should you call to “confirm” an interview when you don’t really have one, coworker has imaginary cats, and more

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

1. Should you call to “confirm” an interview when you don’t really have one?

I’ve been seeing a trend lately of job hunters claiming an extremely effective strategy is to call companies to confirm an interview claiming you already have one scheduled with them (when you don’t). Most times, they won’t question it or don’t want to admit to someone farther up the chain they may have missed or lost an application, so they schedule the interview. I would personally never use this strategy myself as using any degree of dishonesty in the job application process makes me very uncomfortable, but I can see why it could be effective and may appeal to desperate job hunters. I’m curious what your thoughts are on this trend? Is it a good or bad idea?

This is a horrible idea and won’t work at any competently-run organization. If you call to confirm an interview and they don’t see one scheduled, they’re not going to just say “oh yes, let me confirm that,” especially if that time is already booked for something else or if they haven’t even started booking interviews yet. They’re going to investigate in some way, and that’s probably going to involve looking up your application, at which point they’ll find no indication you’re supposed to be interviewing. And then they’re going to say, “It looks like there was some kind of mix-up, and we don’t have any indication we invited you to interview.”

At best they’ll assume you mixed them up with some other employer, which makes you look disorganized (and they’re going to wonder if you’ll mix up important appointments if they hired you).  At worst, they’ll know exactly what you’re doing — it’s not like “call to schedule an interview” hasn’t been a tactic pitched to desperate job hunters for years.

I suppose this could work somewhere really chaotic (or possibly at, like, the frozen yogurt shop I worked at as a teenager), but it’s not going to get you an interview anywhere you’d want to work, and it’s highly likely to get you blackballed from the places you do.

2. My coworker has imaginary cats

I work in a cat-loving office. My coworkers and I regularly share stories about our cats and talk about their various adventures, likes, dislikes, etc. No one is more affectionate and excited to talk about her cats than my coworker JJ, and she gives us daily accounts of what her two cats have been up to and what toys or treats she has picked out for them.

The problem is, and I just discovered this through a mutual friend of JJ’s sister, is that her cats passed away years ago. All this time she is speaking in present tense about them. This reminds me of the move Psycho, in which Norman Bates has such an attachment to his mother that he convinces himself she is still alive and with him after her death.

I am not sure if she this is just something harmless she knowingly does to allow her to join in on the conversation more easily, or if she actually sees her cats there with her each day and needs some mental health support. Should I bring this up with anyone or change how I interact with her, or just go along with it?

Oh, this is so sad if it’s true! But I don’t think you should assume it is. JJ’s sister’s friend might have her information wrong, and it’s also easy to imagine a letter saying, “It was too hard for me to tell my coworkers when my cats died and so I just didn’t mention it, and now it’s been several years that I’ve let them believe they’re alive. How do I get out of this when it’s gone on so long?”

As long as you’re not seeing any other signs of delusions, this isn’t something you need to act on. The kindest thing you can do is to just leave it alone and pretend you never heard it.

3. Coworker baby-talks to my pregnant belly

I’m pregnant with my husband and my first baby (yay! we are so excited and this baby was very much planned and wanted!) and I’m continuing to work through my pregnancy. Most everyone in my office has been supportive, thoughtful, and not awkward, but I have someone in my office making me incredibly uncomfortable. She is an older woman with grandchildren and I am starting to show pretty obviously. When I get up from my office to go to the restroom or grab papers off of the printer, I try to hide my belly from her because she keeps making baby voices directed at my belly and telling me how things were when she was pregnant.

I am pretty professional and more friendly with a few people in the office and don’t mind the “how are you feeling?” or “oh we’ve moved to maternity clothes?” which I can handle pretty well, but baby talking to my belly is aggravating. I am pregnant, but I’m still the same person I was before I told the office about my pregnancy and before I was pregnant.

How can I tell them that this is making me uncomfortable? To further complicate things, this other person reports to a completely different department, so I can’t go up my chain of command either.

People are so weird about pregnancy. Let’s be glad she’s not trying to stroke your belly.

Try saying this: “I’m trying not to talk about the pregnancy at work since it can be so distracting, thanks for understanding.” And then if she continues after that: “Like I mentioned, I really don’t want to discuss my pregnancy at work.” And if necessary, “I know you mean well, but baby talk directed at my belly is really distracting — please don’t do that.” (Or if it’s more your style, there’s also, “I really don’t like when you do that and would appreciate if you’d stop” or “it weirds me out when you talk to my belly, please don’t.”)

4. My boss runs a side business with my coworker

If my immediate supervisor has a business with one of my coworkers (she is their supervisor too), is it a conflict of interest? I am treated unfairly while this employee, Katelyn, does what she wants.

Yes, it’s a huge conflict of interest. If she runs a business with your coworker, she has a separate financial interest in that relationship — which calls into question her ability to fairly and impartially manage her. For example, how willing is she going to be to have uncomfortable performance management conversations with Katelyn about Company A when there’s inherent pressure to keep their relationship harmonious for Company B? What if she needed to lay off someone on her team at Company A — is she really going to pick her business partner from Company B? What if someone brings her a complaint about Katelyn — will they be able to trust that she’ll handle it impartially when it’s about her business partner somewhere else? (Answer: almost certainly not. Even if she’s scrupulously impartial in practice, the relationship will make people worry that she’s not.)

Does your employer have a conflict of interest policy? If so, this is almost certainly a violation of that. Even if they don’t, it’s still something you could bring to someone’s attention, because it’s shady as hell.

5. Can I ask to switch jobs internally after moving internally seven months ago?

I work at a small company in a niche field — for privacy, let’s say I work at a regional theater. I was hired in 2018 to work on our youth theater program; last year, due to changes in the program, my role was phased out. My then-manager (Arya, the owner) offered to transfer me to another role rather than let me go entirely. I was offered my choice of two positions: I could work with Brienne, our managing director, in a support role similar to an executive assistant, or I could work with Jaime, our design director, and take a bunch of lower-level design tasks off his plate so he could focus on bigger projects.

Design is a big passion of mine, and a field I’ve freelanced in for several years, so I thought working with Jaime would be a great fit. It looked like the majority of my work tasks would be things I really enjoyed and had experience in, and maybe 20% would be social media and marketing. That wasn’t something I had much experience in, but it seemed like a fairly small part of the job and something I’d enjoy well enough, so I agreed and started this role last June.

Well, in the months since then, I’ve learned two things: 1) I absolutely hate social media and marketing, and 2) social media and marketing accounts for at least 80% of my role. There are many weeks I don’t work on the tasks I enjoy at all and my entire week is just dedicated to marketing. I’m miserable. I’m constantly struggling and frustrated with myself; I hate more than 80% of the tasks on my to-do list each week, so I dread going into work. On top of that, having to spend my days doing design work I hate has killed my passion for design. It used to be my go-to way to relax, but I haven’t done any personal projects in months.

I’m willing to leave over this, and I think I’ll probably start job searching soon. However, the position supporting Brienne is still unfilled. Would it be possible for me to just … ask to move to that position? If I can, do you have any tips for how to frame that, and if I should speak to Jaime, Brienne, or Arya about it first? Or do I need to just accept that I agreed to work this position, so I’m stuck working it until I can find a job at a new company? I don’t think it would be possible to just ask for my current role to involve less marketing. The only other person those tasks could go to is Jaime, and his plate is now so full of high-level tasks that he doesn’t have the time to take this work back on. I haven’t talked to him about it yet because I don’t know if there’s anything he could do and I’m worried about jeopardizing my job if I talk to him about it too soon.

Do you want the support job with Brienne, or does it just look better than what you’re doing now? If you don’t really want that job, it might make more sense to just job search and leave when you find something else.

But if you genuinely think you’d enjoy and be good at the work for Brienne, then talk to Arya. She floated the option of that job originally, it’s still unfilled, and it’s okay to go back to her and say, “This role ended up being different than what we’d anticipated. I’m trying my best at it, but I see that the admin job hasn’t been filled and I’m wondering if that’s still an option for me, if you still think it would be a good fit.”

{ 428 comments… read them below }

  1. Daria Grace*

    #1. So much bad advice like that floating around instagram and i’m baffled about how it is meant to work. It relies on you being able to correctly guess the often quite narrow window of time between when interviews are scheduled and they happen. If the process has been delayed and they haven’t made any interview bookings yet you look beyond ridiculous. Even if you do get through to a confused admin person who books in the interview, its likely going to be really obvious to the people doing the interviews that they had one more interview than they expected, they don’t remember selecting you and you’re a weaker candidate than the others.

    1. MassMatt*

      It seems as though some job hunting advisors and career counselors get paid a commission per bad idea.

      This isn’t as bad as the guy who said he deliberately calls saying he’ll be late just before his first interview, but it’s close.

      1. Tinkerbell*

        Close – they get hits on their videos based on who watches and tells their friends, so GOOD advice isn’t as important as CATCHY advice.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Yep! And controversial (aka bad) advice generates even more clicks, this is a feature not a bug.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            And if you get angry and try to argue you’re still giving them the engagement they want (something I am not always great at reminding myself)

        2. Smithy*

          This is it.

          Not at all dissimilar to the concept of clickbait – if a video like this has endless stiches and replies talking about how bad the advice is, it can still boost their metrics and engagement. On top of that, in addition to being catchy – it’s being catchy and being new.

          Coming in strong about how showing up to a place and asking if they’re hiring may still be the hot (and usually wrong) job advice of many parents and other relatives, but it’s really not new. Something like this has that distinction of being newer as well as catchy.

        3. SheLooksFamiliar*

          You reminded me of Liz Ryan’s advice columns: Write a ‘pain letter’ instead of a cover letter! If they ask you to apply for the job because it’s their process, well, you don’t have to abide by THEIR process for YOUR job search! And so on.

          She clearly cared/cares about job seeker success and her advice made a sort of sense, until job seekers realized a lot of employers didn’t succumb to those tactics.

          It’s worth noting that, besides writing catchy articles, Ms. Ryan also offered career coaching services for a fee.

          1. Anon in Canada*

            And send that “pain letter” and resume by snail mail, even in the 2020s… This was already a terrible idea in the 2010s, but the idea has only gotten worse in the 2020s with the proliferation of mostly-remote work!

            1. Bear Expert*

              So much this.

              In the 2010s as a hiring manager who worked 4 days a week in office, I could just about find my corporate mailbox, and I think I looked at what was in it… uh… at least annually? maybe?

              Now? I’m fully remote. I don’t even know how a job seeker would get a piece of snail mail to me, and none of the options would result in me thinking warmly of them or their judgment.

              My company’s headquarters is on a different continent, mail “to me” there might eventually get to me? The office manager there is very sharp. It’d be weird.

              We have coworking space in my time zone that is mostly used by sales/marketing staff, anything “to me” there would either end up in the trash or someone would kindly send me a slack about this weird thing and what do I want done with it. I work with engineering primarily, so I show up for the occasional team lunch or when a customer wants a technical discussion with a “real technical person”

              If a job seeker actually sent mail to my house I think I’d have a panic attack. It wouldn’t be impossible for someone to connect my name to my house, property records are public, but it would be so out of left field.

              You want my attention? Do good work. Write a cover letter that explains how your llama collation project was a great experience and sounds relevant to the alpaca collation work my team is doing in ways where you would be excited to grow while having skills to pitch in with. I’m a sucker for demonstrated analysis skills.

            2. WishIWasATimeTraveller*

              What makes it even more outdated is the fact that many businesses now use interview scheduling software, so calling (assuming you could even find a phone number) would be no help at all.

            3. Observer*

              And send that “pain letter” and resume by snail mail, even in the 2020s… This was already a terrible idea in the 2010s, but the idea has only gotten worse in the 2020s with the proliferation of mostly-remote work!

              It’s not just remote work. The point of most of the “genius hacks” is to get past the gate keepers. A physical piece of paper puts that gatekeeper right back in the mix. These days it’s less likely to happen, but when snail mail was the primary communications method, part of an office manager / receptionist job was often to check the mail *before* distributing it. Like, open it up and see what’s in it.

            4. SheLooksFamiliar*

              Exactly. Some job seekers are eager to ‘stand out’ and the Liz Ryans of the world offered questionable advice at best.

              I mean, there’s standing out in a good way – being qualified and/or experienced in the job function, resumes that are well-formated, interviewing well, understanding how the interview process actually works vs. should work, and so on. Then there’s the not-so-good way – using outdated methods to contact employers, trying to work around their process to show gumption, and assuming to know more about the role and the company’s needs than they do.

              If someone sent me a paper copy of their resume, I couldn’t accept it. Our policy is to only accept electronic applications, it’s written in our AAP as well. I literally can’t keep it without violating OFCCP guidelines.

          2. Jennifer Strange*

            I had never heard of a pain letter, so I googled it and found hit on hit about why you should use it and how to write one.

            1. pally*

              Years ago, I received one (as the hiring manager for a lab position).

              Didn’t know what to make of it as it was so off-base regarding who we were and why we were hiring someone. I actually felt embarrassed for the writer of the pain letter. It talked about how hiring them would allow me to devote all of my time to my many other reports and the numerous problems that necessitated hiring for this position (no direct mention of what these problems were). There was other talk about how their problem-solving abilities would put to rest any issues plaguing me as manager of an entire department of many dozens of people, etc. And it talked of my abilities to manage well.

              We’re a company of less than 15 people.
              And the position was an entry level lab technician, who would be my sole report.
              And I’m not much of a manager either.
              Have no clue where they came up with the read of the position that they did.

              I ended up putting the resume into the “no” pile. I couldn’t face the writer to explain just how off-base they were.

          3. Raw Cookie Dough*

            Liz Ryan now sells a program where she trains people to become career coaches. (I have no specific information about her program, just that it exists.)
            To me, this is like throwing water on the bad gremlin, and watching it replicate itself.

        4. Margaret Cavendish*

          I first heard this advice 25 years ago, so it’s been around much longer than social media hits! But I guess Gumption has always been a thing, and That One Weird Trick that nobody else knows but will instantly and magically get you in the door.

      2. Antilles*

        I don’t think they get “paid per bad idea”, it’s more that a lot of people *want* to be told that there’s a magic secret. That it is indeed unfair you don’t have a job yet, but don’t worry here’s an easy trick to solve that. That it won’t be some uncertain months-long process with frustration and false starts, you’re just missing the easy shortcut of X.

        1. Hamster*

          Yup and the ones who DO follow the rules? are insulted, demeaned, etc for being “losers”.. “you STILL haven’t found a job, what’s wrong with you?!”

        2. zuzu*

          It’s the same principle behind conspiracy theories: the magic key that unlocks it all, and you’re the only one smart enough to see it.

        3. Anon for this*

          As someone who works in the field of career in higher ed, students generally don’t like to be told that the job search takes time and effort, that they aren’t and will never be in control of anything but what they themselves do, and that gimmicks don’t get you the jobs you want to do in the places you want to work with managers who are effective and fair. The students who lap up terrible advice do it because they want there to be One Weird Trick. They want to find out that Hiring Managers Hate It When You Use This Simple Technique, But They Can’t Stop You. They want the shitty advice because it’s all pie in the sky and doesn’t involve forcused effort.

          Good advice is practical advice, and it acknowledges that there are things you don’t control and factors you’re not aware of and it doesn’t promise results on a specific (and short!) timeline, and many college students don’t just expect that, they feel entitled to it. And often their parents, who last did a serious new-field job search in the 90s (or the 80s!) are behind them telling them that there’s a surefire magic thing that will get them a high-paying job without effort, and if we aren’t telling them what the magic thing is, it’s because we’re idiots. So even if you are doing your best to stay on top of trends and give good information and to help students manage their expectations, the students often have people they trust in their ears telling them that you’re an idiot and your advice is crap. And then of course, if a student doesn’t get the job they want, you get the blame even though they never followed your advice and in fact did the opposite of what you recommended at every possible turn.

          A lot of us are out here fighting the good fight, but it’s not easy to do. We’re also grotesquely underpaid with unreasonable advising loads, so being shit on constantly by basically everyone is extra awesome.

          1. Selena81*

            I think part of it may be that showing some confidence (not overconfidence) and an ability to have a pleasant talk with the hiring manager is good for your chances.

            Not really abilities you can fake, but it can make it look from a distance like ‘showing gumption’ is paying off.

          2. Irish Teacher.*

            It happens in education too, in my experience, especially with kids from upper-middle-class backgrounds. There’s this assumption that there is some “trick” to getting the grades you need for college and if you go to the “right” revision course, taught by a “teacher with x number of years of correcting,” they will tell you that “trick” and you will get the points you need. It’s not true at all.

            Yeah, there are such things as exam skills, but they are things like answering the question you are asked rather than just “writing all you know,” relating each paragraph back to the question, taking care about timing so you don’t spend half the exam on a question worth 10% of the marks, etc. There isn’t this “one magical question that will come up this year and only the examiners know about it but if you can get them to give you a hint, you’ll know exactly what to study.”

            I actually had one of my students insisting that the taoiseach (prime minister) has said a particular topic was going to come up in their exam and would not believe me, no matter how much I told them that the taoiseach had not seen the exam any more than any of the rest of us and had no inside knowledge (what he had actually said was that the topic was on the course students were studying for the exam; think he said teachers can teach a particular novel and the student thought that meant they were guaranteed a question on that particular novel).

            And the thing is sometimes it does pay off. Sometimes students hear that a question is likely to come up and it does (we joked our Irish teacher must have “a leak in the department,” because we had actually done in class, both a comprehension and an essay that came up on the exam) and it doesn’t occur to them that with tens of thousands of students each sitting exams in 7 subjects, yeah, sometimes some people will guess right. It doesn’t mean they have some brilliant hack, just that everybody is trying to guess and there are only so many options. But I can imagine people who did guess right or who knew somebody who did thinking their hack paid off and now, they just have the find the hack for jobseeking. It worked for getting into college, right?

            And honestly, I think we all like to feel we have some control. Believing that getting the grades for college is partly just dependent on how smart you are and quite unfairly, how much of an aptitude you have for Maths, English and language, since in Ireland, English, Irish and Maths are required and a lot of colleges also require a foreign language or that getting a job depends on having had the right experience and also depends on nobody else just really impressing the hiring manager to the point it’s unlikely you’ll be able to compete feels scary.

            1. Anon for this*

              Yeah–it’s everywhere, really. I’m always so dubious of those One Weird Tricks because I’ve never met anyone personally who admitted using one successfully. “The best gimmick is a really solid resume and cover letter” is not a message that lands well with people who want the cheat code that lets them bypass 90% of the job search game and go straight to the final loot.

            2. Glen*

              There isn’t this “one magical question that will come up this year and only the examiners know about it but if you can get them to give you a hint, you’ll know exactly what to study.”

              not the same thing but I went back to uni as a mature student a few years ago finishing last year and I can not tell you how much I appreciated lecturers who would give us their entire exam question pool for revision, in some of my classes where they were particularly well chosen I feel like that was responsible for much of my enduring knowledge of the subject. Off topic but I am probably going back for further study this year and a little excited about it.

      3. KMY*

        The problem is that the career counseling industry blew up on 2020 – and many people in the industry have no real background and no real idea how hiring works.

        1. AnonORama*

          I’m sure it got worse. But I heard this type of advice (I don’t remember if it was exactly this, but similar gumption-y stuff to get around standard hiring practices) as a university student in the late 90s/early 2000s. It comes back in slightly different forms, like a disease!

        2. SheLooksFamiliar*

          A former employer was downsizing in 2001/2, and we had large reductions,. We set aside our own office space for a Career Center for production and hourly staff that were impacted, and hired an outplacement company to run job search and resume writing workshops. My office was near that area, and I overheard some alarmingly bad advice:

          You should expect a 10% increase in your salary, no matter what the job market is.
          Employers must interview you if you apply, as a matter of law.
          Copy and paste parts of the job description into your resume. If you don’t know how to do it, Google enough to pass the interview and learn on the job.
          Leave company-specific acronyms on your resume, they show you were part of the ‘inner circle.’
          You must network for your next job – not altogether bad advice, IMO – and you need a good suit and briefcase to be taken seriously.

          I don’t think those ‘career counselors’ could spell ATS, let alone use one. Their advice was so bad…

    2. MK*

      It’s also weird that anyone would think an employee must be afraid to admit to a higher-up they “lost an application”. To begin with, how can a candidate who wasn’t selected for an interview even know who scheduled the interviews? What if that person was the hiring manager themselves and they know perfectly well who was selected? But even if it was an admin or HR and they did overlook one interview, it’s hardly a dreadful work mistake that one would be afraid to own up to. Heck, most people would assume it was the hiring manager who forgot to include the candidate who was calling and confirm it with them.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I’ve told like three people in my current process I didn’t get their application. I didn’t. Mostly likely that ends up being user error, which reflects on them not on me. But maybe there was a system glitch, maybe I made a mistake. I’m not going to lose sleep in either case. I’ll correct it if I can but some kind of clerical error in one out of 300 applications is not the flex people think it might be.

      2. Bear Expert*

        And furthermore – why would you actively seek out working in an environment where someone is afraid to admit they lost an application? What does that say about the culture there that minor errors/hiccups in the process or workflow are scary and result in lying rather than investigating and fixing it?

        I don’t want to work anywhere that pushes people to lie rather than figure out truth and work to improve it. “Thanks for letting me know, I’ll check into it and get back to you.” is my bread and butter.

      3. hbc*

        It’s kind of hilarious. With all the complaints about *interviewed* candidates getting ghosted, why does anyone think a company would be so afraid to make a bad impression on someone they haven’t even met?

        “Sorry, I’m not seeing an interview scheduled for you. Can you tell me who contacted you or forward me the email you received so I can look into this?” This is just not an embarrassing thing to say. Especially if it’s more like “Uh, we haven’t scheduled any interviews yet, I think you’ve misunderstood something.”

        1. M*

          Not to mention that if the person you’re calling is decently trained to do hiring, they know it’s a far *worse* impression to interview someone they have no intention of hiring.

          Even in the most disorganised places I’ve worked, the best someone would have gotten out of this is is an “uh, I don’t have access to the hiring calendar, but I’ll let [hiring manager] know you called. just make sure you reply to the email to confirm the time, if you haven’t already”.

      4. Irish Teacher.*

        And as somebody else mentioned, would you really want to work for a company where people were afraid to even say “hey, did you schedule an interview with such a person? They rang me up to confirm but we’ve no record of such an interview,” just in case the person they were asking blamed them if there was a mistake. That sounds like a pretty toxic workplace.

      5. Wilbur*

        In a world where you submit your resume, manually enter your resume, submit your cover letter, manually enter your cover letter, and fill out a survey or two any time you apply for a job it’s bananas to think that companies won’t just have you do that again if your application is “lost”. I’m surprised we haven’t seen the bad hiring manager advice, “Delete the candidates application and ask them to resubmit to see if they really want the job.”

    3. Roland*

      People get carried away thinking of One Weird Trick and just don’t consider what will happen in the 30 seconds following their imaginary scenario. I see it all over the internet including the comment section here. Sometimes we forget that real life isn’t a sitcom where the zaniest thing can happen and immediately everyone moves on instead of having a realistic reaction.

      1. londonedit*

        I worked on reception for a small publishing company 20 years ago, and even then people had this idea that if they turned up in person armed with their manuscript, they’d somehow talk their way into a meeting with the boss and their amazing book would be signed up on the spot in a million-pound publishing deal. Unfortunately for their hopes and dreams my job was to politely turn them away, because neither the boss nor any of the editors took unsolicited phone calls or saw unexpected visitors. People would lie their heads off trying to get into a meeting with someone or trying to get me to put them through on the phone – this feels like just another version of that, trying to lie on the phone to somehow ‘get a foot in the door’. Any receptionist worth their salt will see straight through it.

        1. LifeBeforeCorona*

          You remind me of Sophie’s Choice when the writer encounters an old farmer who shows up at his office with multiple boxes of his manuscript with the expectation that it will be published.

        2. Carlie*

          Ah yes, a major plot point of The Muppets Take Manhattan. Alas, it only worked for Kermit, and then barely.

          1. LifeBeforeCorona*

            I would hire Kermit in a minute but not with Miss Piggy. HR would be spending most of their time dealing with them. The Muppet Show was a pretty discfunctional workplace.

            1. Lydia*

              Once upon a time it was so hilarious because of course Muppets would be that ridiculous and outrageous. Little did we know they based the Muppets on actual workplaces.

        3. Scholarly Publisher*

          I have fond memories, back before email was common when authors included a self-addressed stamped envelope or postcard for the publisher’s reply, of the person whose manuscript proposals had a SASP cut out of a frozen pizza box (and unevenly cut at that).

          They were successful in that I still remember those pizza box postcards two decades later. It didn’t get their book published, though.

        4. Bread Crimes*

          I once worked in the shipping/online sales part of a small game publisher. An acquaintance–barely even that, she was an old friend of my new boyfriend, and I’d met her maybe twice–showed up at the warehouse door one day, her own boyfriend in tow, to attempt to sell me on his card game so that I would take it to the company president to have it published. I was young enough, and new enough to working, that I simply could not! figure out! how to make them stop talking to me and go away! Even though I kept telling them the instructions for submitting a game for consideration were on the website!

          One of the most awkward experiences of my work life. I’m quite glad my manager was understanding about it; she could tell by the time I got them out of the warehouse that I wasn’t wasting time chatting with random friends, but simply didn’t have the social skills to get out of the conversation politely.

      2. Ladida*

        Yes exactly, this sort of thing can only work in a sitcom. I think the Tik tok person who suggested this trick either has no idea about the hiring process or just says random things that they know will never work but are likely to attract attention (probably the latter)

        1. Mister_L*

          If it wasn’t on Tik Tok I would have assumed that it’s a “gumption” advice from the people who insist we should show up with a resume and insist on handing it to the hiring manager while making eye contact.

          1. Ladida*

            This is even worse than gumption advice – with those you just rely on the possibility that the hiring manager is the sort of person who is impressed by this behaviour which I guess there is a 0.1 % chance might be true.
            For the tik toker trick, there are so many things that need to happen for this to work:
            – the company have started interviewing for this position
            – the hr person that you are contacting (presumably the person who posted the ad?) is completely disorganised and unable to cross check whether they have scheduled an interview
            – they are so afraid of the hiring manager that they will just schedule an interview instead of cross checking with them
            – there is no internal cv review tool that the hr person or the hiring manager can go to and check the application process
            – the hiring manager will just go along with it and do an interview with a person whose cv they have never reviewed or that they have rejected, just because hr have scheduled a meeting on their calendar

            1. MassMatt*

              And if they were afraid of checking with the hiring manager, wouldn’t the ogre of a hiring manager tear them a new one if they look at their schedule and find a meeting with a candidate they never scheduled an interview for?

          2. Willow Pillow*

            Yes, I witnessed something similar pre-Tiktok. I was a manager at a cultural nonprofit and one day the phone rings:

            Me: Hello, (cultural nonprofit).
            Caller: This is Rachel. Can I speak to the manager?
            Me: I’m sorry, what manager are you looking for?
            Caller: The manager in charge of hiring.
            Me: We aren’t hiring at the moment, but when we do need someone we’ll announce it on our website.

            To make matters worse, I lost that job due to COVID shutdowns and decided to try a government-funded career counseling place… Where I was told I should do cold calls.

      3. Potatohead*

        Back when I was starting my job hunting, my father told me a story about one guy who bought pizza for the office every day for a week after submitting his resume. I couldn’t convince him that would result in a restraining order these days, not a job offer.

        1. Artemesia*

          The thing is the stupid stuff works sometimes. I know a guy who hired a lawyer for his firm who walked in off the street and showed gumption. I was stunned to hear it, but it worked for this one guy — this was about 10 years ago. All it takes is a few stories like this to keep encouraging the nonsense.

          1. The New Wanderer*

            That’s the entire premise of the show “Suits” too, and (non-lawyer shows) “Psych,” “Elementary,” and “Castle” – it’s popular because it’s an entertaining concept/trope but apparently some people want to believe it could happen for them, if only they tried.

            1. Naomi*

              It didn’t even work out that well in “Suits”–to get Mike hired, he and Harvey lied about his qualifications and then spent multiple seasons doing increasingly shady things to cover it up, while the lie snowballed and more and more people became complicit. And then Mike went to prison for fraud.

              In the case of “Castle”, though, it wasn’t gumption so much as Rick Castle shamelessly trading on his celebrity status and connections.

          2. L'étrangère*

            In the 80s I had a boss with a pattern of getting drunk at parties and hiring cute guys on the spot. Which worked out well.. once. The rest caused various disruptions then were fairly swiftly disposed of. But this was a sole ownership company, usually around 10-15 people, and we did go under thanks to one of those grandiose plans from an utterly unqualified bozo. So not really recommended

        2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          Ugh, you’re reminding me of one of the worst coworkers I ever had. She was totally unqualified for the job but sent a box of croissants to the team after her interview, which my friend/quasi manager (not actually in charge of hiring but had extreme sway) thought was such a classy move she decided right then and there to hire her. Huge mistake.

          Managers that are taken in by flash are not who you want to manage you!

      4. Ink*

        +1 I think it has potential to work in the like <3 minutes short term, but that just means it's something to leave to episodes of Leverage instead of attaching it to your ability to pay the bills. It's a gimmick that seems to lay out a clever way to work the process to your own advantage, and maybe worked once on One Weird Boss, sure… or you could just use the level of confident bluster it'd take to pull off step one for legitimate interviews and networking. Y'know, things that DON'T have massive potential to torpedo your reputation

    4. bamcheeks*

      See, I don’t think it does, because you’re saying, “assuming that recruitment is a reasonably well-organised process which relies on well-founded and objective decision-making, how does this work?” This kind of advice appeals to people whose experience of hiring is that it’s an unfair, disorganised and arbitrary gate-keeping process– and that IS how lots of people experience the labour market. Some of those people will find *better* advice and figure out the logic of the system and how to make it work for them, but I really feel for people who are trapped in the state of mind where this kind of advice seems as good as any because the process seems so opaque and irrational.

      1. ecnaseener*

        +1 I feel like AAM is one of the only sources of advice geared toward getting hired by people who are good at hiring (and hopefully at managing) rather than talking your way into a job with the people who don’t know how to hire.

        1. Katie A*

          I think most sources of job hunting advice are targeted towards people trying to get hired at normal, relatively non-dysfunctional workplaces. AAM is unique in that it’s an advice column with an ongoing comment section, so there’s more entertainment value and more community feel.

          TikTok and Twitter and Reddit might all have a lot of advice that would only work at a deeply dysfunctional place (lilenth advice in this letter), but there’s also plenty of normal advice like “customize your materials” and “send thank you emails.”

        2. Eldritch Office Worker*

          It’s such an adversarial way to start a relationship with an employer. And many seekers may not care, I think a lot of this is job vs. career divide and that’s totally fine. But if it’s the easiest advice to find it’s also going to harm people who are trying to earnestly launch a career and find sane/healthy places to work.

          1. ecnaseener*

            Yeah exactly. From social media and what comes up on google, you would think the only two interviewing strategies are brown-nosing and being adversarial. Unless you stumble on AAM or similar, you might not realize there’s another option!

            1. Lily Rowan*

              Half of advice column letters of all sorts end with something like, “Do I just have to live with this, or should I confront them?” when you don’t have to do either of those! In many cases, you can have a non-confrontational conversation!

              I don’t know if this is just the people who end up online with these sorts of things, or if people in general don’t know how to act anymore.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                Online is a huge part of it. It amplifies stuff that draws attention (even if that’s best described as “shocked onlookers”) and someone being calm and normal and low drama just gets a lot fewer views. But if you are looking for someone to interact with in meat space, calm and reasonable and within social norms is much more what you look for.

              2. Cat Tree*

                Anymore? I can assure you that it has always been like this, maybe worse in the past. My 75 year-old mother was raised to never say no and to never complain, which was a huge source of frustration her entire life when people didn’t pick up on her subtle hints.

                1. Selena81*

                  My mother is 63 and has never had a job. So she never learned ‘work skills’ and spends most of her time with relatives and close friends.

                  Interacting with strangers is a huge source of discomfort because they keep ‘disrespecting’ her. She is a very negative person who is constantly complaining, but also kisses up to authority, and the people close to her have learned to kinda tune those parts out.
                  But strangers are taken aback: they don’t understand what she is saying in-between the lines, she doesn’t understand what other people are saying between the lines (until they spell it out, by which point she always gets enraged that anyone dare tell her she does anything wrong)

                  Growing up in a family like that was not good for my own early-career profesional behavior :(
                  And like most boomers she seems to be incapable of understanding the concept of ‘i have no lived experience so I should shut up’ (so I got all the terrible career advice, which was well-intended but very unhelpful)

              3. Irish Teacher.*

                I think it’s just that people don’t tend to write into advice columns with the issues they do know how to deal with. I don’t think people are any more clueless than they were in the past. There has always been a subset of people who think the only way to deal with things is to start a fight or else you are “being a walkover”/”letting them get away with it.”

                I also think some of those who phrase things like that are, consciously or unconsciously, trying to push the replies in a certain direction. They want validation for their intention to “confront” the other person, so they want to make it seem like replying with anything else is saying “just put up with bad behaviour.” They want to remove the other options from the table because they have already chosen the one they want to use and they just want people to agree with them and say, “oh, yes, it’s perfect reasonable to bully that person if the only alternative is to sit back and do nothing.”

      2. Michelle Smith*

        I feel bad for them too, because these same people are going to get scammed by one of these bad career advisors for a resume review or coaching that is worthless or actively harmful.

        1. MassMatt*

          I remember in high school a kid and his parents were interviewed in the local paper (it was the 80’s, they still existed then) about hiring a professional college search and application “expert”.

          This is probably really common among the affluent now, but wasn’t then. Our HS had guidance counselors, some of which were fairly useless but a few of which were actually very good at this process, and all of them were free. I’m told this “expert” cost a few thousand dollars, which was a lot then.

          He would up getting into NONE of the schools he applied to. Zero. Not sure if he had a “safety school” but if so, he didn’t get in there, either.

          I knew the guy since 4th grade, he was a jerk, so I wasn’t exactly upset to hear it. He had to scramble to get in to the very worst local community college.

          I think of this whenever people talk about terrible career/job search advice—this expert has probably moved on into exactly that field, given their reputation in college prep was ruined.

          1. Mel Es*

            Psst…Nowadays, there are ads on not only search and application expert, but a counsellor to curate extra-curricular activities, summer internships (not just jobs), course selections, school selections and perhaps interview practice. Of course, this kind of services is not cheap and is only for the affluent families.

            I could see the value of counselling on school/course selections and interview, but curating extra-curricular is going too far. How can I, as an employer, to tell true passion and curated activities? In addition, if such a service curated *everything* for the kids, there’s limited room to show initiatives and we will expect cookie-cutter applications.

        2. Helen Waite*

          The worst of the resume “coaches” keep you paying them by always finding just one more thing to tweak. The goal is a job, not an award for literature.

      3. Observer*

        This kind of advice appeals to people whose experience of hiring is that it’s an unfair, disorganised and arbitrary gate-keeping process

        Yeah, but this advice is even WORSE in this context. Because if the process is being run by a bunch of power hungry idiots who don’t care about fairness, what makes you think that they are going to be hesitant to own up to a mistake? And even in a case where they really did mess up an interview invitation their likely response is STILL going to be to not put it on the schedule, and they will probably blame the caller anyway.

        For anyone who doubts that, look for all the “crazy interview” stories. Places like this don’t care about whether someone actually has a legitimate interview, even when they show up. They *certainly* are not going to roll over for a phone call.

        1. bamcheeks*

          Oh completely, I’m not defending the advice at all. And I think it’s a bad thing that we have algorithms that reward engagement and boost “catchy” One Weird Trick stuff over solid advice. I just think it’s a symptom of a bigger problem which is that a significant proportion of the population experiences the hiring process as this hostile and irrational.

          1. Selena81*

            There aren’t any ‘get into university’ coaches in the Netherlands because the way to get into university is straightforward: get passing grades on the national exams. No such thing as extracurriculars or ethnicity-math or getting grandfathered in.
            Rich parents pay for extra tutoring and that’s pretty much the entirety of rich people gaming the admission-system.

            Afaik some communist countries had job-applications as the next step in that process (jobs assigned based on university-grades). I don’t think we should completely do it like that, but I wouldn’t mind having a lot more transparency and more objective criteria of why candidates get chosen.

            1. bamcheeks*

              There are for a few particularly competitive courses like medicine in the UK, which *has* to have criteria other than exam results because the skills and aptitudes required for medicine are much more complex than just “be good at science”, although medicine heavily skews towards second-generation medics and people with private education and lots of extra curricular activities so we’re clearly not getting that right yet.

              I work in graduate recruitment and if you’re looking at big graduate schemes and things, the criteria and selection processes are *extremely* transparent, and that is largely true for a lot of large organisation recruitment too. The challenge is really persuading people that they really are using the criteria specified in the job advert and that they can prepare for that, and that there isn’t a secret game to play.

              1. Irish Teacher.*

                Up to fairly recently in Ireland, the way to get into medicine was “get the highest grade possible in Irish, English, Maths, a foreign language, two science subjects and one other.” They have now tweaked the system of medicine for the very reason you mention and there is an aptitude test as well, but for pharmacy, dentistry, law, engineering, etc, the rule is pretty much as above (although the ones that aren’t science related don’t include the “two science subjects”).

            2. Irish Teacher.*

              Ireland is the same, but we still get people thinking they can game the system, though more by trying to “maximise their points”. It’s usually about attending revision courses advertised as “taught by an examiner with 20 years of correcting.” I’m not saying those things have no value, but…not as much as people think.

              They think there is some hack that will give them a clue as to what is coming up on the exam or that there is some prepared answer they can learn off in advance that will ensure them full marks and that…isn’t a thing.

              I will say for a lot of courses here it’s a lot more than “get passing grades.” For things like law or engineering or dentistry, it can be “get grades in the top 1% of the population.” They just go down through the list of applicants and say there are 100 places on the course, the 100 students with the highest grades get in, so for some courses, the points are extremely high.

              It has its problems as a system as it means people are being turned down for say medicine because they aren’t good enough at languages to get top marks in them. But yeah, it’s a pretty hard system to game and in a country as small as Ireland, that is very important.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      I think the key is that you don’t need to have ever been hired for anything as a prerequisite for making a Tik-Tok about your surefire tips for getting hired to any job.

      1. Antilles*

        Almost as importantly, you don’t need to have ever hired anyone yourself, so you can just imagine that “oh, people lose things all the time, of course this would work”, not realizing that most companies nowadays have a whole process involved in hiring so it’s trivial matter to back-check your ‘interview’.

        1. Selena81*

          bluffing worked to become an influencer and attract sponsors, surely it’ll work everywhere else

      2. Looper*

        This exactly. The number of fully grown adults who have fully invested in a TikTok CLEARLY made by a teen proclaiming life advice like this is staggering. TikTok is an industry in itself, anyone will say or do anything for views, none of it is vetted or researched or accurate.

    6. AngryOctopus*

      Also for jobs like mine, you often are scheduled with 3-6 people during the interview (depending on your prospective role) as you talk to heads of department as well as people who would be your coworkers. The person arranging this would know immediately that someone calling to “confirm” was full of it, as wrangling that many timeslots doesn’t just happen!

    7. Kate R.*

      I’ve been wondering about this because I’ve gotten some off-putting LinkedIn messages lately, and I was thinking, “Could college career centers be giving such terrible advice for ‘getting your foot in the door’?” I forgot about Instagram/Tik Tok and how controversy generates engagement. For example, I don’t love when a stranger asks me to refer them to a position at my company when I know nothing about them, but I can sort of understand shooting your shot. Then the other day I got one from someone claiming they’d be starting at my company in May and wanted to connect, but looking at their profile, some things didn’t quite add up, and they didn’t mention the name of my company in their message, so it got me thinking, is this a blanket message they just sent out to a bunch of people hoping for a response so THEN they could ask about potential openings? I can definitely see an “influencer” suggesting such a thing.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        “Could college career centers be giving such terrible advice for ‘getting your foot in the door’?”

        Yes. As someone who hires a lot of people straight out of college, a thousand times yes.

      2. Michelle Smith*

        When I was looking for jobs a couple of years ago, I did some research (informational interviews and actual applications) into what it would take for me to work with students in career services at a law school. It turns out that just having worked as a lawyer in various positions was enough for a lot of schools. No need to have been involved in hiring from the employer side literally at all. It is very strange to me.

      3. learnedthehardway*

        The claiming to be a new employee one sounds like the start of a phishing scam (or whatever it is called when someone directly contacts you instead of sending a suspicious email link) of some kind, to me.

      4. Daisy-dog*

        I will admit to the shot-in-the-dark LinkedIn messages. The strategy I was given is this:
        1. Look for people I actually know (This hasn’t happened for me yet.)
        2. Look for people with mutual connections that I have met in real life – ask that mutual connection to introduce me to their contact. (This worked really, really well.)
        3. Look for people with mutual connections that I don’t really know. Message says, “We both know ____. Small world!” (This did get a good response, but didn’t lead to an interview.)
        4. Look for people that I have anything in common with at all. Same university. In the department that I’m applying for. (This did lead to 1 interview.)

        The key to this is to never lie because that would sabotage any progress made by the connection.

        1. Selena81*

          I’ve never applied to a job where ‘knowing someone from the company’ would be a serious advantage.

          But I will admit to buffing up my connection-count from ‘just sad’ to ‘young profesional’ by confirming all the ‘maybe you know this person’ that LinkedIn suggests (complete strangers from my university and field of employment).
          Of course I would never ask any of them for a recommendation.

        2. Kate R.*

          It’s not really the messages from strangers that I found off-putting, and I agree with your strategy for finding some level of connection. I try to be receptive to someone asking informational questions or asking about open roles, even though I might not have much info to offer them. It was the “Can you please refer me?” that threw me off because I wouldn’t refer someone if I didn’t know their skills and work ethic. But I did go back and re-read the message I thought said they starting at my company in May, and it actually says they’re *looking* for positions at my company to start in May. My reading comprehension is not up to par today. I’ll probably reply something to them.

      5. AnonForThis*

        Shortly after accepting a new job, I got a LinkedIn message from a stranger who asked for the answers to the interview test. I was still trying to figure out how to say “no” forcefully enough when he said never mind; he’d mixed up my new company with another one with a similar name.

        He sure had a lot of gumption!

    8. Username Lost to Time*

      I saw advice on Instagram within the last 24-hours about lying about receiving a job offer. It does seem to be aimed at younger job seekers who are willing to work almost any kind of job because they need money. It’s also tricky because semi-sensational “advice” like this can be shared by influencers as comedy content (“ha ha ha, this can actually work!”) with no acknowledgment that it’s for entertainment only.

      1. Chas*

        I also saw this on Instagram this morning (maybe it was the same post!) and the only examples of it working that I saw in the comments were from people in hectic retail jobs. I’d guess that places with high turnover might be more vulnerable to tactics like this, but then those same places might also have been more appreciative for someone turning up with their CV and asking in person anyway, so is it really any additional advantage to lie about having been scheduled/hired already and risk having to deal with the fallout if you’re caught?

        1. Username Lost to Time*

          It’s pretty bad advice either way and it is aimed at the Tik Tok/Instagram crowd whose workforce experiences differ from older generations. Alison mentioned chaotic jobs as a possible example of this working. This might also work better than applying and interviewing normally in dysfunctional workplaces where business leaders aren’t communicating workforce plans.

        2. Daisy-dog*

          At my last retail job in 2013, the asst. manager asked me how much I was offered by the store manager. I told her the verbal offer that I’d received, but I might have been able to say a dollar or 2 more and might not have even been caught. The store manager didn’t have a great memory for details and had also gone out on maternity leave. There was no record!

          1. Daisy-dog*

            Should have mentioned – not advocating about lying. Just saying that showing up and claiming to have received a job offer might work in retail.

    9. Helen Waite*

      Advice like this sounds like sleazy social engineering tactics that my company has quarterly trainings on how to recognize and not get taken in by.

      Tactics like this would never work once too many people know about them. I’m pretty sure that the teams responsible for hiring are onto most attempts to bypass the process.

      1. JustaTech*

        Yup. It also sounds like the semi-scam phone calls I’ve been getting too.
        “We’re calling back about scheduling a patio inspection.” “I don’t have a patio.”

        “We’re calling back about the 2010 Lexus you were looking for.” “This is a lab phone, no one is looking for a Lexus.” “Oh, I am so sorry, I’ll take your number off our list!” (At least that guy was willing to own up to it being a cold call.)

        1. Helen Waite*

          My favorite of those is the caller who claimed I asked for a return call at that number. Not a chance. I had just moved and hadn’t been at that number.

        2. Nightengale*

          My corollary to “this is a lab phone” is “this phone belongs to xxx hospital.”

          One time someone actually then asked if the hospital would be interested in purchasing real estate in a completely different part of the country. Well maybe but the random pediatrician answering her on-call phone is not going to be the one to negotiate that on the hospital’s behalf. . .

    10. fhqwhgads*

      It’s not meant to work. It’s meant to get clicks. The “creator” doesn’t care if they get 1M clicks and 900k of those are people going “nooooooo such bad advice, look at this idiot”. For them it’s still preferable to getting 200k clicks on actual good advice.

      1. starsaphire*

        Yep, it’s the same as those “five minute crafts” or whatever videos that people constantly repost on social media – they don’t care if ALL of the feedback is “that’s super dangerous” or “that’s clearly faked,” they just care about engagement.

    11. Exactly*

      That narrow window is key. I have an interview today that was scheduled last Monday. One week of margin. And it sounds like they’re doing all the interviews in one day (not unusual in the field I’m interviewing in). If someone just happens to hit that window, even before looking up the application to see if they were on the list of eligible candidates, it is highly likely they’ll look at the time slots and see they were already all filled.

    12. learnedthehardway*

      Agreeing – it’s a ridiculous piece of “advice”. In fact, I would guess that whoever is suggesting it is trying to play a particularly nasty prank.

      Here’s what would happen. Candidate calls to claim they didn’t get the interview notice. HR Call centre forwards the issue to Recruitment. Recruiter is going to be “WTH?” and contacts the hiring manager to say “Did you schedule Candidate?”. HM is going to say “No – that’s your job” OR “No, we rejected them,” OR “No, never heard of them.”

      At which point, the Recruiter is going to realize that something iffy is happening, realize the candidate is trying to pull a fast one, and reject them for being devious.

    13. Momma Bear*

      Another horrible one I’ve seen is people swearing that just showing up and pretending it’s your first day works. Like…how? Such an incompetent company if that’s true.

      1. AnonORama*

        WTF? That sounds like a good way to get walked out of the building by a security guard. I mean, I guess it *would* get attention…

      2. Selena81*

        Sounds like something from the 1930s: when desperate people would allegedly offer to work for free in hopes of convincing the company to eventually start paying them

    14. Selena81*

      Most of my applications are for jobs that have some 20-30 applicants (including the ‘very unserious applications’), of which they let 3-5 people interview.

      So even if I somehow got the timing right and convinced a confused hr-intern to put me on the interview schedule I’d be sitting across a hiring manager who has personally read my resume (really looked at it, and discussed it with the rest of the hiring committee) and put me on the ‘no’ pile.

      Presumably it would be 1 awkward minute of ‘i am so very sorry, we did not invite you and will find out how this huge screw-up could have happened, much luck in your job-search, bye’

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        I actually had an interview once where no, I did not pretend to have been invited but the deputy principal invited me for interview, presumably not checking the requirements properly with the principal first.

        Schools sometimes keep your application in case another position comes up and in this case, a position had come up teaching Irish. Despite my username, I am not a fully qualified teacher of Irish (the username is from my nationality, not the subject I teach) and I said that to the deputy principal, that I did a year of it at college but do not have a degree in it and am not registered with the teaching council to teach it. He said that would do and offered me an interview.

        I turned up and the principal was like “um, why are we interviewing somebody who isn’t fully qualified in the area we need?” It was kind of embarrassing all round and was a wasted journey for me.

        While I assume most people this “trick” would apply to would actually be qualified for the job, I can nonetheless imagine them getting a similar reaction of “um…why are we interviewing this person who doesn’t meet the criteria we set out for who we are going to call for interview?”

    15. samwise*

      It would really not work any place that the hiring manager or chair of the search committee is making the appointments — that happened on our last couple of searches, where we were searching for an admin as well as for a professional position. Since we didn’t have an admin for support, I made the appointments.

      I would have immediately looked to see if I had inadvertently invited the person — highly unlikely, but I’m human… I would see that they hadn’t been invited, and responded that they had not been invited, perhaps it was another employer. That in itself wouldn’t bother me — why pretend applicants aren’t looking at any other jobs? If that closed the loop, ok. (I’ve had applicants submit a cover letter for another employer – I always email them and say “Your cover letter has some errors, please contact HR to see if you can replace it”. Because even the most organized person will muck it up now and then.)

      If they doubled down on it, insisting they did have an interview, I would cut them off pretty sharply, and make a note in the applicant file.

      If they applied for other jobs in our office, I’d let the hiring manager know.

    16. Spargle*

      “ 1. So much bad advice like that floating around instagram and i’m baffled about how it is meant to work. ”

      It’s not meant to work for job-hunters. It’s meant to work for the poster by getting their “engagement numbers” up.

  2. Jackalope*

    One thing with the coworker talking about her cats: since there are multiple degrees of separation between her and the person you heard from, maybe take what they said with a grain of salt. It’s possible that the sister’s friend is correct, but it’s also possible that, for example, JJ has new cats that the friend hasn’t heard about. This may be something you are certain about (say, the friend sees JJ on the regular and would know), but it’s possible her info is out of date.

    1. Daria Grace*

      Or I’ve talked about pets belonging to other family members with so much enthusiasm people might have thought they’re mine

      1. Dek*

        Yeah, my best friend and I no longer live together, but I still talk about his cat as if he were mine, because I love him *almost* as much as I love my cat (and I miss them being able to be buddies, and getting my double-cat-couch-naps)

      2. Bear Expert*

        I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about dogs I met at the park with enough enthusiasm people thought they were mine.

        Dogs are great and I pretty much can’t have one, so I fall in love with everyone else’s.

    2. Heidi*

      I’m also wondering why JJ wouldn’t just get new cats. Maybe she refers to them by the old cats’ names, like Snowball and Snowball #2 on the Simpsons, and that’s why her sister thinks she’s talking about a former cat.

      1. JSPA*

        I seriously considered giving newcat nearly the same name as oldcat, because so many of my “Good morning [before coffee]” and “hush sweetie, it’s 3 a.m.” and “good night”expressions–all made while half-awake, with 18+ years of reinforcement–creatively incorporate old-cat-name.

        (Newcat ended up with a different name that fit, but I do still use the same expressions, figuring that most of the meaning is carried by tone it and situational repetition anyway.)

        1. Hosta*

          My very old old, very small cat recently passed and now I keep finding myself telling my younger, much bigger cat that he’s my little chatty catty. He’s 25 pounds and not much of a talker. Those habits sink in DEEP.

          1. Lydia*

            I very recently reprimanded one of my cats accidentally calling her by the name of my husband’s and my beloved cat who passed almost 10 years ago. It really does live deep in that “muscle” memory.

            1. Elsewise*

              For a second I thought you meant that you called your cat by your husband’s name, which is something I’ve done to my dog. I’ve also done it in reverse. (I’m so used to “Rover! Get out of the way!” that when my partner is standing in my way and not moving, it just comes out!)

              1. JustaTech*

                Ah the old you know your parent is really, really mad when they call you by the dog/cat/guinea pig’s name.

          2. Kyrielle*

            I keep joking about our current cats being ‘In the way (name)’ in a tone of voice that suggests it’s funny. Their names are Kala and Maria. But the cat we lost recently was Ray, and he was often ‘In the way Ray’ and ‘Door-Ray’. The latter hasn’t stuck, it makes no sense with the new names, but the former still parses and hung around.

      2. Not Australian*

        Yes, we’ve got ‘repeat names’ in our cat household – although we retire a name after three uses because it just gets too confusing in the end.

      3. Dek*

        Some people just can’t after a heart cat. I know my cousin, who’s a vet, doesn’t intend to get a new cat since her last one passed. Some folks wait on the Cat Distribution System.

        1. thelettermegan*

          Ah I once decided to just wait on the Cat Distribution System and NewKitty showed up THE NEXT DAY.

        2. Blarg*

          Yea, I lost my beloved girl 14 months ago and I still cannot imagine having another cat. I don’t want another cat. I want HER. And that isn’t possible. I don’t know if I will ever have another pet. She was like an appendage, a part of my body and my soul.

          I have taken up houseplants though. They are fun and let me take care of them but when something goes wrong it doesn’t crush my spirit. I can just toss the thing.

        3. JSPA*

          The Cat Distribution System came through in under 10 weeks for me. Didn’t think I was ready, but luckily, I was.

      4. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yeah, Seth Meyers has mentioned a few times on his show and podcast that his parents always have a sheepdog and every single one of them over the years has been named Albert. We had a neighbor when I was a kid who always had a dachshund named Snoopy. It’s not unheard of.

        1. Esmae*

          My grandmother had three cats in a row named Joseph, Joseph II, and Josephine. None of them even looked anything alike.

        2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          My gran had about six purse dogs that I recall all named Poochie, regardless of gender.

        3. Sled Dog Mama*

          My dad had a Beagle named “Waggy” as a child. It took ages for me to figure out that that there were two, Waggy and Fat Waggy.

        4. new old friend*

          My grandparents had an assortment of cats throughout their lives, but for as long as I was alive, they always had a black cat named Magic. (Short, of course, for Magical Mr. Mistoffelees.) Definitely not unusal.

          1. AnonORama*

            That reminds me of Spenser in the old Robert B. Parker novels. He had at least two brown German short-haired pointers in the books, both named Pearl. (And if I remember correctly, the author photo showed him with a dog that could easily have been an all-brown GSP. I don’t know what his real dogs’ names were, though.)

      5. SarahKay*

        When I was growing up Mum felt that the names of my cat and my sister’s cat were foolish, so would only ever call the name of the family cat at feeding time.
        Family cat passed on; Mum continued to call his name on the grounds that both the others would come running (if they weren’t already there, winding round your legs and yowling about how hungry they were, didn’t we know they were starving? Starving, I tell you!) regardless of the name called and she was blowed if she was calling their actual names.
        We used to joke that the neighbours must be saying “Oh, that poor woman, she just can’t accept that her cat is gone, she still calls him every evening.”

    3. Artemesia*

      Or maybe she took the advice offered here recently to make up something innocuous in order to protect her privacy when people are sharing personal information in the office; cats are safe; imaginary cats are also less trouble than real ones.

      1. JSPA*

        Or she enjoys cat talk, and is allergic to the pall of sympathy that descends when your contribution is, “mine are dead, but.”

        1. L Dub*

          Absolutely this. I lost all 3 of my dogs within 13 months and while I could share stories about them, I couldn’t talk about them dying without ugly crying, and I’m not about crying in front of co-workers.

        2. UKDancer*

          Yeah. I split from my (fairly long-term) ex and didn’t mention it at work for a while because I didn’t want to talk about it and had one annoying colleague who always wanted to talk about peoples’ feelings about things and try and analyse them (in a really annoying way). So I let them think we were still together for a couple of months until someone expressly asked about him when I could say “we split up a while back” in a calm and dispassionate manner.

          1. Lydia*

            This is a good approach, for a lot of things. Tell the story they deserve to hear until you’re ready to do otherwise. It gives you the time you need to phrase it the best way for yourself.

            1. UKDancer*

              Yes it’s good to tell people something about yourself I think, but that doesn’t mean they need to know everything about you. When I split with that boyfriend I told my boss in confidence. He was an older chap, with a reputation for being grumpy, not good with emotions and not very touchy-feely. He patted me awkwardly on the shoulder, asked if I needed to talk (with a face that was strongly hoping I wouldn’t want to talk) and brought me my favourite coffee every day that week without ever mentioning the issue again.

              I strongly preferred that to some of my colleagues who would want to talk about my feelings a lot, dig for gory details and be all over it. Sometimes you don’t want to tell people something until you’re ready.

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          I really like this theory. (As someone happy to exchange anecdotes about adorable past pet as well as my three adorable present pets.)

        4. M*

          Or, as Allison speculated, is just too far in for coming clean to be easy.

          I had a colleague whose – very present in work conversations – cat passed away a few years ago. For a few weeks, she didn’t tell anyone bar her manager, and just played along with updates, because she wasn’t particularly ready for the flood of sympathy. Then, it was of course extremely awkward to let people know – in the end, I did a lot of “just so you know…” on her behalf.

          I could easily see someone who doesn’t socialise with their colleagues all that much, and primarily uses pet-talk as a low-stakes conversational tool, just… letting that go on too long to have a graceful way to say “actually, Smudge passed away in 2019”.

        5. Hannah Lee*

          I did this for a while when I had a long relationship dry spell. When people would talk about their significant others and would ask me questions about similar situations with mine, or if it was weird that I was only responding to their comments vs offering my own anecdotes, I’d mention something that had happened with an old boyfriend. I was careful to be vague about dates and never used a name. I’d also sometimes be vague about what I was doing for Valentine’s Day “Oh, *we’re* going to that new place downtown” when I was actually going with friends for Galentines. Let people fill in the blanks.

          Because there was either an view that NOT being in a relationship was ODD or I didn’t want to deal with well-meaning co-workers giving me boyfriend finding advice.

          At places where the vibe was less of a coupled-mono culture or less judgmental/ boundary challenged I wouldn’t bother.

        6. Alice in Spreadsheetland*

          Yep. I think it’s very possible she wants to contribute to the conversation without the ‘my cats are dead’ mood killer. It’s just so much more likely too than her actually having a delusion that they’re still alive. I had a family tragedy last year and still refer to some stuff in present tense when it should be past because it’s just too much to deal with the ‘pall of sympathy’ when I’m just trying to have a casual conversation. I can see that going on for years at a workplace when it’s something so low stakes as pet stories.

        7. Lala*

          Yes I talk about my cats as if they were alive but not a lot
          When someone asks if I have cats , I would mention they are dead

          How else do you join in the convo though
          “My cats are dead but when they were alive [ insert cute thing] “

      2. Ellis Bell*

        Yeah, it’s honestly not a big deal to change the tense of the story when you’re just looking to share an anecdote. Also not sure why OP is so convinced these aren’t new, or namesake cats.

        1. Lexipedia*

          To be honest, I have frequently changed the tense on anecdotes when sharing stories about people I know who have passed away. It makes it much less awkward to say “My friend is…” than “My friend was…” and then explain how the story ends.

          1. bamcheeks*

            Yes, same. And if I’m talking casually about say, my parents, it is linguistically awkward to use the continuous present for my dad and the past tense for my mum!

          2. Constance Lloyd*

            My version of this is completely omitting the existence of my brother when people ask about siblings, because nobody is emotionally prepared to hear about pediatric brain cancer when they’re just making pleasant get-to-know-you small talk. He may come up in conversation later, but most people don’t remember my original answer by then.

            1. Bear Expert*

              Yes. People understand that “hey that’s a fun park – I went there as a kid!” level surface chat is not the time for introducing horrific tragedy, or they suck.

          3. cloudy*

            I do this too when talking about my late cousin I spent a lot of time with growing up. Most of the time I just want to talk about my cousins without having to pull casual acquaintances or strangers into the emotional baggage of “oh but he died of cancer as a teenager.” It’s much lighter to just use the present tense.

      3. Lora*

        Especially since according to the LW this is a cat-havers heavy office that often talks about their cats, so there’s a certain pressure to also have cats to socialize and be part of the cat-havers cat-talks.

        1. Allonge*

          This. Also, sometimes people don’t know how to (or don’t want to) change their ‘thing’ in the office. If JJ’s ‘thing’ has always been detailed, involved cat stories, it may not be that easy to admit that there are no living cats around any more to create new stories.

          In any case, it’s fairly innocuous – does OP really know that all the other cat stories are really true?

        2. Smithy*

          Yeah – in the past I used to read a lot and cook a lot more as a hobby (i.e. making jams, pickles, etc. in addition to more complicated recipes). At the moment I don’t do much of either, but both remain very safe and easy work place discussion topics in social moments. The fact that it’s a recipe or book from 6 years ago…..I’m still happy to vouch for them or share a silly kitchen accident story.

          This isn’t to relate no longer making cookies with cats passing away, but lots of people don’t like discussing difficult issues with their coworkers and I could see how this could easily snowball on someone. I have a friend recently get a new job right as she was starting divorce proceedings and saw it as a huge blessing to never have to tell her old coworkers what was happening or her new coworkers that she was ever married.

      4. Gemstones*

        I dunno, I mean, I think there’s a difference between making up something silly for an icebreaker and coming up with elaborate imaginary cats…

        1. Observer*

          think there’s a difference between making up something silly for an icebreaker and coming up with elaborate imaginary cats

          Yes, but even assuming that the cats are dead and were not replaced, this is not “making up imaginary cats.” Those cats did actually exist. And JJ is just recycling stories in the present tense. If’s just not that big of a deal.

          1. Gemstones*

            From Artemesia’s comment:

            “Or maybe she took the advice offered here recently to make up something innocuous in order to protect her privacy when people are sharing personal information in the office; cats are safe; imaginary cats are also less trouble than real ones.”

    4. Whyamihere*

      I have 2 cats now but I often tell stories about their interactions with other cats and a dog my ex kept after the break up. I make that clear the first time we chat but I may forget to mention it again. I have a cute story about my baby coming in the house (we had 3 cats and she made it 4 plus the dog) which involves all of the animals and how she brought peace and tranquility to a somewhat chaotic house.
      But know this, if you cats are living, dying, or passed…I want to hear about your pets. All I f the time and I will never judge you if you use the wrong tense in your story.

    5. Smithy*

      For a start – I want to agree with all of this and the majority of advice that has been given on the cats.

      However – and this is speculating – if the OP has been struggling to work with this coworker for other reasons not mentioned. And then hearing this story felt like a lightbulb moment of “she’s become increasingly challenging to work, her communication has felt less reliable, but I could never put my finger on it,” – that can both be 100% fair, and also still not actionable at work. It may be more of a sign for the OP to document those specific issues at work (i.e. I asked for the TPS report COB, she said sure and while I don’t mean 5pm on the dot – the fact that she will then submit materials at 10pm makes working with her harder because I have to over clarify all expectations).

      On the face of it, just let this go no matter what. But if this feels like it’s highlighted other work patterns – then pay more attention to those, be better able to articulate and document those, and flag those to her or your supervisor as relevant. This can’t be the gotcha moment.

        1. Lydia*

          We try not to write fanfiction here. Absolutely nothing was mentioned about JJ’s work, so let’s just let this idea die on the vine.

      1. Lydia*

        The only mention of possible connection to work is this comment and it should end there. No fan fiction, please.

        1. Smithy*

          Lots of our comments inevitably are speculation about what else might be going on – either with the OP or their fellow coworkers.

          My comment was truly coming from a place of giving the OP the benefit of the doubt that perhaps there were other issues at play at the office. It doesn’t change the core advice that the issue related to the cats isn’t important or relevant to work (as I said in my comment). But the difference is that if this has helped the OP see other work related issues differently, then it’s important to focus on those alone.

          I see this as no different than learning from a third party outside of work that a coworker is cheating on their partner. That news isn’t relevant in the office and provided you overall have a good working relationship, the best thing you can do is likely to forget about it. But if this coworker is regularly ghosting scheduled meetings critical to your job – you don’t bring up the issue of their cheating on their partner – you bring up the meetings issue.

    6. Curious*

      LW seems inclined to believe the person who is “a mutual friend of JJ’s sister.” Why is this person so worthy of trust?

      1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

        Yep, this. I don’t think I could reliably recount all my siblings’ pets’ lives, though I’d probably get the highlights. I absolutely can’t recount all my friends’ siblings’ pets’ lives! I don’t see how JJ’s sister’s friend could be considered a reliable source regarding JJ’s current cat situation, at all.

    7. learnedthehardway*

      Yeah – people have cats. Or rather, cats have people.

      It’s entirely possible for a person to have or have had multiple cats. At different times.

      Also for people to not inform friends of friends that additional cats were acquired / acquired them.

      I would treat your coworker as the possession of her various purported cats.

    8. Momma Bear*

      Agreed. I’ve had and lost several pets over the years. Someone a few degrees removed from me might not know I’ve gotten new pets. Also, weird as it may be, sometimes people name pets the same names as old pets. If it doesn’t impact the work, I’d just let it go.

    9. Nameless*

      I also think it’s possible there were three cats, one passed, and two are still alive – that seems like a very easy detail for someone to misremember.

    10. T'Cael Zaanidor Kilyle*

      Re #1: Yuck! I get cold calls from salespeople who use this tactic all the time, and I make a mental note never to do business with them.

    11. Blue Pen*

      Yes! The game of “Telephone” is real—information easily gets distorted, even by well-intentioned people. Not quite the same thing, but a friend of mine heard from a mutual friend something that made her think she was no longer in the running for a job she really wanted. It turns out that mutual friend got her wires completely crossed, and my friend was the top choice for the position.

    12. Selena81*

      Really so much innocent explanations. From the information being flat-out wrong to the coworker embracing an innocent fantasy that lets her join in the group-talk.

      I really like that Allison went for ‘this is no cause for concern, unless the coworker is delusional in other ways’.
      It wouldn’t be the first time someone is accused of being crazy, proves the initial accusations to be completely false, but never loses the being-crazy stigma.

    13. Yorick*

      Sometimes when people are talking about their pets I want to share a story about my dog, who died several years ago. I will say something like “I had a dog and he would always do X…” but sometimes it would be easy to just say “One time Fido did X,” forget to specify that Fido is no longer with us, and not realize that it sounds like I’m lying about having a dog.

  3. Prefer my pets*

    LW2, I wouldn’t even necessarily assume that someone that far removed is even correct about whether she currently has cats. I catch a lot of crap from one side of my family about my pets so when I had a terrible year where I lost nearly all of them (cancer, age) I’d my new animals for quite a long time before anyone on that side knew it…certainly their friends didn’t!

    Whatever the situation, you should simply ignore this “information”…whether she’s gotten new cats, didn’t want to talk about it when they died & now feels weird, or whatever is absolutely zero percent your concern. And for the love of whatever you hold holy, DO NOT spread this rumor to other coworkers! You could destroy her entire career over something you don’t even know is true.

    1. Prefer my pets*

      my kingdom for an edit buttone when typing on my phone!

      My dad, whom I’m very close to but never comes to my house, didn’t find out about my new dog for almost 2 yrs until my mom slipped!

    2. Observer*

      And for the love of whatever you hold holy, DO NOT spread this rumor to other coworkers! You could destroy her entire career over something you don’t even know is true.

      Yes. This is SO important. You don’t know if it’s even true, so please don’t act on it.

      Don’t even start looking at her to figure out whether it’s true, or to see if you spot signs of whatever (including a need for mental health support).

      1. Viette*

        So true. If she didn’t do anything that indicated she needed mental health support before, I don’t know what support she would need now.

        Also, OP, spreading this around would make you seem very interested in passing juicy gossip, which even if the gossip is true is not a good reputation to have. At best (the story is true) you destroy her reputation at work and give yourself one as someone who will dig into a coworker’s personal business on a rumor, and at worst (the story isn’t true) you destroy her reputation at work and give yourself one as a gossip and a liar.

        1. LifeBeforeCorona*

          All very good points. At one time I had 5 cats and now I have none but I still speak of them as though they are alive because like many cats, they all had convoluted histories.

          1. ferrina*

            This. Even if LW’s info was correct (and it’s very possible that it’s old info or just inaccurate), someone talking about deceased pets in present tense doesn’t mean that they’re delusional. I’ve been tempted to do this myself- if you say “my cat that passed away”, that radically changes the tone of the conversation. I still love my deceased pets, and sometimes it’s nice to talk about them without the weird “sorry for your loss” vibe.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        Yes this is really important advice. I’m sure OP landed on this news accidentally, just wants to know how to converse about it going forward and compared it to the movie “Psycho” for humour, but it’s not actually a great look to be this invested in whether someone’s anecdotal pets are really truly alive or not. I don’t think OP is honestly gossipy but it could look that way.

        1. Kim Gwen*

          I honestly find it such a bizarre take/leap to go from ‘someone might share anecdotes about their cat in the present tense, even if the cat might be deceased’ to ‘they must be akin to a murderous, mentally ill person’.
          Very unkind and unwarranted.

          1. ABC*

            It kind of makes me wonder how the LW felt about JJ before hearing about the cats from the mutual friend. I mean, Norman Bates?

          2. JF*

            Yes. Frankly, it’s extremly uncomfortable to me (as someone with psychosis) to see people in the comments giving ‘benefit of the doubt’ to this letter-writer. Anyone whose go-to reference for this kind of mental health issue is ‘Psycho’ is not someone I would ever trust to have my best interests at heart.

    3. allathian*

      Yes, this. LW, you have a lot to lose and nothing to gain if you act on the unfounded third-hand rumors you’ve heard. There’s absolutely no reason to do anything about it, let your coworker enjoy her cat talk.

      Don’t talk about your coworker’s business with your mutual social media connections, either.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, I think the most likely scenario here is that JJ had cats that died, and now JJ has more cats. It’s certainly possible JJ just didn’t want to say her cats died at work and so continued talking about them as if they were still around, but it’s highly unlikely JJ genuinely believes dead cats to be still alive.

      If I were OP I would choose to believe the first scenario and proceed as normal.

  4. Observer*

    #3- Coworker who baby-talks.

    Does this woman show any other signs of bad judgement or lack of professionalism? I literally gasped when I read the heading for this one. It’s a very, very weird thing to do.

    Also, are you the only woman of childbearing age who might be likely to have children in your area? Other mothers of young children? How does she treat the mothers, and talk to them, especially about their children, if such exists?

    I think that there is a real possibility that you are going to have to go into “always in professional mode” with her. Because if she ramps this up or it goes on to once the baby comes, you’re going to need to put up some barriers and also make it clear to anyone observing this that she’s in her own world here, and she’s not “sharing” with you, nor is your behavior in any way contributing to her strangeness.

    Also, document her behavior for yourself, in case things get weird. There are two reasons for this. One is that this is so bizarre that having a record for yourself can keep you from wondering if you’re losing it. Like “Did Coworker REALLY behave do weirdly?” kinds of questions in your own mind. But that record makes it easy to see what were dealing with. But also, if things get weird or you need some help in dealing with her, having the whole history on record and organized (even though it’s not “official” documentation) is going to make things easier.

    1. Carl*

      Oh, good point. The baby’s birth is only going to make this worse.

      Some people are just baby people. And wow was that annoying to me when I was pregnant (and when I had young babies). I don’t really like babies – love my kids, but I’m just not a baby person. You know what I like even less than babies? A grown woman baby talking at me.

      1. allathian*

        Oh indeed. I was never very interested in anyone else’s babies until I had my own, and while I could fake it for a while with my friends, my tolerance for talking about my coworkers’ babies was limited. I loved our son as a baby and cooed and baby-talked with him like there was no tomorrow, I was glad when he aged out of it. But my son’s never been my main small-talk topic at work. I might mention him occasionally, but I don’t tend to talk about our kids much even with those coworkers who are parents themselves.

        So far, I’ve enjoyed every age on its own terms, including the terrible twos, the mini-teens at 6-7, the tweens, and now his teens. I love watching him grow and mature while I try to enjoy every age for its own sake.

      2. morethantired*

        RE: Baby people. When my best friend who is like a sister to me was pregnant, I was so excited for her I had the small printout of her ultrasound she gave me on my desk, facing me. No one ever asked about it until one day this woman who I worked with noticed it and FREAKED out shouting “OH MY GOD YOU’RE HAVING A BABYYYYYYYYYY!” I was so shocked I couldn’t help but laugh really hard and say “No, no, this isn’t my ultrasound photo.” It was so awkward and it was clear she’s just one of those people who loves babies so much that even the idea of one gets her over-excited.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I used to work across the way from a lady who was not only routinely mad that none of the 20-something women in the office were pregnant, but when the betta fish I kept in my cube made a bubble nest, she pointedly informed me that she was going to throw a baby shower for him.

          Before that came to a head, they flea-bombed our office over the weekend with no warning and he didn’t make it. While I was trying to figure out how to appropriately dispose of him, her team asked me if they could have a tiny funeral for him and they ended up parading through the cube farm humming Taps and burying him in their lobby ficus plant, with a little popsicle-stick marker. They were nice people, but a little weird.

          1. SweetFancyPancakes*

            I admit, I kind of… love that? I don’t think I would ever do it, but it would kind of delight me if some coworkers did.

          2. nm*

            Ok if we could have a version of this person who treated women normally, but also threw baby showers for fish, that would be ideal.

        2. AnonORama*

          Ha, I had a picture of my nephews on my desk at a prior job and a woman I’d never worked with came up and screamed at me when she saw me still at my desk at 6pm: “WHO IS TAKING CARE OF YOUR CHILDREN?” I was like, “My sister and brother-in-law — they’re their parents!” It took her a minute to get it, and she then ran away like her hair was on fire. Never spoke to me again, which seems like a plus. Don’t ASS-ume.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        I actually think it’s unlikely to be worse after the baby is born. People are VERY WEIRD about pregnant woman and inexplicably lose all sense of normal boundaries.

        1. Observer*

          Indeed they are. But they are also very weird about the mothers of infants, especially when the bystanders have been around throughout the pregnancy. It’s quite common that a normal sense of boundaries does not reappear after the baby is born. People have Opinions on nursing, sleep schedules, childcare, diapers, you name it. And they feel totally free to express those opinions.

    2. Malarkey01*

      While I think this is annoying as hell and that LW shouldn’t have to deal with this….it really isn’t that weird. Yea weird as you shouldn’t be up in peoples pregnancy but not weird in that society, especially with older women, think that a pregnancy defines a woman and is a shared communication activity.

      My older neighbor also baby talked to “baby” when she saw me- it was her way of connecting and giving the baby a personification and she thought she was supportive. Again TOTALLY okay not to like it and want it to stop, but I did want to counter that I don’t think it’s weird in the same way that you should document because no one will believe or it’s some unheard of bizarre behavior. It’s very very common sadly.

      1. myfanwy*

        Yeah, I would hate it and find it seriously awkward to deal with, but a lot of people would unfortunately see it as pretty standard behaviour around pregnancy, or at least the cutesey far end of normal. That doesn’t mean LW should just put up with it, by any means, but she’s unlikely to get much traction by treating it as a totally bananapants thing that means her coworker is out of touch with reality. It’s a terrible norm, but it is a norm.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        I agree that while it is very eye rolly and patronising, this is really common, and intended to be supportive of your exciting news etc; I think that you can just say it’s not your cup of tea. I actually think it would be easier for OP to just turn it down that way, as being a matter of taste, than to react as if it was really jaw dropping and egregious. I would just say “Ah, no baby talking around me please – it’s like nails on a chalkboard to these ears I’m afraid” or “Oh I am not one for baby talk AT ALL; please just let me have these last few months of discussion with adults!”

        1. Honoria Lucasta*

          I agree that this is likely to get the most traction, and it has the added benefit of being less likely to risk the professional relationship.

        2. LW#3*

          I had a discussion with my mom about this just yesterday, and she had similar advice. I am one of the younger people in my office (not yet 30 but a few months away…) and while there are parents of children, she definitely treats me differently than my supervisor (a parent to a 4 and 7 year old) and other coworkers with kids in their teens.

          I should also specify that while I am excited for the baby, I don’t really enjoy being pregnant. I am really private, especially at work, and it makes me feel…funky in a way I can’t describe that people now actively know what my husband and I do in our private time.

          This woman has also approached me previously about my weight when I had a slight weight gain and asked if I was pregnant, so I may already have a bias towards her that she is unprofessional.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            Oh, ugh, yeah, she’s way too personal with her questioning. I’m curious: was the “moved on to maternity clothes, have we?” question from her or someone else? Because even though you said you were ok with it, that’s a terrible thing for someone to say to a coworker (commenting on your body…seems absolutely on-point for her).

            My old roommate had a coworker who was pregnant and the always-inappropriate HR director (!) actually said to her out loud with actual words: “Wow, you’re finally starting to look pregnant from behind!” Like, what???

            1. LW#3*

              The maternity clothes question was actually from another coworker – it was definitely an overstep, but I have a better relationship with the other coworker and we moved on to talking about work immediately following, so to me, that was an easier pill to swallow…but still not great!

              Your old roommate’s HR director was absolutely bananapants!

              1. Slow Gin Lizz*

                Ah, ok, I can see how that comment would be a lot more tolerable coming from someone who doesn’t already grate your nerves. Still kind of a weird thing to say, tbh.

                1. AngryOctopus*

                  Yeah, unless you say “oh, have you moved into maternity clothes yet, because if you’d like something I have a bunch I was getting rid of, and I can bring them in so you can grab something if you want before I donate”, it’s not a topic of conversation!! And honestly you can skip the first part and just say “would you like to go through the maternity clothes I have before I donate them?”!

                2. Ophelia*

                  Yeah, and while it wasn’t great, at least it was, like… adult to adult? I will say in my office pre-pandemic we had a secret(ish) closet of maternity clothes, so this would have been a totally normal exchange, like, “ooh, are you in maternity clothes? Do you know about the closet??” (Basically people would bring in secondhand stuff in good condition, and it was all roughly organized by size, and just generally kept up by the women who used it.)

          2. Observer*

            This woman has also approached me previously about my weight when I had a slight weight gain and asked if I was pregnant, so I may already have a bias towards her that she is unprofessional.

            This is not “bias” it’s a reasonable response to legitimately unprofessional behavior. I’m totally not shocked by this, and I think that this is all of a pattern.

            It’s true that there is a lot of societal weirdness around babies and pregnancy, but it does not make the behavior ok in a professional context. Same as with weight. There is a ton of weirdness, craziness and judgement. But most of us recognize that it’s not OK to bring that to the workplace.

            I should also specify that while I am excited for the baby, I don’t really enjoy being pregnant.

            That’s very common. But in a way, not even relevant. She should not be talking that way to you. Even if you were enjoying every minute of your pregnancy, this would probably grate (I know of women who DID enjoy their pregnancies *except* for the people who talked to their stomach.) She’s just out of line.

          3. Venus*

            I think the comments around this are circling around the important bit: you should talk with her about it and not raise it to management or HR yet, because this is likely cultural to her and hopefully telling her to stop will fix it. If she doesn’t stop then obviously bring it up elsewhere, but she may have experienced it a lot when she had kids and expects that this is reasonable behavior, without appreciating that cultures have shifted, a lot.

            For all you know she may treat others differently because they told her to stop it, or at least I hope that’s the case because it’ll make it easier for you!

            1. Observer*

              because this is likely cultural to her and hopefully telling her to stop will fix it.

              I would actually be surprised if it were cultural to her. But, I agree that asking her to stop is probably a good first step. It can’t hurt, and it might just work, regardless of why she is doing this.

              1. Cicely*

                What would be a really good first step is if mother-to-be could somehow make her belly command co-worker to stop. I’d PAY to see that.

          4. Ellis Bell*

            “when I had a slight weight gain and asked if I was pregnant”…(!) I honestly think that’s the headline item here… wooow. Must have been a fun thing to hear when you were trying. So, you would be pretty on guard around her, and prepared to cock a critical eyebrow and say “Well, what do you mean by that? No, honestly, what though?” ..or I would at least. As for: “It makes me feel…funky in a way I can’t describe that people now actively know what my husband and I do in our private time”… she doesn’t really know though, does she? Because not everyone gets pregnant the same way,so she has no solid idea, but I think I have had a similar reaction to a colleague who has a similar lack of tact about bodies. I mean, she doesn’t talk directly to my midriff at least, but it’s all diet this, diet that and if we’re ill, it’s all questions about how many of our symptoms are manifesting, and if she’s ill, it’s waay too much TMI on the group chat. Lately she’s gone all anti carbs and I’ve decided that seeing bodies everywhere she looks is just a cross she bears and I’ve just tried to be kind about it. But annoying, yep.

        3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Here’s the thing – what’s considered eye-rolly from a woman is just downright CREEPY from a man. I think it’s very valid to consider your coworkers and their thoughts/feelings around their own pregnancy. Just changing the gender of the offender shouldn’t make a behavior better or worse in a professional setting.

          Yes – during a pregnancy I had to deal with a much older male coworker baby talking to and wanting to feel kicks while pregnant at work. He got talked to a whole bunch of times before being assigned to a new location for the last trimester because he just would t stop.

          1. Space Coyote*

            Wtf, assigned to a new location? As opposed to say, being fired for refusing to keep his hands to himself?!

            Sorry, I’m just feeling incandescent rage on your behalf. D:

          2. MigraineMonth*

            He was *assigned to a new location*? How is that the appropriate discipline for continued pregnancy harassment after multiple warnings? Did they plan to continue moving the missing stair around as people became pregnant?

    3. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

      That’s what I was thinking: if she’s like this now, how will she act after the baby’s arrived? >.<

    4. Mockingjay*

      Name the behavior so it’s clear what needs to stop.

      “Stop. I don’t want to hear baby talk aimed at my belly. It’s weird and uncomfortable. ”
      “I’m not interested in sharing details of pregnancy woes.”
      “I’m not discussing my appointment with you.”
      “You’re being intrusive. Please respect my privacy.”

      OP3 can soften the language if needed; the important part is to specify each irritant as it occurs so Grandma Coworker clearly understands what conversation or action needs to cease.

    5. Bear Expert*

      I’m a huge fan of reacting to it like its the off the wall weird overstep that it is. I know we often insulate our feelings from our expressions in a professional environment, but if you can do it, this is a good time to just… react. Full body shudder and jerk, wince face, take a step back. Or go cold and blank. Whatever you feel as a reaction, react it. Visibly recoil and collect yourself, “Oh Gertrude, please don’t do that. I’m sorry, I’m in work mode and not prepared.” Then collect and redirect – “I was focused on the Jones report – do you have the numbers yet?”

      If you can give her some way to interact with The Baby Process in a way you feel happy about, directing a flow of unwanted attention to a place I’d actually appreciate it is one of my favorite maneuvers to avoid relationships going south. “I love how excited you are about my baby, but I’m enjoying having a place where I’m not a baby incubator, at work can we stay on work topics? But if you have any good make and freeze ahead recipes, I’d love them, I’m trying to stock my freezer for afterward.” Or say you love the hospital blanket/knit cap donation program and would appreciate hearing if they could support it. Or skin care (not my first thought, but my MIL was all over finding skin care stuff for me for while I was pregnant and afterward, which ended up being an unexpected area where I didn’t feel she was stepping on my toes and she got to be supportive and communicate that she wanted me to be cared for.) Basically, find something where Gertrude’s desire to help and be in solidarity with another person doing something great and challenging can be channeled into something that doesn’t drive you right up a wall.

      Because community and desire to help and be in solidarity is good, we should all support each other doing the challenging work of building and maintaining civilization and society. But the baby talk at the belly isn’t giving the intended support and connection. If you can find something that does, that would be a gift.

      1. oh geez*

        I did this recently, someone that reports to me is out on parental leave, and someone from another team asked me full of excitement “Did you get to touch her belly before she left??”

        I let my genuine horrified reaction fill my face and replied “God no, of course not, I would never put someone on my team in the position of having to defend their bodily autonomy from me”

        Shut down that line of questioning real fast.

    6. Momma Bear*

      I would flat out tell her to stop. It makes you uncomfortable and people take (or try to) too many liberties with pregnant people and babies. You sometimes need to firmly put them in their place. No, you do not want the baby talk. No, you do not want anyone’s commentary on your healthcare or diet. No, you do not want anyone to touch you. Etc., whatever your boundary may be.

  5. Observer*

    #1 – Do not ever take advice from someone whose core gimmick is based on lying and assuming that your audience is stupid, incompetent and / or chaotically disorganized? What makes you think they are going to me more honest and respectful with you?

    I can hardly imagine what it would be like working for an organization so badly run that you could actually get a real interview that way. But anything that I can think of sounds really, really bad.

    1. Allonge*

      Your last paragraph is what I was thinking – what exactly would such a place be like to work for?

    2. Grey Coder*

      Yes, I have worked at organisations ranging from giant multinationals to small startups and everything in between, and this “trick” would not have worked at any of them. I can’t imagine how chaotic a place would be for this to get someone an interview.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Yup, I worked in a school where the principal said he’d let me know in two days after the interview if I’d gotten the job, didn’t call me back for four or five and said, “oh, I meant to call sooner, but I couldn’t find your phone number,” and yes, that school was as disorganised as that indicated and I don’t think even he would fail to notice that he hadn’t chosen to interview somebody.

        I guess it might work because you’d probably get onto the school secretary, who might think, “oh right, he forgot to give me the necessary information again. OK, I’ll sort it,” but she’d probably ask him and even if she didn’t, yeah…the fact that stuff like that was normal in that school meant you were dealing with that kind of chaos while working there,

    3. LifeBeforeCorona*

      It’s gumption! Along with cold calling with your resume in hand, offering to work for free for a week, or finding the CEO and pitching yourself. Just more bad job hunting advice.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        And I think it carries an air of plausibility because we’ve all worked somewhere, or known someone who worked somewhere, or seen somewhere on television, so poorly organized that it could work.

        Finally, I think there’s a layer of “fake it until you make it” to its internal logic.

        1. Person from the Resume*

          I think “seen on television” and everything some people know from working in an office comes from TV (possibly TV comedy where ridiculous situations abounds for humor purposes and they don’t know enough to understand that.

    4. Snow Globe*

      Even if, by some miracle, someone is able to get an interview this way, that certainly doesn’t mean they’d get the job. There is likely a reason that they didn’t get asked for an interview to begin with, probably because their resume isn’t all that competitive with other candidates. So you talk yourself into an interview for a job where the other candidates are stronger –how does this help you?

  6. Viette*

    OP#2 — the mutual friend of your coworker’s sister is such a removed source that I would caution you against your impulse to believe this is true. What drives you to leap to accept very unlikely supposition as fact?

    Like, yeah, it’s possible that JJ had cats and the cats died and now JJ tells involved and complex stories which are apparently internally consistent enough to convince her coworkers about her years-dead cats… but it really is hardly the most likely thing. Norman Bates in “Psycho” is a thrilling and salacious fiction. There are people like that in the world, but the odds are they aren’t your coworker.

    It’s considerably more boring to assume the likeliest explanation — your coworker’s cat died and she got another cat and your friend of her sister’s didn’t get the memo — but your leap to presuming your otherwise-unremarkable coworker has a years-long literal psychosis is not kind to her, and risks your prejudicing yourself against her unnecessarily.

    1. ferrina*

      Agree. Occam’s razor applies here- it’s more likely that friend of the sister (3 steps removed from the actual person?) has old information than that your coworker has had a psychotic break that is only manifesting in telling stories in present tense.

      Or that JJ has decided it’s easier to tell stories in present tense than to tell colleagues that her cats passed away and she still loves them and wants to share stories, but she isn’t emotionally ready to get another pet. That is a lot of vulnerability to share with a co-worker who decided she had “Norman Bates from Psycho vibes”.

    2. Oreo Cookies*

      The way you explain this is spot on.

      I was struggling to exactly say what bothered me about the “mutual friend of JJ’s sister.”

  7. JSPA*

    #3, I can see three additional, more unusual ways of handling it, beyond Alison’s suggestions, if either of them happens to resonate.

    a. (Passive-non-aggressive, if you think she’ll take the hint) drop into conversation: “this may change, of course, but we don’t plan to use baby talk, because it really sets my teeth on edge.”

    b. “I should have mentioned earlier, but I / my family / my culture considers it bad luck to address a baby directly before it is born.”

    c. “please don’t wake her / please don’t do that, it gets her worked up.” (this is mostly nonsensical. If it works…it works.)

    Depends whether you are more interested in asserting your appropriate work rights (totally legitimate!) or just getting it to stop, in the least confrontational way possible, and you think she’ll be quick to take offense over a simple basic request.

    1. myfanwy*

      I suspect point a) might invite a whole unwanted discussion about baby talk, because that sing-song way of speaking does actually serve a developmental purpose for language development, rather than just being a cutesy thing people do because they can (unlike when I do it to my cat). And it sounds like LW’s coworker will be moooore than happy to give her no end of advice. So I’d be a bit hesitant to start any conversation about how LW plans to parent, or the floodgates might really open.

    2. Dinwar*

      My wife used A effectively. We’ve never been baby-talk people–cats, dogs, sugar gliders, or babies get spoken to the same way we speak to anyone else. Within obvious limits, we’re not treating the kids like drinking buddies or anything, we just don’t dumb down our language and encourage the kids to ask us to define any words they don’t know. And while it’s anecdotal, there do seem to be some real advantages to this. Our children have consistently been top of their class in language classes, and people are constantly amazed at the terms the kids use routinely. Makes sense to me, at least–they never had to unlearn baby talk in order to learn regular modes of speech.

      1. Toddler Mom*

        We fall somewhere in the middle – we definitely used the sing-songy tone when our now-toddler was a baby (and still use a less exaggerated version of it now for some things) because as an infant she responded to the tone (since it’s not like she understood the words anyway) but we always used the actual words for things and now at not quite 3, we get comments all the time on how articulate she is for her age.

        1. Dinwar*

          We did the same thing with tone. I think it’s hard-wired into human brains to use that tone for babies, and as Bear Expert says, there’s research to support the idea that this helps them understand language. For example, their ears hear higher registers better, if I recall correctly. Wolf puppies are the same way–they respond better to that sing-song tone than to normal speech–and I haven’t fully thought through the evolutionary implications of that (humans and dogs, far as I’m concerned, coevolved and form a very close symbiotic relationship, and this probably helped).

          As I said (responding to Bear Expert here to avoid too many posts at once), my evidence is anecdotal. One of the things people forget about babies is that they’re humans, with all the inherent variability that implies. I think hearing some of these stories may help the LW, though–more data means more ability to formulate arguments, even if the LW ultimately decides I’m in the wrong. (Plus, it’s fun hearing about other parents’ experiences!)

        2. JelloStapler*

          Same- simple but not nonsensical words. Both my kids had a ton of words when the pediatrician first started asking- “ok, he has fiteen words. Oh – you said fifty??” LOL- and are still very articulate.

      2. Bear Expert*

        We were also not baby talk people and our kid had a speech delay. One of the specialists working with our family commented on how we didn’t use cutsey words for things and that she wasn’t going to try to get us to change that, but there is supported research that baby talk serves a purpose in development, so instead try to shift toward words of specifically two syllables, even if they weren’t baby talk.

        My kid is a delight in many ways, and its very in character, but she basically decided that one syllable words were enough for her, and anything beyond that was gilding the lily. Too much work for not enough reward. (She would use “hamantaschen”, because a four syllable yiddish word for “cookie” was worth it. “Kitten” when “cat” works just fine was not.)

  8. Punk*

    LW2: You could always just talk about something else besides cats if you suspect that someone is lying just to be able to participate in the conversation. Not saying that this is what’s happening, but I’ve made up boyfriends and pets for office conversations because no one ever wanted to talk about anything else, and I was starting to feel the impact of not being able to talk to my coworkers.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Yeah. I would go the direct route — please don’t talk to my stomach.

        All the other suggestions to make it about the baby talk really ignore how GROSS talking to someone’s pregnant abdomen is.

        Be firm but polite.

      2. ferrina*

        Yes! When I was pregnant, I was sooooo weirded out by people who wanted to talk to my stomach! It was pure objectification; I was turned into an incubator rather than a human.

        Agree with Pastor Petty LaBelle- I’d say “Don’t talk to my stomach. I really don’t like that.” (and if they continue, you’ve got a clear cut HR case for sexual harassment)

    1. Abundant Shrimp*

      I found that a confused stare and a “Why?” works too.

      Found that out when an older coworker ran into me in the breakroom and told me to “Smile!” Gave her that answer and she never tried it again.

  9. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP5 (switch job after recent internal move) – what sort of positions would you apply for outside the company, are they design positions? Or something more like the assistant role you are considering asking about? If the assistant role isn’t really part of your overall career direction I would be wary of taking it just to get away from those marketing tasks, as chances are you will find other opportunities come up outside the company that are more aligned to what you really want to do, and then have a period of moving around between disparate roles in a short time on your resume.

    In answer to the more general question of whether you can ask to move to a new role 7 months after an internal move – some companies or managers have a policy about this, like you can’t move for a year, but I think in this case because you were re-assigned due to a layoff otherwise, that ought to be waived by most reasonable people.

    1. Nebula*

      This is a good point – the current job isn’t what LW wants, but it seems like on paper it is more aligned to what they want to do, so it might look better to stay. On the other hand, I think you could explain to any reasonable interviewer “the job didn’t align with my expectations, so I decided to try this other open position to see if it was a better fit”. You could even spin it as a good answer to a question about a time when you were struggling or something like that.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        I do think a lot of arts places would understand “I was offered to move to X or Y after a layoff, and Y seemed more aligned with my design interests. Unfortunately it’s turned out to be very little of design and much more marketing, which has been interesting to learn, but is not something I want to do 80% of the time”. They know that few people cover many roles, and it’s reasonable 1-for the organization to have shifted that job and 2-for LW to feel that made the job completely wrong for them.

    2. JSPA*

      I can see doing it by spinning it as, “wants to learn as many aspects of running an arts organization as possible.” And when you leave, it’s the same, followed by, “in such a small organization it was incredibly lucky that they were able to acommodate me in three different roles! But of course, as the time has come to advance, I have to look elsewhere.”

      1. bamcheeks*

        I’m not sure you’d need to, actually. There are lots of small businesses and sectors where “can turn your hand to whatever’s needed” IS the skillset, and the kind of specialisation that is expected in larger organisations just isn’t there. I’ve a friend who was talking about how baffled he is by the bureaucratic logic of “see something that needs doing, figure out whose job it is to do this, and let them know” because he comes from a DIY arts background of “see what needs doing, get on with it”. It obviously depends on what LW is thinking of doing next, though.

        1. Bear Expert*

          It really is the skill set, and its hard to hire for when you need it.

          I’m in a company that is growing, and its the smallest company I’ve ever worked for. I got hired to help grow and mature it, along with some other solid experts. Truly top notch people. Some of us are able to go with the flow and figure out that we need to be the change we want to see in the org, because no one has the various specialist jobs here that a larger, more mature org would have.

          And some of us are really, really struggling with how to get things done when its not in anyone’s job description.

          Some of the work is to get things added to job descriptions, or to get job descriptions written. But sometimes, that means we’re doing it ourselves. No one knows how each team independently handles X? I guess that means its time to go ask all the team leads, because there’s fewer than 20 of them and there isn’t a defined process where any of this is already written down or a defined process for getting things out of each team other than running around to talk with them. Run and find out.

          And some people can handle “Oh, I guess I do that!” as an answer and some people really can’t.

        2. works with realtors*

          This explains a lot about the culture shift I’m experiencing in a new job – I’m going from a DIY, department of one type job at a small place to a wheel in a very large cog. This comment really isn’t going anywhere other than to say thank you for helping me shift some thinking this morning!

  10. Over my head in bananas*

    Something similar to letter #2 happened to me years ago! I had just started at a new company and shared a cubicle with a woman who had framed pictures of her dogs on her desk. I’m not really a dog person but I was trying to develop a good working relationship with her, so I asked about her dogs a lot. What were their names? Did they like to play fetch? Were they enthusiastic swimmers? Did she get them from a rescue? She would always answer my questions (e.g. “Muffy loves to swim but Chomper prefers to go for long walks”) and we would chat a bit about her dogs before settling down to work.

    One day I came in and asked if she had taken her dogs with her to a local festival that weekend. She looked at me, sighed, and said “well, actually, they’re dead.” I was horrified and expressed my sympathy, telling her that if she needed to take off I could cover her projects for the rest of the day. She looked puzzled and asked why I thought she might need to take off. I said I knew how close she was to her dogs and that she must be bereft at their sudden passing.

    Y’all, turns out the dogs had been dead for years. We had spent six weeks talking in the present tense about dogs who had shuffled off this mortal coil years ago.

    To this day, I don’t know why it took her over a month to tell me I was repeatedly asking questions about dead dogs. Was she cheered up by talking about them? Did she think i would feel bad if she responded to my questions about her dogs with “oh, they’re dead now?” Did she just freeze up, answer the first question I asked about them in the present tense, and then think it would be too weird to go back and tell me the truth?

    We worked together for four years, until she got married and transferred to a branch a few states over, and she never offered an explanation (although, to be fair, I never asked for one).

    1. RC*

      It took me about a week and a half after we lost my dear old man at 18, until I insisted we go to try to fill the cat-shaped hole in our hearts with more cats who needed a home (also, the other cat was lonely. Yes. Just her. And I know they all would have loved each other which <3). It is possible someone would have read my grief-stricken internet eulogy and not gotten the follow-up about our new feline pals.

      And also, I find myself now kind of hesitating when I talk about how many cats I have— because the two who are no longer alive are still *mine*, and depending on the cat anecdote I‘m sure I have one of them who can relate!

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        It’s always a bit odd to talk about our “old” kitties, isn’t it? I talk to my cats about their sibling cat a lot (“Hi, Joy, where’s your brother?”) and it’s always really weird to think about the fact that my current two kitties have two older siblings, one of whom neither of them met and one of whom only the older one met. And yet they are all still siblings. While this does of course happen with humans sometimes too, it’s a lot less common and especially so these days with modern medicine and smaller families, so it’s particularly strange and sad to think about WRT our animal children.

        (And yes, I know it’s weird to talk to my cats about their sibling cats, but I don’t live with any other humans so I gotta talk to someone, right?)

    2. Dorothy Zpornak*

      Potentially because that’s a painful and private thing that a coworker frankly doesn’t have the right to know. When you share information about a loss, that always brings expressions of sympathy to which one must Respond With Appropriate Grace and Appreciation, which can be really frustrating and exhausting to have to perform over and over for other people’s benefit as more and more coworkers learn about the loss.
      You clearly had good intentions in asking your coworker about something that mattered to her, but when you say that she “sighed, and said ‘well, actually, they’re dead,'” the sighing and the wording there make me wonder if maybe she’d been trying for a while to hint to you that she didn’t really want to talk about her dogs, at least not so often. You mention that, “She would always answer my questions,” so did she ever initiate the dog conversation, or was it always you? I can definitely see her responding to an initial do question or two thinking Don’t-want-to-talk-about-their-death-let-me-just-say-something-about-them-when-they-were-alive, without realizing that you would end up asking about them repeatedly, and then not knowing how to change tack when it kept coming up. Since she probably figured at that point you would think her odd or judge her for not saying they were dead when you first asked — which it sounds like you have.

      1. Over my head in bananas*

        Wow, this is an undeservedly unkind interpretation.

        You don’t need to explain grief to me. I have experienced numerous losses of both pets and people I cared about, and I know that handling expressions of sympathy can be exhausting. However, I would note that the dogs had been dead for years, so there is no reason to think that multitudes of coworkers were expecting her to “perform” grief or anything else for their benefit as they might have had the loss been recent. Furthermore, there was no hinting. I did ask about the dogs quite a bit, but it was reciprocal; she would ask me about my cats, and sometimes tell stories about the dogs without me asking about them. There was absolutely no indication of any kind that my questions were unwelcome. If there had been, I would have stopped asking them.

        And I didn’t think she was odd; she was lovely, and I enjoyed working with her very much. I did think the situation was odd, and I doubt I am alone in that assessment.

        1. Allonge*

          My best guess is that as you were a new coworker, she wanted to keep conversations light (actually, every dog you see in these pics is dead is a bit of a conversation stopper) and wanted to keep up the small talk.

      2. Alf*

        imagine simultaneously thinking “my coworkers don’t have the right to know my dogs are dead” and also prominently displaying pictures of your dogs in your office.

      3. Seashell*

        If you think the fact that your dogs are deceased is such a private thing that co-workers don’t have the right to know, don’t leave pictures of them on your desk.

        If being a dog owner is the only thing that LW knows about this co-worker and the initial conversation seemed to go well, it’s not surprising that they might return to that topic.

      4. Gemstones*

        If bringing them up is that painful, why put up the dogs’ framed photos in an office space, where people presumably do have conversations?

    3. bamcheeks*

      Honestly, I find this very relatable! It’s like when you somehow don’t catch someone’s name within the first week or two of working with them. Once you’ve missed the window where it feels normal to say, “Sorry, but–” it just gets weirder and weirder and harder and harder. I commend her for coming clean at six weeks: I would simply have looked for another job or moved to another country in embarrassment.

      1. londonedit*

        Absolutely. I can totally imagine a situation where a colleague sees a photo of some dogs on my desk, they ask their names, I say ‘Oh that’s Charlie, Dougal and Maggie’, colleague says ‘Ah, lovely’ and moves on. Few days later colleague points at the photo and says ‘What breed are they?’ and I say ‘Mongrels really, I got them all from Battersea’, colleague moves on. Then they ask another question a week later and I realise I haven’t made it clear that none of the dogs are alive anymore, but by that point it’s pretty awkward because why wouldn’t I have made it clear that none of the dogs are alive anymore? So at that point I carry on giving vague answers that don’t explicitly say that the dogs are dead, and the colleague keeps asking, and eventually it’s like…either I say the dogs are dead and that’s weird or I just never mention it and that’s really weird…

        I have a few photos of our old family dogs and cats in my flat, because they were beloved pets and the photos bring back lovely memories of them. I’d like to think that if one of my friends pointed at a photo and asked ‘Who’s that?’ I’d say something like ‘Ah, that’s our old dog Shep, he was so lovely’, but if I said something more like ‘Oh that’s our family dog, Shep’ or ‘That’s Shep’ then there’d be potential for confusion! And there’s definitely the potential for me to end up not making it clear, because I know Shep died in 2011, but I feel like it’d be easy for my brain to forget that not everyone knows that and that people might assume he’s still alive.

    4. kalli*

      Why would she need to explain answering questions about pictures on her desk? There isn’t a rule about only having pictures of live people and animals on display, and that means, yes, sometimes you might be talking about things that happened in the past.

      1. Over my head in bananas*

        No, the point is she talked about the dogs as though they were still alive. Present tense and everything.

    5. Throwaway Account*

      I have a picture at work of the love of my life doggy who passed away 2 years ago. I always tell people if they ask, “is that your dog” that yes he was, but he passed away a while ago after a long happy life.

      I’ve wondered if I should say that at all (most of the people are infrequent visitors to my office) but Over my head’s experience tells me I should keep telling them!

    6. LCH*

      I’d think initially she didn’t want your first conversation with her to be a downer with her bringing up dead dogs. Then it probably was awkward for her to correct your initial (understandable) assumption that the dogs were still around. But then she finally did. Awkward people unite.

  11. Gingerblue*

    LW2: Having started the morning with cat vomit and moved on to a different cat trying to eat my new plant, imaginary cats are sounding like the best sort of cats.

    But I agree with other commenters—it’s so likely that the coworker does in fact have cats, whether the original cats are not in fact deceased or she’s gotten new cats. How many enthusiastic cat owners don’t get new cats when their older pets pass away?

    1. Phryne*

      Oh, no, I would not go any joking tone, half or whole. That would send a mixed message that apparently this is somewhere slightly amusing. That is how you get letters where Allison asks ‘did you say something directly or just hint at it?’
      It is not amusing, it is weird and the message needs to reflect in uncertain terms that this behaviour is not appreciated. You can be kind and polite, but do not leave the door open one inch.

      1. Yorick*

        Joking while saying something that direct gives off “she wants me to stop but isn’t mad about it.” Unless the person is purposefully obtuse, in which case they weren’t gonna stop no matter how/what you said.

    2. Audrey*

      The half joking tone is good! It’s a good place to start to keep the relationship light, then you can go more serious from there.

  12. Kathleen*


    I was full of an office of older women who went CRAZY when I became pregnant. The boundary crossing got out of control. We had a team meeting where the first topic of the meeting became “So are you getting the epidural?” followed by everyone’s birth stories. I hate birth stories at any time but when I was pregnant I hated them even more. I even had the HR manager imitating my walk in the office hallway when I was heavily pregnant, implying I was walking like a penguin (I am very petite and had a remarkably enormous bump for my size and walking was hard). It was just relentlessly awful.

    My suggestion is to try as hard as you can to get this woman to stop now rather than letting it go on any longer, as weird behaviour seems to amp up as the pregnancy progresses. My other suggestion if you have colleagues you are close to, is clue them in on how uncomfortable you are feeling and get them to also tell this person to stop. For some reason a pregnant woman’s wishes are easily over-ridden but if a group of other people also reinforce your wishes it is more likely to have an impact.

    1. June First*

      Unfortunately, I had similar experiences. This is a good opportunity to start setting boundaries. It’s astonishing how many inappropriate comments I received during both pregnancies.

      Idea for OP: redirect Baby Talker by asking her to write out a list of advice for you as a new mother. You don’t have to take the advice, but that might be a way for her to “feel involved” (ugh) with minimal interaction with your belly.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        No. Coworker does not have to fell involved with OP’s pregnancy. She’s a coworker. The fact she means well does not mean OP has to involve her in any way shape or form. OP has the right to shut it down, period. Be polite because that’s the professional thing to do, but OP is under no obligation to spare coworker’s feelings.

        OP needs to say flat out — please stop. Don’t talk to my stomach and don’t use babytalk to me. If coworker is upset at being told no that’s on coworker.

    2. LW#3*

      I am so sorry about your experience!! That is truly awful. I too am quite petite and started showing long before I wished I had (at 9 weeks, I looked like I had eaten a really big meal constantly, and now at 18 weeks, I feel absolutely huge already).

      We had an after holiday celebration that ended up similarly – everyone sharing their birth stories while I sat there until my boss (the only male in my department) actually said that it looked like I was uncomfortable, so let’s talk about other things. I commend him for that and I’m sure he was also uncomfortable!

      I think I’m just going to stop her in the moment like you suggested, and clue in my supervisor, I’ve already clued in another coworker who is excited but treats me normally, and I’m really hoping it begins to die down.

      On a side note – I really hope I was never this cringy when I was new to the workforce and my coworker was pregnant…

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Wow, good on your boss to shut down the birth stories! I actually enjoy birth stories (although I’m a little less excited about them in the last few years after undergoing unsuccessful fertility treatment) but I would *never* tell any birth stories to a pregnant woman. How completely insensitive of both of your coworkers!

        And Kathleen, I can’t *believe* your coworker was making fun of the way you walk, what the heck???? Did you work at the same place as my old roommate, whose HR director was also highly inappropriate and commented on pregnant women’s bodies? (And probably everyone else’s bodies too, IDK.)

  13. Dorothy Zpornak*

    LW2, please calm down. Let’s say this woman does, in fact, no longer have cats (and isn’t just talking about new cats as other commenters have pointed out is very possible). It sounds like your workplace is making things really hard on your coworker, albeit unintentionally. It’s tough enough to lose you pet and have to listen to others talk about their pets. But on top of that for it to be a constant topic of conversation in your office that you can’t join in on? So you’re not only bereaved, but also socially isolated in one fell swoop? It seems totally natural for her to continue to talk about her memories of her cats so she’s not left out, and she probably doesn’t want to be known as that woman who talks about her dead cats.

  14. Tired and Confused*

    I sometimes talk about my dearly departed furry friends in a way that doesn’t make it clear that they are no longer with us such as “when she was a kitty she used to destroy our Xmas tree or throw my plants but only from one window sil.

  15. BubbleTea*

    Perhaps I’m a cynic, but my first thought on the supervisor who has a business with a direct report is that it’s an MLM. Which would only make it worse, of course.

  16. Ftp*


    Maybe y’all talk about your cats so much in the office that she feels she has to do this just to join in?

    1. CTT*

      Yeah, I would suggest diversifying the office conversation if possible. I don’t have any pets and I would feel really out of place in your office, so I imagine it would be hard for JJ if she no longer has any cats, or a new hire who’s in the same situation.

      1. Enoby*

        I don’t have pets and I do enjoy hearing funny pet stories once in awhile but there’s only so much “And then I woke up at 3 am to a cat butt in my face!!! ha ha ha!!!” that I can handle.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Honestly my first thought.

      And there’s nothing wrong with pretending you never heard anything and just rolling along with the antics of Fluffers and Smudge.

    3. WellRed*

      It’s still a weird response if she does not in fact currently have cats but yeah, OP. Does the office ever chat about anything else? If not, give it a whirl!

    4. Dog Child*

      or she wants to join in, but doesn’t want to bring the mood down or is uncomfortable with condolences, so just talks about them in present tense since it doesn’t really matter.

    5. Sneaky Squirrel*

      Yes, this was my thought. It’s a weird response, but it might be stemming out of a need to fit in. If the conversation is often about cats, JJ probably feels left out, if not upset about the situation with her cats.

  17. Irish Teacher.*

    LW1, in addition to what Alison said, I doubt it would do the person much good even if they did get an interview. Any interview I have been at, the interviewers have my CV before them when interviewing me and presumably, the hiring manager decided not to go with the person for a reason, presumably because their application was weaker than those they did decide to interview. So once they got to the interview, it would again be obvious their application was weaker than the other candidates and all they would have done was wasted their own time, interviewing for a job they weren’t likely to get.

    Now, yes, there are people who can come across better in person than on paper and people who are very charming, but I suspect the number of people who are so charming that they can convince interviewers to give them a job they weren’t even shortlisted for when they are being directly compared to those who were shortlisted, is a small minority.

    For example, I haven’t taught Leaving Cert. English in a number of years although I am qualified to do so, so if the school I was applying to wanted a teacher with recent experience of teaching Leaving Cert. English and decided not to interview me because of my lack of recent experience with that and if I did this (to be honest, I can’t see it working because the interview times are usually in a row and if they had forgotten to record one, there should be a gap in their schedule), well, if they were any way competent at interviewing, they would either check my application materials during the interview and notice I don’t have that experience or they would ask, “so how did your students do in the Leaving Cert. exam last year?” or “which texts did you use with your last Leaving Cert group?” and it would be pretty obvious I didn’t have the experience they wanted.

    And of course, it also assumes there is a fairly large group of interviewees. If the company is only interviewing three people, they would surely notice a fourth.

  18. Turingtested*

    LW 1, I have a lot of years in hiring and management in retail, food service and office work. I’m worried this will sound arrogant but I always find it offensive when people do something on the assumption that I’m incompetent or dumb.

    That’s the real issue with these gimmicks to get a job.

    1. AnonInCanada*

      Anything for clickbait I guess. “Advice” like that should be relegated to the digital wastebasket.

  19. Dear liza dear liza*

    LW1: As someone involved with hiring at many points, this made me throw up in my mouth a little. I would be horrified if a non-viable candidate communicated they had an interview. I’d be ripping apart my email, having our admin do the same, and probably end up in an inquisition with HR to find out what went wrong. I would stress myself out crafting a very clearly worded apology, and ask them to forward the mistaken invitation. And if the candidate couldn’t produce one or ghosted me, I would put them on a “Do not EVER engage with this person again” mental list. The bridge burning this person would’ve done would be pretty epic.

    1. Observer*

      I would put them on a “Do not EVER engage with this person again” mental list. The bridge burning this person would’ve done would be pretty epic.

      I think that the only thing I would do differently is to ask HR to put them on the actual “do not hire” list for the entire organization as well as my mental list to keep track of if I ever move on to a different role where I still have some relationship to hiring.

  20. Number Blocks*

    Question related to LW3 – why is it bad to ask how a pregnant person is feeling? As a former pregnant person myself, I often ask friends/family/coworkers how they’re feeling, especially if they told me they’re pregnant.

    1. Boss Scaggs*

      This might not be your typical pregnancy :). “I’m pregnant with my husband and my first baby”

      1. Number Blocks*

        I’m a little confused, maybe a bit obtuse, but what do you mean that’s not a typical pregnancy?

        1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

          They’re just making a joke about the grammar. The original sentence is perfectly understandable but grammatically it’s technically unclear, and (if you’re, say, an alien with no context on human mating rituals) could imply she’s having twins and one of those twins is her husband.

          It’s the equivalent of responding to “I’m hungry” with “Hi, Hungry! I’m Dad.”

          1. Anon21*

            It’s this weird locution that is a cousin of the phrase “we’re pregnant.” I am not sure why it’s become common to phrase things that way when “we’re expecting” is right there.

    2. Pigeon*

      I think it depends on the person! I used to ask how are you feeling but then when I was pregnant and people asked me I started to hate it. Partly because it was about pregnancy, not me —the way how are you is more about me as a person. Secondly I mostly felt nauseous, but that wasn’t something I wanted to go into with coworkers. It’s fine to ask, I would just watch the person’s reaction.

      1. ferrina*

        This depends on person and sometimes on the day. When I was pregnant, sometimes I was happy to talk about it, but sometimes I’d already talked about it a gazillion times and was ready for a new topic. Especially at work if there was a project I wanted to talk about instead. But I’ve known people who got annoyed if you didn’t acknowledge the pregnancy every time you saw them.

        I think just saying “How are you doing today?” should cover your bases. If they want to talk about the pregnancy, they can, and if they don’t, they can talk about other things.

    3. CoffeeIsMyFriend*

      currently pregnant. its fine occasionally but i personally find it annoying to be asked regularly at work because it’s clearly about my pregnancy and I honestly don’t like it being a focus of who I am at work. also, with most askers I’m not close enough to answer honestly (exhausted, huge)

      that being said it’s a very, very minor annoyance and not going to impact my relationship with the colleague as long as they accept my answer and we move on

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        My choice is “How are you doing?” once during the day, and “I’m going to pick up a coffee/lunch can I get you anything” again, only once and no badgering.

    4. June First*

      For me it depended on the inflection. Sometimes it sounded like, “How are you feeling….because you look terrible.”
      The tone of “you poor thing” was hard to hear again and again.

      1. Jiminy Cricket*

        This. It’s the same with “You look tired” greetings. Uh? Did you just tell me I look like garbage?

    5. myfanwy*

      I’ll ask when someone tells me for the first time, or if I know they’ve been feeling rough lately. But I do remember finding it irritating when people did it constantly, in the sympathetic tone that means they’re asking especially because of my Delicate Condition. Not least because there’s no graceful way to convey that actually I vomited so hard this morning that I peed on my own feet, but otherwise I’m absolutely glowing, thanks.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        omg I almost spit my coffee. I’m glad your shoes stayed dry, and thank you for the laugh.

        1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          (Dang it! I had to re-read to realize that your shoes did not stay dry. Or maybe your feet didn’t. Or something. I’ll just close these parentheses now, thanks.)

    6. Irish Teacher.*

      I’ve never been pregnant, but I could imagine it getting pretty annoying if you had ten coworkers and you had five or six of them asking each day how you are feeling.

    7. Gudrid the Well Traveled*

      For me it was that everyone asked the same question with the same emphasis on the word “feeling.” Suddenly my life was all about the pregnancy and nothing else. I was more amused than annoyed, but if I’d gotten a nickel for every time I was asked that I’d have a lot of nickels.

    8. Dinwar*

      Never been pregnant, but my wife has been and informed me (quite pointedly a few times) that I was asking too often. It’s intended as a way to empathize and show that you’re someone they can lean on (at least, that’s how it’s been most of the time I’ve seen it). But from the pregnant woman’s perspective, it can be overwhelming. Let’s say you have 10 coworkers, each of whom asks how you’re doing. Then the janitor asks. Your boss and two other people from the department come over specifically to ask. The person at the grocery store asks. Your spouse asks. When you call your parents to discuss your sister’s upcoming birthday, they ask. For each person, they’re asking once. For the pregnant person, literally every conversation has at least included asking about their condition, and they’ve had to explain it 16 times. And this happens Every. Single. Day. My wife is not the most patient woman, and threatened to skewer me with a rapier if I didn’t shut up about it.

    9. Very Pregnant Professional*

      I think it depends on your relationship, and also how often you’re asking them. As a currently very pregnant person working in-person in an office, it’s one of those “you don’t know how many people have asked that already today” questions. In a work context, you also can’t answer honestly so you have to pretend you feel fine every time someone asks, which I find draining to do multiple times a day when I’m actually really struggling to just be at work and make it through the day. Ex: when coworkers ask how I am, I can’t respond that I feel like crap, or I’m too tired to think of an answer for them cause I’m dealing with pregnancy insomnia, or I’m constantly nauseous, or walking from my desk to their meeting is excruciating, etc.

      For me, it’s very different when a friend asks, and they are asking genuinely and I can be honest with them about how I feel without judgement

      1. Emmy Noether*

        I used to reply to those questions either with “you know… very pregnant” or with something completely unrelated (“excited about the project kickoff”). Those mostly did the trick.

    10. kiki*

      I think it’s the frequency of the question from a bunch of different people for many months on end. Checking in once in a while to ask how a pregnant person is doing is probably fine, but when it seems like all their coworkers are asking them every day– it gets hard to answer the same question so many times.

      It’s tricky because at the same time, I think if nobody asked how I was doing when I was pregnant, I would have felt a little… abandoned or ignored. But having the question asked 6 times a day was a lot!

    11. LW#3*

      Hi I’m LW3 – usually I don’t mind being asked how I’m feeling, but a lot of what’s written in replies to this comment is correct. People didn’t really ask how I was feeling before being pregnant so to me, it seems like the only reason they are asking is because I’m pregnant – which is, again, totally fine, but most days, I don’t feel great because of the heartburn, exhaustion, etc.

      When I come to work, I want to feel like I’m still a person, not an incubator, even though I know it is always well-intentioned.

      1. anywhere but here*

        I think that language about “person, not an incubator” would be great for the baby talking coworker if you’re comfortable being that direct. Some of the comments on here suggest that the baby talking belly thing may be more common in certain generations or in a certain context but honestly if you stop and think about it, it is simple abnormal and uncomfortable to have someone talk at your body like you aren’t there. Sure, there’s a baby in there, but nobody can see the baby and functionally you and the baby are one unit. It’s not like baby talking a baby you are holding. Talking to a baby that is currently living within your organs is either not meant for the baby at all (and thus a bad way to treat you) or if it is actually meant for the baby, intimate enough to not be happening in the workplace. (I’m guessing that perhaps you wouldn’t be bothered if your husband spoke to the baby so as to get her or him used to his voice, but that is very different from a coworker.)

    12. Caramel & Cheddar*

      A few people have mentioned the frequency is what makes it annoying, but I also think it’s that sometimes the answer is a lot more than the average person bargains for? The worst anyone wants to hear is “Oh, I have terrible morning sickness!” Pregnancy can wreak havoc on your body and when you combine that with the possibility of something like a high risk pregnancy, the answers to “How are you feeling?” are probably not fun nor are they things you want to discuss with your coworkers. It’s not something I’d ask a coworker unless we were already quite close and open to discussing personal things.

    13. Fluffy Fish*

      Realistically I don’t want to engage with my coworkers about the havoc pregnancy is wreaking on my body. And realistically you probably don’t really want to know.

      How are you – generic office greeting.
      How are you feeling – will always come across as concern. I don’t want coworkers to be “concerned” about my body.

    14. Observer*

      why is it bad to ask how a pregnant person is feeling?

      You’ve gotten some good answers. Which is a good reminder to try to “read the room”, so to speak, rather than assuming that your experience is universal. (And I don’t just mean you, @Number Blocks and pregnancy, but You in the generic sense in most types of situations.)

      But also, the OP is not writing about that. She’s trying to make the point that although she’s private and not thrilled to be talking about her pregnancy at work, she’s ok with the normal stuff. But what this coworker is doing is off the rails.

    15. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I don’t think the LW has problems with people asking HER how she’s feeling. Its that this coworker is talking to her pregnant belly. So it probably makes her feel like she probably feels like she is no longer a coworker and just a vessel for this baby.

    16. Hamster*

      Maybe im the outlier here but I really wish I could have experienced my pregnancy at work as if it were normal times. I was halfway through it and had just announced it to a few close folks when my office let most of us go due to the events of March 2020 so the remainder was spent at home worrying.

    17. fhqwhgads*

      I thought LW3 was saying they don’t mind things like “how are you feeling” but they DO mind the baby talk at her belly…or talking at her belly at all probably.

      I’d say it’s generally not a faux pas to ask how someone is feeling. That said, there are many contexts where the question may be tiresome more than it is “bad” per se. Someone who has been constantly nauseated with no relief for four months, for example, might reallllllly not be interested in that particular question – but they’d also be unlikely to bite your head off if you asked. Someone who maybe has a lot of risks going on that they don’t want to talk about at work but are nonetheless occupying their mind, likewise may not want to be asked – but also isn’t going to bite your head off for not being a mind reader. So yeah, it’s not that it’s an inherently “bad” question, but if you wanna play it safe, there are reasons to not go there.

  21. EvilQueenRegina*

    #1, I’ve actually seen a recruitment agency pull that one. A few years back, my one coworker “Bob” was getting bombarded with calls from “Persistent Recruitment” about vacancies he didn’t have anyway, and that got to the point where he said he didn’t want any messages passing on from them, and to tell them that all hiring went through HR anyway. So one day, “Fergus from Persistent Recruitment” calls for Bob, I tried to redirect them, and Fergus said “But we’re in discussions with him about one of our candidates, Persephone Mongoose!”

    I didn’t really believe this, considering how adamant Bob had been that he wanted nothing to do with this agency, but did mention it to him when he came into the office later that day. Bob said they were lying and weren’t in discussions with him at all.

    1. ImprobableSpork*

      If they’re anything like the recruitment agencies I used to hear from in my hiring days, Persephone was actually a candidate who had applied on her own and the recruiter was going to come after me for a fee for a hire they had nothing to do with.

      (Yes, this happened. Twice.)

    2. Industry Behemoth*

      @ImprobableSpork: I heard of a similar instance, in which Persephone was also registered with the recruiting agency that tried to muscle in. However, she and the prospective employer connected on their own.

      The head office told the hiring manager to drop Persephone from consideration, rather than risk a fee fight with the agency.

  22. Dennis Johnson*

    Unless you suspect JJ of committing multiple homicides, it’s kind of bananapants to compare them to Norman Bates.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        ‘eh, I think it’s pretty clear the comparison isn’t about the homicide part but just the “referring to a dead being as though alive” and Bates is probably the most famous example of doing so.

    1. Enoby*

      Coworker just wants to fit in, and is using cats that clearly meant a lot to her while they were still physically with us. That’s not a crime!

      I can imagine it would be really awkward if she were, like, bringing “new” pictures of them or something, but it’s still something that can just be let go. Just enjoy the funny kitty stories and cute cat pics.

  23. No Username Required*

    Re LW1 – there is a lot of crazy job hunting advice out there. I can’t believe anyone would recommend lying as a job hunter’s first interaction with a potential employer. When I worked as a secretary we used to get cold callers to CEO office – one said he was his friend so I passed along the info. The CEO rang him back and found out he was with a well known investment bank trying to get the CEO’s business – he told him why would I do business with someone who lied to talk to me.

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      Your CEO was very sensible – I always did wonder what these cold callers thought was going to happen if they got through to someone by blatantly lying.

      (Anecdote: When I was very new on reception at a previous job, I took a call from someone who said “it’s John Smith in Marketing here [the name of an actual employee of the company], I’m working from home today but I need to ask CEO something”. The CEO wasn’t in so he said he’d email him, end of call. Later that day I find out that John Smith hadn’t been working from home that day at all and hadn’t tried to call anyone.

      A couple of days later, I get another call and the same exact voice asks to speak to the CEO. I ask who it is, “it’s Mike Jones from Finance [another real employee], I’m working from home today, can you just put me through.” I say no, sorry, I’ll take a message though! but by this point the guy’s already hung up. The real Dave Smith, Mike Jones and CEO all think this is hilarious and half the company is trying to guess who this guy is going to be tomorrow.

      Next week I get another call, same voice – “it’s Chris Jenkins from Development here, I’m working from home, put me through to CEO”. I ask him if he said Chris Jenkins and he very stroppily says yes, Chris JENKINS from DEVELOPMENT and I NEED to speak to CEO. I say that well sir, I can see Chris Jenkins from Development at the coffee machine right now so I don’t think you are Chris Jenkins – click, phone line dead, never heard from him again. But the main question everyone had, including CEO, was what was JohnMikeChris going to say if I actually did put him through to the CEO? Did he think nobody would find out or that he’d be impressed by him gumption or something? Madness!)

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        I had one once claiming to be calling about some contract and having “Ramsay Bolton” as the point of contact. Considering Ramsay Bolton had been arrested and fired seven years earlier, I don’t think he would have been a lot of use to this scammer!

  24. bereaved*

    #2 Please don’t say anything to, or about, your colleague!

    One of my dearest loved ones died in 2020, and sometimes I still catch myself speaking of her in present tense. I haven’t done any deep introspective thinking on why this happens, but it’s definitely not a sign that I’m delusional, or trying to purposefully deceive people. Most likely it’s just absence-of-mind combined with lifelong habit, though I suppose it’s also possible that on a subconscious level I don’t want to dwell on the fact that she’s no longer present in my life.

    While it shouldn’t be a big deal if someone did confront me about it, I can imagine how such a conversation could become awkward and embarrassing; and if nothing else it would be at least a bit sad, because being actively reminded about the death of someone so important to me is never going to be not painful as long as I live.

  25. Jam Today*

    #2 please leave the cat lady alone. You never know what’s going on in someone’s life, what they might be white-knuckling, and what they do to help themselves get through the day. If the worst trait that someone exhibits is speaking in present tense about a pet that they loved dearly who died, then just smile and keep it moving. Don’t make someone else’s day or month or life miserable because you have an Opinion about their coping mechanisms.

  26. Lilo*

    I’m going to add to the chorus of “absolutely not” for LW1. That is such a bad idea I know it would get you placed on a “never ever” list at my job and I would bet most employers. People do not take well to lying.

  27. Juicebox Hero*

    I’d be so tempted to start talking back to the coworker’s own belly. Just bend down and address her full in the navel: “Morning, Jane. Lousy weather, isn’t it? Remember we have to get those stapler usage statistics out today. What, you talk to my belly, so I just assumed that was the new protocol around here…”

    1. Dek*

      I’d say “yes this” but depending on the stage of pregnancy, I imagine bending down to address someone’s navel might be difficult

    2. LW#3*

      LW3 here and this is the comment!! I’m already a bit sarcastic and this matches my personality and energy!

      1. Juicebox Hero*

        High five!

        But as Dek points out, be sure to practice safe snarking and don’t lean over too far if it’s difficult or puts you off balance.

      2. AnonORama*

        I know a woman who turned the tables on someone in a similar way — I was so impressed! She was on public transit, visibly pregnant, and the random woman next to her touched her belly!! Instead of doing what I’d do (screaming WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU and immediately changing seats), she said “now can I touch your breast?” The woman recoiled and said something like “what the hell is your problem, of course not!” My friend said “You touched my body without asking, why can’t I do the same?”

    3. Jam on Toast*

      @JuiceboxHero I’d be tempted to throw in a comment asking Jane’s small intestine about their digestive process. And use the same babytalk, of course. “Who’s a good smooth muscle with lots and lots of villi? You are!”

      1. linger*

        If they still continue, you can go lower by addressing the colon(:)
        “Who’s full of it today? You are! Yes, you are!”

  28. Fluffy Fish*

    #2 even if its true its utterly harmless. think about it this way, we talk about loved ones who have passed because it keeps them a part of our lives. how lovely that she loved her pets so much that she wants to keep their memory alive.

    everyone needs to be in the habit of asking themselves “does this actually affect me”. the answer here is a clear no.

  29. EA*

    Pregnant LW – One thing I did is making a big deal about how nice it was to have adult conversation NOT about the baby. A convenient scapegoat can work for this even if it isn’t 100% true (e.g. “My mom won’t stop overwhelming me with talk about the baby! It’s so nice to focus on other things while I’m at work.”) I did this once the baby was born too, because I had some coworkers who asked me how I/baby was doing EVERY time they talked to me, and it got kind of old, and also I didn’t want the focus on my pregnancy and new mom status at work.

  30. Hiring Mgr*

    With the logic of #1, why stop at the interview? Pull a Costanza and just show up on a Monday morning as if you’re starting work there. Just watch out that they don’t give you the Penske file.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Even Don Draper needed a booze-filled job interview (with no offer) to create a plausible scenario when he showed up in his suit to start work the next day, confident that Roger a) remembered nothing past yesterday’s third martini, b) would never admit this in public.

      He actually had met with Roger and so these predictions were based on an accurate assessment. Had he tried the exact same thing with the other partner (Bert), that would not have flown.

  31. MCMonkeyBean*

    LW1 – When I was planning my wedding, a potential caterer reached out to confirm a tasting date, and it was definitely not a date we had set. I think they had me mixed up with another client. I did end up using them and everything was fine, but that first mixup made me a little nervous the whole time that they might be too disorganized and what issues that might cause.

    This strategy would make someone look disorganized at best and dishonest at worst! And any company where the environment makes people not want to admit small mistakes to their boss is definitely not one that I would want to work at.

  32. el l*

    As with all relationships – personal and professional:

    Manipulative tactics have a way of spawning manipulative treatment in return. Especially when that’s what is led with.

  33. BecauseHigherEd*

    LW 2 – Any chance a) she has new cats that the mutual friend doesn’t know about (heck, they may even have the same names–I think that’s weird but people do it) or b) she has a partner/family member with cats that she often refers to as “her” cats?

    This is odd, but I think there are a few different ways that the wires could have been crossed and this isn’t quite as strange as it seems.

    1. Nora*

      This is what I was thinking – maybe they’re a family members cats. You don’t have to explain the exact relationship just to tell a cute story about a cat. I refer to my cousins baby as my “nephew” all the time. It roughly covers who the story is about but isn’t 100% accurate.

  34. Oryx*

    LW #2, I won’t lie — it’s a little weird that your first thought is “JJ is delusional like Norman Bates and in need of mental health help” and not “JJ got new cats” or “This person doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”

    1. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

      I’ll go further than “a little weird” and call it outright ablest. To see unusual but harmless behavior and leap immediately to assume someone is needs mental health help, especially with the Norman Bates* name-calling, is the very definition of ableism.

      *For those who aren’t familiar, Norman Bates was the name of the title character in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film “Psycho.” Bates isn’t merely delusional, or even merely “psycho”, he’s a dangerous serial killer. For LW to go straight from “acts odd in this one way” to “like Norman Bates” is gross bigotry.

    2. TPS Reporter*

      yeah and reading this blog really opens your eyes to how odd your co-workers can be. or not-who knows what is actually going on with them? Is any of this affecting your work? Then no, it’s not a problem.

  35. WantonSeedStitch*

    Wow, the approach LW #1 talks about sounds like absolutely the WORST job-searching advice I’ve ever heard. The only worse thing I can think of is stalking the hiring manager and doing a flash mob outside their house to try to sell yourself as a candidate. Actually, no, even that’s not worse, because you’re not LYING about something.

  36. Ex-prof*

    2. I would’ve assumed JJ was still mourning her cats and that the constant cat talk was driving her up the wall and this was her way of dealing with it.

  37. Hailrobonia*

    #1 might work if you are applying for a job as a scam artist. “Hi, I am the Prince of Robonia and I am calling to confirm my interview…”

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      Unfortunately, the receptionist is Bender, who just belches and slams the phone down on everyone.

  38. Eudicotidae*

    LW#2, so other people have covered a lot of the important stuff on this already so I won’t continue on this path but I will say that I think you may want to sit down and analyse how you view mentally ill people.

    Even if your coworker is suffering from real delusions, you instantly comparing them to Norman Bates isn’t super appropriate. At the end of the day, media around mental illnesses, especially ones with delusions, is not great at all and it has a pretty big effect about how most people end up viewing the people with them and it does feel like you may have fallen into that a little. It may also explain why exactly your first thought on this was that your coworker was suffering from delusions as opposed to the more mundane answers that others have suggested.

    Genuinely, this isn’t an attack on you or anything, it’s just that it is a pretty common thing within society that you may want to unpack.

  39. Lady Blerd*

    LW3, I have pictures of my cats at my desk and one of them past away last year. I got a new kitty about a month later and I don’t have a picture of her although she is pretty similar to one in the picture so I doubt anyone would notice the difference. I haven’t switched simply I don’t see the pictures anymore and thinking about it now, I think if someone asked me their names, I’d answer without adding that one of them passed away because then I may have to deal with follow up questions. All this to say that I may potentially be in JJ’s position in the future if a newcomer asks about my cats.

  40. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    OP1: Nothing like starting out on the right foot at a company you’d like to work for, right? After all, when their first impression of you is an easily traced lie, why, the hiring manager will rush to clear their calendar, bring you right in and hire you on the spot!

    Spoiler alert, folks-who-give-this-godawful-“advice”: it’s 2024, not 1024 and checking one’s daily schedule is as easy as pressing a button or flipping through a desk calendar. So no, lying will only make you look scatterbrained at best, manipulative and dishonest at worst (both of which, by the way, would be true of anyone who takes this “advice” and tries to lie their way into an interview.)

    1. Sneaky Squirrel*

      Yes, I don’t see this trend working in an age where almost everything is managed on the internet now through scheduling programs, emails, recruiting databases. No one is going to randomly schedule an interview on their calendar without at least looking up previous communications with the candidate.

    2. Helen Waite*

      Also, if you lied to get the job, you are likely to get instantly fired as soon as the company finds out that you lied.

  41. JAnon*

    “I am pregnant, but I’m still the same person I was before I told the office about my pregnancy and before I was pregnant.”

    Can we start treating all pregnant people like this at work and outside of work? I am the same person, just growing a child. I am lucky most people at work have been normal, but my SIL asks almost weekly what the baby is craving. Baby isn’t craving anything, I am! And people love to say “oh I can see your bump!” Well, there is a baby in there – we would hope to see that! Can we normalize asking people how they are feeling but also treating them like normal people, not vessels for babies?

    *steps off of soapbox*

    1. Adds*

      My then-mother-in-law patted my pregnant belly and introduced it, by name, to her friends the one time we visited while I was pregnant. This was over 20 years ago and I’m still grouchy about it. I am, in fact, still my own person and not just some self-ambulatory incubator for your grandbaby, ma’am, maybe don’t do that, you weirdo.

      Why are people so weird about other people’s pregnancies and why do they think they’re entitled to touch/access just because you’re pregnant?

      1. AnonORama*

        My sister’s MIL basically only speaks to her when she’s pregnant or recently had a baby. So, years ago when she was done having kids, my sis had a t-shirt made with a picture of a piece of tupperware and the words “I am not a container.” I don’t know if she ever had the guts to wear it in front of MIL, but it did double duty at the pro choice march.

    2. LW#3*

      LW3 here! I’m finding this is more and more universal of women’s experiences and it is incredibly frustrating to me. It does seem as though when someone is pregnant, everyone wants to join in on the pregnancy. To me, coworkers are distant. I like the people I work with, but they’re not my friends or family who will have a consistent presence in the baby’s life, they are people who will have a consistent presence in my life at work.

      My MIL and own mother have been their own kind of interesting (my MIL suggested I get a C-section so I can have a “cuter baby”…) and it is just nice to be a professional at work and not a professional incubator.

      I’m just glad people are talking about this and not just letting it go! This is the way that we are able to make changes.

  42. Temperance*

    LW5: Do not take on an admin job unless you really, really want to be an admin. The things that you dislike doing now will likely be more pleasant than a lot of your job – booking travel, ordering food, typing, etc. Maybe Brienne needs someone to do higher level stuff, but I think if you find social media marketing dull, you’re going to hate basic admin work.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I wonder if the role is even still available. It was open 7 months ago when OP took the other job (who knows how long it had been open before that) and still hasn’t been filled, are they actively recruiting? The trouble is someone would need to backfill OP’s role. So now instead of 1 person they’ll have 2 in the headcount (as Jaime can’t take on all the marketing and design stuff as well as his own job). I wouldn’t necessarily assume this is still an available option, unless it’s obvious (e.g. they are actively interviewing people and mentioning the need to hire an assistant).

  43. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP1 (calling to confirm a non-existent interview) If this reached me and I realised what was going on (rather than assuming they were mistaken), if I wasn’t too busy I would be tempted to let them persist with the approach for a while and see how far they were willing to double down on it…

    – “Sorry I think Outlook has had a moment as I can’t find any mention of it
    – when did you say it was meant to be?”
    – “Tuesday at 11.00”
    – “Oh ok, yes, who was it you spoke with and arranged it with?”
    – “er… I can’t remember the name sorry”
    – “Probably Julie or Charlie as they set up most of the interviews”
    – “Oh yes, it was Charlie, yes”
    – “ok and they mentioned the office arrangement, right?”
    – “…. yes”
    – “With the tunnel and everything”
    – “…”

  44. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #1 – Thinking this through from an HR perspective, if someone called me saying they wanted to confirm their interview, my first question should be: “You would have received any interview information in an email. Do you have that?”.

    Assuming you say you haven’t received it yet, my next step would be to find your information in our recruitment database. We have 100s of jobs posted at any given time and at different stages with different hiring managers, different recruiters. I’ll need you to give me a name, email address, job number, the recruiter’s name, something that helps me narrow down the job you applied to. If you have a profile (assuming you actually applied to any jobs in our company), I can see any activity to know you don’t have an interview lined up. Or, if I can’t find a profile, I can find the job and see that your name isn’t listed in the activity for candidates pending an interview. That’s assuming the job is actually interviewing; it may not have reached that stage yet.

    At a best case scenario, I think you’re extremely mistaken and I correct the mistake by saying that we do not have any interviews pending. We’ll reach out if we would like to move forward. At worst, I’ve figured out you’re lying (as you noted, this is trending and I’ve seen this on instagram). Now you have a ‘do not hire’ flag.

  45. Despachito*

    OP2 (cats)

    I’d let it go and not mention it, the person who told you may not have relevant information and even if she has, it is not that important.

    However, I’d pay a little more attention to your coworker to see whether there is a pattern of not telling the truth. The reason is that I knew a person who used to lie about things which were not very significant per se but the habit of lying could eventually have repercussions on other people, me included.

    It is of course possible there is no such pattern and that she either has new cats or is just avoiding an unpleasant topic in a harmless manner.

  46. Janethesame*

    I suppose it’s possible she got some more cats and named them the same as her two late ones. I would never reuse a pet names, but some people find it comforting- or convenient.

  47. Janethesame*

    Or maybe she decided her living situation isn’t a good fit for pets and never mention her pet-free status be ause she doesn’t want to people pressuring her to take in animals that need homes.

  48. CTA*

    Re #1

    I agree with Alison. Don’t do anything that makes you look disorganized or worse. It will leave a bad impression.

    Early in my career, I was an assistant at a small art gallery. The business owner Jane was seeking an intern and she was the one who handled the correspondence and setting up the appointments. One day, a young woman comes in and early says to me she’s here for her interview with Jane. I had to gently tell her that Jane was not here that day and asked can she confirm the date and time of her interview. The potential intern checks at her phone (I guess her email), immediately goes pale, apologizes, and leaves.

    This is something that I did have to tell Jane about. I’m sure there are people here who will be of the opinion that I should have kept my mouth shut because the candidate was early career. I only did what I was required to do: Jane would have wanted to know this info. Regardless of how other’s feel about my actions, I don’t think it would have mattered. I think a day or two later, that candidate withdrew her application. She probably felt that she made a big misstep and wouldn’t advance. Jane did say things “weren’t looking good” for that candidate after I reported this. The candidate might have advanced anyway since we didn’t have a lot of candidates anyway.

    1. CTA*

      To clarify, the candidate did have an interview scheduled. She showed up on the wrong day. She had the wrong week.

      1. Potoooooooo*

        Hopefully a week early as opposed to a week late. I can definitely see people going on autopilot if an interview is scheduled 9 or more days out and putting it on the calendar on the next coming instance of the day by accident, especially since so many places seem to want to do screening questions immediately on first contact and schedule further interviews within a few days.

    2. Throwaway Account*

      The applicant was for an internship, these are the kinds of mistakes that interns make and learn from. I don’t think I would have told the business owner unless this candidate did something like that more than once AND if I were the business owner a “mistake” like this from an intern would not have me thinking or saying things like “things weren’t looking good for that candidate!” That seems like an overreaction on the owner’s part.

      1. coffee*

        Yeah, it seems overly nitpicky to disqualify an intern entirely based on that mistake. Possibly that’s how the art industry works, though, as it’s notoriously badly paid with poor career prospects.

  49. kiki*

    “As long as you’re not seeing any other signs of delusions, this isn’t something you need to act on. The kindest thing you can do is to just leave it alone and pretend you never heard it.”

    I completely agree. What you heard is several degrees of separation away from your coworker– it’s completely possible that the friend of the sister is incorrect or out of the loop.

    I also think weird lies about personal lives just happen in the workplace. For a while, I had a fictional boyfriend at work. I panicked when a coworker asked me on a date and made a boyfriend up, then other people started asking about my boyfriend and I didn’t know how to come clean without making things weird. And then it became a great way to field off other unwanted male attention and questions about my dating life that I was getting, so he stuck for my entire tenure at that job. I’ve known other people with similar situations.

    1. Betty Beep Boop*

      Also, the “harmless thing to make it easier” thing is something I’ve absolutely done.

      If I’m talking about, IDK, a cat’s last illness, or how much I struggled after losing them, or any serious topic, of course I’ll say they’re dead.

      If I want to tell a funny story about my beloved senior calico, who died, and my Mom, who also died, I don’t want to start it off with sadness , I just want to tell them about the time Grace was sitting so still on the dining room table (where she wasn’t allowed to be) that my Mom tried to pick her up and use her as a paperweight.

      So sometimes I tell pet stories in the eternal now.

      Or, to be fair, your coworker may just be trying to head off the charming but not always well-timed urge cat people get when they find out you’ve lost all of your cats and are past the worst stages or grief, which is to try to give you another cat. Or two.

  50. an infinite number of monkeys*

    Regarding #1: As someone who handles complaints from the public from time to time, there’s a definite human tendency to assume that if you don’t know the rationale behind something, there must not be any. I think most people have at least a knee-jerk reaction that way, though we hopefully realize we don’t know what we don’t know.

    That “one weird trick” doesn’t stand up to any level of critical thinking, but definitely appeals to people who don’t realize they aren’t thinking critically. People who think this is a clever idea probably don’t stop to think at all about what it would say about the organization they wanted to interview with, if it were successful!

  51. Betty Beep Boop*

    Also I don’t think this is a good suggestion but part of me is picturing OP#3 responding with “oh, the baby’s in the middle of a conference call, it’s a bad time”.

  52. DrSalty*

    LW #3 – it’s this simple “please don’t talk to my belly.” Say it kindly but firmly. If you need/want to soften the message, maybe something like “This is so silly of me, but it weirds me out when people talk to my belly. Can you please not? Thanks!” Then move on immediately to another topic in a friendly tone.

  53. Immortal for a limited time*

    LW #1 — “…makes me very uncomfortable, but I can see why it could be effective” –? I have to assume you’re somewhat new to the working world or that maybe don’t have the best judgment if you had to ask whether this kind of deception is valid. If it’s deceptive, it’s not a good idea. If you were an applicant who did this for a job for which I was hiring, I’d blackball you immediately.

    1. Observer*

      if you had to ask whether this kind of deception is valid.

      The OP did not ask if this is “valid”, but if it’s effective. And at least they had the sense to ask even though they would not do it themself, to get a better understanding.

      And agreed, this is a terrible idea. Deception is a bad idea to start with. And a lie that’s this easily discovered is one that’s going to cause you a lot more trouble than just not making the cut with an employer.

    2. Myrin*

      Literally the first part of the sentence you quoted:
      “I would personally never use this strategy myself as using any degree of dishonesty in the job application process makes me very uncomfortable”

  54. HG*

    LW1: this is the kind of shitty life pro tip people eat up because it gives such a tantalizing picture of people in power being stupid, incompetent, and terrified of being found out. Learn the enemy’s weaknesses and take advantage of them well enough and you’ll be the boss before you know it! Fake it till you make it! Everyone else is just as bad at this as you so don’t be intimidated!

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      That is kind of how I feel about the advice “apply for the position and spend a day composing a cover letter for it if you fulfil even one of its requirements…”

  55. plumerai*

    #2: I was sort of hoping this would be like the imaginary niece I made up when I was left with a cold-fish client who ADORED my predecessor. It was clear she was upset that my predecessor left and every call with her was like pulling teeth. My team and I strategized about how to warm up the space, and we came up with a few similar topics we could touch on (general things, like travel). We knew she and my predecessor talked about their kids a lot, but none of us had kids.

    UNTIL one of our tactics fell flat (yet again), but the client was clearly trying too, so she said, “Does anyone else here have kids?” After an, ahem, pregnant pause, I jumped in with, “I LOVE MY NIECE.” This piqued her interest, so I just started making shit up: She’s six, she’s in first grade, she likes ponies but lives in an area where she can’t have one, she sends me drawings of ponies.

    After the call I was like…what have I done. I had to keep up the ruse for months, until the client retired.

    1. inskmith*

      I just started a new job, and just call my friend’s kids my nephews, instead of explaining that neither she nor I get along with our sisters so we sort of mentally traded them out for each other, and I kind of fill an aunt role for them even though we’re not related, and also why I travel so far so frequently to see a friend, and how we got to be friends in the first place and…

      It’s so much easier to say “i’m visiting my nephews this weekend.”

      Which I know is different from your genuinely imaginary niece, that story just made me think of this.

  56. Blue Pen*

    #2 – it might also be something where your coworker decided to name her new (alive) cats the same names as the former ones. That doesn’t happen a lot, but I do know someone who did that, and it wasn’t all that strange. Or it’s something like Fluffy, Jr. or Kitty the II.

    Or your coworker really does have new cats and the mutual friend didn’t hear or misheard their names.

    1. Enoby*

      I’m wondering if Coworker had a bunch of cats that did all die and then later on got a new batch of cats (how often do we hear stories where one cat dies and suddenly two kittens show up on the doorstep, or they went to the shelter and there were three inseparable litter mates or something) and Gossipy Friend didn’t find out. I’ve known Cat People who didn’t so much “get” cats as much as cats just kind of appeared. If Coworker is especially cat-friendly I don’t think it’s implausible that some neighborhood strays started coming around and she just kept them.

    2. UKDancer*

      Yeah I’ve an old friend who has always had 2 cats and named them after characters from her favourite film. There have been several iterations of each but she said those were the names she liked. I think she’s on the third and fourth of each one respectively.

  57. Enoby*

    Maybe the advice to pretend you have an interview would have worked at a very disorganized place sometime before everything about applicants was available with a few clicks so anyone would know right away if someone had actually made it to the interview stage… but that sure as hell isn’t working now.

  58. samwise*

    Cat person: really, why do you care if the cats are still alive or not? It allows your colleague to interact socially with you and others in the office. If she didn’t have the cats, she’d be left out.

    Be kind to your colleague. Please.

    Losing a cat, having to let a cat go –it’s very painful.

  59. BigLawEx*

    #2 reminds me of the plot of Cat Lady by Dawn O’Porter. That said, since the LW mentions cats being the focus of so much discussion, maybe the employee feels the need to invent cats to fit in/not be ostracized…

    Or the 3d hand info is wrong. Honestly, I’d spend no time thinking about this if I were the LW.

  60. McS*

    Yeah LW 1, if the HR department is not organized enough to check whether you should have an interview scheduled, you probably don’t want to work there. Yes people drop scheduling tasks, but they should have their own records to refer to and fix a mistake(or catch you in the lie) rather than “admitting it to someone higher up.” And once you’re caught, you are definitely not getting an interview.

  61. HR DOO*

    OP #1 – I had someone try this with me, except they called to say they had a voicemail from our “Hiring Manager” offering them a position and they missed the call. I was not recruiting for any positions, but sometimes our field supervisor’s offered jobs over the phone (construction). The caveat is our field supervisors did not have desk phones, they had cell phones. I asked the caller if they knew the name of who they were calling, or their number. They said they missed a call from our office number, so… me. Once I explained that nobody from this number had called them offering them a job, they shouted an obscenity at me and hung up.

    I confirmed later with our field supervisors, they did not offer anybody a job but we did list the phone number as “not hireable”.

  62. Letter Writer for Cat Question*

    I wrote in about the co-worker and her cats. Just a few points:

    1. The cats for sure passed away several years ago

    2. When I mentioned the movie ‘Psycho’ I made the comparison specifically about the character’s attachment to his mother and the way he acts as though she’s still alive. It’s a famous example that I assume would be well-known. At no point did I suggest that she has murderous intentions or anything of that nature – she is very pleasant in fact. Those are your own comparisons you’re drawing.

    1. jojo*

      Can you elaborate on why you are so sure about point #1? Did your mutual friend show you JJ’s old social media posts about the loss of her cats or something?

  63. Eff Walsingham*

    On the possibility of ongoing cats, or not: my Mum had a funny work story where she had told her coworkers a bunch of anecdotes over time about one of my cousins. He was/is quite the character, and used to introduce himself as “Woy Wodgers Widener” as a tiny tot, although his middle name is actually Anthony.

    Anyhoo, her colleagues became so invested in the little boy from the stories that, when Mum mentioned casually that Roy was driving out to see her, there was shock! and betrayal! How dare she have not told them that the stories were not super recent, and that the little boy grew up!

    This is causing me to think that maybe the office appears so attached to the adventures of “Fluffy” and “Lucifur” that their former owner hasn’t wanted to break it to them that they’re gone, and/or it’s actually Mortimer and Spot now.

  64. jojo*

    LW2, if JJ is as much of a cat lover as she seems, it’s very possible (even likely IMO) that she did have two cats that passed away years ago … and she now has two different cats! Most cat lovers I know don’t like to live without cats for very long, and we have many cats pass through our lives over the long term. The mutual friend’s information could be correct but incomplete. Absent other reasons to be concerned about JJ, try not to worry about this.

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