my coworker is obsessing over being laid off, I’m being ignored over a misunderstanding, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Coworker obsessing over being laid off

Our company announced a couple months back that they are assessing headcount reductions.

I have a colleague on my team who I need to work very closely with to do my job. We are in many of the same meetings and are in close IM communication each day.

Since the organizational announcement, tensions are high across the board, but this colleague in particular has been obsessed. I get multiple IM’s from him every day — “Just waiting for them to send me my pink slip,” “This email I’m sending will probably be the nail in my coffin,” “I was up all night thinking about layoffs,” “My wife and I spent all weekend reviewing our finances in case I get fired.” Most meetings we’re in he makes comments like, “Well, this initiative would be great if we’re still here,” or “This won’t matter anyway because we’ll all be fired by then.”

Immediately after the announcement, I tried to be reassuring despite my own stress. After a couple of weeks, I just ignore the comments and move right on to work topics. But now it’s been two months of this and my mental health is tanking hearing this each and every day. Do you have a good script to dial this back without me coming across as being overly sensitive? It’s not healthy!

“I know you don’t intend it this way, but it makes it so much harder for me to manage my own worries when you talk about layoffs all the time! I’ve got to call a moratorium on it so I can get through the day — thanks for understanding.”

If he continues after that, remind him that you asked him to stop. It’s not cool for him to keep doing it if you tell him it’s making things harder on you. He can vent to his wife and friends outside of work! You’re in the same boat he is, and however entitled he feels to manage his stress the way he’s doing, you’re just as entitled to manage yours by not discussing the situation in every communication.

2. My coworker is ignoring me over a miscommunication

I work in a small satellite office of a larger corporation. I started six months ago and things were going really well until about a month ago.

I sensed my coworker, Lisa, was upset with me but couldn’t figure out why. I tried acting like everything was normal but the situation has just gotten worse each week. Last week, we had to talk with a supervisor about it and it went terribly. Lisa is upset with me about a misunderstanding and said she will only talk to me about work from now on.

This week she is refusing to speak with me at all. If she needs to communicate, she sends a Slack message, even though we sit in the same room. I am so stressed about going to work I feel physically ill, and the tension is palpable to everyone in the office. I am having a hard time not crying when she ignores me but talks and laughs with coworkers. My supervisors are supportive and see what’s happening and aren’t upset with me; they say they appreciate how I’m handling the situation, and to just keep doing my best to rise above it. I think they hope she will quit or transfer, but that won’t happen overnight. In the meantime, things get more awkward by the day. It’s hard for us to function as a team when someone won’t talk to you.

I am at a loss as to what I can do. I don’t think the relationship is salvageable, and other than quitting a job I like I don’t see a way out. I can’t stop tearing up and it’s just so frustrating.

Your managers suck for not handling this! They should be telling Lisa that her behavior is unacceptable and she needs to treat you pleasantly and civilly. They shouldn’t try to make her socialize with you, but they should have told her she needs to handle work-related conversations differently. It’s ridiculous that they’re sympathizing with you behind the scenes but not actually doing anything about it.

That said, your reaction to this is unusually intense! Is there any way for you to reframe it in your mind so it’s not so upsetting? Ideally you’d figure this is Lisa’s issue and if she wants to spend a lot of energy pointedly ignoring you, she’s just making herself look bad and it’s not about you. If you can’t, you can’t — but it would be a shame to end up leaving over this if there’s a way for you to move closer to just shrugging it off. I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t be bothered by it at all — of course it’s unpleasant to have someone treating you that way — but you’re giving her a lot more power over your internal state than she deserves!

3. Sending my resume months after someone offered to circulate it

My question is about the etiquette of sending in my resume late to people who have offered to take it and pass it around to people they know. I freelance in the entertainment industry, so I get jobs based on recommendations and referrals. I’m lucky enough that I’ve had a couple bosses/higher-ups let me know that they’d take my resume and pass it along to people. The problem is, I’m a major procrastinator, and it often takes me months to update my resume after someone offers. Is it still okay to send in my resume to someone, even though a couple of months have gone by since they last offered to pass it along?

It depends on whether it’s someone who knows you well, like a former boss, or someone you just met once or twice. If the latter, sending it a few months later raises the chances that they won’t remember enough about you to recall why they made the offer or to be able to talk you up in the same way they could have right after you met, and at that point it may just reflect badly on you that you took so long. I might be annoyed if I made that offer to someone I didn’t know well and they waited months to respond and then assumed the offer still stood (unless they had a compelling explanation once they resurfaced; if they’d been hospitalized or stuck in a well or similar, that would change things).

But if it’s someone who knows you well — i.e., someone who you could have reached out to on your own to ask them to do it, before they’d even offered — obviously it’s still not ideal, but you should still send it! You should acknowledge the delay, though — something like, “It’s been a few months since you offered to pass my resume along to contacts, and I hope the offer still stands! I apologize for the delay. The types of roles I’m really interested in are…”

4. Should I mention a serious problem we had with a vendor during an interview?

I was able to use your advice to brush off my resume and get an interview next Wednesday. The position will be working with a product I currently use and have a lot of experience with … not all of it pleasant. Some years back we had to briefly stop using the product due to a serious issue, think HIPAA-level privacy breach due to a problem with how the product was configured.

This was a second strike in the course of two months, and leadership asked us to temporarily pull out from using the product. The issue was fixed by the vendor, but it took about two months of security review and us using workarounds I configured. The changes made were comprehensive, and the vendor has since released a new version.

I am proud of the work I did in identifying what the issue was and creating the contingency plan. I was a key part of a working group with leadership many levels above me. It is easily my best anecdote for questions about facing adversity.

My question is, do I mention the situation during the interview? Even though I didn’t sign an NDA, I’ve always felt very hush hush about discussing the situation with staff from other clients of the vendor during user conferences. I also know that the company I am interviewing at feels the vendor has over-promised and under-delivered, which is a common feeling among their clients.

Discuss it in the interview if it comes up! It’s not like you’re badmouthing the product just to badmouth it; the experience you’re talking about directly relates to your qualifications for the job. In fact, that experience could make you a stronger candidate by demonstrating a level of experience that a lot of people won’t have! If I had concerns about a product and someone I was interviewing to work with it had a lot of experience with its weaknesses and how to work around those, I’d be pretty glad about that.

You’re under no obligation whatsoever to hide the product’s weaknesses from other companies, particularly when they’re potentially highly relevant to the work you’re discussing.

5. Is it a bad idea to include “union steward” on my resume?

Professional employees (of which I am one) at my university unionized two years ago, and we are now in the first full year of our union contract. I became a steward and have been involved in helping fellow staff navigate questions about their job descriptions and job classifications, performance improvement plans, and other issues that inevitably come up when there are big changes at an institution. I’m also on the labor/management committee that tries to proactively deal with issues that come up before they reach the level of a grievance.

In the course of working in these roles, I’ve realized they require a lot of skill: tact and diplomacy, plus knowledge of our contract and the employee handbook, and the ability to understand how they apply to a person’s situation. In some cases it also requires a kind of dogged willingness to advocate for someone when management would rather not deal. I’ve definitely felt stretched in these areas, like I am developing skills I didn’t have before, but I’ve wondered how I can represent those skills on my resume. Is it a bad idea to put “union steward,” with a list of accomplishments like a normal position, on my resume? Will I be marking myself as a potential wild-eyed rabble rouser to prospective employers?

It will hurt you with some managers who will worry that it means you’re more likely to be a pain in the ass or hard to manage. You might decide you’re happy to screen out managers with that view of unions, though.

It will help you with other managers who see unions as a positive or a neutral and who appreciate the sorts of skills you’re talking about here (but spell them out very clearly; don’t rely on people to connect the dots themselves). It will also help if you can frame the accomplishments as working collaboratively with management to improve policies, to the extent you can (as opposed to anything that sounds adversarial).

{ 329 comments… read them below }

  1. Jade*

    Tell him all the talk of lay offs is stressing you out and you can’t talk about it anymore. Be direct. I’ve done this and it works.

    1. 123*

      So many of the letters on this site are from people who just aren’t direct in telling people what they need or expect.

      1. Be Gneiss*

        It’s like people don’t write in for advice about the things they’re already good at. Wild.

      2. Daisy-dog*

        They need help with the script. I’ve definitely been in situations where I tried to be direct with people, but because I’m anxious/upset, I end up saying things that come across as hostile or manic. Basically, I end up in a situation worse than where I started.

        1. Helewise*

          This. Many if not most of us are never taught now to be calmly assertive – it really is a skill that needs to be developed over time and it can be hard to do well. Since doing it poorly can make a difficult situation worse I actually think there’s a certain wisdom in knowing you’re not going to be able to speak up constructively.

          1. RVA Cat*

            It’s yet another skill we should teach in high school if not earlier. But of course overbearing parents will be up in arms about it.

      3. Laser99*

        You’re not wrong, but many entries read something like, “I asked my boss to stop stealing my lunch and now she’s freezing me out,” “I asked my cubicle neighbor to ease up on the personal phone calls and now he does it even more,” and so on.

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Same. I worked with this person. We were going through the same thing (five years ago! we’re all still here.) We would walk outside at lunch time, “to decompress.” It was a rote speech of woes about the impending the layoff. Day three, I spoke up. They said, “this is how I process.”
      I said, you are not, though. You are saying the same things in the same order with the same intonation. It’s become a mantra.
      They stopped themself around me from that point. I’d like to think I helped them move forward, because I’m solipsistic like that.
      But the truth came to me when another coworker said they were thinking about going back on antidepressants because the stress of the situation and being original person’s sounding board!

      1. Michelle Smith*

        This reminds me of me. Seriously. I ruminate on things over and over and over, and I have a tendency to repeat myself without realizing I’m rehashing the same complaints in a way that’s off-putting to others. What helps me is exactly what you did – telling me that the conversation is unwelcome and asking me to stop. It does not help me in the sense that I stop ruminating or that my mental health gets any better by shutting up – it’s still happening in my mind all the time. It does help me to know what annoys you though so I can…avoid annoying you going forward! I certainly don’t like people being annoyed by me and I assume most people feel the same way.

        I hope you encouraged that other coworker to use their words and tell your complainer coworker how they feel. I am pretty sure I ruined a friendship with a former coworker because the person didn’t tell me that my conversational patterns were unwelcome and just left the friendship instead when they’d had enough. It took me a long time to figure out that I needed a different way to “process,” like with a journal or a counselor. It might take this complainer coworker a while to get there too, but there is no reason for the people around them to suffer in silence in the meantime. It’s a kindness to everyone when you say “hey this is hurting me, can you stop please?”

        1. Candi*

          I’ve taken the philosophy I get two rounds to gripe. Then I can figure out how to do something constructive* about it, or at least shut up about it and do something else.

          * For an impending layoff, that could be resume review, signing up on job hunting sites, reading back post of AAM…

    1. Pop*

      This also jumped out at me that there were no details. One possible scenario – of which there are many! – is that the LW said something unintentionally racist, sexist, or homophobic, and Lisa has decided that the best way forward in their relationship is to stick to work. That’s certainly not ideal, but if so, it might be something that the LW has to work through on their own. This does have some speculation, so apologies if this gets things too off topic, but I do think it would change how we are thinking about LW’s manager.

      1. Observer*

        but I do think it would change how we are thinking about LW’s manager.

        Only minimally – and only in a negative way. Lisa still can’t behave the way she’s behaving, and her managers should have told her to knock it off. But if the OP really did something that requires a real apology; that could be very hurtful (and unintentional bigotry is not the only way to do that); and / or that could pose a problem if it doesn’t change, then they have a duty to make it 100% clear to the OP what needs to change on their end. And from what the OP says, nothing like that has happened.

        I do think it’s odd that the OP hasn’t given us the out lines of what happened here, but I’m not sure that we’d really gain any insight from it.

      2. Boring nickname rachel*

        Even if this turned out to be the case, the speculation is so, so far off from the details we have here that I don’t think considering it does us or LW much good

      3. Alz*

        Agree, it is worth considering that maybe the LW was in the wrong as far as the offence/misunderstanding is concerned- but I don’t think I agree that that makes it ok for the LW’s manager. Either it is bad enough that the LW should be disciplined and then Lisa needs to accept that and treat her professionally, or Lisa is blowing up over nothing and, well, she needs to treat the LW professionally.
        You can decide that the companies reaction to an issue isn’t appropriate and you can’t work with someone but, at that point the problem is with the company- Part of being hired is working with others as needed

        1. Observer*

          Either it is bad enough that the LW should be disciplined and then Lisa needs to accept that and treat her professionally, or Lisa is blowing up over nothing and, well, she needs to treat the LW professionally.

          That’s pretty much it. Whoever was in the wrong, the managers should be putting a stop to it. Either they think the OP is right, in which case, in which case they need to do something about it. Or they think the OP is wrong in which case they should do something about that -and not say that they think the OP is being such a professional about it.

        2. Feral Humanist*

          I agree, and it’s not speculation to say “it’s possible the LW was in the wrong.” If so, the managers look even worse. But there are some…conspicuously missing details here.

      4. Santiago*

        Or, OP is experiencing anxiety and doesn’t want to get into the unjustified she-said he-said about coworker has taken the nuclear route of psychological warfare and shunning. Let’s be careful not to attribute blame to the victim.

      5. John Smith*

        It could be that LW put cream instead of milk in her tea, or she gave the departmental alpaca a mohican instead of feeding it a macaroon.

        We simply don’t know and I believe that’s why speculation is indirectly banned. Its not helpful and the LW is not asking for advice on the misunderstanding itself in any case, so it doesn’t matter.

        1. Twix*

          I agree that speculation is not helpful, but I disagree strongly that the nature of the disagreement doesn’t matter. “Misunderstanding” is a very broad word. It might not matter, but it also might be extremely relevant to how to proceed with what OP is asking about. You could use “a misunderstanding” to describe a coworker being offended by an off-color joke they overheard, or being upset that a potluck dish had an ingredient they wrongly assumed OP knew they were allergic to, or feeling personally slighted that OP wore a shirt with lemurs on it when “everyone knows” this coworker despises lemurs. The general answer of “The coworker’s behavior isn’t okay and management should be addressing this” is the same in all 3 cases, but my advice to those 3 people in the absence of that would be very different because the person who’s the problem is different.

  2. Observer*

    #5 – Union Steward. The skills sound highly relevant to a lot of positions, but most people won’t realize what you’re after unless you spell is out. So you want to say something like “Union steward, which requires persistence, the ability to understand sometimes complex rules and their application to specific situations, ability to work collaboratively with groups that may have different aims”.

    Also, if you can indicate how accountability works. There are many areas that have transferable skills when done well, but how would anyone know if you’ve been doing them well. So even if someone believes that being a good union steward requires those skills, how would anyone know if *you* are a good steward. Do people who have a choice prefer to work with you because you get results? Can you point to some metric of issues you resolved before they became grievances? etc.

    1. Selena81*

      I haven’t had LWs specific experience, but I’m definitely supporting SPELL IT OUT.

      It felt weird at first, wouldn’t managers already know what a job entails. And besides, why would I even apply if I don’t have the skills.

      But I’ve since realized job-titles may differ a lot between companies and vanity titles are a thing. Managers may be pretty clueless as to the demands of jobs that they aren’t directly involved with. And managers get a ton of junk-mail applications from seemingly clueless applicants who don’t appear to have any of the required skills.

      1. Pat*

        I used to leave it details because I thought they were obvious, but I’ve since learned that hiring managers don’t get offended if you explain things that need explaining. I don’t know how I managed to get my first corporate job without spelling out in my cover letter why my experience in job ABC gave me the skills needed to succeed in job XYZ. I did talk about it in the interview, but I think I’m lucky I got the interview!

      2. Junior Assistant Peon*

        As someone unfamiliar with unions, I would probably ignore it on a resume unless you clearly spell out the relevant skills you learned.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          Agreed. Based on about 30 seconds of googling, it looks like as of 2 years ago, only about 2% of Americans were in a union. Most people are going to need it spelled out.

          1. It's 1849 in Wisconsin*

            I’m in a not-a-union. Wisconsin’s governor got rid of public sector unions (except police and fire), so my union turned into an “Employee Relations Group” under a national union.

            The difference is mostly that the ERG has to negotiate for all employees, members or not, apparently in hopes that enough people will take a free ride that membership drops below 50% and the ERG is dissolved.

            They underestimated our stubbornness and the ERG is still here.

    2. Union nerd*

      I think it will look strange to have it as a separate job because it isn’t a 40 hour-per-week thing but putting it as a point on the current job makes sense.

      I would focus on the part about collaborating with management to build a better workplace. That’s more than answering questions about the agreement, which can be mentioned, but that’s more assumed whereas unions and management will be more interested if you can work collaboratively.

      1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        I would strongly consider putting it as a separate job, the same way that I might put a part-time gig that seemed relevant, like editing a magazine. I assume LW has had the job overall for longer than she’s been a union steward, so to list it under the same job means you’re trying to clarify both the timeframe and the job responsibilities in the same bullet point, which seems like a lot. I could also see putting it as a separate entry under the same employer (but with overlapping dates), similar to how people often do promotions.

        1. Captain Swan*

          I would put it as a second bullet under the current employer.
          Something like this:

          Rice Writer Extradonaire (May 2012- Present) followed with job description/accomplishments

          Union Steward for Rice Writers Union (Jan 2023-Present) descriptions/skills

          I did something similar when I became a Section Manager on top of my day job.

          1. Sloanicota*

            I think I would list it under my regular job as one accomplishment, if I could:

            Rice Writer (May 2012-Present)
            -Executed new ricing process for all staff that reduced weevil losses by 30%
            -Appointed (elected?) union steward to mentor new employees and navigate workplace policies
            -Winner of the 2022 Excellence in Ricing award

            1. Lydia*

              Except you’re not doing that for your employer, it’s for the union, and it’s a lot more than mentoring new employees and navigating workplace policies. The list of duties for a union steward can be vastly different than your current job. Case in point, I have a meeting this week to see about being a union steward. The work I would be doing has nothing at all to do with my daily duties and if listed as a bullet point under my current role would look wildly out of place.

              1. Three Cats in a Trenchcoat*

                I agree; being a member of union leadership is something that is not being done FOR your employer. I am a physician who was part of a union during residency, and I list that experience separately as it was very different skills (meeting with administration, contract negotiation, speaking at a city hall meeting) than my day job but also good skills to emphasize on a resume.

                1. Rainy*

                  One more agreement–this is how I think things like this should be handled. It would be one thing if it was a normal piece of your role, or a very normal project for people in your role or at your level, but when it’s something that requires very different skills and knowledge and is also not strictly speaking *for* your role/employer, it should be listed separately.

                  Like, if you’re a grad student and everyone rotates being lab safety officer for 3 months a year, it goes under your regular lab position, but if you are the lab manager for 3 different research groups, only one of which you belong to, I’d list that separately.

    3. Hannah Lee*

      Absolutely spell out the details, particularly ones that could be relevant to the openings you’re applying for.

      When I’m reviewing resumes, job titles, lists of positions are a start. But unless the applicant puts some details of the meat of what *their* work in those roles involved, I’m left trying to guess. Quantifying results is great too, but when that’s hard, at least give me something meaningful to go on. Because otherwise, I’m likely to move on to the next resume, or put you in a maybe pile I’ll likely never get back to.

      Right now I’m reviewing resumes for a position in our manufacturing assembly group. There are a lot of resumes that show “Job Title: Assembler” and then under the description put “Assembly” or “Assembled Products” That’s it.

      I wind up thinking about that gym commercial where the guy says “I pick things up and put them down”

      Give me something to go on: what did you assemble – was it tiny parts or small box-assemblies? large machinery? what processes did you use? what tools did you use? What skills, capabilities did you demonstrate?

  3. Observer*

    #4 – Software experience. You say that “Even though I didn’t sign an NDA, I’ve always felt very hush hush about discussing the situation with staff from other clients of the vendor during user conferences.”

    Why? It would seem to me that if you have any obligation, it’s actually to be clear about the issues that you have experienced with the product and company. Obviously, you want to be completely factual and not exaggerate in any way. But you’re going much further than that? Why the secrecy? It seems like you feel like you should be protecting them and I’d like to understand that thinking behind that.

    1. WS*

      +1. Additionally, the vendor did recognise the problem and did fix it, so you’re not in any way badmouthing their current product. This is a great thing to take to your interview and highly relevant to future employers.

      1. JM in England*

        If I was a vendor, I would certainly welcome user feedback about my product to correct any shortcomings.

    2. Twix*

      I’m also a software person who does a lot of work with a couple of specific enterprise products, and I can kind of understand it. I’ve worked closely with our vendor and some of their employees for many years and while we’ve never had an issue on the scale of what OP is talking about, we’ve had plenty of significant ones. It would feel a bit weird talking about major flaws in their products because I have faces and names of people (whom I like) to attach to them, the same way you might hesitate to share even justified criticism of the work of another internal team you’re friendly with. But it is definitely important to recognize that the relationship is first and foremost a business one and leveraging that experience is not only okay, but a very reasonable thing to do.

      1. Selena81*

        If it feels uncomfortable because they know people at the company (and these people are friendly and helpful), then it might help to keep in mind that the new company is going to use this product. They aren’t asked to find a new product and throw their work-friends under the bus.

        There is also nothing stoping them from talking about the problems with the software AND talking up the good customer service.

    3. Selena81*

      LW might be worried about being seen as ‘complaining too much’. But they won’t, not with a matter-of-fact description about what went wrong and how it got solved, and not with a little bit of polite bragging that they were the one who solved it.

      A job-interview isn’t the place to be venting at length about alllllll theeee thiiiiings that are wrong with the product (that’s what drunken evenings at conferences are for, lol). But there is no good reason to sound like a salesperson for the product either.

      1. Lydia*

        Agreed. Alison has said it a lot on this site, and it’s important to remember, if it’s relevant and is said matter-of-factly, it’s not complaining, it’s sharing information about your experience.

    4. Cacofonix*

      What comes to mind based on my own experience is that the *way* the company uses the product may have exposed a critical flaw in the software that other companies just wouldn’t encounter. I’ve been told to keep the vendor issue under wraps because revealing it would reveal proprietary procedures in the company.

      How I got around that of course in later interviews is to generalize the issue such that it was illustrative of the truth, but didn’t contain the type of detail the company was worried about. In my case it was saying that my team discovered a critical error in the underlying algorithm used to evaluate corporate financing applications that I was able to configure around successfully until the vendor applied an update to the software, which improved XYZ (time, compliance, saving, whatever). Don’t need to detail out anything, most interviewers won’t want to go there and if they do, you can cite professional confidentiality and offer an analogy from there.

      Maybe there are other reasons, but companies are protective of their intellectual property, quite rightly.

      1. TooTiredTooThink*

        I also work with software and I read it that OP was concerned about revealing that their company potentially had a security breach and even though it was the fault of the vendor; that there might be blowback on their company for having a security breach in the first place; hence the reticence for discussing it.

        1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          This was my assumption — that they don’t want to advertise that their OWN company was for some period of time using software with potential HIPAA-violating flaws.

          That said, I think it’s all right to discuss it in an interview, as long as they aren’t interviewing with direct competitors, or an investigative journalist or something. It’s significant work they did and speaks to their skills.

          And in conferences, etc. I would probably talk about it like, “You’re using version 5.0 or later, right? There are potentially some really big security issues with version 4.x and below.”

          1. TooTiredTooThink*

            “And in conferences, etc. I would probably talk about it like, “You’re using version 5.0 or later, right? There are potentially some really big security issues with version 4.x and below.””

            That’s exactly the perfect way to state it; that way they aren’t revealing their company had an issue at all.

            I don’t speak corporate well; so I’m adding this to my arsenal.

            1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

              If the security issues aren’t publicly known though, that prompts questions from the conference person like “how does LW know that? They must have inside info, how did they get that” etc.

    5. analyst*

      OP4 should not only be willing to bring this up in an interview, it should likely be spelled out on their resume (if using that program is at all relevant to jobs)- sounds like they made a major contribution to fixing a serious problem

    6. Snow Globe*

      I’m also wondering if it is necessary to identify the vendor by name? The LW explained here the general issue and their role in solving it without naming the company. They may be able to do the same in an interview, and that might make the LW feel more comfortable. I think they are fine naming the vendor, but if they’d rather not, they can probably still explain the issue.

      1. Phony Genius*

        I was going to say the same thing. When providing examples in job interviews, it is rarely necessary to name names. Just using generic terms such as “vendor,” “product,” and “software” should be fine, even if it would be obvious to the interviewer what company/product you are talking about.

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          There are times when experience with a specific vendor can be really good to share. My organization is switching software vendors for a key function and a candidate’s depth of experience with the new software was a major plus in a recent hiring round.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        It sounds like OP only brought this up because the job they are interviewing for uses the same product, and that’s what makes it particularly relevant! They should definitely name the product and their experience directly. I agree with Alison that being able to not only say “yes, I am familiar with this product you use” but to also be able to say you even have experience working around its shortcomings in important ways is a huge benefit to your application.

      3. Daisy-dog*

        I think it would be obvious. LW would spend other parts of the interview talking about her experience with that product. When asked the question about dealing with a serious problem, suddenly getting cagey and vague about it would likely be confusing.

      4. Happy*

        They’re putting themself at a disadvantage if they don’t name the vendor/product. That experience is a huge asset! They should highlight it.

    7. Nomic*

      If it’s similar to a HIPAA-level type of breech, I would expect everyone to quietly know already. If a vendor had that type of issue, I would expect they would have been forced to legally notify all clients — you can’t be hush-hush about it as the vender.

      Even if you *can* be hush-hush (i.e. there are no legal obligation to disclose), you damn well *should* tell your customers of such a breech.

      1. Antilles*

        Perhaps, though it really depends.
        The “notification” could just be a vague mass-email press release along with the security update where the average end user skims the email, sees it’s now fixed, and just sort of shrugs it off.
        It’s also possible that the notification went out to the IT Departments of the affected companies (as the listed ‘registered owner’ of the software) and it all happened on the back end, so the individual users just saw the software update and don’t even realize there was a problem.

        1. Daisy-dog*

          Eh, it’s more that ADP is one of the most commonly used products out there and no HRIS product is perfect. It’s totally fine and if implemented right, it can work well for certain organizations. But because it does so much, there will definitely be moments where a file feed didn’t send properly or the PTO policy has to be reconfigured.

    8. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

      That there were HIIPA violations at her previous employer due to the software’s bugs may be something she doesn’t want to discuss with a competitor in the same field. Not to protect the buggy software but to protect the reputation of her former employer.

      1. Sam*

        Agreed — I would be VERY careful discussing something so sensitive that happened with a current or former employer. Even if the incident was something that rose to the level that public notification was required, there may be details you shouldn’t be sharing out of a duty to the employer. I think it would be fine to talk broadly about the vendor: “we had major issues working with this vendor. I identified a problem and was able to take steps to mitigate it, but their program has a lot of issues and I have concerns about whether they take security seriously enough” or whatever applies. But I definitely wouldn’t go into details, and especially not when you’re only interviewing!

    9. LW4*

      I wasn’t able to reply earlier but had a mini-existential crisis reading this and asking myself this question. I ultimately think it feels like poor form – the vendor initially responded very poorly but then did get their act together, didn’t charge us for a few months, and have been more collaborative since. I’m also not sure if I’m going to end up taking the job if I get a decent counter-offer, which I think factors into my concern.

  4. allathian*

    LW2, I’m so sorry. I’ve been in a somewhat similar situation years ago, sharing an office with a coworker who would’t greet me, or acknowledge me in any way except by email. This was 15 years ago, so IM systems were far less common then than they are now (MSN/Skype existed but my org didn’t use either of them).

    I’d switched careers and was in my first full-time job in my new career. I needed more support from my coworker than she expected or was willing to give. My anxiety and insecurity showed in my constant requests for help. She’s even more introverted than I am, and hated having to talk to people at work. It didn’t help that I kept making the same mistakes over and over and asking her to clarify the same thing multiple times. Years later I heard that I’d been the strongest candidate for the job on paper and that I was hired on my coworker’s recommendation.

    In retrospect I’m grateful that they didn’t let me go during my 3 months of probation, although given that my job description’s a bit niche in my field and it took 6 months to hire me.

    Our then-manager was very task-oriented and never seemed to understand that I needed more support and encouragement than I was getting, and that just a bit more support in the beginning would’ve helped my anxiety a lot. To be fair, I don’t think I ever said as much to her, I was anxious without really knowing why or what to do about it. Knowing that my coworker resented my requests for help only made things worse.

    Somehow we learned to work together. Slowly but surely I got past the worst of my anxieties, and as I required less support, it became a bit easier to work with my coworker. Our relationship remained strained and we never talked much about things that weren’t directly related to the job. After about 18 months I went on maternity leave, and that reset things a bit. That said, I was glad when my coworker quit, even though it meant doing the work of two employees alone for the 6 months it took to hire her replacement. I got thrown in at the deep end, and the last of my work-related anxiety lifted when I realized that the organization valued my work.

    Now my ex-coworker and I have a decent professional relationship, we exchange e-cards at the end of the year, and chat at professional conferences.

    1. Smithy*

      I had a relationship with a supervisor like this – where she really only wanted to interact with me in the context of a requested meeting with an agenda. Even though we had offices next to each other, she was not open to a knock on an open door and an “can I ask a quick question” at all.

      I prefer a work style that is more collaborative and social, so this really increased my anxiety and nervousness in all of my interactions with her. That being said, once I got a hand of her “set a meeting with an agenda” style and using email more – our relationship did greatly improve and ultimately I still really like and respect her. But the beginning really leaned into every personal anxiety I have, and I was also 100% annoying her.

      The key difference with this and LW2’s letter is that I had the benefit of knowing what I was doing that bothered her and was given tools how to change that. If I was interviewing for a job where I was told in advance that was the work culture of the team, I wouldn’t be keen on taking a job there. I’d know I could do it, but it wouldn’t be my preference.

      1. Observer*

        The key difference with this and LW2’s letter is that I had the benefit of knowing what I was doing that bothered her and was given tools how to change that.

        Another key difference seems to be that your manager was not being overtly rude or explicitly exclusionary. It seems like Lisa is trying to rub the LW’s face in her excluding them and is also refusing to use reasonable communications methods about work stuff. Slack is great but sometimes a conversation just works better.

        1. I am Emily's failing memory*

          Yeah, I’ve had coworkers in the past that got under my skin with annoying work habits. I did not interact with them more than necessary, but I’d be willing to bet none of them knew I was minimizing our interactions, because I never withheld work-related information or made them have to jump through hoops to get work product from me. When one person would email me stupid criticisms and offer suggestions that were waayy outside their own lane, I replied with, “Thanks for the feedback!” instead of, “This is really not your concern and if I wanted your suggestions I’d have asked for them.” Because the former response meant I could file their stupid email and never think about it again, while the latter response would have had the potential to turn one annoying email into an ongoing personal conflict that I would’ve rather not voluntarily escalated.

    2. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      I also experienced something similar, where a direct report was bare-minimum civil for anything directly work-related … mostly. (And we disagreed about precisely what counted as work-related, with my definition being a larger set of things.) From an anthropological point of view, it was kind of fascinating to see how hostile someone could get while still being nominally civil. From a living-through-it point of view, it was absolutely miserable — and we’re fully-remote.

      (Yes, as the manager I did have the standing to address this, but I talked it over with my manager and we agreed that due to a number of factors, attempting to police what “polite” looked like was not a priority right then.)

      Our staffing situation was such that I wasn’t prepared to precipitate this person leaving/being fired, but I was also extremely glad when they quit, despite having to take on most of their work for the months until we brought on and trained a replacement.

    3. Seen Too Much*

      I too had a situation similar to this before IM. I worked in a dentist’s office as office manager/hr. The receptionist sat 3 feet from me at the same long S-shaped desk. She would get into a funk about something- her husband, the patient, the coffee I was drinking – who knows. She would cry in the bathroom and then refuse to speak to me. She would leave post-it notes on my side of the desk. Halfway through the day, she would say she had an eye migraine and leave for the rest of the day. Sometimes this would go on for a week at a time.

      I continued to talk to her and give her direction and information. She would ignore me and it. When she overcame her funk, she would act like nothing happened.

      The dentist was Jewish and was closing for a holiday. There were 2 days when the office could be opened to check for mail. I was going on vacation so she was supposed to do that. Since she wasn’t talking to me that day, she decided to ignore the fact and not come in. She assumed that I would get in trouble. EXCEPT – the dentist got stuck overseas because they lost one of the kid’s passports. I was away and not able to reach out to any of the patients to reschedule. They tried to reach her, but she refused to answer any calls from the office, thinking it would be me. She ended up getting fired over that.

  5. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP1 (obsessed about layoffs) – I can relate a bit to this behaviour… There seem to be 2 facets to it though; 1. comments he makes to you (IMs etc) and 2. comments in meetings (this project would be great if we were still going to be here). The second one is more concerning if there are people from outside your immediate team in these meetings, of course (particularly leaders).

    The best antidote for this is actually taking action to be prepared. (He said they spent the weekend reviewing finances, but it would not surprise me if this didn’t happen – he seems to want to make OP worry as much as he is, as OP is taking it quite placidly (outwardly at least) and he envies that.) I think I would offer to help with things like resume updating- painful though it probably is to have any more interaction with him than you do already. If he isn’t responsive to action you just tell him not to make those comments around you any more as the answer says.

    Btw, in some companies, comments about people’s job security are harassment if sustained and unwanted. He is talking about his own, but yours by extension.

    1. Selena81*

      I feel there are 2 possibilities:
      1: He is an AH who doesn’t really notice or care that everybody else is worried about their job too: his male pride is on the line and his co-workers better have sympathy.
      2: He is awkwardly trying to bond with his co-workers over a shared fear of jobloss (perhaps as a start to fight the layoffs together, or to start a union), and is puzzled by their seeming indifference.

      In either case ‘dude, knock it off, I am nervous too’ would be a good response.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Corollary to 1 — He thinks that if he shows how badly it will affect him, that he at least won’t be on the chopping block. But he’s still an AH because he doesn’t realize if he is saved, someone else will be cut.

        Smartest thing everyone can be doing is job searching now.

      2. Ssssssss*

        I’d go with Option 2: trying to bond.

        Sounds like my former Drama Llama. The constant raising the issue and fretting is a form of attention seeking – pay attention to me and listen to my fears, again! Support me! – and a need to create drama to fill their day – OMG, let’s speculate on what’s gonna happen together and get riled up together! – and both are exhausting.

        Shut it down. Nicely if you can.

    2. SarahKay*

      Nooo, I don’t see why OP1 should offer to help with co-worker’s resume. He’s a grown man, he got this job, he can get others, and it’s not on OP1 to manage his feelings for him like that. OP1 probably has quite enough of their own stress to manage (and that’s even before co-worker adds to it be endlessly harping on about it).

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Agreed. Why should OP expend the energy she needs to look for another job/manage her stress on helping this guy manage his? She’s not responsible for managing how he feels.

      2. Exhausted Electricity*

        yeah I’ve had a few coworkers get laid off (favorite temps, not enough work to keep them on, I was pulling for them to get hired full time) and depending on where they are in the process is how much help I’ll offer.
        Just found out and they were a great coworker? here is every single linkedin tip I know, here is my number for references, and a sympathetic ear.
        Been dumping on me for months about how stressed they are about layoffs that may or may not affect them? “I don’t have the bandwidth to worry about this.”

      3. Pink Candyfloss*

        Totally agree – the co-worker is already foisting unpaid emotional labor on OP. OP doesn’t need to start adding more proactive actual labor to their task list.

    3. connie*

      I would not encourage the LW to do anything to take them further into this man’s anxiety. She needs to tell him to cut it out, period, not do things to enmesh them further. What if he doesn’t get interviews on the basis of the resume she helps him with?

      1. Zweisatz*

        +1 Alison’s did cover everything I would recommend. Have a direct conversation to cut it out. That’s it.

        You cannot make another person’s concerns go away for them.

    4. el l*

      No, don’t help with the resume. That aside, I’d say:

      “I’m understanding about this uncertainty and you’re entitled to deal with this uncertainty in your own way. But right now you’re making this my problem. Stop it. Do not persist.

      “And if angering me isn’t enough, you’re actively harming your chances of staying on. You’re saying this in meetings. This is making you more likely to get fired, not less – leadership may wonder why they should deal with this.”

      1. DJ Abbott*

        She doesn’t have to say that last part. Only if she thinks he’s worth saving. If not, just stop after telling him to cut it out.

    5. I Have RBF*


      One thing I might do is when he starts going on about it is “Yep. I’ve already revised my resume and reviewed my finances. Since that’s all I can realistically do right now, I want to put it out of my mind as something that I’ve handled aw well as I can. So will you stop bringing it up with me? You seem to be obsessing about it, and I don’t want to do that.”

      Of course, what I’d really want to do is say “Shut the f up about it already.”

    6. Observer*

      2. comments in meetings (this project would be great if we were still going to be here). The second one is more concerning if there are people from outside your immediate team in these meetings, of course (particularly leaders).

      These comments are more concerning even when said with only insiders. And to be honest, if I have someone saying that on a regular basis, that would absolutely move them up on the list of people to lay off. I mean obviously if management has any sense they realize that this situation is going to affect how people feel and act and it’s going to affect how much effort people put into their work. But there is a difference between someone who is less engaged, but still trying to to a good job as long as they *have* the job, and someone who keeps on pouring cold water on projects because “I’m not going to be here, so who cares.”

      I think I would offer to help with things like resume updating

      Why? In the very best possible outcome, the OP winds up taking on a difficult task, working with someone whose coping mechanisms leave something to be desired – all the while dealing with their own significant related stress. And the possibilities only get worse from there. And it’s not really likely to work. Either CW did spend the time on the budget, in which case it’s clearly not an exercise that works for him. Or he didn’t and it would wind up with the OP taking on managing (part of) this guy’s life for him. Not a good idea.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        And he already has someone to help! His wife. LW would end up involved in that relationship, a whole other set of problems.
        Though even if he was alone in the world, there would still be no need to take this on. He’s a grown-up who should manage his own life and jobs, and get any help he needs in more appropriate ways.

  6. Union Bob*

    #5 – if you’re applying for jobs in the labor movement, experience as a union steward is not just thought of highly, but is often an essential criteria! I moved from another sector into a labor movement role partly thanks to my experience as a union steward.

  7. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP2 (Lisa refuses to communicate) – my read on this is that she feels the ‘resolution’ (meetings with both of you etc) didn’t go far enough to resolve it and/or that she feels some aspect of the situation is still going on or likely to recur. Is she sulking or does she genuinely feel harmed by whatever the misunderstanding is?

    1. Looper*

      I also could not get a clear read on this. If management really wanted Lisa to leave, I feel they would be coming down harder on Lisa. But it seems like they are being completely hands off with the whole situation? I agree with all the comments that the vague language around “misunderstanding” makes it difficult to know how to approach/repair this working relationship.

      1. Selena81*

        It might just be that LW is worried about privacy or that the details honestly wouldn’t add anything to the story, but the phrasing felt awkward because ‘misunderstanding’ is also a term commonly used by people who know they are in the wrong.

        So now I’m feeling very unsure about wholeheartedly siding with LW that their colleague is being unreasonable and management should berate that colleague, versus seeing it more as a ‘you did this to yourself’ situation.

        1. Susan*

          I also wonder what exactly happened during the meeting with the supervisor. Did Lisa perhaps feel (well-founded or not!) that any past events were misrepresented to the supervisor, and is therefore now demanding written communication? I know we aren’t supposed to assume anything that wasn’t mentioned in the letter, but “misunderstanding” can really encompass a lot of things.

        2. ShanShan*

          This is my read, too, especially coupled with OP’s outsized emotional reaction. When people start saying things like “I feel like crying when I hear her talking and laughing with other people…” well, that just doesn’t seem like a reaction that someone would have to a work acquaintance with whom they have maintained appropriate boundaries.

          I would be very interested to hear what the managers actually said to OP, and whether *they* would also classify it as being sympathetic to OP’s position.

          1. Jackalope*

            I thought that was very relatable, actually. It’s not that she’s talking and laughing with other employees, it’s that she’s deliberately giving OP the cut direct while doing so. It’s really hard to be the person that is being ostracized in a group like this. LW says that the tension is significant enough that everyone else is sensing it, which in my past experience means that Lisa is probably doing something to let it be known that she’s ignoring the LW on purpose (glaring at her when she talks before going back to laughing with the others, pretending she’s not there or even talking over her, etc.). Especially in a new-ish job (OP says she’s only been there 6 months) this can feel really hurtful.

          2. JB (not in Houston)*

            “that just doesn’t seem like a reaction that someone would have to a work acquaintance with whom they have maintained appropriate boundaries.” I’m not sure what you are basing that on? I would not react the way that OP has, but I know plenty of people who would take it hard to be pointedly ignored at work, where you have to spend most of the day. If it were someone who was already sensitive to rejection or criticism, I can see this happening. I went to law school with someone who I know would react this same way (and yeah, she probably needed some therapy to deal with it). It may well be that OP did something really bad or has not “maintained appropriate boundaries,” but the fact that they are having that kind of emotional reaction isn’t a sign of that.

            1. a clockwork lemon*

              Yeah, but this is coming on the heels of a “misunderstanding” that escalated to the point where management had to hold a resolution meeting. Without more details, it’s impossible to give any actual advice.

              In situations like this, the context of the misunderstanding matters–because the misunderstanding could be anything from an ongoing turf war over a stapler to, idk, stealing someone’s paycheck off their desk to show up at their house and yell at them for not saying goodbye to you on a Friday afternoon ( #2 at the link)

              1. Observer*

                In situations like this, the context of the misunderstanding matters–because the misunderstanding could be anything from an ongoing turf war over a stapler to, idk, stealing someone’s paycheck off their desk to show up at their house and yell at them for not saying goodbye to you on a Friday afternoon

                I remember that one. And that OP was completely clear on the fact that her management WAS “upset” with her. That’s really the key problem – the OP is getting a message from management that is at odds with the behavior of management.

                That’s why I think that more important information is whether management is good in general, and if they are just so conflict averse that they won’t talk straight with anyone?|

          3. Santiago*

            If you’ve ever been through a prolonged experience of shunning, you could understanding why someone’s mere social presence is upsetting. It’s torture. The whole point of shunning is to psychologically gaslight the victim into believing that they are unworthy of existing in society. A humble person assumes they are the problem, rather than everyone else.

            It’s possible that OP did something destructive, but if it was so bad it warrants ignoring direct cues and social isolation then leadership should have stepped in. However, if we believe OP (something that shunning victims rarely experience due to the social nature of the abuse they suffer) that Lisa’s response is disproportionate to the situation…then this is literally just social violence intended to humiliate and target OP.

            1. Kara*

              I don’t think we can use leadership as a way to judge, since either way management should have stepped in.

              But yes context is important here. I just had an incident myself that depending on which party you ask was either a minor mistake no-harm-no-foul, or serious negligence that could have badly sickened or killed someone. The best advice i have for the OP would be to respect your coworker’s boundaries, work on building relationships with your other coworkers, and take Alison’s advice on working through your hurt feelings. This is clearly not going to be a sitcom situation where a wacky misunderstanding is going to be laughed off by next week, but there’s no reason you can’t work professionally together.

              Also, written communication only might be a good thing in this case. If coworker is overreacting then you’ve got written evidence that you’ve been doing your part to work past this. If she’s not, this might give you something to look at and ponder should you decide to tighten up your professional persona. And either way, writing prevents future misunderstandings because both of you have something solid to refer back to.

            2. MugShot Coffee*

              @Santiago, exactly!! op is being bullied. but no one is acknowledging this.
              it’s an horrific, should destroying thing to experience. my heart goes out yo OP.
              Management need to do something. or maybe it’s time to talk to HR (or a union is she had one).

              1. Santiago*

                Yes, it’s bullying! Bullies often have a “reason” for their behavior – it doesn’t make it okay or tolerable.

            3. Hrodvitnir*

              Thank you for this. I really appreciate the verbiage – I used to work with a terrible bully, and she mostly behaved indirectly like this. It’s infuriating how people do not get it, when it’s incredibly effective against virtually anyone (she had a lot of power in our workplace. The only person not really affected was the person with zero ability to read body language or tone. That had other repercussions in how she read to other people, but that’s a nice side effect.)

        3. ecnaseener*

          No one said management should berate the colleague, that’s not on the table. No matter how you slice it, management is negligent here — if one party or the other needs to be told their behavior is unacceptable, that they should apologize, etc., then management needs to do that. And then tell Lisa that the situation’s been handled and that freezing LW out is not acceptable.

          1. ShanShan*

            I don’t know. OP’s tone is just very odd. They seem emotionally invested in their relationship with this one coworker far past the point that’s appropriate. For that reason, I’m not sure I’d be prepared to tell Lisa that freezing them out is unacceptable. Somebody clearly needs to establish some actual boundaries in this relationship, and the freezing might be a way of doing that.

            1. Jackalope*

              I have a longer comment in moderation right now, but in short I don’t think OP’s response indicates an emotional investment in this coworker at all, or at least there’s no solid reason to assume that it does. Her reaction (including being on the verge of tears) is a reasonable response to someone deliberately and repeatedly snubbing her in a group setting she can’t just avoid. No matter how she feels about Lisa, that’s a hard place to be. I understood her comment about Lisa laughing with others in that context; Lisa having a normal conversation with someone else, OP says something, Lisa snubs her, and then deliberately goes back to normal so OP knows for sure she’s been snubbed.

              1. GythaOgden*

                Yeah, I’ve been in LW2’s situation at school and the reason was being socially clumsy rather than any kind of actual insult directed at her. The framing ‘well, LW2 must have done SOMETHING to deserve it’ is how people justify not doing anything to stop this kind of bullying.

              2. Heather*

                if everyone at work snubbed the LW that would warrant the reaction described in the letter, in my opinion. if one person giving them the cold shoulder is this upsetting, that is something LW could work on ignoring or taking less personally.

                1. Expelliarmus*

                  I wonder if LW’s team is snubbing her socially because of Lisa and that’s why LW feels so ostracized?

            2. ecnaseener*

              Refusing to ever speak out loud to a colleague, even for work reasons, isn’t an acceptable way to “set boundaries” at work.

              1. ShanShan*

                I mean, compared to what? Management doesn’t seem terribly supportive and OP certainly isn’t backing off. What other options are available to Lisa?

        4. Observer*

          I’m feeling very unsure about wholeheartedly siding with LW that their colleague is being unreasonable and management should berate that colleague, versus seeing it more as a ‘you did this to yourself’ situation.

          I hear that. But I think that fundamentally, the advice stays the same. Whatever they do, management should not be berating Lisa in any case. But they *do* need to shut it down, also regardless of who is right or wrong.

          Either management truly believes that the LW is in the clear, in which case Lisa is being obnoxious and management needs to do more than be privately sympathetic.

          Or they believe that Lisa actually has a point, and so don’t want to make her feel worse. But in that case, they should not be telling the LW that they “appreciate the way they are handling it” and the Supervisors are not upset with them. Rather they should be telling the LW how they can / must mend fences to the point of being able to have a workable relationship *and* communicating with Lisa, both what they have instructed the OP and to tell her that her current path is not acceptable.

          It could also be that they don’t know which is the case. In which case, that’s were you get someone to actually figure out what is going on and then act accordingly.

          In no case is the way management is acting the correct way.

      2. WellRed*

        I am surprised OP thinks management hopes Lisa will leave. OP is the one who’s most upset by this situation while Lisa dies her (passive aggressive) thing. They might hope OP leaves but in the Meantime will just stay hands off.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Eh… It’s possible Lisa has done this before. I’m not sure that there’s enough information to decide if the OP is overreacting or if Lisa is immature and plays “in-group vs. out-group” games. (I’ve seen both.)

          Either way, people need to be at least civil.

      3. Sarah*

        I don’t really understand what management would do anyhow. Lisa had an issue and seemingly made a complaint, and now will only communicate with LW2 in a fashion that is documented (Slack). LW2 wants Lisa to be nicer to them because they felt the issue was due to a misunderstanding and not maliciousness, but considering that Lisa does not appear to be doing anything wrong how would management intervene?

        1. Observer*

          but considering that Lisa does not appear to be doing anything wrong

          Being rude to people is a problem in an office. Especially since it is clearly deliberate.

            1. Observer*

              Hard disagree. Being overtly rude is actionable, whether it’s by omission or commission. Even with kids, much less supposedly competent adults.

    2. NotBatman*

      I agree that, regardless of the details, OP2 is best off giving Lisa exactly the same cold civility in turn and trying to focus on work.

      I also agree that “misunderstanding” could be anything from “Lisa misinterpreted my typo as an insult to her intelligence” to “Lisa misinterpreted my intentions when I ran at her with a machete,” which makes it hard to judge whether a further apology or a request to seek more resolution from management is in order.

      1. Susan*

        I understand that we are supposed to interpret the recommendations here based on the facts that we have. But at the same time, it should be possible to generalize the answers to some extent and apply them to comparable situations, I believe. There is so much context missing here that I find that difficult. At work, I had to deal with very manipulative people who, when called out, always claimed to have been misunderstood, until at some point I insisted on written communication. By no means do I want to imply that was the case here – but I do have a problem generalizing the recommendation that after any “misunderstandings” you must always be willing to continue talking to the coworker in question personally.

        1. ShanShan*

          Yeah, that’s kind of what I was trying to express. If we strip away OP’s feelings, what we have here is a situation where OP said something Lisa objected to, Lisa tried to get management involved, OP claimed it was a misunderstanding, management was unable to resolve the situation to Lisa’s satisfaction, and Lisa decided to document all conversations with OP going forward.

          I look at that chain of events and I see a very clear cause and effect relationship, not random snubbing or grudge holding. Someone couldn’t prove a negative incident happened in the way they understood it to have happened, and is now taking steps to ensure they have more proof if/when it happens again.

          I mean, OP, if you’re worried about being misunderstood, why not EMBRACE putting everything in writing? The whole point of doing that is to avoid future misunderstandings.

    3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Some people can never let go of even a minor wrong and bear grudges forever

      1. Santiago*

        Similarly, some people isolate others for their own social benefit, twisting something minor into something large and derive pleasure from exclusion and social harm.

        1. ShanShan*

          And some people claim that someone has “misunderstood” them as a way of covering their tracks when they said something deeply offensive or inappropriate and it was not positively received.

          Any of these things is possible.

    4. Parakeet*

      Having been in a position that has some similarities to OP2’s, I’m not sure how much it matters if the coworker “feel[s] harmed.” People “feel harmed” over all sorts of nonsense (and in the situation I was in, the coworker was eventually let go because they pulled that with several different people over time and some were more assertive than I was in conveying to management that this wasn’t okay and that there was a pattern in this person’s behavior). If OP2 hasn’t done something discipline-worthy or safety-threatening, the coworker needs to knock it off. They don’t have to be friends, but the tension should not be noticeable by the rest of the office.

      1. Kara*

        That’s just the problem though. We don’t have enough information to say whether or not they did something discipline-worthy or safety-threatening. I was also (just, actually) in a similar situation to the OP but from the other side, and this letter is also very similar to how my person would have described our situation. OP probably doesn’t want to put enough information their letter to be identifiable, but in this case it makes offering advice nearly impossible since we don’t know what the actual problem was. Best I’ve got is to accept the boundary, work on their relationships with their other coworkers, and take Alison’s advice on learning to let their hurt feelings go. (That last is good life advice anyway!)

    5. OP2*

      OP2 here – the misunderstanding was that she felt I gave brief replies to some questions she asked about something in my personal life. I did apologize (a true apology – not a “sorry you felt that way”) and stated that was not my intent, I honestly do not remember being brief in my replies and I did not mean to be. The whole thing is so bizarre – we got along well before this and would occasionally talk through the day. I have tried to just talk about work and will say “I completed this” or “I have some time, can I help with yada yada”; I am not trying to force a personal relationship with her or force her to have conversations with me. This does have an impact on how well both of our jobs get done.

      1. An Honest Nudibranch*

        Okay ya, then that solidifies my opinion your coworker is probably being bananapants. I’d go to the supervisors with a heavy focus on “this is how it’s impacting my ability to do my job” – you’re probably not going to get her to be warm, but you certainly don’t deserve to be frozen out for not being detailed enough in response to personal questions.

      2. tangerineRose*

        Sounds like she’s the problem then. Even if you had answered briefly, what’s the big deal? She asked about something in your personal life; you don’t have to share about that if you don’t feel like it.

  8. Ellis Bell*

    OP2, I’m not going to get into the speculation of “well, what was the misunderstanding, then?” because your colleague has clearly thrown all their toys out of the pram and the silent treatment is ridiculous, passive aggressive, unprofessional and she should be on a warning because of it. If she has a legitimate complaint she should be direct and communicative. She doesn’t have to be warm, but she does have to be civil and not give you the cut direct; I’m surprised your managers have not been stern on this point. Even though her behavior is untenable, I do think it’s worth considering an apology (if you haven’t already) even though the issue is a misunderstanding. Think of it as apologizing for hitting someone behind you accidentally. If you’ve apologized and you’re being civil, you can hold your head up high. I think I would opt for the expectation-free cheerfulness I’d offer a sulky toddler. Document every single time she ignores you and whether it affects the work or the company atmosphere. Every time it’s a problem for you, it’s a problem for management. Keep it on the front burner. Good luck, this sounds tough but you look a lot better than her strategy is making her look.

    1. Harper the Other One*

      Yeah, this is where I land on it. All the speculation is unhelpful because in the end, Lisa needs to be professional and she isn’t. She doesn’t have to be friendly or warm, but she’s refusing to speak to OP about work matters and that is not acceptable.

      OP, one thing which may help is if you can build more of a relationship with one or mother of your other coworkers, maybe even someone in a different office. That would probably help reassure you and would give you another source for work info.

      But also, I second documentation. Every time Lisa will not engage on a work matter, not it down, and present it to your supervisor with a “what do I do about this?” Hopefully that will prompt them to take some meaningful action.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I think LW needs to be realistic about what management can do, though. They specifically mention Lisa laughing and joking with the others in the office: if Lisa is coolly professional with LW but laughing and joking with others, is that still going to make LW feel awful? Because management can’t compel Lisa to be anything *more* than cool and professional, and being cool and professional is in fact pretty much exactly the advice that Alison or anyone else would give Lisa if they felt that her grievance against LW was justified. If LW wants Lisa to treat them exactly the same way she treats everyone else, they probably need to reconfigure their expectations too.

      2. Sarah*

        Lisa is communicating, just by Slack. It appears that necessary work is being done (and documented already), but OP2 dislikes that Lisa will no longer engage with them all.

        1. op #2*

          This is not the case at all. I’m talking about something as basic as “I’m going to lunch”. We have to cover for each other and can’t go to lunch at the same time. She likes to do late lunch, so I go earlier. I say “I am going to lunch” and tell her when I’m back. When she leaves for lunch, she will walk past me and then send a slack message that she is going to lunch. I will say I am doing “X” task, she won’t acknowledge it. I don’t mind if she doesn’t want to talk about personal things, it’s work and I totally get that.

    2. Santiago*

      Shunning victims can never appease their tormenter, unfortunately. If this is something more mild than an apology may work, but if it is true shunning then the goal is to create a social dynamic where OP can never apologize enough and can always be hurt by the perpetrator, like a dog on a chain.

      The only way to survive is to ignore it and totally gray rock it, because the best revenge is moving on.

  9. bamcheeks*

    LW2, is it possible that what you are seeing as a simple miscommunication was actually seriously hurtful to Lisa, and the way that you are dismissing and minimising it is upsetting her further? There’s nothing in your email about what happened in the meeting with your supervisor and whether or not either of you was required to apologise, so I would thin over your actions and decide whether an apology is warranted. It could go some way to smooth things over.

    If you are sure you did nothing wrong but management declines to do anything to manage this situation more effectively, then it’s probably best to decide your management is bad at their job and go and look for a job elsewhere.

    1. GythaOgden*

      Just a heads-up — Alison already closed one thread about this. It’s not really fair on the LW and certainly not likely to make her actually answer or give more details if people are going to give her the third degree over it.

    2. Susan*

      I also understand why LWs often don’t want to provide more details. But here, I think, it would be helpful to ascertain that the “misunderstanding” was not something that gave the coworker reasons to distrust LW2. Otherwise, it might be understandable why she would want written receipts for future communications.

    3. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      I think people are getting into not believing the LW territory. “Misunderstanding” has a generally understood meaning and getting into speculations about serious offenses goes beyond what a misunderstanding is.

      1. Pink Candyfloss*

        However, we denizens of the internet are very used to people saying “it was a joke/misunderstanding/miscommunication” as a way to backpedal or softwash their own poor behavior, so when a word like that is used I think it’s an unfortunately normal reaction for some to look askance at that descriptor.

        1. Santiago*

          And victims of abuse are never believed because they don’t “act” a certain way or “say” the right thing. Death by the hypothetical.

    4. Observer*

      LW2, is it possible that what you are seeing as a simple miscommunication was actually seriously hurtful to Lisa, and the way that you are dismissing and minimising it is upsetting her further?

      People have given you some good responses to this.

      Beyond that at some level it really doesn’t matter. Because either way, management should be stepping in.

      Basically, management seems to be saying that the OP, their actions and reactions have been just *fine*, but also that Lisa’s behavior is *fine* too, even though they admit that it’s uncomfortable. That makes no sense.

  10. E*

    I read #4 differently — was OP worried about not badmouthing the vendor, but saying that current employer had experienced a security breach w private info? Even if it was the vendor’s fault, it might not look great for current employer.

    Still, I think the advice stands

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I don’t see that. Even if that were the case, it wouldn’t be a secret and having someone that knows how to handle that would be a positive.

  11. Ink*

    LW2, I wonder if delving into your feelings about the *misunderstanding* might help you put it in the “Lisa’s gonna Lisa” category and detach some of the control you’re letting her have over your inner feelings? Did her view of you contradict something you feel proud of or reinforce an insecurity, did it give her a view of you contrary to your actual values, did she manage to communicate her side in the meeting with your supervisor in a way that fell into the exact cadence of a teacher who bullied you when you were 8, etc. Being misunderstood can suck as much as being disliked, but sometimes it’s a different route to disentangle that and having personal clarity on both halves of the problem might help you let more of her behavior roll off you

  12. JSPA*

    OP4 and OP5: the goal is to emphasize, insofar as possible, how you were involved in collaboration to make things better for all concerned.

    In particular, OP4, even if you have been closed-mouthed, it’s possible that your constructive complaints / feedback and your workarounds have been mentioned by others who owe you a debt of gratitude. Heck, it’s even possible that they eventually filtered back up to the vendor, such that you de facto helped them to make the improvements; it’s even at least remotely possible that someone competent at the vendor is grateful to you and your company for taking a hard line.

    I think you can say, “I detected a HPAA-violating problem within [x] days of launch, helped to correctly assess the risk, and immediately briefed management. This allowed us to to flag the problem to the vendor, while management showed their trust in me and my analysis by blocking use of the product while I rushed to prepare a robust, HPAA-compliant patch, all without disrupting client services. I then continued to patch and troubleshoot for the next 2 months, until the company released their own patched version of the software, which we are gratefully using. While I have never worked for [vendor], I think it’s fair to say that I have not only used and supported use of their product, but actually know aspects of the software as well as some of their own engineers do. It’s likely that many companies using the software had somebody in-house who played an equivalent role–but I’m proud to have been that person, at [old job name].”

    OP5, same sort of thing: “I approached stewardship as a combination of customer satisfaction and compliance education. As a result, [x] of [y] complaints were successfully handled by finding and explaining applicable rules and regulations to the complainant. Of the remainder, [x’] of [y’] required more in-depth advocacy, leading [in all but z cases] to findings in support of my and the claimant’s position, and words of thanks from the administration–who had no wish to be out of legal compliance–as well as the complainant.”

  13. Clare*

    LW2, have you heard of apology languages? There’s a lot of rubbish that comes with most discussions of them, but the general principle is sound. Different people apologise in different ways. So you might have apologised for hurting her feelings in the way that makes most sense to you, but she may not have heard it as an apology.

    For example: if you apologised by explaining how you won’t put your foot in your mouth that way ever again, but she expects an apology to be a request for forgiveness, she might not even feel like you’ve apologised at all!

    This theory would gel with the fact that your supervisors are on your side. In this scenario, they heard your apology, so they’re as confused as you are. What does she expect, grovelling?! But from her point of view, she hasn’t even heard a single apology yet. Is that really so much to ask?!

    If this idea sounds plausible to you, you might have luck speaking to some of your co-workers and asking them what they think her apology language might be. Or you could attempt to craft a brief second apology covering all styles except your usual and see if that lands better with her.

    Good luck, I hope it all works out OK for you in the end!

    1. Selena81*

      That sounds like a good suggestion. If there are any cultural differences the idea of a misunderstanding on top of a misunderstanding makes even more sense
      (btw: not all cultural differences will be clearly visible and that can make things even more confusing because you might not expect someone to have a wildly different outlook)

    2. Doc McCracken*

      To add to this very excellent advice, you may find it helpful to reach out to someone who has been around your coworker much longer than you for advice on apologizing. Ask for help not in a gossipy way, but with genuine intentions. Also, this strategy might help you if there is missing context you aren’t privy too. Consider carefully who you ask though. This is not really the assignment for the office busybody. Look more for the person who really runs things behind the scenes. (Every organization has an executive assistant, usually named Peggy for some reason, who without that person, the entire place would crash and burn!)

    3. HonorBox*

      I agree with what you’re saying. People apologize and accept apologies differently. That is very true. That said, it is important for a person receiving an apology to have some understanding of where the person apologizing is coming from. Management has stepped in and is supportive of LW2. Lisa needs to be at least understanding of where LW2 is coming from and figure out how to move forward professionally.

    4. Smithy*

      This is so well put. I also think that workplace frustrations can easily grow based on a lot of issues that genuinely aren’t really about you, but where you are that straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back.

      So if the offense at hand is someone who asks for all requests to come in with 48 hours notice, but everyone knows that if its an emergency you *can* ask with less time. However, this coworker now finds that every issue ends up being an “emergency” and the OP was just that last person to make a request in less than 48 hours. Maybe an actual emergency. Maybe they were just told me make the request and hadn’t been told about that preference for the 48 hour notice. But when they made the ask, they didn’t apologize for the short notice, because they did know that context. And this person has just had one too many last-minute requests and is at the end of their rope.

      This type of situation happens so often at work where the final culprit is just indicative of a much larger pattern. Particularly when bosses aren’t open to looking at larger systemic issues and prefer to deal with one-off issues. So now a person who had been dealing with a legit professional issue, is lashing out unprofessionally at one person not responsible for that larger issue.

      So the apology may need to stand in for that loss of professional respect or frustration that the OP represents but is not responsible for. I get why the OP does not feel responsible or at fault for this, but giving someone the apology they want (within reason) is a huge part of actually mending fences.

    5. Ann*

      That’s assuming there is something to apologize for. It’s possible there isn’t. I am speculating of course, like all of us here, but I went through several years in my personal life where I was accused of horrible things daily. I was definitely not doing any of them, and the person doing the accusing had poorly treated mental illness.

  14. A Reader*

    #3 jogged my memory about a lingering to-do list item and I’d like input from you all! For #3–following up months after speaking with someone–does the answer change if you are sending a source the other person asked you to send them (something useful for their research), basically doing *them* a favor, and you hadn’t met them previously? In both cases, I suggested that a particular body of research/set of cases might be relevant when I made a comment during a talk at a June 2023 conference. Both presenters asked me to follow up and send info afterwards. For both requests, I did a quick search after the talk, and the answer wasn’t straightforward and looked like it would require more research than I initially anticipated, so I didn’t send anything right away, and the reminder to follow up slipped down my to-do list. Both presenters are more experienced/advanced at their companies than I am. One was asking for a workshop they are leading this fall. What do you think–should I still send, or drop it?

    1. Not Australian*

      I would still send it, with a quick explanation that the process had turned out to be more complicated than you originally imagined: that way, you’re doing what you promised to do – and also indicating that you took the matter seriously enough to do it properly.

      1. Selena81*

        tbh I think it sounds stalker-ish, especially if you say it was a lot of work: that might come of like you’ve spend the last few months painstakingly researching this while they barely know who you are.
        They may never have expected a follow-up anyway, just saying ‘can you please send that and I will look at it’ out of politeness.

        If you still need to do the research my advice would be to completely drop it. Make a mental note that next time you do this kind of research straight away (even if they only asked out of politeness it is a chance to impress them).
        If you already did the research my advice is still to drop it. If you nevertheless want to send it you should downplay the effort (‘i stumbled onto this and it reminded me of your inspiring talk’)

        1. Fierce Jindo*

          This is different in academia, where everything takes a long time. I’ve often gotten follow-ups months after the fact and it’s a nice surprise if they’re sending along something useful.

        2. Jackalope*

          I’m not seeing the stalker angle here. Someone asked for information, you said you’d try to provide it, and now you are. It’s not like you’re haunting them in the staff room every day saying you’re still working on it and following them to their office. You’re closing the loop, a bit late to be sure, but giving them information *they asked you for*.

          1. Myrin*

            Completely agree, and I’m honestly a bit taken aback someone would liken “providing information someone asked for, even delayed” to “stalking”.

            I’ve found that my type of work has a surprising amount of people contacting me once and then, once I gave them the information they need, never sending any kind of acknowledgement at all, so maybe I’m just coming at this from a different angle. But I’d have assumed that that most people’s reaction to “this person I asked for information a few months ago now sent me that information (and possibly in an even more detailed fashion than I’d anticipated)” would be “cool, the information I asked for!”, not “ew, they spent time and thoughts on this, what a stalker!”.

    2. Amey*

      I’ve been in a similar situation before and I would just be fairly honest! ‘Apologies for the long delay, this turned out to be a bit more complicated than I originally thought and it then slipped my mind. Sending it through now in case it’s still useful!’

      I’ve both done this and had this from others and always appreciated the fact that they remembered and got in touch even if it was too late.

    3. I should really pick a name*

      That feels like a completely different situation.

      For LW3, sending on a resume is essentially asking the person to do something for you.
      In your situation, you are doing something for them.

      In your situation, I would send it, but in the future, I’d suggest reaching out to them when you learn that it’s going to be significantly more work than expected.

    4. My own boss*

      It’s totally up to you, but I would probably send it. And I’d say something almost exactly like how you framed it here (but you know your audience better than me.) Fields and contexts vary, but IMO there’s nothing to be lost in being human with people.

  15. AusLibrarian*

    LW3, some years back a colleague started pointedly ignoring me. She’d come into the office and say hi to everyone, and walk past me without any acknowledgement, things like that. Literally, she said not one word to me in 3 months, unless at a meeting where management could have observed the behaviour. I’m pretty sensitive, and reading your letter I was thinking about why I was completely unbothered by this behaviour from her, where normally it would have upset me. Because I knew she was petty, passive aggressive, and generally miserable, it’s like Alison said – I knew it was a her problem, and in my head that was how I framed it, which meant it didn’t upset me (I actually felt sorry for her, while not wanting to get dragged into the drama she liked to create).

    You need to own your part of the misunderstanding, but you don’t need to own hers too – and that’s where reframing comes in. Hope things settle down for you soon!

  16. Boat*

    LW2: I’ve been having a situation like this recently. Sulky, silent treatment from a colleague with whom I used to be ‘work friends’, and no explanation as to why. While I’m still expending more mental energy on it than I’d like, I can also attest that ‘it gets better’: over time, I’ve become much less affected by their behavior than I used to be. I’ve come to realize that it isn’t my job to solve the mystery of why they’re behaving that way, or to come up with a solution. They need to come to terms with their unprofessional behavior themselves, or not, but either way it’s their responsibility. All I can do is remain professional.

    1. Caraway*

      This is where I land, too. I was in a similar situation once with a colleague who worked in the same small office (about 8-10 people) of a larger organization (300 people). One day I came in as usual, said hi to everyone, and my colleague didn’t respond. She is fairly prickly on a good day, so I chalked it up to Jane being Jane and went about my business. Over the course of the day/week, it became clear that it was only me she was ignoring. Her silent treatment ended up lasting several months, and to this day I have no idea why. It really bothered me at first – I am friendly and easy to get along with! It’s completely possible I said or did something that upset her, but I had absolutely no idea what and neither did anyone else in the office I spoke to about it. I continued to act as normally, professionally, and friendly as I could with everyone, even her, and after a while it even became (privately) funny to me to see the lengths Jane had to go to in order to avoid acknowledging me, the person sitting two desks away. Eventually she started treating me normally again, it’s been 10 years or more and we both have gone on to different jobs in the organization, and I still have no idea what she was upset about.

      All of this to say, I understand being upset, LW2, and it sucks your supervisors aren’t doing anything about this situation, but I’d recommend keeping your behavior impeccably professional and it will be clear where the problem lies. Eventually Lisa will either get over it or not, but that’s not within your control.

  17. bamcheeks*

    LW4 (and LW5, if you decide the benefits of talking about union stewarding outweigh the risks), do PRACTISE your interview answers. This is really helpful for anything you want to talk about at interview which feels like it might stray into “dangerous” territory, whether it’s a situation where you need to be careful of confidentiality, or something you might get emotional or upset about, or something like this where you’re concerned about badmouthing a vendor (or acknowledging that your employer had a HIPAA violation, if that’s the concern.). You need to actually workshop your story until you’ve figured out what to include and what to exclude, and got it into a solid, positive work experience that demonstrates your knowledge and skills and the benefit you provided to your employer without any negativity, hesitation, stumbling etc. (it’s usually ok if you actually signpost this with, “I don’t want to get into this side of it too much for confidentiality reasons, but here’s what I can say..”

    It’s super easy when you’re in an interview to find yourself saying more than you meant to, so don’t rely on yourself naturally being able to tell the story effectively in an interview. Workshop it a bit, and practise it out loud— ask a friend to be your interviewer, or practice on the cat if you don’t want to ask a friend. But do practice! It makes it so much easier when you’ve rehearsed the story a couple of times and you’ve got all the major milestones in place and you don’t have to hesitate or edit on the fly in the interview.

    1. LW4*

      Thanks, it probably seems obvious to a lot of people but I need to hear it. It’s been 3 years since I’ve even done a phone screen. But, in a twist, I kind of think I already did this interview when the hiring manager called me to schedule an interview with the hiring committee last week. It was on short notice, but I think I did well (well enough that a second meeting was added for this week, I think with someone who would be discussing the particulars of an offer). I kind of want to slow them down if anything, I’m on vacation and want to discuss with my current job before accepting an offer.

  18. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

    Re #3 and being slow to send some information – Alison said: “unless they had a compelling explanation once they resurfaced; if they’d been hospitalized or stuck in a well or similar, that would change things” – here in Australia, stuck in a mineshaft would be more the go, we have lots of them.

  19. LifeBeforeCorona*

    LW2 Your managers need to intervene with Lisa. By refusing to communicate with you she is affecting the whole team/office. If you’re all in the same room and Lisa is the only one using Slack then she’s adding an extra burden on everyone else. She’s drawing other people into her dynamic with you, at this point other people must be aware of her ignoring you. Whatever the reason, everyone can see that Lisa cannot be civil to her co-workers.

  20. Slack off*

    So much of the drama in LW2’s office, and in any other office, can be eliminated by getting rid of Slack. The app is a massive time waster and discourages people from actually talking.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      Can you clarify how Slack is the source of the problem in LW2’s situation?

      1. Slack Off*

        Can you clarify how Slack is the source of the problem in LW2’s situation?

        Slack is at least a contributing factor in three ways.

        1. The situation initially arose because of a “misunderstanding” on Slack.

        Misunderstandings can occur in all forms of communication, of course, but they are less likely to occur in face-to-face meetings, or in verbal communication, because humans use all kinds of non-verbal cues to attenuate meaning. If you’re being sarcastic in a face-to-face meeting, a raised eyebrow can clue the recipient into that fact. In written communication, the lack of visual cues can cause the recipient to take the sarcasm literally.

        This problem is quite literally why emojis were invented. (“Gasp!” says Peanut Hamper. “The luddite knows what an emoji is?”) They were meant to signal when a writer intends a statement humorously, rather than literally.

        I wager that virtually anyone can cite an example of misunderstandings arising in e-mail, which a simple phone call then resolve. But the problem is compounded when we’re talking about short-form messages such as texts and IMs. Texts and IMs may work for very short, simple communications (“I’m running late”) but catalyze misunderstandings when your message is more complex. They’re not known for nuance.

        So yes, I can easily see why Slack contributed to the misunderstanding. True, as hashed out at length above, we can only speculate as to what the misunderstanding was; but the theory is plausible.

        2. Slack is facilitating Lisa’s refusal to communicate with LW2 in any form other than short notes. Yes, co-workers may have given each other the silent treatment since the days of Bob Cratchit. But Slack normalizes communication via short, brusque notes. Passing notes was abnormal back in Victorian England or whenever. It is not abnormal now; IMs are a thing. Too many people are afraid of picking up the phone. So a reasonable observer can ask LW2, “whatcha complaining about? *Everyone* communicates using Slack, so what exactly is Lisa doing wrong?”

        3. Also, Lisa has told LW2 that “she will only talk to me about work from now on.” She may not be particularly sociable, and that indeed can — and should — have social consequences for her. But Lisa is, ultimately, not obligated to talk with LW2 about non-work matters.

        This leads me to the third criticism of Slack: social media encourages cliquish behavior by its very nature. Frankly, I think that statement is uncontroversial. We see people being rude and brusque to each other on social media in a way that they never would behave face-to-face. We see increasingly compelling evidence that social media has increased social anxiety among teenagers. We see increasingly compelling evidence that it has contributed to political polarization.

        Is anyone *really* surprised that it fosters a “mean girl syndrome” atmosphere in the workplace?

        1. Slack Off*

          Incidentally, for the benefit of Peanut Hamper below: this doesn’t mean I hate social media. I’m actually quite prolific on X, myself. But I would not introduce Slack into any company I founded.

          1. Expelliarmus*

            The only mention of Slack is that Lisa only communicates with the LW using Slack, even when LW is only 2 seats away. There is no evidence that the misunderstanding stemmed from anything on Slack.

            But even if it did, this could have happened on any IM platform? Are you saying IM should be completely expunged from the office? Because that’s just not practical. Especially because some IM software (ex. Microsoft Teams) also facilitates video/audio chat or group forums about company matters.

          2. I Have RBF*

            Huh? Slack is a perfectly fine IM platform for teams to use in a work context.

            As someone who needs to have stuff written down or I literally won’t remember it, Slack is an excellent way to get that written stuff.

            What is a problem is when people don’t know how to communicate in a chat environment. Stuff you would say in person doesn’t always go over well in chat.

        2. I should really pick a name*

          1. I don’t see anywhere in the letter that the misunderstanding happened over Slack.

          2/3. I guess I’m still not clear why specifically Slack is the problem. This could have happened with Teams or any other IM platform. So perhaps your concern is IM in general?

          1. Slack Off*

            I don’t see anywhere in the letter that the misunderstanding happened over Slack.

            You’re correct. I thought that LW2 said that the misunderstanding itself arose on Slack, but I either misread it or was otherwise wrong. We don’t know how it arose.

            2/3. I guess I’m still not clear why specifically Slack is the problem. This could have happened with Teams or any other IM platform.

            Well, yes, that is true. I guess my impression is that Slack,at least *in practice*, tends to have more “social” channels, whereas Teams is more oriented stick-to-the-knitting work matters. In that sense, Teams is more a replacement for Zoom than Slack. Perhaps that’s incorrect and merely a function of how organizations I have been involved with use Teams.

            I will say that I have never been a part of, or invested in, any organization where I see Slack adding value. As I say, it is mostly a distractor and time-waster.

            To my discussion of Slack above, I would also add a fourth objection to Slack: instant messaging involves frequent interruptions and precludes deep thought and “deep work.” An author by the name of David Goldsmith (and he’s far from the only one) has published a fascinating book called PAID TO THINK, which makes a very compelling case that successful organizations need to devote time to deep thought.

            We know from psychological research that it can take around 30 minutes for workers to refocus when they get interrupted; instant messaging involves interruption, after interruption, after interruption. People need to turn it off more, and I suspect a lot of the affinity for remote work (“I get so much more done at home”) is precisely because people find it easier to put a “do not disturb” status on at home. But of course, the problem isn’t so much presence in the office as it is over-reliance on instant messaging.

            1. Jojo*

              “People need to turn it off more, and I suspect a lot of the affinity for remote work (“I get so much more done at home”) is precisely because people find it easier to put a “do not disturb” status on at home.”

              Sorry but this a bonkers and baseless assertion.

    2. JSPA*

      This is not the time and place to grind an “anti-slack” axe.

      Slack happens to be the channel the mysteriously aggrieved coworker is using, but the essential situation would be no different if it were email, SMS, signal flags or morse code, instead.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        I can see some types of “I am not talking to you” people leaving notes, or passing messages through others.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Yep. People pulled this kind of thing long before Slack (or even email!) existed.

          Slack isn’t causing the problem. It’s just the tool being used to further the problem.

          1. Slack Off*

            People pulled this kind of thing long before Slack (or even email!) existed.

            Of course they did; this response is a strawman, since I never claimed otherwise.

            But the point is that Slack is compounding the behavior.

            Denying this is like saying, “fentanyl isn’t a problem; people abused drugs long before fentanyl ever existed!”

            1. kalli*

              Fentanyl isn’t the problem; the pharma companies and the people saying “fentanyl is the problem” are the problem.

              Now that we’ve successfully been derailed, I implore everyone in these comments to only communicate with you via sign.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Comparing Slack to fentayl is extremely strange!

              And Slack is no more a problem than IM would be, or than email would be, or mimeographed memos before that. This is a really odd take.

              Move on, please.

        2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          Slack is preventing the coworker from walking over with post it notes or conscripting others into this “tell OP I need XYZ” so it’s helping in this case.

      2. Slack Off*

        This is not the time and place to grind an “anti-slack” axe.

        Um, if Slack is turbocharging the problem, why not?

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          We don’t use Slack at work, but my understanding is that it is like an IM/team chat combo? I do not see it contributing to the problem whatsoever. If OP’s office didn’t have Slack, wouldn’t Lisa just email the work notes to OP, and then what? let’s get rid of the email? And if there weren’t any way to send notes to OP at all, wouldn’t Lisa just never communicate with OP, which would mean everyone’s work would suffer? Really not sure what Slack has to do with all this.

    3. Seashell*

      We don’t use Slack, but we use instant messaging at work because coworkers are in different locations, whether at home or in different offices. It may not be possible to just get rid of that option.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Yeah, but Slack really isn’t the actual problem here. The issue is the tension between the two colleagues, not the method of contact. I’m absolutely sure if they were using semaphore or cave paintings there’d be some pointed messages or passive aggressiveness.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      I can flat out guarantee that if Slack was removed from every workplace device today, OP2’s coworker would find a way to not talk to her. Post-its, for example.

      (Pause so we can go down “What if you took away every medium that could be used for physical or digital writing, then people would start talking!”)

    5. AbruptPenguin*

      This is a weird take. My company would grind to a halt without Slack; it’s a major communication tool for us. The problem in LW2’s office is that management needs to manage instead of helplessly wringing their hands.

        1. Expelliarmus*

          Look, I agree that Peanut Hamper calling you a luddite is very reductive, but you’re not being much better at the moment. Even after it’s been proven that Slack is not part of what started the issue between LW and Lisa in the first place, you have continued to rail against Slack nonetheless. While Slack admittedly isn’t perfect, the issues that you have with it are available in other IM platforms too, so banning those platforms from the workplace just isn’t practical. And even if it was, it wouldn’t solve the issue of Lisa not talking to LW; she would just find someone or something else to be her intermediary so that she would not have to directly speak to LW.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            So, Slack Off already overreacted to one of my comments, but I will try again.

            The reason why Slack (which I have never even used!) isn’t the problem here is because anyone who has worked with a Lisa before chat software was widely used in the workplace has experienced how they operate. And they find ways to avoid direct communication, even in places with no computers or digital devices at all.

            Slack didn’t invent passive aggression. And it is no more to blame for this behavior than Post-It notes, anonymous signs left in kitchens, or the poor person who gets tasked with delivering messages for the PA person.

            And, while I don’t use Slack, I have found that thoughtful use of chat functions can help a team work together, especially if they are physically remote from one another.

        2. fhqwhgads*

          Your entire premise is a straw man. People can use slack productively or by wasting time. People can use email productively or by wasting time. People can have productive phone calls or waste time.
          The issue in the letter is Management is doing fuck all to resolve the situation.
          They shouldn’t sympathize with OP but do nothing to remedy the situation when they literally have the authority to stop it. If Lisa and OP both still work there they both need to be civil to each other. Lisa’s not being civil. They don’t seem to be telling her she needs to. If OP weren’t being civil, they’d need to tell OP that.
          Presence or absence of slack has no bearing on any of it.

  21. K*

    I think the fact that OP number 2 doesn’t explain at all what the misunderstanding was makes this hard to actually understand. The nature of the misunderstanding really matters and will change how everyone involved should have responded.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      How would it change your advice though, to hear the nature of the misunderstanding? Even if OP needs to apologise further, or needs to take the original misunderstanding more seriously, she has an uncommunicative colleague who is not interested in resolution. OP was not even told the reason for her colleague’s feelings of offence originally.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        I think it could change the advice – if the OP did something seriously wrong they should sincerely apologize and that might thaw the relationship. If OP is just viewing it as a minor misunderstanding and it’s more than that, that could be relevant

        Either way though, it’s speculation so there could be an infinite number of possibilities so I get why we shouldn’t do it.

      2. bamcheeks*

        I don’t think you know for sure that Lisa is uninterested in a resolution: nowhere does LW say they’ve *tried* to resolve it. They’ve been very passive about the whole thing: first they ignored it, then they were required to meet with Lisa and their supervisor. They don’t say they’ve actively tried to resolve things and that Lisa has rebuffed them. That is certainly an avenue LW could consider if they haven’t already.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Alison really needs to put a blue box up to stop people speculating. She shut down one thread up top not that long after she posted the thread, and interrogating OP is just not going to get us any specific answers.

          1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

            No one is interrogating the OP, they are just trying to explain why the OP’s lack of information on the nature of the misunderstanding makes it hard to give any useful advice.

          1. bamcheeks*

            Right, it’s not a criticism, it’s just an observation. And it was a completely legitimate thing to do in the first instance. But when the situation continued and escalated, taking a more direct approach was an option, and it’s one that is still open to LW.

            1. Ellis Bell*

              Ah, I see. Yeah, I was thinking something similar actually. Something like when a Slack message comes through, turning around and responding to Lisa verbally and just letting her deal with that. Or, just calling it out in the moment like: “Are you actually not responding to me right now?” or “I need an answer, actually Lisa”. Then, documenting any unprofessional rudeness in response to perfectly proper and assertive professionalism. I do think this type of overt exclusion when people employ the silent treatment is supposed to make you into an egg shell treader and just stamping on those egg shells instead and being direct is definitely an option. I think it may depend on wider context with OP being very new though? There’s also certainly room to just continue shrugging and giving her a lot of rope, too.

      3. An Honest Nudibranch*

        It would change how I suggest LW 2 talk about the situation to their manager and to whether/how they should approach Lisa. “‘Misunderstanding’ as in ‘disproportionate intensity of normal workplace low-consequence error’,” “‘Misunderstanding’ as in ‘Lisa had reason to believe she was unsafe or harmed but her information was inaccurate’,” and “‘Misunderstanding’ as in ‘LW caused genuine harm, but unintentionally due to inaccurate information on their part’” are scenarios that require pretty different resolution etiquette. (I do think Lisa’s behavior is inappropriate *regardless* of what the nature of the misunderstanding was, you can’t just freeze out coworkers – but LW 2 is the one writing in for advice, and LW 2 only has direct control over their own behavior).

        Like as an example, if it was the second scenario, I would recommend LW 2 clarify with their supervisors if there are any discrepancies in *facts* between what they and Lisa are saying. As in, if the misunderstanding is something along the lines of “Lisa thinks I did X (but I did not),” make sure the supervisors both know this and that LW2 understands X would be wrong. And potentially make *one* attempt to talk to Lisa – “hey, I would also be upset if I thought someone did X, but you might be missing information that what was happening was Y” can go a long way.

        But that advice wouldn’t work at all, and would likely exacerbate the issue, if the misunderstanding was something like “Lisa is deeply wounded I used the blue stapler when the office *knows* that is her stapler” (because the script is reinforcing that her reaction is proportionate) or “Lisa found something I said deeply offensive or unsafe, and I did indeed say the thing in question” (because the above script would be interpreted as a non-apology and likely intensify her belief that you don’t take the issue seriously). So ya, the nature of the misunderstanding makes a difference.

        It makes a difference whether Lisa is framing this to supervisors as “I just don’t like OP and fail to see how deliberately refusing to talk to them and active exclusion is different from ‘don’t have to be friends,’” or as “I feel actively unsafe around OP and want to make sure we’re interacting in a way that has a written record.” Mostly because talking to supervisors about feeling alienated due to Lisa’s silent treatment will come across pretty differently depending on which of those it is. But either way it’s worth telling your supervisors if there’s any work-essential communication that’s getting stifled through this.

        But all that said, I do feel kinda bad for LW 2! I can fully understand why someone might not want to give details about a misunderstanding for dissection by an Internet forum. And I can also understand why someone wouldn’t predict the alarm bells that can go off in the heads of anyone who has dealt with “misunderstanding” being used as a way to deflect from bad behavior before. But in this case, I unfortunately think advice people can give is pretty limited in usefulness without more details.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      The management knows what the misunderstanding was, and there were no negative consequences for OP from them. This is all I need to know. I don’t need the details.

  22. Not your typical admin*

    LW 2 – I think the first thing you should do is apologize for anything you’ve done that was wrong or hurtful, even if it wasn’t intentional. Then the two of you need to figure out how to move forward and work together. If I were your manager, I would talk to Lisa and tell her while she doesn’t have to be buddies, or socialize with you; she can’t ice you out. Then I would insist on the two of you meeting and talking to figure out how to work together.

    1. Scarlet Ribbons in her Hair*

      I don’t know about that, “apologize for anything you’ve done that was wrong or hurtful, even if it wasn’t intentional.” I once had a co-worker give me the silent treatment for years, because of something hurtful that I did, even though it wasn’t intentional, and I never apologized, and I still think that I was in the right for not apologizing. What I did was arrive at work early every day.

      Both of us lived in New Jersey nowhere near each other, but we both took a bus to New York that went north on the NJ Turnpike and then through the Lincoln Tunnel. She was always late, complaining that there was a traffic accident either on the turnpike or in the tunnel. Her supervisor would tell her that I managed to get in on time, so why couldn’t she? She finally decided that the best thing to do was NOT to try to get in on time, but to pretend that I didn’t exist. Because if I didn’t work at that company, her supervisor would have had no choice but to believe her whenever she complained about her bus being delayed because of a traffic accident.

      So I did something hurtful (showing up early every day) that certainly wasn’t intentionally directed at her (even before she started to work at that company, I always got in early), but it never occurred to me to apologize to her. Looking back, I still don’t see that I should have apologized to her.

      1. Slack off*

        That’s a very bizarre definition of “doing something hurtful.” The act of showing up early isn’t inherently hurtful. There’s no cause-and-effect relationship.

  23. Thatoneoverthere*

    #1- I don’t think you’re under any obligation to do this, but would it help to explain to him, that if gets laid off he will likely get severance and be eligible for unemployment? Getting laid off isn’t necessarily the worst thing on earth to happen to someone. I am not saying its great or anything, but there often things in place so you’re not left high and dry.

    Again I don’t think its your obligation to say this to him or keep hearing how worried he is all the time. But if you think it might help, maybe it might be worth it. Also if you company has an EAP, maybe direct towards that. They may have therapy, career services or something to help him in the mean time.

    1. misquoted*

      I had this thought, too (remind him that there will likely be severance and unemployment, etc.), along with others:
      1. When my company went announce coming layoffs, my team got onto a Zoom call and talked about our fears and what we’d heard. We vented and gave advice and got it all out of our systems. My period of not knowing lasted about 36 hours, though, and LW1 seems to have been dealing with this for a long time! Which leads me to…
      2. That’s bad management, in my opinion. Announcing possibly layoffs with no real action or information just puts employees into a tailspin, raises stress, lowers morale and productivity, and leads to attrition on top of the RIF.
      3. The concept of “comfort in, dump out” (Ring Theory: should be in play here — don’t unload your stress onto someone closer to or the same distance from the stressor!

      1. urbosa_wife*

        Echoing your second point!! My company laid off a significant chunk of people both during the summer last year and this past winter, and the second round was preceded by months of rumors that were not confirmed by the company until day of. As much as I hated the rumors (as they led to behavior like OP2 is experiencing), I can’t imagine what it would have been like if the company outright said there were going to be layoffs – probably a lot of people jumping ship ahead of time!

  24. Falling Diphthong*

    Re #3, hoping someone with better google-fu can find the link here or at Captain Awkward:

    Within the last few years Captain Awkward passed on advice from someone who is like a sorting hat for getting organized. Specifically, recognizing that the things that worked for one person didn’t for other people, and so having a bunch of markedly different approaches. (I think this was in the context of working with ADHD.) I remember it being mentioned here on the comments for a relevant letter, and several people chimed in that they had used this person’s system for figuring out how to get their specific brain to cooperate in being more organized, and it had been really helpful.

    You’re in a career field where having a current resume (or several versions) on hand is important to your career progress, so finding a way to make those exist would ultimately be more useful than having a variety of honed “Sorry it’s been several months….” cover emails.

  25. Gaia Madre*

    For #1, if a clear request doesn’t get your anxious coworker to knock it off, say (in a flat tone) “I’m not responsible for your anxiety” followed by “I can’t be held responsible for your anxiety” if he persists, again using a flat tone. This is what he’s doing and you need it to stop.

    1. Seashell*

      If someone said that to me, I would think they were odd and probably wouldn’t know what they were talking about. Complaining to someone doesn’t mean they’re responsible for whatever you’re complaining about. Usually, it’s just venting. “I’d rather not listen to any complaining” might make more sense.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I think GM is saying when a straight forward, “I’d rather not listen…” doesn’t work to go kind of gray rock.
        Someone in cyclical catastrophizing may not register a polite request at all. He may not be hearing OP. I’d definitely spell it out, “please stop venting to me about this.”
        But if coworker still isn’t registering the words OP says, he may register the physical change GM is talking about. It might be enough to to stop the cycle long enough to get through that OP is done with this ride and would like to get off now, thanks.

      2. Silver Robin*

        Eh, venting to someone is a request that they be there for you while you vent. You are roping someone into how you regulate your emotions. Coregulation is great! Nothing against that. But the underlying thing is that now another person is involved. Hence, “I am not responsible for your anxiety” goes for the core request and refuses it: I do not want to be part of your coregulation; I do not want to help you manage this.

        Saying that does require that the other person realize all of that, which seems unlikely, so I doubt using that phrasing would be ultimately useful here. Coworker would probably just get more upset/confused by that than “I do not want to talk about it. Stop talking to me about it. Why are you still doing this when I already asked you to stop.” This might still upset them, but at least it is very clear.

  26. PannaLisenka*

    I am on the spectrum, so if my take is unusual please tell me – but why do you care so much, LW #2? Unless that person is on charge of you or can in any way influence your state of employment you can just completely ignore her and her behavior; she now communicates with you in writing exclusively? Great, less space for “s/he said, s/he said” in case anything goes down.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      This is the purest of speculation. Perhaps LW2 is used to being part of the in-crowd and now it is obvious not, I’m sure that it hurts. Even if you are used to being the outsider, when you are the only person NOT being talked to, laughed with, sharing pictures, it does ache a bit.

      I agree that communication by writing is a good, and in fact, one of my favorites as well.

    2. Jackalope*

      It can be very painful and embarrassing to be the one person getting deliberately snubbed in a group like that, especially if it’s ongoing.

    3. Silver Robin*

      some people really value having pleasant relationships at work (I am one!). It means OP is being left out of creating relationships: a coworker who has been around longer has enough social capital to have nice conversations with everyone else while excluding OP. OP is now explicitly or implicitly someone on the edge and that reduces their opportunities to build positive relationships with other coworkers. Literally, less time because now they cannot join conversations where Cold Shoulder is involved and more diffusely because lots of people (usually subconsciously) pick up on and reflect back social dynamics they see, so coworkers might be slightly less willing to befriend OP at work.

      And, in general, when something is obviously targeted at you, personally, it is hard not to take it personally. It sucks to experience somebody deliberately being mean. Involving other people in the meanness hurts that much more because it adds a bit of publicity (I assume it is obvious to everyone that OP is getting deliberately excluded; if it is not obvious, OP likely feels that it is because it is so obvious to them).

    4. Ann*

      Hopefully you’ve never received the silent treatment for any length of time. It does create a lot of psychological pressure for the recipient. You’d think that it’s easy to tune out someone who is just not talking to you in the same room, but it’s surprisingly hard if they’re not talking to you intentionally in a situation where at least a few words would be exchanged.

      1. PannaLisenka*

        Oh, I did. And I agree it hurts when someone with whom you have a relationship you actively invest into does that, that is plainly horrible. But I really just cannot picture myself being hurt by the fact that someone so insignificant emotionally is giving me silent (literally, since Lisa still uses writing to communicate) treatment. It feels akin to stressing over the fact that a stranger on the bus who has no influence over my life might not like my outfit. Like I said, this might be because of me being neuroatypical, but this situation boils down from my POV to „this person is now producing text instead of speech, and will pass on vital info via Slack, so I can still do my job without much hindrance and there is pretty much nothing to see here apart from the weirdo who refuses to speak and makes a fool of themselves”.

        1. Silver Robin*

          but coworker is *not* talking to OP in any way at all any more.

          and OP *did* invest in the relationship prior, and it seems to be a workplace that encourages more social relationships (coworker is friendly and laughing with others).

          so both of your stipulations: communication continuing and an invested relationship now turning ice cold are met.

          It takes a lot of emotional work for some people to get to “huh, what a bizarre behavior that has nothing to do with me”. OP is not there, for reasonable reasons.

    5. Starbuck*

      Well, we’re social animals, most people are going to be sensitive to rejection from the group; it’s a matter of survival after all.

      If it was just Lisa, many people probably could shake it off, if they had at least a few other work buddies or if the office as a whole wasn’t following Lisa’s lead (which the LW didn’t really tell us either way – does the rest of the office react as if Lisa is behaving strangely/rudely, or do they just go along?). But the LW says it’s a small office – if she doesn’t have any other peers on her side and perhaps doesn’t have a strong social life outside of work it’s going to feel like a much bigger deal.

  27. 15 Pieces of Flair*

    LW5 – Consider the role, employer, and hiring manager (if known) and decide whether to include your union activity on a case by case basis. Like political activities, which also build transferable “soft skills”, some managers and employers are highly biased against union participation.

    My first career was in politics and included a role as a union organizer for a very aggressive local. Fast forward a decade and I’m now a second level manager at a Fortune 500 tech company. I’ve always wondered how many interviews I didn’t get due to that one role.

    In my most recent job search this winter, I omitted the union job even though doing so meant dropping the high profile public service job before it and left me with a little less than 10 YOE on my resume. While I’m still pro-labor (and politically active), excluding the union and political work was the right choice given that my boss makes 350k+ and lives in a gated community.

  28. HonorBox*

    OP2 – Your managers need to have a conversation with Lisa. Either the issue was something that was a big problem and you’ve apologized for it OR Lisa is making a mountain out of a mole hill. Either way, she needs to handle herself appropriately. If your managers see the problem continuing and aren’t doing any sort of course correction, they’re also the issue. Regardless of the cause of the problem, finding a way to move forward professionally is the only way to move forward. Lisa doesn’t need to be your best friend, but Lisa needs to work with you professionally.

  29. Diplomat*

    LW2: I don’t know what this misunderstanding was but I think you should at least consider whether you and your managers have truly considered her side. Her reactions would still be unprofessional, but if there are real hurt feelings underlying those, you may want to appeal to them. Sometimes hearing, “you’re right, I’m wrong” is all you need when you feel someone has harmed you in some way.


    “Lisa, I understand you were hurt by . ….. This has all been a learning experience for me and now a know that next time I should .

    While I own my role in this whole thing, this week, things have escalated to you not responding when I speak to you and I hope we can both agree that’s not a very efficient way to work. I don’t need us to be friendly and I won’t expect any favors from you, but I need us to work our way back to verbal corresponding when needed and I don’t think that’s too much to ask. What would it take on your end to get us back there?

    1. Diplomat*

      I will add that I suspect, and yes I’m speculating a bit, that the reason you care so much is because you don’t think Lisa is completely coocoo bananas, otherwise you’d just ignore her. Is any guilt underlying your sensitivity to this. If so, lean into it and try to make amends (not just mediate with your bosses which likely introduced a power dynamic that didn’t help here). If she’s completely unreceptive, you’ll at least know that you owned your mistake and tried to resolve it which is all you can do.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        You’re at least the second person in the comments saying that Lisa must be right or else the OP wouldn’t be this upset by it. Have y’all really not interacted with someone like the OP before? I’ve worked with and gone to school with multiple people who get upset when someone else is upset with them, whether it was deserved or not. “Just ignore them” is not something people like that can easily do. It’s a mindset that’s hard for me to relate to–my instinct would be to go out of my way to greet Lisa every day just to annoy her, which obviously is not great either–but I’ve seen it often enough in other people to know that you can’t use OP’s reaction to assume she is at fault.

        1. Tesuji*

          Sure, but the problem is that “Someone at work has stopped being friendly with me, and has refused to engage with me except on work matters and only in writing” could either be an insane overreaction or a completely rational reaction, and we have no idea which.

          I’m not going to write fanfic as to what the possible scenarios could be, but generally speaking, if someone’s version of a story leaves out what seems to be a pertinent piece of a conflict, a fair assumption is that it’s probably unfavorable to them.

          Why? Well, you can reasonably assume that someone telling you their side of a conflict is probably giving you a version that is at worst an objective fair view, and more likely to be biased in their favor. Unless they’re just really bad at explaining themselves, they’re not going to leave out important information that makes them look good (and the other side look crazy). That means that people will usually assume that the information that was left out wouldn’t make them look good.

          So, when the pattern of a story is ” happened, and then this other person had an outsized and unreasonable reaction! Let’s focus exclusively on the reaction!” but doesn’t tell you what the is, a reasonable assumption is that they think that the would change your view of the situation.

          It doesn’t help that a standard narcissist characteristic is trying to deflect criticism of what the narcissist did by focusing on how their feelings were hurt by other people’s reactions to what the narcissist did. I’m not saying this is true in this situation, but just mentioning that to explain why commenters who are used to dealing with narcissists will be really sensitive to “I did , but let’s ignore that and focus on how my feelings were hurt” situations, and laser-focus on wanting to know what the was before they have any opinions about how the other person reacted.

          1. Myrin*

            I agree that it’s surprising that OP didn’t provide any details beyond “a misunderstanding” but on the other hand – we get letters like that pretty regularly, where an OP left out something that’s immediately identified as a key factor to the whole letter.

            Some people just aren’t very good at sussing out which information is important for others to understand what’s going on, and especially with how strongly OP focuses on her feelings regarding Lisa’s behaviour, I’d guess that that’s the part that’s most important to her and, following that logic, the part she’s going to talk about when asking for advice.

            (On yet another hand – and admittedly that’s speculation in the complete opposite direction, but it’s also something I’ve seen more than enough on here – OP might have intentionally left out the exact nature of the misunderstanding because she anticipated people would then focus on who of the two is “in the right” or “how does that even happen??” or “that doesn’t sound like a misunderstanding at all, are you sure you/Lisa didn’t do that intentionally?” or something similar.)

          2. JB (not in Houston)*

            Sorry, but we really cannot go from “I get upset when this happens” to “ah, well, you must know you’re at fault, then.” That’s just an astronomical level of projecting on to the OP, and that’s totally unfair.

            1. Diplomat*

              I don’t think it’s projection (certainly not astronomical levels) to ASK the LW if they have made a mistake at work (the way that nearly everyone does at some point) that lee to the series of events and to reflect on that. It’s possible that they are 0% at fault and I feel like others have sufficiently covered what my response would be in that case. I provided a perspective and advise I hadn’t seen. The LW will use whatever applies to them. *shrugs*

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                It never hurts to ask if you could have contributed to the problem when a coworker has an issue with you at work, but you didn’t say, hey, LW, is this a possibility. You straight up said that you suspected that LW was reacting that way because she was in the wrong. That’s what I’m objecting to–looking at LW’s reaction and jumping straight to believing that her reaction means she knows she did Lisa wrong. I just don’t see how that’s helpful for the LW.

          3. Parakeet*

            “Dealing with [the Internet’s bad pop-psych definition of] narcissists [that the Internet sees behind every corner]” is really not a reason for so many people to be convinced that LW2 must have been in the wrong here.

            I do get what you’re saying about conflict and how vagueness can be a sign that someone is mischaracterizing a situation. In fact, I agree with that! “What is this person not saying?” and “Why are they not providing concrete details?” are really important questions to ask in assessing and judging a disputed situation. But we don’t have to assess and judge it – the managers need to manage regardless. And this is a setting where people are often quite vague for reasons of anonymity. Between that and this not being a forum where we need to decide who’s right to give relevant advice, the vagueness isn’t the warning signal to me that it would be if I were being asked to take a side or otherwise make a judgement about who was right.

        2. JustaTech*

          Yes to this!
          I once had a coworker stop talking to me for several days (through a weekend!) because I said I didn’t have the audacity to do something she was suggesting, and she didn’t know what “audacity” meant, and before I could come up with a good definition decided it meant “rude” and didn’t speak to me for several days.

          I was surprised how much it hurt my feelings, and I know that part of that hurt was because I had not in fact called her “rude” or meant “rude” at all, I meant audacious. And I was also hurt because I was not allowed to offer the definition that I was working from.

          You don’t have to be in the wrong to be hurt by someone else’s silent treatment.

      2. Delphine*

        This is silly. The silent treatment has very real psychological effects, by nature. You don’t need to be feeling guilty to be harmed or feel hurt by mistreatment.

  30. AnonInCanada*

    To OP#1: I’m sorry this is happening to you. I would reiterate what Alison said, but I would add: “We’re all in the same boat. It’s stressful enough to have these layoffs in the back of my head without your constant ‘woe is me’ emails/Slack texts/IMs reminding me about it. Please keep it to yourself. Thank you!” Keep reminding him about this statement every single time he brings it up again. Because that would mentally exhaust anybody having to deal with what you’re going through.

  31. The Sound of Silence*

    A lot of people are suggesting that LW #2 apologize, but it doesn’t sound like LW’s supervisors, who have more details than we do, thinks she needs to.

    I think it sounds like the person giving the treatment has found a way to hurt LW and is enjoying it. Having been through something very similar at work, down to someone shutting me out while making a point of talking to everyone else, my suggestion is to flip the framing: SHE is not giving the silent treatment to YOU, YOU have cut off all conversation past the most basic politeness due everyone at the office.

    And be glad of Slack, because this time there is a record so there are no misunderstandings or anything else she can misconstrue.

    1. The Sound of Silence*

      For clarity: “…YOU have cut off all conversation WITH HER past the most basic politeness due everyone at the office.”

      I’m not suggesting you freeze out the whole office!

    2. I should really pick a name*

      I think it sounds like the person giving the treatment has found a way to hurt LW and is enjoying it.

      Where are you seeing this in the letter?

      1. The Sound of Silence*

        “I feel physically ill… I have a hard time not crying… There’s a lot of tension…”

        It takes a really good actor to hide that.

        As for the enjoyment – how many letters have we read on AAM that boil down to “one of my coworkers knows they are upsetting me and doubles down”? Everything from black magic to “the wrong person died in that accident” to “but annoying you is good! I’m your distraction buddy!”

        That I have personal experience with someone who was constantly looking for a reason to be offended with their co-workers and make a big deal out of it informs my view of this too.

    3. HonorBox*

      Agree 100% with your first sentence. Also, we don’t know what was said in the meeting with the supervisor(s) so perhaps an apology was offered by the LW during that meeting. But it is really difficult to apologize when Lisa can’t even specify why she’s upset or what the misunderstanding is/was.

  32. JaneDough(not)*

    LW2: As Alison often writes, this isn’t an issue of a personality clash, it’s potentially a productivity issue. Your colleague has chosen — chosen! — to stop communicating with you properly, and that affects your ability to do your job properly.

    In addition, this junior-high-school garbage doesn’t belong in the workplace, and decent managers recognize that. If Lisa was upset with you, she should have told you (calmly) what the problem was so the two of you could sort it out. And although I’m very sympathetic to you and how you feel, I’m gently noting that you could have approached her when you realized that her chilliness wasn’t subsiding *and* that you had no idea what had upset her. (I know this isn’t easy to do, and please know that I’m not blaming you; Lisa’s cold-shouldering is 100% inappropriate. If she’d thought that you had done something egregious, she could have asked your supervisor to intervene, and if what you did was less than egregious, then she needed to either let it go or talk with you about it.)

    When is everyone going to grasp that the rules are *different* at work? This cold-shoulder nonsense is bad enough in personal relationships (*adults* talk to each other about hurts, slights and problems), but it has zero place at work — and every manager should understand that and shut it down. Good luck going forward.

  33. Pastor Petty Labelle*

    #3 – I am not sure what system would for you, but you need to stop the procrastinating. Even if I got your resume eventually, I would be reluctant to send it along because you took so long to send it. Not sure how deadline driven your work is, but everyone has to get their tasks accomplished in a reasonable time. Not being able to get your resume out for months shows this is not an area where you are strong. Remember even though people might know your work, the delay is another piece of data about you that they will consider when recommending you.

    1. Cat Tree*

      This isn’t very helpful. Procrastinators know that they should stop doing it, and presumably would have if it was as simple as “just stop procrastinating”.

  34. Workerbee*

    #2 I don’t think OP’s response is too unusually intense. OP and Lisa are in the same room. Someone who goes to such lengths to be upset about a single misunderstanding, even after a resolution was tried for, is likely to be blatant about Having a Great Time With Everyone Else But You.

    And someone being blatantly negative AT you can be quite wearing, day after day.

    Both managers and Lisa suck.

    1. MugShot Coffee*

      I agree, is be really upset by this behaviour. we have to sieve a lot of time in the office, being shunned the whole time would be incredibly stressful. it’s bullying pure and simple @

  35. 123*

    LW5 – Do you have to say it was for a union? Can you call it something else, like “advocate” or “ombudsman?” Some employers will want to know the exact job title, but titles can be completely arbitrary if your industry does not have rigor in their credentialing and licensure. (eg. Check out the time Pam decided to make herself the ‘Office Manager’ because that more accurately described her actual work functions.) If you think the job title is causing problems, you can switch to a functional resume format that emphasizes your skills rather than the titles.

  36. thelettermegan*

    #lw2 – sometimes, you just have to be the gracious one, as painful as it is. Do whatever comfort/healing/therapeutic work you can, and when you’re at work, put your head down and work as hard as you can. You’re not in the workplace to make lifelong friends, you’re there to make money. Everyone is just there to make money. If Lisa wants to make drama instead, that’s her problem.

    Eventually her refusal to interact with you will become a problem she has to solve.

  37. Gaia Madre*

    He’s anxious about layoffs and is ‘managing’ it by dumping his anxiety out to those around him, which isn’t managing it at all. It’s really kind of thoughtless. Calling his attention to the fact that he’s spreading his anxiety around is appropriate.

  38. Almost Empty Nester*

    OP2, I used to tell my high school aged kids to “not give away your power” by letting others get under your skin with their silly shenanigans. People behave a certain way because of the payoff they get (in this case, it’s your being uncomfortable and emotional), and the sooner that payoff ends the sooner they’ll move on to something else. Basic high school mean girl stuff.

  39. Another academic librarian*

    If you are seeking a new position DO NOT put your union work on your CV. I was the lead negotiator during contract negotiations in a previous position at an academic institution.
    Yes, being a steward demonstrates remarkable skills. And it is an enormous service to your peers.
    It also screams “trouble maker” Your peers are not doing the hiring. Administration is. Use your skills to negotiate a good deal for yourself.

  40. Anony*

    To all the people saying that LW 2 should apologize, and finding it suspect that she does not detail the misunderstanding. Perhaps she doesn’t know! I’ve had that co-worker. We were fine for a couple of years and then suddenly it was the silent treatment, having her not look at me when talking to me, or in one memorable instance, turning her back on me and talking over her shoulder. It is immensely frustrating and hurtful. I tried the generic apology and asking what was wrong and got the useful “there’s nothing wrong”. And yes, it is really hurtful (and does make your eyes tear up) when the person who is the life of the office is ignoring you and then laughing/joking with everyone else. And she was fine with everyone else. Finally, after the talking over the shoulder thing, the manager called her in and asked what was up. The response – “Mom’s been so sick and everyone’s fighting, and she just reminds me so much of my sister, that I can’t deal with her”?!?! Management tried to help out, but passive aggressive tactics are really hard to deal with. In the end it just wasn’t worth the stress and I got a new job, but it’s just that low level stress that eats at you every day.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      ” Last week, we had to talk with a supervisor about it and it went terribly. Lisa is upset with me about a misunderstanding and said she will only talk to me about work from now on.”

      That sounds like she knows.

      1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        Yes, I think she clearly knows what the “misunderstanding” is. If LW2 didn’t, I suspect they would say “I have no idea what I have done that has upset Lisa. I asked my manager and they said Lisa had no specific grievance”

      2. Expelliarmus*

        It could be that she knows, but it also could be that she doesn’t know for sure but figures that the only possible thing could be a misunderstanding because she’s not aware of any other skirmish that she and Lisa have had.

    2. Louis-Jean-Marie Daubenton*

      She’s also trying to maintain her anonymity. It’s possible the misunderstanding is so specific no amount of teapots and/or llamas can disguise it.

  41. Hawkeye*

    #3 This happened to me from the other side. A friend of a friend needed help with her resume and as a hiring manager I agreed to review it and make suggested revisions. Didn’t receive the resume until 2 months later – at which point I was swamped at work and didn’t have time to help. So I didn’t.

    All I’m saying is that people may have offered to help at one point in time, but if you procrastinate in getting it to them, they may no longer have the time or inclination to help you. On the other hand they might. Depends on the person. YMMV.

  42. kina lillet*

    OP4 yes, absolutely mention your work with the vendor. I think your impulse to avoid a vent session in the interview is correct. Probably a reasonable tone to strike is serious, matter-of-fact, and competent. Breaches unfortunately do happen; it’s just important to take them quite seriously as you did.

    For example, “I have worked with Vendor before. I’ve actually done significant projects related to Vendor and worked very closely with them. Last year, I identified a HIPAA breach, unfortunately. For the next couple months I did X, Y, Z. At this point, the vendor has released a new version that fixes the root cause. Doing A, B, C helped reduce the impact and carry us through that crisis as smoothly as possible.”

    1. LW4*

      Thanks, just to be clear I 100% had the vendor on my resume front and center. I actually rushed out the cover letter and resume because the job is exclusively managing this product, which is somewhere between 50-70% of my job right now and would be centralized rather than the silo I’m currently in.

  43. Choggy*

    LW2 – Do you feel this is being done out of spite due to the misunderstanding? Can you and your manger have another sit down with Lisa to try to clear the air again? Some people hold grudges, perhaps due to the misunderstanding having a larger effect than you realize. It could also blow over eventually, make sure you are talking to her, even if she’s not talking to you. Say good morning, good night, small talk to just start a conversation.

  44. kit*

    OP2, I was in a similar situation at a previous workplace and feel for you on the awkwardness of being given the silent treatment in the workplace. In my case it was a coworker who was remote to the main office location who had been tasked to work with me but took issue with how qualified I could be due to my identity. By the end of my first week on the job he had started omitting me from email chains and refusing to take my calls. It was awful! I went to my managers and HR and they acknowledged that it was, most likely, racism but said that their hands were tied as there was no proof of hate speech. Now that I’m older I’d have handled this situation differently but at the time I felt really helpless and didn’t push back. All this to say, although it’s completely understandable to have your confidence rocked by Lisa’s ignoring you, try to steel yourself and demand accommodation for a civil working relationship. Alison is right that your managers aren’t doing enough to handle this situation for you or Lisa.

    1. Polly Hedron*

      their hands were tied as there was no proof of hate speech

      It doesn’t have to be hate speech to require management intervention.

    2. Observer*

      I went to my managers and HR and they acknowledged that it was, most likely, racism but said that their hands were tied as there was no proof of hate speech.

      Good heavens! I’m so glad that you are not there anymore! Either that HR just incompetent or highly racist themselves. Because the idea that only proven hate speech can be acted on by HR is beyond ludicrous – and has been for decades. And that’s before you get to the fact that HR *always* has standing to deal with misbehavior that affects an employee’s ability to do their job, even if illegal discrimination has nothing to do with it.

      1. kit*

        Thanks so much! It’s funny you should say that because the co-worker who was giving me the silent treatment ended up writing racist content into the work we were producing (trying hard not to give my identity away) and wasn’t punished for that either. So I’d say you’re right that there was likely bias in the management team/HR.

  45. pumpkin season*

    Looks like I’m also on team “LW2, please try to re-frame things and stop caring so much”. Lisa hasn’t actually stopped communicating with the LW, it’s just now all in writing. The not-talking seems to be more not-talking-to-the-LW-socially, which sucks but is ultimately not that important. Unless Lisa is refusing to communicate work-related items to the LW, I’m not sure if there’s anything anyone can do here. Perhaps Lisa can be told to bring her temperament up a few degrees, but I don’t think (even if there’s any sort of additional apology or whatever), that Lisa is going to be talking and laughing with the LW at any point.

    This might also be why management isn’t seeing this as a real problem. To them, Lisa is continuing to work with the LW (and writing everything means she has clear evidence that she is) and so isn’t something that really needs addressing.

    And a few more things:

    the tension is palpable to everyone in the office

    It probably really isn’t, so please don’t put the anxiety of worrying about what other people think about your relationship with Lisa is on yourself

    even though we sit in the same room

    Does this mean that it’s just the two of you in the same office sitting right next to each other? Or does this mean you’re in the same open office plan? Former, okay, probably need to bring it to management; latter, again, it sucks but isn’t the most outlandish behaviour

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      I agree that reframing it is the best way to cope with it, if LW can do that. I’ve known people in the past who get as upset by this kind of situation as the LW seems to be, and if she is like the people I’ve known, it won’t be easy for her. But if she can find a way to be matter-of-fact about it, she’d be in a much better place mentally. LW, just treat Lisa how you would treat anyone else, and let her be the one who is making things weird. If Lisa is the one being unreasonable here, it will become apparent to everyone else if it isn’t already.

      Is there a way you can make this kind of an experiment or game? I wouldn’t recommend this for every situation because usually a person shouldn’t be entertaining themselves at the expense of their coworkers. But because you seem extra sensitive to this kind of treatment by others, you probably need to do some serious reframing, just with this one coworker, to help yourself get through it. Assuming that this is Lisa being ridiculous and not a legitimate course of action for her, could you reframe it in your head as though she is the subject of an experiment and you are the scientist? “Day 21. Researcher approached Subject and said good morning. Subject continues to pretend Researcher does not exist.” Or play a version of bingo you get to give yourself a reward point every time she does something like that, and at a certain number of points, you get a reward?

      Obviously, if you do something like that, you should not ever tell other coworkers because you don’t want to come across as minimizing Lisa’s feelings. This would just be for you to deal with what seem like outsized reactions to silliness from a coworker.

  46. Hiring Mgr*

    On #3 – unless this was for a specific role that has now probably been filled, I don’t see the downside of sending a resume anyway. Without knowing more, it didn’t sound like a particularly timely request and if they were willing to pass it along then, I don’t see why things would change

    I’d definitely include a note of some kind reminding them who you are, how you met, etc if necessary

  47. Michelle Smith*

    LW2: Lots of support from me here. I would be just as upset as you in this situation. Being iced out feels awful. It’s one thing to limit social conversations with a coworker, but quite definitely another to refuse to speak to them at all. And you have to share a room? I’d be sick over it too. I’m really sorry.

    1. OP2*

      I needed to hear this! I don’t think it’s ever ok to make someone feel excluded, and it’s ok to be upset about being excluded. I am not trying to be anyone’s BFF, I just want to do my job and get along with my coworkers while I do it. Everyone’s job is easier when you communicate.

  48. ThatPropLady*

    LW#3 – I have 15 years of freelancing in the entertainment industry under my belt – I recommend the following;
    Make yourself a personal website that includes your CV (there are free/inexpensive services for this). Put the url of your website in your cell phone’s contact card (business cards feel outdated, but include the website on those, if you have them). When you are connecting with people who say they will pass your information along, ask for their number and send your full contact card – be sure to mention that your CV is on the site.

    You can (and should) still follow up with an email in a timely manner, including a .pdf of your resume, especially if you are early in your career. But at least if that person chooses to share your info with their personal contacts, they will also automatically be sharing your resume, without needing any additional communication from you.

    Keep the website updated – once a month or so. And, if appropriate for your job, make sure your IMDb is accurate and updated as well!

  49. And the Skeletons Are… Part of It*

    LW2 I agree that it sounds like you’re taking this really hard and letting it dominate your work experience!

    If it really was a misunderstanding, it doesn’t sound like Lisa has a legitimate reason to be this upset with you, and either way it’s inappropriate for her to be taking it out on you this way at work. If there really was harm or insult done, and you gave a sincere apology, that should put it to rest for the time being and her reaction would still be inappropriate.

    It doesn’t sound like you’ve been at this workplace very long, just a few months, yet it seems like you’re taking this as hard as if a close friend had turned on you. For your day to day work, the best thing is just to stop trying to make sense of it / ruminate on it constantly, and just ignore her. Act like you got rained on, but won’t let it ruin your day. Lisa IMs you from 2ft away > you think “Wellp, that still sucks, but whatever. Now, what am I going to have for lunch?”

  50. anonanon*

    LW2, I just wanted to say that I really feel your reaction. I even found myself feeling defensive when Alison called it “unusually intense”! I’ve done a lot of work through therapy and medication to get past my deep-seeded fear of rejection and abandonment but it still lurks there underneath and pops up every once in a while. Now, I’m able to talk myself through it, but there was a time where I would have absolutely had the same reaction as you. Those feelings of being rejected, is everyone talking about you, does everyone hate you now, really linger in us and cause us to become people-pleasers, and it really rocks you when the people pleasing fails! It brings it all back, with the constant verge of tears, paranoia, etc. So I feel you. Regardless of what the misunderstanding was and whether you apologized sufficiently, I related to your reaction. I hope that you find a solution and can move forward without letting this wound you too much.

    1. OP2*

      Thank you, I didn’t think I would be the only person that would feel something like this so deeply. I am also in therapy and trying to work on my issues, being hypersensitive to criticism is one of them. This situation is just so hard to wrap my head around – I know not everyone is going to love their coworkers and sometimes there are conflicts, but to just stop acknowledging another person? That’s something else.

      1. Zweisatz*

        First OP, I’m sorry for the weird direction a lot of comments took. What you describe further up certainly counts as “misunderstanding” and it was unnecessary to give you the third degree about that.

        Second, it is certainly very weird if somebody stops interacting with you to your face. Especially in a context where “Just avoid them” or “Just ignore them” doesn’t make a lot of sense because you have to work together closely. I believe I would have less anxiety about it, but it’s certainly not *comfortable* (though sometimes it’s possible to find humor in it because it’s just such absurd behavior when you stay polite and conversational).

        In any case, you do need a resolution to this because it is literally impacting your job so as others have said, try to lay out to your managers how this is affected your daily tasks and ask for their support. I hope they start doing their job.

  51. Syzygy*

    LW#3 Send the resumes! As another freelancer in the entertainment field, I often get resumes from people who I haven’t heard from in months (sometimes years.) Our field is different from many others in that regard: this is standard practice. I would never think ‘oh this person procrastinated,’ I’d just think, they finished a gig and it’s time to look for another.

    Similarly, I send resumes out to a wide swath of people when I’m finishing a job and looking for the next. When I send a res to someone I haven’t spoken to in months, I let them know I’m available, and could they pass my information around if they know of any openings. That’s how I get a lot of work: my res lands on the right desk at the right time.

    Now, as far as your procrastination? That is something you might want to look at, figure out what’s going on, and tackle. But as far as sending out resumes, you’re fine

  52. Le Anon*

    LW#2, yours is the type of letter that makes me put on my best RBF. There’s been an excessive amount of speculation about the nature of the misunderstanding, but I’m not concerned with that. Sending a Slack message to someone sitting in the same room is three-clown-emoji behavior. Your managers suck for letting this go on, but that’s out of your hands. Here’s what I need to tell you: YOU DO NOT HAVE TO CARE ABOUT THE CLOWNING. Lisa is being fully ridiculous, it’s visible to everyone, you don’t have to rise above because she’s already sunk beneath. Personally, I would enjoy having normal conversations with people who stop by, watching Lisa figure out how to maintain her embargo without looking like a petulant six-year-old. I wish you that dead-eyed Scorpio energy that lets you write someone off and mean it.

    1. Lana Kane*

      “Personally, I would enjoy having normal conversations with people who stop by, watching Lisa figure out how to maintain her embargo without looking like a petulant six-year-old.”

      Living well is the best revenge, honestly.

    2. Ccbac*

      “Sending a Slack message to someone sitting in the same room is three-clown-emoji behavior. ” this varies so much by company/specific contents of the message fyi! I have worked places where email was used for just about all communication (including to the person sitting next to you). It took me a good long while to sort out what and when it was ok to just drop by and ask and when email was the standard regardless of physical proximity. it seems like maybe op’s office isn’t usually a slack office? though op doesn’t clarify (op only talks about Lisa’s social conversations, not Lisa have the same work convos with others).

      1. Le Anon*

        It seems from the letter this an outgrowth of “won’t talk to me” rather than company culture. Three-clown verdict stands.

      2. I Have RBF*

        As a person who can’t remember stuff at all reliably unless it’s written down, Slack satisfies that need very well. If fact, I often copy requests from Slack into my notes just so I don’t lose track of them.

        This was true even when the person making the request was sitting opposite from me in an open plan office. If they refused to email or slack the request, I would have to try to put it in my own Slack.

        If I was away from my computer, like in a meeting without a notebook or heading to the bathroom, the odds were high that the thing would be gone from my head by the time I got back to my desk. I would ask people to slack me or email me, but if they didn’t it obviously wasn’t important to them. If they whined, I would show them the scar from my having had brain surgery, and remind them again that I won’t remember unless it’s written down.

    3. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

      Your response to perceived childishness being more childishness isn’t really making the point you want to make. It’s just the flip side to Lisa’s behavior. Just move on.

      1. Le Anon*

        Having normal conversations is childish? That’s a take. Not my fault if Lisa has painted herself into a corner. Garnering amusement from someone’s unprofessional (possibly intended to be actually hurtful) behavior hoisting them by their own petard is merely human.

  53. Tio*

    LW3, you should consider if at all possible, trying to update your resume after each major job (at least the ones you would put on there). Then you’ll always have it ready and can send it off really quick – I know in this industry a lot of stuff can be very time sensitive. Maybe at the end of the week or the month, or whatever timeframe makes sense with the flow of your work, set aside an appointment block to update?

  54. Morgan Proctor*

    Re: LW5, I am in a prominent leadership role in my union, and I love my union and unions in general, but I’ve decided to keep it off my resume entirely. I think there’s just too much of a chance that it will turn people off. That sucks and I hate it, but I need to look out for myself and my future employment. Having said that, I’m very vocal about my union activities on social media, so… balance? I’m definitely not hiding it!

    1. Malarkey01*

      I’ve been going back and forth on my response to LW#5 because I support unions strongly- try to buy from union shops over non, put political support behind labor movements, handed out water and food at picket lines, and cheer for unionizing efforts….. but at work I’m in management and the union is a thorn in my side and I DREAD working with them (some of it is the specific people, some of it is the structure that is protecting truly horrible employees, and some of it is the natural conflict that can be good for all but doesn’t feel good). So my visceral reaction at work is not positive and I try to fight that bias but I’d really leave it off.

  55. Hell in a Handbasket*

    LW5, could you list some of the activities you’re doing without actually using the term “union steward”? I mean talking about things like serving on the labor/management committee, assisting with arbitration, etc.

  56. NYNY*

    LW5 — I think there are FAR more employers who will view this as a negative. I would leave off resume union rep. I do not underestimate your skills, but I do not think many employers want another union rep

  57. Single Parent Barbie*

    LW 1. I had a boss who used to say that every pay day, he and the company were square. (he made it sound more folksy then that.) Honestly, very few workers (in the US) have any sort of job security. I could get a new boss tomorrow who doesn’t like my face, and fire me on Friday.

    But I agree with everyone so far. Set boundaries. You understand the stress and concern, but as long as you are getting paid correctly and on time, there is really nothing you can do but keep doing your job. Period.

  58. CubeFarmer*

    This will get lost, but, regarding the procrastinating job hunter, I’ve recently tried to connect new colleagues with people in my field who are doing things that are aligned with my colleagues’ interests. I’ll send an introductory email to both, the older colleague replies with a “looking forward to hearing from you,” and then, crickets. This has happened twice, and the person who has the experience and further connections that these new colleagues need has reached to me to ask what happened. I have no idea! But, it’s been a little embarrassing to me. Honestly, I’m going to think twice before making an offer to connect someone again.

    My advice: you don’t need to send them the perfectest resume, but you need to send them something in a timely manner.

  59. Orv*

    I feel like I could easily have been guilty of #2 at times. When I feel like I’ve been bullied or disrespected the only way I know how to deal with it is to cut the person off. I learned growing up that trying to ingratiate myself to people who didn’t like me just resulted in more abuse.

    1. Susan*

      Completely agree, at least when only your personal life is affected. If this happens at work, I think “gray rock”/”yellow rock” might be a better approach. However, resorting to written communications sometimes helps because it makes it easier to prove to everyone that you have, in fact, taken the high road. I think this could possibly apply to either party here in this case.

      1. dobradziewczyna*

        Yeah I think Lisa is trying to CYA here – she wants to prove she is doing her job without it being misunderstood. I do feel bad for OP#2 but being in Lisa’s situation before I can why she is behaving that way.

  60. Olive*

    On the flip side of LW2, what is the best way to go forward with working with someone you absolutely don’t want to have a social relationship with for whatever reason?

    Refusing to speak to them altogether is obviously a no-go, although I don’t think that mostly choosing to use Slack is that bad. Involving everyone else on the team in a conversation and freezing out one person isn’t acceptable either. Are there good solutions to staying professional but keeping someone you don’t like at arms length?

    1. Ticotac*

      What we’re seeing here is basically the flip side of the “can I tell the office jerk not to speak to me outside the office” letter. You may not like someone for very, very good reasons, but the way you deal with that is by being polite and distant. “Good morning, thank you for the email, here’s the data, could you please send it back by tomorrow? Thank you, bye.” If they try to talk about something other than work, you say “ah, that’s nice, you must be excited. Excuse me, I gotta go” and you leave.

  61. dobradziewczyna*

    I feel bad for OP#2 but what exactly was the misunderstanding that involved a supervisor? I have gone nuclear like Lisa when I am trying to CYA and protect myself from someone who I know will cause problems. It is not the best option – but for her to ignore and use Slack… not ideal but I get it.

    I had a coworker who accused me of things I never said (major stuff) and thankfully HR knew me but after that I stopped talking to this person for a year unless absolutely necessary and always documentd. A year later the person said they were in a bad place and apologized and we are cool but I still keep my distance.

    Either way I hope things get better.

  62. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

    Unpopular take on #2, but it doesn’t sound like Lisa refuses to work with you or answer work related things. I’m sorry, but she doesn’t want more than a transactional relationship. It’s going to make you miserable hoping for more — best thing to do is hold her to professionalism and separate that from friendliness. Treat her in a similar manner and just move on. Management isn’t gonna fire her and she’s having a blast with other coworkers, so why would she quit?

    You have to shift your mindset. I don’t know what the misunderstanding is — if you told us, we could offer suggestions on how to clear the air and restore a warm working relationship again — but in absence of that, you’re gonna need to adjust to a new normal. Forcing Lisa to be nice is not what you want. If feels bad being ignored? It’s worse to have someone be fake to your face.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      It’s not a matter of forcing Lisa to be nice; there’s a huge gap between being nice and shunning someone to deliberately hurt them.
      Lisa needs to talk to the OP about work, even if she never smiles at her or utters a word to her about anything else.

  63. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #2 At your next 1-1 with your manager, I suggest reminding her that Lisa is continuing this mean shunning behaviour towards you and that it is making you very unhappy. If you don’t have weekly or at least biweekly 1-1s, then you could EM your manager asking to see her.
    Maybe HR & your manager don’t realise how much it is stressing you, so in the meeting don’t minimise your unhappiness.

    Your manager really should have been proactive in ensuring a more normal work environment for you i.e. Lisa doesn’t have to fake friendship, but she should be required to talk to you about work.

    Also, I suggest trying to make friends with your other coworkers if possible.
    It should make Lisa’s meanness seem less important to you.
    I wonder if any coworkers have asked Lisa about her behaviour – I would have done so. I would also have made a point of befriending you – do any of your coworkers seem friendly ?

  64. Delphine*

    #2, also wanted to say I don’t think your reaction is intense. Shunning and the silent treatment are cruel behaviors. The make people feel powerless and invisible. It’s behavior that has no place in a professional workplace.

  65. Heather*

    I’m letter writer 2. I was keeping the interaction vague in case others at my office read this column, I really don’t want them to know it was me.
    Since the speculation went off the rails way faster than I anticipated, here’s what happened. Lisa said that she asked me a few questions about something in my personal life, and I gave brief answers. I don’t remember this at all, my guess is that I was busy with work and didn’t have time to talk. The rest of my coworkers are friendly and communicate well with me, they have said this isn’t the first time she has done this with a coworker. I think the reason it’s so frustrating is it feels so much like middle school – someone is excluding you and really wants you to know it.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      That’s so weird! I’m imagining something like, “Oh, do you live with people, or by yourself?” and you’re trying to multitask so your answers aren’t ducking the questions but are pretty short. Then Lisa takes this exchange as you being terse or overly short with her and gets her back up.

      This is total fanfic, but if I’m anywhere in the ballpark, Lisa’s being hecka weird.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      I’m actually more confused now. Where is the miscommunication?
      Is she upset because your answers were brief? Or perhaps because you don’t remember answering the questions?

      1. Hlao-roo*

        I think the miscommunication is that Lisa (wrongly) interpreted the brief answers as “OP2 is upset with me.”

      2. op #2*

        Seriously, it’s because my answers were brief. she said she asked me questions and I gave 2-4 word answers so she decided if I wasn’t going to talk to her, she would only talk about work. I apologized (even though I couldn’t believe this was the cause) and our supervisor asked if we could get past this. She said she was just there to do her job and that doesn’t require talking with me. We worked the front desk alone last week, and she did not say 1 word to me in 8 hours.

    3. Observer*

      I’ve been thinking about this. In a way this changes everything in the sense that it’s clear that Lisa is a real missing stair here.

      But in a way, it does not change anything. The advice pretty much stays the same. Recognize that your management is mishandling the situation, try to reframe the behavior, and be completely cool with her, and interact with everyone else as normal.

      I would add one thing – lean into the slack thing. Because if she tries again to claim that you were “rude” about something, having a written record is going to be your friend.

  66. Beboots*

    This is such a helpful way of putting things for me: “you’re giving her a lot more power over your internal state than she deserves”. I have a staff member who makes a big deal out of everything – everything is a hill to die on – and I may have to gently bring it to her attention (again). She’s giving things outside of her control more power over her and her emotions than they deserve.

  67. urbosa_wife*

    OP1, I feel you! My company was wracked by rumors of an incoming layoff last winter (less than 6 months after a previous layoff as well) and it made my team’s culture become unbearable, especially as the rumored date approached (and eventually, there were layoffs, but most of those worried about it were kept on board). Since it’s affecting both your mental state (constantly being reminded of incoming layoffs) and your actual work (it seems like your co-worker is less invested in his work since he feels being laid off is a foregone conclusion), this is definitely something you have standing to escalate to your manager, especially if your coworker isn’t taking any hints that you would prefer not to discuss the layoffs and just focus on the work. After all, /someone’s/ going to have to work on these things after the layoffs happen, and you wouldn’t want them to suffer from mediocre work done beforehand.

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