could easily find yourself.
        4. You are damaging your reputation as a capable person if you’re constantly so helpless, everyone has to help you with your own tasks. They’re going to start noticing other issues with you too.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          All of this! No one on my team is going to refuse to help someone who’s made a good faith effort to help themselves (and they’re not on a deadline themselves). I’m going to start getting lots of complaints if the person is frequently asking for help with the same things and making no effort to answer their own question first. What a waste of time – LW’s got to handle their own TPS reports AND spoon feed Louis the info for his because he couldn’t be bothered with training and can’t use the email search tool? That’s an insane way to run a team.

          Why would I pay two people for only one of them being able to competently execute their job? These are non-managerial coworkers, not a subordinate/supervisor (and my boss is a very busy c-suite person who will only ask me to forward her emails if she can’t find it herself or if there’s an unusual emergency – and she apologizes for wasting my time because my job is not to earn her a gold star, it’s to carry out my team’s business function).

      3. Expelliarmus*

        Trying to figure out something by yourself as much as you can is not a virtue? Please elaborate; unless you’re taking a crazy amount of time to figure out something, what’s wrong with not jumping to asking others?

      4. Anatical Tree Hugger*

        Agreed, Ari is underplaying the value of this practice. It’s quite courteous and respectful of others. Some of us have a lot to learn from Ari about how to be courteous with others’ time.

      5. I Have RBF*

        In my field it absolutely is a virtue!

        If you need your hand held and need to be spoon-fed basic information that you can Google or search your inbox, you will not last long. No one has time to do research admin type work for their peers.

        You are expected to use the technical resources at your disposal well before you start bugging other people. Yes, if it’s a task in their area, you send it to them along with any relevant information you have, but ultimately they need to be resourceful too. That’s part of what we get paid for.

      6. A Googler*

        I disagree. Sometimes when I am asked in interviews what my greatest strength is, I say “I know how Google works.” We both laugh. Then I expand on the fact that my ability to seek out information (in training manuals, handbooks, databases, inboxes, and/or Google) allows me to be resilient, resourceful, and proactive. Rather than inconveniencing my reports, peers, or managers, I am learning information in a way that makes it more likely to stick, exercising critical thinking as I sift through that information, improving my ability to function as a resource for my team, ensuring that my team functions without unnecessary distraction, and avoiding being a Louis. All of those are most definitely virtues.

      7. Misty_Meaner*

        How do you figure? Grownups figure out their own problems BEFORE they make them someone else’s problem. Other people have JOBS and tasks, too. Adding YOUR tasks to theirs is a jackhole move just because you’re too lazy and incompetent and ignorant to figure out how to look it up. It’s called “independent thinking” “critical thinking” “problem solving” etc…

      8. O-H-I-O*

        Is anyone else completely unsurprised that the misogynistic, “do my job for me” lazy guy is …from Texas?

        1. BatManDan*

          Settle down. I’m mad that his moniker is making all Texans look bad, but that’s only the case because some of you are extrapolating to all Texans. Some of the coolest, most competent people I know are Texans

      9. Former Young Lady*

        Weaponized incompetence is not a virtue at all, and it’s weird that you’re championing it so tirelessly here.

      10. iglwif*

        Hard disagree. I have learned SO MUCH from googling “how to do X” (or searching internal documentation) — not just the thing I was looking for, but related things that are equally helpful. Figuring out how to do something that is literally your job isn’t a waste of your time, and by not going straight to asking someone else for help you’ve also avoided wasting anyone else’s.

        And then I get the additional benefit of sharing that new info with colleagues who I know will also find it useful!

    2. ChelseaNH*

      I was thinking that it might be easier to put things in a shared document or knowledge base rather than email; that makes it reusable the next time they hire someone (which they might get to put to the test sooner than later…) Depends on your organization being set up for document sharing, though.

  13. Cheeruson*

    “Where have you already looked for that?”
    “What have you already tried to find that?”
    “Who sent the email? Can you ask them to resend it?”
    “Can you ask Boss what you should do? I’m out of ideas if you’ve tried all the usual steps and nothing is working.”
    “My problem is I really don’t know how to help you if you’ve already tried everything I know to do.”

    1. ecnaseener*

      I kinda think this is too much investment into “helping” him search. LW doesn’t need to coach him through it, she needs him to stop acting like her time is worth less than his. I would keep the questions to “why are you asking me? why don’t you use the search bar?”

      1. Serious silly putty*

        Or you can take the pedagogical approach:

        “Studies show that we are more likely to remember something if we put more effort into learning it in the first place. You deserve to be successful long-term.”

      2. ferrina*

        The trick with Cheeruson’s approach is that Louis doesn’t actually want coaching- he wants LW to be his assistant.
        By “helpfully” coaching him (and refusing to do the work for him), LW would actually be annoying him. My bet is that if Louis gets annoyed in the right way, he’ll move on to asking different victim.

      3. Kes*

        I think this kind of approach works really well for juniors who give up and come for help immediately because they don’t know what to do and need to learn how to troubleshoot and problem solve. I don’t know that it will work as well here because Louis’s aggression suggests he knows he could do it himself and just wants OP to because that’s easier for him, in which case OP needs more to make it clear to him that he’s not going to get away with that.

      1. Cheeruson*

        I think I have worked with Louis; that’s why all the responses came so quickly to mind. The only thing that really worked for me was being more annoying than Louis. It was hard for me but I did it.

  14. Ellis Bell*

    I’d probably go one of three ways with this:
    1) Alison’s “I’m swamped right now” would probably be first move out of the gate; that’s perfection and will work a lot of the time.
    2) When he gets manipulative about what a simple easy task it is for you; agree and redirect back that’s it’s also a simple and easy task for him: “You’re right that it’s quite a simple thing to do, but the basic expectation of people here is that we do our own easy tasks, especially things like searching for an email.” Say it in a matter of fact way; like maybe he didn’t know he has to do his own simple tasks, but now he does.
    3) If he escalates and pouts to the point where you feel it’s easier to resend the email, I would document in the body of the email why you’re resending it and (depending on context and how this would be received) copy his boss in (or forward it later). The email could say something like “Since you can’t find the original email any more, I’m resending this one so you can proceed. In future you might want to make an outlook file for things relating to this project.” or “I believe the original email can’t be found on your account any more, so here it is again. I would contact IT if the outlook search facility isn’t working”.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      yeah, don’t pull the, “it’s so simple” line with me–I will 100% tell you that if it’s so simple you can do it yourself. But I’ll definitely wait an hour or so before I respond for good measure.

  15. Sara without an H*

    Hi, LW — Upstream commenters have good suggestions. I’ll just add a couple of things:

    1. Document what you’ve described in your letter. No need to make a major project of it, but anytime Louis is doing something that interferes with finishing a deliverable or annoys a client, make some notes on what happened.

    2. You say your manager is “hands off,” i.e. doesn’t manage. One of Alison’s classic suggestions is to pose the problem to the manager as a request for advice: “Louis seems to be having trouble searching the email archives. He keeps asking me to resend things and, while I’m glad to help occasionally, it’s starting to interfere with my work. How would you like me to handle this going forward?”

    3. When Louis asks for help, try referring him to your manager. “I’m swamped, maybe you could ask Antoinette about that?”

    4. You say you have other issues with Louis. I wish you had gone into a little more detail about his indifference to what keeps your major client happy. But this is another area where you should try to keep notes.

    I don’t want you to be paranoid, but I think CowWhisperer upstream may be onto something, when they suggested that Louis, if called to account, will try to find somebody else to blame. Hence my recommendation that you start making some notes about your interactions with him. DO NOT COVER FOR LOUIS. Do not stand between him and the fan anytime the shit begins to fly.

    Otherwise, when he asks you for help, try to be as politely unresponsive as possible, and refer him to your manager.

    Good luck, and send us an update.

  16. duinath*

    and if you’re not swamped? say it anyway. this probably isn’t alison approved, but i say you look him dead in the eye, tell him you’re swamped, no way you can help, sorry, and then take the longest slowest sip of coffee you’ve ever had. sip it like you’re staring at the windswept moors.

    1. mb*

      I was literally going to say something similar – say, “sorry I’m swamped” while taking a bite of something, like a sandwich or a cookie, and maintaining unblinking eye contact.

      1. COHikerGirl*

        You will look amazingly majestic while doing so. You could video it and become the next big GIF.

  17. ticktick*

    I would keep a whiteboard count every time he asks you – label it as “Louis’ questions for which he already has the answers” – and when he comes to ask the obvious question, deliberately make a mark under it. Keep it in a visible spot.

  18. Heffalump*

    If I mention it’s in an email somewhere, he’ll ask me what my problem is and would it really be that terrible to just quickly send it to him again/walk him through the process for a few minutes?

    Louis, what is your problem? Would it really be that terrible to just search for the email?

    1. Mary Mary*

      Louis, do you really not know basic email functionality? That’s concerning. Are you sure this is the right job for you?

    2. Aquamarine*

      That would be my impulse. Throw it back at him. Be bewildered as you attempt to understand that he wants you to find an email that he could also find himself. “Why would you make such a pointless request of a fellow human?”

    3. Jonaessa*

      Yes, I love to flip that back on them. When someone tells me, “It’s not that big of a deal,” I usually reply, “Well, if you think it’s not that big of a deal, then I’m sure you’re happy to…” (insert whatever they are trying to argue against doing). To be fair, this is usually with my family, but I have seen results with a few coworkers.

      Fergus: It’s not that big of a deal to move the meeting back thirty minutes.
      Me: Oh, well if you think it’s not that big of a deal for a meeting to be pushed back thirty minutes, then I’m sure you’re happy to attend thirty minutes earlier than you want, when the meeting is actually scheduled. Glad we could resolve that.

      The tone is the key. It has to be nonchalant or breezy.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      In general I HATE it when people try to get me to change something by insisting it’s not that big of a deal. If it’s not a big deal, leave it alone! Don’t mess with my schedule for something that you claim doesn’t matter that much to you.

      1. Susannah*

        Yes! Years ago, a female friend was negotiating salary – and felt she was being low-balled because of gender. She asked for $10K more, and stuck to it.
        They said, “are you really saying you’d reject this over $10K?” And she said, “are YOU?”
        She got the $10K.

        1. Jonaessa*

          I absolutely love this. Your friend did an excellent job. Please tell her internet strangers are hoping more success comes her way!

  19. danmei kid*

    The next time Louis asked me this I would say, oh, thanks for the reminder, I meant to let [manager] know you need some extra help here. Let’s email them right now! [opens new email and starts typing while reading aloud] Hi manager, can we sign Louis up for Outlook/email training? He’s been having trouble with some basic functionality lately so it seems like he needs a refresher. Thanks!

    1. danmei kid*

      [as louis is protesting] Oh no, don’t worry about it really, I’m happy to help! You know what they say, teach a man to fish, and all that! {SMILE CHEERFULLY WHILE MAINTAINING EYE CONTACT AND HIT SEND WITH A FLOURISH}

    1. College Career Counselor*

      I come here for the sound management advice. I stay for the expressive language; it’s not too often that you get “belligerent wastrel” and “jackwagon” in the same response. Agreed with others that Louis sucks and is unlikely to change his habits without the LW withdrawing support. Return the awkward to Louis, LW!

  20. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

    “I’m confused. You want me to stop what I’m doing so I can show you how do an email search?”

    “Problem? No, not me, I’m fine. Did you need someone to show you how to Google how to do an email search?”

  21. Heidi*

    Yes, it would be that terrible to do his job for him out because it only teaches him to keep asking.

  22. Persephone Mulberry*

    I would be using more than my face to convey “Why are you asking me to stop in the middle of a busy day and do your work for you?” – I would be using these exact words.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      YES, that was my immediate thought too. I suspect it might come across a bit rudely in some situations, but in response to “is it so terrible for you to help me?”, it’s the right level of response.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Right I think that’s a totally reasonable verbal response in this situation

  23. Aquamarine*

    The only problem I see with claiming to be swamped is that maybe sometimes when he asks you’ll be taking 5 minutes to sip some tea and check in on AAM. It’s not just about being too busy – it’s about not wanting to do something he should be doing himself. That’s why I’d favor the more direct responses in the last paragraph if you can manage it.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Think break. Don’t interrupt my chain of thought.

      Also, Louis doesn’t get to decide how swamped you have to be to be too swamped to do his work.

    2. mb*

      That’s why they should still say “I’m swamped” while taking a sip or a bite of whatever, and maintain unblinking eye contact.

    3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      But this assumes that he walks up to OP’s desk, views her screen, and tells her what he needs (I mean asks her for a favor).
      Oh, and he is. Because he’s a jackwagon.
      I think you make a great point. Less is more.
      “Sorry, I can’t.”
      “Why, what are doing? You can’t take five minutes to help me?”
      “Yes, that’s correct.”

  24. CJ*

    I have 50 internet points riding on “he can’t look it up in his email because his inbox management method is skim-and-delete”, regardless of how important it might be. Which means he fully needs to learn the joys of his method on his own.

    1. Elsewise*

      Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking. He can’t search for the emails because he deleted them!

    2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      Wait, that’s a thing people do?! Damn, I never delete anything except old meeting invitations and spam. Comes in very handy.

    3. Not Bob*

      But shouldn’t he have learned a long time ago that he needs to save the important stuff? That is what I would have expected of a non-incompetent coworker.

  25. Cake or Death*

    “Or if you have an expressive face and are willing to use it, feel free to give him a look that conveys, “Why are you asking me to stop in the middle of a busy day and do your work for you?””

    Pfft. Just outright say it. If he has the audacity to ask, “what’s your problem?” when he’s expecting you to do these “simple” tasks for him, then he deserves a blunt response.

  26. my one cent after accounting for inflation*

    Yeah, just sticking to a “no” seems like the best solution here.

    Worst case scenario, what, Louis complains to the manager? I’d be a little surprised if a hands-off manager gets involved in re-sending emails (and if the manager did weigh in, I’d just forward the original email to Louis and CC the manager every time with a quick “As I noted earlier, here’s the email I sent you when you asked this question a few weeks ago”).

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      He won’t complain to the manager proactively or preemptively.
      He will, when asked by manager why he didn’t do something correctly/on time/with the latest updated info blame OP for not helping him because he’s new.
      And OP could say, he really only ever asked me to dig up emails that we both received. If I’d realized it was more than his inability to search Outlook, that he didn’t know how to do his job, I would have helped.

  27. Rainy*

    I bet Louis deleted all of LW’s emails as they came in and is asking for LW to find and resend the because he doesn’t have them anymore.

    This is absolutely infuriating, LW, and I don’t know how you have kept your cool with this absolute knobgoblin of a co-irker.

  28. Zarniwoop*

    “would it really be that terrible to just quickly send it to him again”
    “You can find it in your saved emails as quickly as I can find it in mine.”

  29. mb*

    Louis: Can you walk me through this process?
    OP: Sorry, Louis, I’m super swamped. You’ll need to look that up or ask the manager.
    Louis: What’s your problem? Why can’t you just do this?
    OP: No problem, just super swamped. I’m sure you understand. See you later.

    If you’re on your break – sorry Louis, I’m on a much-needed break and then I have to get back to work, super swamped. As I said above – if you’re eating or drinking at the time, continue doing so while maintaining unblinking eye contact. He’ll be so stunned he won’t know what to do.
    But as others have said, you should probably document this and loop the manager in – even if the manager is hands off – they should be given the opportunity to address it.

  30. LW*

    First off, thank you so much for answering this, Alison! Words like “jackwagon” make up at least 40% of why I follow AAM. Thanks for confirming that Louis is out of bounds, and for the wording which I’m definitely trying! A meeting including him and our manager (currently on my side) might be happening in the next month or so concerning the botched onboarding process, and Louis’s blame game.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Document, document, document. He’s going in throwing blame everywhere. Don’t let it stick.
      “the botched onboarding process” = “his failure to complete the onboarding process.”

      1. LW*

        “His failure to complete the onboarding process” is a GREAT way to frame it, and I can totally say some version of it in a completely neutral tone.

        1. LW*

          “I must admit I’m at a loss. We’ve tried training meetings, and planned days for you to shadow me, and we’ve tried learning as you go, but since you said all those things weren’t working for you, I’m out of ideas. Can you help me understand what you’d find helpful at this point?”

          1. Silver Robin*

            Brilliant! Helpful tone and still listing out ALL THE WAYS you already tried to help. Kill them with kindness XD

          2. Serenechi*

            We have a winner and well played.

            This one has been cut and pasted into my how to deal with challenging people reference document.

            Best of luck in putting Louie into his box and please update us.

          3. Sleve*

            This is such a brilliant way of doing it, because if Louis is trying to be manipulative it takes away his ability to shift the blame for his poor performance; but also in the 0.00001% chance that it’s actually a misunderstanding and he just needs a specific type of help, you’re still offering him a chance to get it. Very clean. Please do send an update!

          4. Cookie Monster*

            Brilliant. The only change I’d make is “We’ve tried training meetings but you always canceled them, and planned days for you to shadow me…”

    2. Lizzo*

      Come to that meeting with documentation about those missed meetings, as well as everything else.

      I also recommend doing some roleplaying, or at least spending time at home going through those notes and practicing making calm, factual statements *out loud* so that you can pull it off during the meeting and be absolutely unflappable.

      1. Not Bob*

        So much this! What I have done when I couldn’t find someone to role-play is to practice alone. At the beginning it feels weird, but then you get more confident.

      1. WillowSunstar*

        Also bananapants. I’d love to hear both jackwagon and bananapants in the same sentence.

    3. Jiminy Cricket*

      Good luck! If a coworker asked me, “What’s your problem?” I wouldn’t even have to worry about pulling out my “expressive” face: My jaw would hit the floor and my eyes would bug out of my head.

    4. Hrodvitnir*

      Great to hear! At least this guy is very overt in his uselessness. I hope your manager is prepared to actually manage the situation with the seriousness it deserves.

  31. Dawn*

    I honestly think at this point I’d directly tell him, “I’m sorry, that’s not my responsibility.” This guy isn’t inclined to be either reasonable or polite and you can absolutely limit how accommodating you are of that.

  32. La Triviata*

    At a previous job, we had an older man join who’d been a career government bureaucrat and he’d ask someone (always a woman) to “help” him do basic things. Once, he asked me to look up some contact information for him … and I pointed to the directory he was literally standing right in front of. He was VERY offended.

    Possibly the only time I’ve seen someone literally bridle and flounce.

    1. I Have RBF*


      I probably would have done the passive-aggressive thing of asking if he was feeling okay, or was he having vision problems such that he couldn’t use the directory? Then I might recommend an opthamologist or something. But I wouldn’t lift a finger to do his job for him.

      I despise people, particularly men, who think that all AFAB people are put in their life to do things on demand for them. That gets the active bitch face, not the resting bitch face.

    1. Sydney Ellen Wade*

      “Bring cheap-ass rolls to the potluck” is the new “F around and find out.”

  33. Unfortunate Admin*

    Hi had a coworker similar to this once. For some questions (like if it wasn’t actually related to our department) I would pretend not to know so he’d have to look it up himself. I was the coordinator for a team of 6 but he would often treat me like his personal assistant and I really had to learn to set some boundaries in that job.

  34. Zach*

    I struggle with a similar issue as well- we use SAP at my current job and often times people will message me and ask me to send them document #123456. The thing is that if you have that document number, you have access to the exact same information that I do- just search for that number in SAP and download the most recently released version. I’m tempted every single time to be like “looks like you have the required information to pull this yourself” but I never do :(

    Thankfully this is not an every-day occurrence.

  35. TiredOfOverpaidEntitledMissingStairs*

    LW I am sorry but glad you checked in above! Louis is a jackwagon! I may share this with a few folks who work with a Louis who does this all the time and who is a classic missing stair.

  36. Alex*

    I really disagree with Alison on this one (a rarity!) and I think LW is being unnecessarily difficult.

    Even if the information is in an email, who’s to say that it’s written in a way that is clear for Louis to understand, particularly if he hasn’t received sufficient training? There may be jargon or systems he’s unfamiliar with. I have lots of emails stored with process details, but sometimes I still need specific information about how it applies to a certain project or client. That may be what Louis is asking.

    Plus, emails get lost, accidentally deleted, overlooked, etc. The search function is wonderful, but even that sometimes just narrows it down rather than points to exactly the message you wanted.

    I think LW should be more considerate and also think about whether there is a pattern to the questions Louis is asking. Are they all about the same process, system, etc.? If so, that’s an indication that it’s something he struggles with and he needs more training, something that you should mention to him or bring to the manager’s attention. If he refuses, that’s a different conversation altogether. But, the wholesale, “don’t ask me anything anymore” attitude is a massive turnoff and isn’t getting anyone anywhere.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      “that’s an indication that it’s something he struggles with and he needs more training”

      He blew off the training. Why should his coworkers invest time in attempting to train such an arrogant jackwagon again? Any problems he now has in doing his job are his own damn fault.

      1. WillowSunstar*

        Agreed. If Louis hadn’t blown off the training, I’d say be more supportive. But he did and now he is reaping what he sowed.

    2. Jiminy Cricket*

      Look, we all occasionally have to ask a coworker to resend an email. But we do it with an appropriately shame-faced apology and offer our heartfelt thanks for the extra assistance.

    3. Bunny Lake Is Found*

      I think if the requests were not punctuated with him LITERALLY asking LW “What’s your problem?” then there may be some fraction of a shred of possibility Louis was acting in good faith. But when people need good faith help they don’t act like entitled jerkles about it.

      Maybe also what is a “turn off” to this man isn’t exactly something that the woman he is tasking with the things he deems beneath him needs or wants to concern herself with? Just maybe.

    4. Lydia*

      The pattern to the questions is they’re all related to training the LW and coworkers set up with him that he then cancelled. This is entirely on Louis to remedy now.

    5. RussianInTexas*

      Except they tried to train him and he wouldn’t be trained:
      “Context: When Louis joined our team, he refused most of our attempts to teach him the ropes. He would cancel meetings that we’d set up, mostly because he’d rather start a bit later or didn’t see the need (his words), and told everybody in our company how easy our team has it (because others were shouldering the work — and yes, in hindsight, I should’ve told my manager that in no uncertain terms, but she’s very hands-off anyway). He learned most of the important stuff when he was alone at the project for a few weeks, with me at another location, and he absolutely had to. He still has questions sometimes, and I usually answer those, even if it’s been covered before. I have many more grievances that may absolutely cloud my judgment (i.e., he doesn’t care much about keeping our main client happy, he didn’t take me seriously at ALL during his first six months here, his actual work is … not good, he’s noticed that he doesn’t know all he should and keeps mentioning how little he was taught when he first joined the company(!)).”
      How can you help someone who refuses to be helped?

      1. I Have RBF*

        How can you help someone who refuses to be helped?

        IME, you can’t.

        I’ve done training and documentation to hand off a task when I was leaving a group. The person that I was training ignored what I said, ignored the documentation, blew off training sessions, etc. I left the group, and of course he screwed it up by the numbers, ignoring every single caution and caveat that I built in to the training and the docs. Then the stupid SOB threw me under the bus with my new manager, as well as the (toxic) old one. I pointed out the docs, training, etc. I got told by the old manager that I didn’t train my replacement well enough, and then he sabotaged my review.

        I’m still salty about that no-win BS over a decade later. Usually my documentation is held up as an example of thoroughness.

    6. mb*

      I’m not sure you read the whole letter.
      1. Refused training
      2. Demeaned the LW for his first six months there
      3. Isn’t doing his fair share of work – raising the workload of everyone else
      4. When completely on his own, seems to manage.
      5. Quality of work is subpar anyway.
      He’s become a time-suck for the LW and when she balks at helping him find something he’s received more than once, is rude and turns on the LW.

    7. Sarah M*

      I’m curious as to why you think the need to “be more considerate” lies only with LW(f) and not with Louis (m)? They are peers. He is neither her manager, nor is he higher up in the food chain.

      Why do you think is it LW’s responsibility to perform menial tasks on demand for a peer, but not Louis’s responsibility to perform them for himself? LW doesn’t get a share of Louis’s salary for doing his work for him. LW has her own work to do. Louis’s constant demands that she interrupt her workflow to perform menial tasks that he doesn’t want to do himself interferes with her ability to perform the job she is paid to do. None of these points are obscure or difficult to understand. It’s curious that you and Da Texan seem so committed to *not* understanding them.

      It seems you’ve skipped over the parts of LW’s letter where she 1) explicitly stated that Louis deliberately chose to skip training and onboarding multiple times, and 2) that Louis was perfectly capable of figuring out how to do things on his own when forced to by circumstance. Perhaps the search/find in page tool could help you locate them.

    8. fhqwhgads*

      The frequency with which he does this combined with him canceling his trainings makes this explanation extremely unlikely. LW was considerate at the beginning trying to train him and have him shadow. He said he didn’t need that. So if he’s at sea now, that’s his doing.

    9. iglwif*

      It’s not that he asks LW to re-send emails.

      It’s that he asks LW to re-send emails and he blew off all the training LW tried to set up with him and he kvetches about not getting enough training and he is rude and doesn’t respect LW’s time.

  37. WillowSunstar*

    I had a coworker like that. Tried to always be “too busy” but as this was in the before-COVID times, he’d start physically walking over to my desk and, as I sat by the boss, I had no choice but to help. This was, mind you, well after he’d been there for a year. After 2.5 years, he was still asking things like “what does XYZ” mean?” (XYZ was the name of our group email address that we used every day!) I had even created a notes file and was sending it to him at least once a week and highlighting the answer to the question in it. Yes, there was even an index and he didn’t use it.

    I do believe he had issues, possibly, but still — people shouldn’t be asking beginner questions 2.5 years into the job. He is no longer with the company, and I’ve gotten promoted since then.

  38. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

    I love the word “jackwagon” so much. I’ve never heard before and it’s so perfect.

    I had a boss who used to do this! I did a softer version of this (“oh, don’t you have the email?” “can’t you find the email? I sent it yesterday at about 4?” “here it is, have you saved it, I’m deleting a lot of old emails today so I may not hang on to one you need”) but he just said he couldn’t find them.

  39. Hiring Mgr*

    This may have been said already, but Louis’ manager needs to be more involved overall. It sounds like she’s not really aware or dealing with of his lack of training and his progress to date, and you and the rest of the team shouldn’t have to pick up the slack. This is besides the not knowing how to search his email!

    So the mgr is a bit to blame here too

  40. Looper*

    I would send him an email with your manager cc’d and ask:
    “You’ve stated that you didn’t receive proper training when you started, however at that time you cancelled meetings and declined training because you said you didn’t need it. Can you outline for me now where you feel those knowledge gaps are? I can say from my observations that you have issues with A,B,C,D,E, and F because of all the questions and requests from you. I’ve CC’d manager so she can assist in making sure you get the proper refreshers on these essential functions to your job.”
    And then see what replies you get.

  41. TootsNYC*

    If I mention it’s in an email somewhere, he’ll ask me what my problem is and would it really be that terrible to just quickly send it to him again/walk him through the process for a few minutes?

    “Would it really be that terrible for you to search your inbox for it, or to set up a system to file this stuff in the first place?”

    “You seem to keep asking me to find things for you that should be in your email Inbox. I don’t have time to keep interrupting my thought processes and my work to do this for you. I’m sure you’ll find it’s not that difficult to figure out.”

  42. Throwaway Account*

    Now I’m feeling guilty because I have a terrible time searching for emails. I’m a librarian! I have great search skills! But I often fail at Outlook search.

    However, I do not expect others to constantly teach me how to do things!

    I agree that teaching him how to search his emails is the way to go

    1. hellohello*

      As long as you at least try to find something first before asking someone to resend it, you’re likely just fine! Occasionally I just can’t seem to find something in my email or our internal wiki, and I just make sure I include what steps I’ve already taken when I ask someone for help. Saying “I’ve searched for X in my inbox and looked at the Y documentation, but can’t find the info, would you be able to resend it to me?” lets the person you’re asking know you value their time, and allows the person to say “oh, actually you should search for Z”, etc. if there’s a quick fix to your problem.

      1. Mangled Metaphor*

        There is a whole world of difference between someone asking for help *after* they’ve tried helping themselves (even repeat offenders, because sometimes the circumstances are just fractionally different enough that the demonstrated technique won’t work), and someone who has weaponised their incompetence to such an extent you have to wonder who tied their shoelaces this morning.

        I hope for Louis’ sake, he has velcro fasteners…

    2. SB*

      Outlook search isn’t as intuitive as it could be so don’t feel bad. Helpful tip, set up folders to categorise emails into. If you get emails from someone or a business/government entity/school/etc regularly, they get their own folder so you can keep all the emails from them in tat folder which significantly narrows the search immediately!

    3. Hrodvitnir*

      Definitely a fundamentally different situation, don’t feel bad! Attitude is like 70% of the problem here.

      Also, that’s quite the anti-recommendation for Outlook search! Librarians are wizards. ^_^

    4. This Old House*

      My org used to use Gmail, and I could find anything anyone had ever sent me, on any topic, no matter how dim my memory of it was.

      Now we have Outlook, and . . . ugh. If you don’t happen to remember the exact title, or which individual was in the “to” field vs being CC’d, or the precise date and time it was received, etc., that e-mail might as well be the Loch Ness Monster. There are reports that it exists! You’re pretty sure you know what you’re looking for! You even know where to look! And yet you can find no evidence of it at all.

      1. Carlie*

        Same. Even the exact title often doesn’t work! And when you spent several years not filing email into folders because the Gmail search was so good, and now it’s 10k emails ported into Outlook that can’t find anything…

    5. COHikerGirl*

      I’m excellent at finding things online. Google, Gmail, anywhere. I am excellent at using programs. Outlook search actually sucks and does not work well. And they just changed the web version and it’s even worse now.

      Yesterday I was searching for something. I knew what words were in the email. The ONLY way I found it was in my sent folder. Because despite my search phrase being in the email…nothing came up.

      But I’m willing to bet you try finding it other ways before resorting to asking others.

    6. iglwif*

      Outlook search sucks (my org recently migrated from Gsuite to MS Office and I … don’t love it).

      But the difference between you and Louis is that before asking other people to re-send things, you attempt to find them yourself.

  43. Raida*

    i say it’s no bother at all, happy to help!

    ad then i go to their desk and show them how to do it :]

    all the while saying nononono i don’t mind it’s okay you’re all good, it won’t take long, happy to help you out, it’s great that you ask for help when you need it…

    and for one co-worker i told them they get ONE a week. So they can decide if the first thing on Monday is worth it or not.

  44. SB*

    I think we have all dealt with Louis in the past. You don’t need to continue to engage after the first “this has already been sent” email. If they are unable to figure out how to use the search function in their emails that’s on them.

    1. WillowSunstar*

      Except the boss has to be supportive. My boss was not and would not make him learn how to do his job. I wasn’t the only person complaining, others were also.

  45. PrinceHumperdinck*

    I’m sorry, but all I can think of any time someone says they are swamped is “You know how much I love watching you work, but I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it; I’m swamped.”
    And now I kind of want you to use that line just to see Louis’s face and if he gets the reference.

    1. Foila*

      Wow, I heard that in a voice I’ve not though of in years.

      It would be important to deliver it with just the right amount of faux-amiable smarm.

  46. Sunflower*

    If he pulls a “what’s your problem” (what is he, 16?) you should absolutely say, “Why do you keep asking me to do your job for you?” You can keep your tone calm and even neutral, but just make the question blunt and call out what he’s doing.

  47. Switz42*

    In my previous job, I was often faced with a bunch of Louises (Loui?) and their favorite way to be helpless was to ask me questions that they should have either a) known the answer to or b) taken the 17 seconds to look up in our database. For an extra level of fun, this was a group out of which I had been promoted, after only about nine months in their role. So it did not take long before they were not only asking me how to do a job I no longer did, but doing so after they had been doing it longer than I ever had. It’s been almost a year since I left and I do not miss that. At all.

    Anyway, I was a big fan of ignoring them into oblivion; most of the time, they’d find the answer themselves. I found that much MUCH easier when the pandemic began and we moved to WFH, with all communication by IM or email. In the office, people wouldn’t stay ignored because they could just come to my office (in fact, one guy would send me an IM or email, wait approximately 4.7 seconds, and then come to my office to make sure I got it.) If they were less annoying/newer, I might eventually answer, but usually with something like, “Try searching for [whatever terms I’d used] in [company database]; I think that [whatever document] might be what you want.” The more they asked (especially repetetive questions) the longer they waited, and my answers got correspondingly less helpful; i.e. “try searching [company database]”.

  48. Nina Bee*

    Had that with a direct report once who was asking simple basic ‘how to do a task that is part of his job’ things after I’d already sent him explainer and link to more thorough support article (eg. if he was working in excel, and there was a way to do a certain simple formula he’d not used before, he wanted me to show him rather than google how it works). I sent him links to the software support page where they do a step-by-step how to, and told him I was happy to answer questions on a larger level or to clarify specific project tasks but there had to be a little bit of proactiveness on his part to learn as I can’t do 1:1 tutorials for everything.

  49. the cat stole my croissant*

    Is Louis actually a preteen? Because this has serious “can you ‘help’ me do my homework?” vibes. I have a mental picture of him dragging his feet and whining “but that’s so HAAAAAARD” when asked to do anything.

    1. LW*

      I don’t want to wooooork I want to relaaaaax. Also the work we do is so easyyy, stop stressinnnng, LW. You’re always so tense.

  50. Dog momma*

    #1. I worked with someone like this. I did referral review for a large health insurance company. Loved my job bc it was so interesting. Was also responsible for trading new people in the process. one woman, said to me one time..” but what if we do it this way ( her way). ” My response, once I sign off that you’re good to go, if you follow the process and get the same result, that’s fine. However management want new people trained the same way ( follow the process); so you’ll have to do it my way. I had all kinds of written tips, office phone#s and contact people I shared with everyone, besides the written inside were all given when hired.
    One day, long after she’d worked there, she asked me a question I knew I had taught long before. And I was very busy, I did referral by a list, by my phone line with customer service or providers who called in plugs managed organ transplant requests for our company all lines of business. I told her she could look it up, I was tied up with something expedited ( turn around time was 24 hours). and she had been chatting with others for about 20 min so wasn’t that busy.
    Her response was ” it’s easier to ask you instead of doing it myself”. Later that day , I spoke to my supervisor, I was done. This woman had a history of leaving at 5pm on the dot, never asked anyone if she could help them in any way, always went to lunch promptly, and was always talking or on the phone. and not work related. As a team, we always asked each other if they needed help especially at the end of the day, when a last minute referral that couldn’t wait might keep you there an extra hour. She didn’t last long.

    1. Pink Candyfloss*

      “It’s easier to ask you”

      I get this sometimes and my response is always a pause to make eye contact, raise an eyebrow, and say: “Easier for WHO?”

      That usually gets the point across!

  51. WheresMyPen*

    Very much enjoying your insult vocabulary in this post! “belligerent wastrel” and “jackwagon” are being added to my mental dictionary forthwith :D

    1. LW*

      I’ve seen him do it, on a smaller scale, with a very diverse cast if people, so I believe he’d do it with everybody (if given half the chance). I’m just his closest coworker and also I think it irks me more than it does other people.

  52. happyhoodies*

    This might be an unpopular take, but I think LW is in the best position to get this colleague to be self-sufficient and refer them to the documentation on hand. I just compiled all of my explanations into one FAQ document that I just re-send over and over. “Hey, what is the status of this deliverable?” “Great question on how to check for updates! Here’s the FAQ document that shows how to check the approval flow of deliverables in our system”. It’s kind of answering the meta question instead of the specific question, and in my experience they stop asking because your response is redirecting them to the same document over and over. It also averts the “what is your problem” sense that people get if you refuse to help them.

    1. LW*

      This is generally a good idea, and I tried that first. It didn’t work, but it should work with people who have more shame!

  53. R*

    I would also suggest him that “Given you ask all these questions that were previously covered in emails, I suggest you start keeping a written documentation on the project every time we address critical information via email, so that information doesn’t get lost and you can refer back to it when needed.” If he says he cannot do that, then you can ask why you cannot put effort, but expect me to put the effort to resend you / re-explain you the same content over and over again.

  54. Zarniwoop*

    Another possible answer to “would it really be that terrible to just quickly send it to him again/walk him through the process for a few minutes?” would be that old classic:

    “I would prefer not to.”

  55. zaracat*

    it’s such a pity that “let me Google that for you” is no longer around. Emailing Louis a LMGTFY link (Every.Single.Time) on how to search his own emails would be just the thing here.

  56. Vio*

    Word of the day: “Jackwagon”. Thanks for adding that one to my vocabulary, not come across it before!

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