#942: “A coworker invited herself along on my vacation.”

Dear Captain Awkward,

I have a situation that is getting very awkward indeed. In a few months, I will be going on vacation to Tokyo with my best friend. This has been a dream of ours for a long time, so we have a lot of plans. A coworker – with whom I’m friendly, but not very close – heard through the grapevine about my trip and started a conversation about when I was going and what I planned to do.

The week after that, she told me that she was planning a trip on the same dates, and she was so glad to know someone who could ‘show her all the sights’. I was a bit taken aback, but I told her my plans had just included myself and my best friend, and we already have reservations booked for just the two of us for most of the attractions we want to see. She seemed to understand and didn’t mention it again for a while.

However, I later overheard her talking to another coworker about ‘our trip’, and how I had planned everything out for ‘us’ to do. I waited until the other coworker was gone so as not to embarrass her, but this time I told her in no uncertain terms that my plans had not and would not include her. She got upset and said I’d been so enthusiastic about my trip that she’d gotten excited as well, and why was it so difficult for one more person to join us?

Since then, she’s kept talking about ‘our’ trip and what ‘we’ll’ do and all objections I make are completely ignored, even though I’ve stopped being polite and I have told her in front of others that she is in no way involved in my trip. I want to have a great experience with my friend and I absolutely do not want to be stuck playing tour guide to an acquaintance.

Since this is not work-related, I don’t feel like I can bring it up to our managers. I know I can’t stop her from making her vacation plans, even if they coincide with my own, but she already knows the name of my hotel and my rough itinerary from that first conversation, so how can I get it across that my friend and I do not want her with us? I’m concerned that she might have booked at the same hotel or that she’ll show up there, and I don’t want to cause a scene or have to try and avoid her. To my knowledge she’s never done anything like this before, so I’m completely baffled by her behavior. Obviously this problem is a bit different from many of the other letters you get, but I have no idea how to address this situation. Help?

Thank you,
Tokyo Traveller

preferred pronouns she/her

Dear Tokyo Traveller,

This is a nightmare, and one reason it’s a nightmare is that you’ve already told her directly that you don’t want to hang out with her in Japan and she’s blatantly not accepting this reality. “I am going with my friend and our plans don’t include you.” “You are in no way involved in my trip.” You are not being vague! When someone refuses to engage with the reality of what you are saying when it conflicts with their own desires, that is very weird, and scary!

Reasons are for reasonable people, and repeating yourself and explaining things more just gives unreasonable people the idea that stuff is negotiable. However, you *might* want to try talking to Coworker directly one more time before you take it to the boss. My most benign possible read on the situation is that she got over-excited about the trip, misread the situation completely and thought since you were friendly it would be cool if she joined you, and now she doesn’t know how to back down without losing face. She’s gonna try to brazen it out by using the social contract and your good heart against you, like, surely a “nice” person like you wouldn’t blank her if she just happened to roll up on you in Japan. If you want to give an appeal to reasonableness one last try, have this conversation:

 “Hey, you may not realize this, but when you insist that this is *our* trip you are actually freaking me out – it’s not normal for coworkers to go on each other’s personal vacations. I know you got really excited and maybe mistakenly thought I was inviting you along, but I definitely wasn’t. I hope you get to Tokyo someday! But we won’t be hanging out together this time around, and I really need you to stop insisting that we will. It’s stressing me out a lot because I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but it’s also non-negotiable that this is my personal vacation time with an old friend and I don’t want any coworkers tagging along to any part of it, even ones I like. I really value working with you and I don’t want to embarrass you, but I also don’t want to have this conversation with you again! I need to know that you hear and understand me right now.”

If you think it would help, have the conversation. Note: If she gets all hurt and huffy responds with something like “Geez, I get the message, I was just messing with you, I don’t even want to go on your precious vacation!” that is a victory. Take ’em where you find ’em.

If you’re sure you’re past that point, read on. Here’s your overall script/mantra that you can repeat to anyone (including Coworker) who gives you pushback: This is my personal vacation, not a work trip. It is completely inappropriate for a coworker to invite themselves on my personal vacation.” 

In this vein:

A) Document the conversations you’ve already had. Time, date, place, who was there, what was said. Continue documenting going forward.

B) No more talking about details of the trip at work until it’s over. When other coworkers ask “How’s your trip planning coming?” in the normal course of office small talk, you say “Great, thanks. How is your [subject change to end all subject changes] going?” Privately, depending on how well you get along, give them the straight dope: “Thanks for asking, but I’m keeping the details private from Coworker. I’ll show you pictures when we get back if you want!

It bears saying: Nothing about this is your fault because you were excited or talked about the trip at work. My coworkers aren’t inviting themselves on my France journey. What she is doing is Not Normal. Still, since the fires of weirdness are ablaze, don’t fuel them. Lock it down for now.

C) When she asks how planning is going, you say “I’d prefer to keep the details private. + [subject change to work topic]?”

D) Outright block her from seeing anything you post anywhere on social media. Make sure your friend does, too, so she can’t ferret stuff out from their feeds.To the extent you can, block her from emailing you on your personal email or calling your personal phone #.

If it’s not clear, this coworker is now on “only essential work conversations” lockdown.

E) If you can, absolutely consider changing which hotel you’re going to stay at and vary up that initial itinerary a bit. Do not communicate the changes to anyone at work – not even in an “If you need to reach me in case of Work Emergency, here’s where I’ll be” sort of way. Use your friend’s name in any bookings, too, to make yourself harder to find.

F) Depending on your relationship with your manager, bring it up with them first. Do it in a face-to-face conversation. You could follow up/document via email, but start in-person.

Possible script (credit to my friend E., who is a manager of many people and who served as part of my WTF? Focus Group this morning):

Boss, there’s a potential situation unfolding that I wanted to give you a heads up about. It’s not directly related to my job duties, so I didn’t mention it to you sooner. As you know, I’m going to Tokyo on vacation soon, and I was very surprised when Coworker announced her plans to take a similar trip, and she has been pressuring me to make plans together. This is not possible due to my own travel arrangements, but she is not taking it well, to the extent that I am feeling harassed/threatened by her reactions that she is sharing with me and others.

If your boss is a “oh, it can’t be that bad!” sort of person, it’s a good idea to work the initial script into that conversation somewhere – “It’s inappropriate for a coworker to invite themselves on my personal vacation.This is very strange behavior. Keep naming the behavior. You can add “She’s never done anything like this before, so this very strange and unusual behavior.

More from E.:

“I am a big believer in telling your boss what you want/hope the boss will do, and in this case, I think that might be “I don’t want or expect you to do anything, but I did want you to be aware in case you hear anything about it.” If you *do* want the boss to do something, you should say what that is.”

I am also a big believer in telling bosses/teachers etc. what action you hope they’ll take (they are also human beings who can be thrown by really awkward situations and sometimes they don’t know). Besides “be generally aware in case things escalate”, some things you might ask the boss to do:

  • Independently confirm whether coworker has actually requested those same dates off. If she has, it raises the threat level. If she hasn’t, her behavior around this is still very strange but there might be a chance she’ll back off before the trip actually comes.
  • Schedule you for different shifts or to work on different projects/clients for now.
  • Review/reassure you about company policies about sharing employees’ personal info. You don’t want her contacting you in Tokyo or on any personal channels outside of work – does the company have adequate policies in place?
  • Back you up. “I plan to stop talking about the trip at all during work hours, so if you ask me about it and I change the subject, that’s why.” “I’ve corrected her whenever she refers to it as ‘our trip’ or insists that I let her tag along. If you hear me do that, this is why.”
  • If the behavior continues and/or escalates, boss can check in with coworker or help you loop in HR. Is Coworker ok? Does she have some stress in her life that is manifesting at work? HR might be able to hook her up with an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP). To be clear, it’s not your responsibility to make sure this person is ok – your boss gets paid bigger bucks than you to work out things like this for the good of the staff.

G) What happens next depends on what she does. I am crossing every appendage that she’ll get the message and chill out. If not, keep documenting everything (including your conversations with your boss or HR).

H) If (oh shit) she actually follows you to Japan:

  • It is okay to completely blank her. You TOLD her not to come. “I’m sorry, but you’re not welcome here. I’ve told you that many times. Please leave.
  • Hotels are not supposed to give people’s info out and many will have policies around that. Check with your hotel to see what their policies are – are the staff aware of them, are they enforced? From my WTF? Focus Group Meeting today, my friend J. who works in hotels had this advice:

    “As a matter of policy, any respectable hotel will not give out a guest’s name/room number. If you call and ask to be connected with a room number, they will ask you to verify the guest’s name. Also, hotel maids are trained repeatedly to not let anyone into any room unless they can verify the name and have an ID that matches.

    If you want to be super secure, you can send an email to the hotel GM and or Front Office Manager letting them know that you value your privacy and want all information about your trip kept confidential.”

It SUCKS that you would have to worry about this around your long-planned trip. I hope you can have a great time without looking over your shoulder for your Copycat Coworker!





287 thoughts on “#942: “A coworker invited herself along on my vacation.”

  1. Woah. This is truly bizarre behavior on your coworker’s part. My sympathies.

    One thing to look out for: if your boss has the “but socially awkward/autistic/trying to be friends” subtype of “it can’t be that bad,” hold fast to “It is completely inappropriate for a coworker to invite themselves on my personal vacation.” You coworker may have shit going on in their life, may have difficulty with social cues, may really need a friend. Any or all of those could be true and it still doesn’t make it okay for them to intrude on your private life like this.

    I hope you have a great time in Tokyo!

    1. I would also add to this that it’s so abnormal for someone to invite themselves onto a vacation, be told more than once “you are not invited”, and then continue to to do so – that it’s very unlikely for any boss (or anyone else) to assume or guess that’s what’s going on. It’s also a possibility that something similar has been reported to the boss in the past with another work friend or work romantic interest, and so the boss/HR would *really* want to know that such behavior was part of a larger partner or escalating.

      1. Definitely agree it’s so far outside normal that any boss should go from zero to “WTF” at the first word of it.

        There are folks who try to armchair-diagnose socially inappropriate behavior (often incorrectly–I don’t mean to suggest for a moment that barging in on a coworker’s vacation is something a mentally ill or Autistic person is more likely to do). All I’m saying that if the boss does that, it’s best to keep focus on the fact that the behavior is not acceptable, rather than getting side-tracked with irrelevant justifications.

        LW’s boss may be great, but if they’re the conflict-avoidant “both sides have merit and you need to find a compromise” type, then the LW may need to double down and insist on their right to put themselves first. “Maybe they’re hungry” doesn’t justify stealing a coworker’s lunch, and “maybe they’re lonely” doesn’t justify stealing their vacation.

        1. “Maybe they’re hungry” doesn’t justify stealing a coworker’s lunch, and “maybe they’re lonely” doesn’t justify stealing their vacation.

          This is a beautiful analogy, and might help the LW to frame this in terms of non-acceptable boundary-crossing. (LW, all the best! It sucks that you have to put up with this at what should be an amazing and exciting time.)

        2. I think that’s exactly correct.

          The lunch example brings to mind an Ask A Manager letter where someone stole a coworkers very spicy lunch and then went to HR to blame the “lunch owner” for trying to poison the “lunch stealer”. It still stuns me that someone who was stealing others food would ever have the audacity to lash out at the initial owner of the lunch – but I also think it’s a good reminder that supervisors/HR have likely seen a lot of “weirdness”. And by cluing them in early it may help put things in context and at least let the OP relax around some of this situation.

    2. I’m autistic and I would never, ever, ever think that behavior is OK! This woman’s behavior is beyond the pale. If she follows you to Japan, call the local police.

      1. Autistic people would back off at the first “But it’s not our trip, it’s my trip, with my friend, and not you.” Directness works!

        To be clear, Annalee is saying IF THE BOSS invokes “poor social skills (for whatever reason),” keep pushing back and don’t let them pawn CREEPINESS off on autism or social awkwardness.

        1. Yes, this–I’m sorry my wording was confusing. I actually find it infuriating when people blame socially inappropriate behavior on Autism when it’s behavior that an Autistic person would be far less likely to engage in than a neurotypical person.

          1. Yes: it’s inaccurate and inappropriate but it’s invoked enough (either out of well-meaning but wrongheaded ignorance or for worse reasons) that it’s worth having a response in your back pocket.

        2. It’s possible that labeling it “creepiness” instead of “awkwardness” might work against you. But DO label it “awkward” and “not acceptable” and maybe even to say, “I really don’t know what’s causing it, and that’s really not important. It’s not fair to her for either of us to try to diagnose her or speculate about her motives. What’s important is that the awkwardness end. I’m doing my bit, and I just wanted you to be fully aware in case I need to ask for your assistance with things like not assigning us to the same projects or something.”

      2. Also autistic, endorsing this. I sometimes have trouble gauging what is and isn’t appropriate, and that is exactly why I love people who are clear about what the boundaries are.

        Even if the boundary is disappointingly not-where-I-had-hoped, accepting that information and moving on is easier than not knowing.

          1. Friend, I’m neurotypical, and sometimes (e.g., when I am under a lot of stress, hassled, busy, tired, you name it) and my brain is tuning out subtleties and subtext, I definitely need an anvil, too! Directness is good for everyone, I think.

          2. Unfortunately, in the United States, directness is considered rude unless it is used by cisgendered men. Women other female-presenting people are supposed to be tactful and demure at all times. At least that is true in white America. I can’t speak for other cultures.

      3. This sort of thing (obviously not this level) sounds like something I might have considered as a child, and even then a clear “no” would have probably been enough. As an adult experience has pushed me over to “if I’m not explicitly invited/it’s not obviously an open invitation event, assume I’m not welcome.”

    3. Yep. Also, if your boss or HR is all “socially awkward tho!” just remind them that you have told her SEVERAL TIMES, quite bluntly, that she was not invited and she is not welcome.

      Seriously, though, I am willing to bet if she’s doing this with you so openly at work, her behavior is already an issue with her boss and/or HR.

      1. It so bugs me, the “but socially awkward!” excuse. If she’s so socially awkward that she doesn’t even hear the word ‘no’ when it’s spoken repeatedly, firmly, and directly to her face, then I’d have some other concerns about being around her in the future that go way beyond worrying about a trip being spoiled by a stalker – and that’s definitely bad enough all on it’s own. This is one of those “my body kept asking to move further away from the monitor the further I read” posts.

    4. YES. I’m socially awkward. Being humored like recent-season Elmo the Cute Little Clueless Muppet doesn’t help. Being told flat-out, as unemotionally as possible, that I screwed up again may make me go red and hide away to cry, but it’s also the only way I’ll get it.

      And anybody who, in the above situation, cries at the bearer of bad news or otherwise tries to get their way anyway…let consequences ensue.

    5. Yes, the “socially awkward” excuse has been way overused. People who have genuine problems with social awkwardness and/or autistic tendencies would feel deeply embarrassed and back right off when LW told them they weren’t invited and weren’t going to be part of it. Telling someone flat-out not to come is not a vague social cue, it’s unmistakeable and not open to interpretation.

      1. Yes. I suspect I may be on the autistic spectrum, but either way I am very socially awkward (I have exactly zero close friends). I never assume anything, you have to tell me very directly so I’d never assume I can come on your trip. However, if I did make that assumption, the first time you corrected me I would be so humiliated that I would never speak to you again and I would try to hide anytime your name came up in conversation. I feel so sorry for this LW

  2. Y I K E S. Oh my god, LW, what a bizarrely horrible situation. It’s so utterly outside the realm of what is acceptable that my brain is scrambling to try and grasp why this person thought this was okay. I’m so sorry this person has INVITED HERSELF ONTO YOUR PERSONAL VACATION FOR YOU WITHOUT YOUR PERMISSION. I mostly just wanted to confirm that this is an INCREDIBLY BIZARRE AND UPSETTING THING TO HAPPEN. Is there a social cue for ‘acquaintance has said she’s going to follow me to another country and then stalk me as I try to do fun things while simultaneously claiming we are doing them TOGETHER in the spirit of FRIENDSHIP’????


    1. Yes. Back when I first started out in the workforce, I tried to invite myself along to drinks with coworkers and/or my boss and coworkers, because hey, it was fun! And I got to pick up all the gossip because tipsy people aren’t always careful! Clearly, there were situations in which my boss and/or coworkers did not always want me tagging along, and it was awkward, but I learned to pick up the hint. And yes, I did figure out workplace appropriate behavior and why professional boundaries are so important eventually. For which I am grateful now.

      But yikes, this coworker’s behavior is SO exponentially worse than my awkward attempts to socialize and pretend we were all equals in the bar. I mean, “why is it so difficult for one more person to join,” trying to turn it against the LW and make it a small deal instead of a creepy violation from a not-close coworker, not a close friend or family member? (also not ok.) No, just no.

      Agree that the LW should state directlyand more than once if necessary that this is very strange behavior to the boss, and “if coworker thought it was a joke, it’s not a funny joke, it’s inappropriate” should the boss try to brush it off.

      1. It’s one thing when a particular work environment involves hanging together outside of work–if your boss and all your coworkers regularly went out together as a group it’s not beyond the pale at all to wonder/ask/even tag along because that’s clearly part of working there (whether appropriate or not is another thing.) But that’s a whole community thing. This is something else ALTOGETHER.

    2. I know, right? I could see inviting oneself to lunch with co-worker and other co-worker, but on vacation?!

      1. Even that depends on how you do it.

        For example, a coworker at my old job who nobody was particularly friendly with would try to invite herself to others’ (off-site) lunch breaks.

        Mind you, this didn’t go anything like “Wanna go to _____ with me for lunch?” or “Can I go with you?”


        She would casually ask where you like to go for lunch and then just show up there without warning and sit right on down with you.

          1. Once she got around to me I stopped it with:

            Coworker: Where do you go for lunch?
            Me: A few different places. I like to mix it up.
            Coworker: Where are you going today?
            Me: Dunno yet.

            Strangely, she would *never ever* take the logical next step and actually outright ask if she and someone could have lunch together. It would always stop there.

          2. I would never ask a co-worker if I could go along with someone to a restaurant, because that would be invading their privacy/presuming a relationship that may not be there. It is different when I see someone in the break room or at a table outside on company grounds. I would ask if I may sit there with the person.

          3. Dr. Fishcraft–Yessss, the vague, noncommittal brushoff is absolutely the best way to deal with this variety of creepy. Excellent choice.

            If only it worked on LW’s coworker’s variety of creepy.

      2. Lunch is inexpensive and lasts only a little span of time. A trip to Japan, though? Wow. That’s not a small commitment.

  3. Yikes. Who does this? I am crossing all of my appendages for you, LW, that Captain’s advice will work for you and that you enjoy your trip.

  4. Wow. That is horrible.

    I do have to say that unless your boss is extremely unapproachable – I’d be inclined to loop them in. Someone who is behaving this outside the norm of typical friendly coworker behavior – I’d be concerned about potential work blow back. If your boss has a head’s up now then should things truly escalate (like following you to Japan of all things….) that there’s already a heads up about your concern.

    1. Yeah and it worries me that if coworker *isn’t*actually following her (like maybe she did get the hint enough to not make travel plans but feels like she can’t back down at work for some reason) I’d worry that while LW is gone she might start peddling some other crazy story about that makes LW look like the irrational one, like LW promised to make all the arrangements then called her at the last minute and told her she never bought her a plane ticket or whatever. (That sounds super weird also, but nothing about this situation is normal.)

      1. This would be my worry and my encouragement to tell the boss. There was an Ask A Manager letter a few months ago where the LW brought in a very spicy dish for their own lunch. Someone else ate their lunch, and then the LW initially got in trouble with HR for “attempting to poison” the coworkers.

        Obviously, it was a workplace with a lot of other dysfunction and I’m going to assume that the OP doesn’t work somewhere like that. But I think that no matter how obvious the OP’s letter makes the OP’s story sound – if someone is really behaving outside the bounds the typical behavior/manners then who knows how they’d interpret this story.

        I will also admit that when I read the title of the article, I assumed that the story was a bunch of soft no’s and the advice would be “have you specifically told your coworker they can’t come”. Similarly, I could see a boss assuming that the OP was being softer in the no’s – so looping them in now might be really helpful in case things get more concerning.

    2. Especially if Co Worker is involved in dealing with the public. What if she starts doing this with clients?

  5. If you can, please speak to hotel staff. Japan is culturally VERY privacy oriented, (they live on top of each other, so they take whatever privacy they can wherever they can get it) so that should absolutely work in your favor. If they turn up, and follow you around, restaurant staff should also be willing to help divert them.

    Have a good time in Tokyo, it’s a wonderful city.

    1. Btw, going through a train or underground station is usually a very good way to lose a stalker. I know this because being a white girl buying sex toys in Tokyo (my boyfriend was far away, don’t judge ;p ) tends to attract a very annoying flavor of male attention. I really hope it doesn’t come to that for you, and I’m crossing anything that I can that your trip will be coworker-free, but just in case.

      1. Oh, and one more thing, IF they show up, which, let’s hope not.

        In an absolute worst case scenario, outside every train station and almost every underground in the entire country of Japan there is a “police box”. Sorry to disappoint Dr. Who fans – they’re usually the size of a small room, and can be in a variety of buildings, though all the ones in my neighborhood where tiled white on the outside. They’re marked with a sign that says Kōban. The officers inside will not always speak English, but “stop”, “no” and “go away” will be understood, and they can call in an English speaking officer to help you.

        If you google Japanese police box, you can look at some images – just discard the ones of the Tardis 😉

        1. Aw, I was really hoping for a Tardis. What better way to lose a stalker than to travel to a distant galaxy and perhaps another time?

          1. Funnily enough, I was trying to think of a reason this behavior could possibly be justified, and all I could think of was “time traveler trying to prevent global catastrophe/ be present at the 21st-century equivalent of Woodstock via Rube-Goldberg-esque machinations.”

          2. It may not be a Tardis, but there is – at least according to my google image search – at least one “Police Box” with the face of an owl. Literally.

        2. Small clarification, if you can’t find a small building with “police box” on it, look for one with “koban” (which is the romanization of the word for “police box”) or 交番 on it.

          1. …how did I managed to read ferdalangur’s reply WITHOUT seeing the “they’re marked with a sign that says Kōban” bit? Sorry about that!

        3. Agree – the police are wonderful in Japan. Very helpful and they WANT to be able to communicate with you – you will not be ignored if they don’t speak English. Google Translate is your BFF in Japan – I can’t count the number of times I would just hand my phone to a police officer and receive exactly the help I needed!

        4. Plus, unlike some places the Japanese police force doesn’t have glaring problems with gunning down innocent people on flimsy contexts, so you don’t need to worry about disproportionate force and police brutality. Speaking personally, I’d be willing to go to the police in Japan for things I never would in the U.S., largely because of that.

      2. Sex toys are awesome regardless of wether there is a boyfriend around to try them out with ^^ I’m glad you managed to lose the creep(s)!

      3. Good Lord, if there were ever an audience that totally would not judge you for getting sex toys, this is the one. If anything we might even crowdfund you.

          1. Hitachi is a Japanese company. Just sayin’ 😉

            It’s a pity that my country of origin has different phase electricity so I can’t use my magic wand here without some serious hardware…

  6. Yeesh, this is some seriously creepy behaviour. Best of luck in sorting things out, you’ve been doing great so far and my fingers are crossed that she will finally hear the boundaries you’re enforcing!

  7. Who on Earth goes to the effort of booking and planning an international trip to hijack someone else’s vacation??? Hasn’t your coworker anything better to do with her time and money?

    I’m sorry, it just boggles my mind. Great advice, Captain! LW, I sincerely hope that your coworker is bluffing to get under your skin or some such idiocy and that you’ve an amazing time in Japan! Kudos for stating your boundaries so clearly and assertively, it’s not your fault your coworker’s choosing not to hear you.

    1. Yeah, this would be one thing if the LW was planning a weekend getaway at a local-ish vacation spot—still wildly inappropriate, but maybe more understandable from a social-awkwardness point of view. Trying to hitch a ride on someone else’s international vacation is just mind-boggling.

      1. Quite. I can just about see the colleague hearing about a trip they’ve always wanted to make, and saying “wow, I’m so jealous, that sounds amazing!” in the vague hope of hearing “hey the more the merrier, you should totally come with us!” but if the reply is “ill show you the photos when I get back” or “thanks, I hope you manage to get there one day” then you drop it and do not hint, ask, and certainly not plan to join them!

        I can’t figure the colleague’s motive, but this certainly needs the boss notified and colleague reminded in the firmest way that she is not invited nor welcome. The time for kind words was done some while ago.

        This is worryingly weird behaviour from the colleague.

    2. I actually do know someone who pulls stunts like this. You didn’t invite her to your party? She’ll show up at your house and let herself in! Buying a vacation home? She buys one on the same street! I agree with the Captain’s excellent advice to lock down all trip-related sources of information so this coworker can’t access them. I’d go ahead and change the hotel and itinerary too. It’s the best way to ensure that LW will truly get to enjoy her vacation without looking over her shoulder everywhere she goes. Sometimes the cheapest way to pay is with money.

      1. My God. Actually buying a freaking house? Seems like idle pockets are also the devil’s playthings.

  8. This made my BP tick up a bit. If I had that final firm conversation and she still acted weirdly enough that I wasn’t sure she was going to comply, I would be so tempted to announce that we were going to Finland instead, then, good luck with that Japan trip! And then make minor changes like to the hotel or dates or anything I could for the Japan trip quietly without telling anyone but your co-traveler.

    1. This is my thought, too. I would not be above flat-out lying about my plans at this point.

      1. I honestly might start lying for fun and profit. It might be time to talk up my plans for my amazing vacation in someplace remote and non-scenic, like the town we passed through in Greece where the best thing the travel book had to say about it was that the toll bridge was inexpensive.

    2. This is genius! As insurance, to keep her from showing up at the places on your itinerary, let it become known that you:
      – canceled your trip
      – are going to a different city/cities than you actually are
      – are going to a different country because the airline canceled your tickets because of a administrative mixup and to make up for their error, the airline issued you free tickets to another country

      This only helps protect you against her for this one trip. I agree about the need for documentation. And the total WTF weirdness of this issue. I would send CA’s ‘final reasonableness attempt” script to Coworkee via email, and consider then forwarding it to HR/your boss. Or even cc them on it so she sees they’re aware of it.

      1. This was my idea too. Lie about where you’ll be and what you’re doing.

        Alternatively, If coworker is too clued in on your current itinerary, loop in Friend and change it up. Going to visit a neighborhood on Tuesday? Bam, now you’re going on Thursday instead. I understand this may not completely work (changing hotels, or activities that involve pre-purchased tickets for example). But any time you can arrange to not be in the place coworker thinks you are, that’s a win.

        And if questioned, you can always brush it off with “Well, Tokyo’s so busy!”

    3. Did anyone else read that book as a kid where this girls friends kept copying her hair style, so one day she said she was going to shave her head the next day and everyone came in with shaved heads and she had her normal hairstyle so they’d stop copying her?

      1. Stephanie’s Ponytail, by Robert Munsch. One of my favourites!

        OP, I’m so sorry that your coworker is behaving so badly towards you. I hope you can keep her out of your space – both your physical space and your head space – enough to really enjoy your trip.

      2. Oh man. I’m reminded of a real life version that happened to me:

        I once had a friend who copied my haircut, my piercings, my clothes, my catchphrases, even one of my tattoos. When I mentioned offhand that I was thinking of getting another tattoo, she asked what, and I read the quote to her. “Oh, that sounds more like something for me than something for you,” she replied. “I’ll get that one and you pick something else.”

        It was very SWF.

        The tattoo thing came up again later, and I had to call her out in front of others: “Hey, can you not steal my idea and get the very same tattoo in the very same place? You already did that once and it’s kind of disturbing.”

        I mean, copying my haircut/clothing/mannerisms was hard to prove and complaining about them made me look petty, but tattoos are more concrete.

        Needless to say, we’re not friends anymore.

      3. Pretty sure I read this as one of the short stories in a horror anthology manga. All the girls had to be equal, to the point of self injury to match cuts and scars. And dating? Well, you can’t have something the other girls can’t have… glad the kid’s book had a happy ending!

  9. This is so awkward! I hope it works out and you have an amazing time! If you’re comfortable doing so, can we get an update post – trip to find out what you tried and if this approach worked?

  10. I strongly concur with the Captain about changing your hotel reservation and shaking up your itinerary if you can. My only additional concern is that she may pretend to be lost and try to cajole the hotel staff into giving out your information so she can contact you (even if there are policies in place, the hotel staff are human and may let their feelings make an exception for the lost, lonely tourist desperately trying to contact their only friend).

    As always, CA has amazing advice. I truly hope that she backs off!

    I had a wonderful time when I was in Japan, so I hope you have a blast too! If you are still thinking of things to do, I highly recommend visiting at least one temple and a hot spring! They are absolutely gorgeous. 🙂

    1. Yeah, I think looping the hotel staff into the situation to some extent might be a good idea — they don’t need every details, but something like “a creepy woman is following me so it’s really important my information not be given out under any circumstances” is probably not a bad idea.

      1. FWIW, five year hotel front desk staffer here, and if you tell your hotel front desk that you don’t want to take calls and it’s important that no one be able to reach you, 99% of the time they’ll do it. I know I always reversed the guest’s name in the system, so if another (unaware) staffer looked for them, no one would show up.

        1. When someone is being stalked, or is at risk from someone interfering, I recommend they get a password put on their accounts (eg doctor surgery, energy providers etc) so that nobody can obtain info nor cancel contracts while posing as them. Is this something a hotel could do? Ie “I’ll be happy to transfer your call to their room, just please give me the password so I may help you…”

          1. @techiebabe: Only problem with the password idea is that that answer would indirectly confirm to the stalker that LW *is* staying at that hotel. If she actually has taken this as far as flying to Japan, that confirms to her which hotel she needs to stake out. Wonder if it would be better for staff just to answer *any* queries with a politely vague ‘We’re sorry, we can’t give out that information’?

  11. “As you know, I’m going to Tokyo on vacation soon, and I was very surprised when Coworker announced her plans to take a similar trip, and she has been pressuring me to make plans together. This is not possible due to my own travel arrangements, but she is not taking it well.”

    I think this might be underselling the problem. If someone told me this, I’d imagine that the coworker is acting hurt and sulky, not blatantly denying reality. If the manager then chose to talk to this person about their behavior, they’d be coming at it from the wrong angle. If you choose to talk to your manager, I think it’s more useful to be up front about the extent of the problem rather than soft-selling it.

    Good luck, and I hope you have a great trip!

    1. I’d agree with that. This situation is completely and totally bizarre, and unless you clearly state the bizarreness of it, it would be easy for people to see what they want to believe (i.e., that coworker is the reasonable person they believe her to be) rather than what you’re trying to hint at.

      Also, worth pointing out is that one coworker stalking another, even if it’s not “work related”, is still a thing that very definitely can affect your ability to work together or even to feel safe in the office, and thus is work-relevant. It’s entirely reasonable to bring this up with your manager.

      1. This.

        My script might be more like:

        “Coworker has been demonstrating some extremely bizarre and inappropriate behaviour. She has invited herself along to my personal vacation and is insisting she will join me in my hotel and all my activities. I have told her repeatedly that she was not and is not invited, but she’s still saying she’s coming with me. I have tried being nice and I have tried being blunt, but it’s not getting through no matter what approach I take. If she does follow me on my vacation, that is stalking — which is, as you know, not just a serious workplace issue but a serious legal one. I wanted to keep you in the loop so that if this escalates, it won’t come as a surprise.”

        Best of luck, LW, and I sincerely hope that you’re able to have an awesome vacation despite this upsetting coworker BS. 😦

        1. In an email, with a CC to HR. Turn on or save the “Read” receipts from both parties.

          To the stalker, these actions feel normal. I’m on the spectrum and when I’m working to understand someone’s actions, I’ve been starting with “Well, they think they are right…” This has helped me develop empathy but it also shows me how my (social, emotional) map plots compare with theirs. Sometimes, I conclude we are too far apart.

          1. I’m thinking after the email, you ask Boss to meet briefly with you and Co-Worker, in Bosses office. Boss can’t tell you about Co-Worker’s private vacation plans, but hearing the person say they are following you should make it possible to talk openly.

        2. Oh, I like that. In addition to it all being right and true, it conveys the message that LW is handling things on her own, telling the boss for reasons other than trying to get the boss involved.

          (Not that it would necessarily be terrible for the boss to get involved if they so decided, but I have no idea what the HR-appropriate approach for them would be for a weird-ass situation like this.)

          1. Well – it’s harassment and stalking. Co-worker has announced her objection not just to follow LW around, show up uninvited at the place LW is staying and places she goes to socialise and relax, and demand LW pay attention to her… she’s also announced her intention to spend thousands of dollars flying to the other side of the world in order to do so.

            Surely, HR has policies about what it does when someone is stalking a coworker outside of work.

            Hopefully, having those policies start to be enacted against her will make coworker realise just how FUCKING TERRIFYING she is being.

    2. yeah you’ve got to lay it out for them in no uncertain terms. “I’ve been talking about my Japan trip a bit at work and coworker has decided for herself that she is coming. she told me she’s going to go to Japan and hang out with me and has been telling coworkers about ‘our’ trip and the things we’re going to do together. when told to stop she doesn’t listen and says it isn’t a big deal for her to come along. this is bothering me greatly, I have been planning this trip with my best friend for years and that’s what the trip is for and now she’s decided she’s going to follow me. This trip is to be away from work and my coworkers. I do not want to spend all this money to basically be stalked the entire trip. I need something done about this or I’ll have to reconsider my trip.”

      honestly if someone would actually fly to Japan then they aren’t gonna take the blanking, they will follow you, they will blame you, they will act like a child. When you get back expect whining expect sulking. You are not dealing with an adult here.

      1. Yes. You are dealing with an adult. If this person were not an independent adult, OP could go to their social service personnel and get some help.

        Children are not expected to get a job and provide food and housing for themselves. In fact, they are often barred by law from doing so. Children are allowed to be socially ignorant, and adults are expected to guide them and enforce expectations.

        When dealing with an adult who does not accept the rules, all childlike, it does not help to call them a child. OF can flatly tell the person truth and the social expectation, but does not have the authority to guide them, or to enforce what she wants. Therefore, cueing in the supervisor or HR, who do have some authority, becomes necessary.

        tl;dr – sulky misbehaving adults are not children.

    3. I was scrolling down to say just this. Do not make it sound like this person is doing something remotely normal.

  12. From a veteran of several years living in Japan:

    Staying in Tokyo, unless you’ve gone out of your way to find English-speaking accommodations and/or stalker colleague speaks Japanese, even if she does follow you she’ll probable be met with polite incomprehension when she asks staff where you are, so there’s that. If she does speak Japanese well enough to ask for you, Japanese hotel staff are masters of politely sidestepping questions they’re not allowed to answer, as per the Captain’s response.

    Also, we’re talking about a city with a greater population than the entire state of California. Odds of your stalker colleague finding you there are very VERY low even if she knows your general itinerary.

    I hope these facts help bring you peace of mind, even in the event that she does copy your travel plans.

    Enjoy the trip! Eat lots of yummy things!

    1. This was my thought as well. Not to minimize the very real and very justified feelings the LW is having about the fact that her coworker is threatening to hijack her trip, but I doubt that Coworker will be able to follow LW and her friend around, especially if they do make slight adjustments to their accommodation and itinerary. If they spot her tailing them, then, as someone above suggested, then they can try ducking into a metro station and trust the crowd (and the public transport) to do the rest.

      1. Seconding metro stations (and JR). They’re huge enough that you can get lost if you don’t know where you’re going, having gotten lost twice in Shinjuku Station myself.

        1. Exactly. You don’t even need to go anywhere – just wander around somewhat faster than usual, and you WILL lose even the most determined stalker. Tokyo metro is crazy enough that even if you’re trying to find a friend, with a clearly defined meeting point, it’s nearly impossible.

    2. Yeah, I was thinking GOOD LUCK to the creepy co-worker being able to find LW in that crowd. Foreigners may stand out but not that much! The Tokyo metropolitan area is the most populated area on earth by official numbers, so even if the worst case scenario happened and co-worker followed LW, there’s over 36 million people to dodge behind. Hotel staff will know better than to give out that kind of info, as others have said, privacy is very serious in Japan. Even if they sometimes let that slide with foreigners, hotel staff are pros and should know better.

      Have an awesome time! One tip from someone in the country (Kobe represent): if you can eat Yamagishi Kazuo ramen while in Tokyo, DO IT!

    3. I’ve been living in Japan for over ten years, and I totally agree with your response.

      However, I do think it’s worth it to tell the hotel staff about the problem in advance. Yes, a lot of people here are excellent at side-stepping questions when they believe it’s necessary, but as mentioned above, they are people, and may be swayed by emotion and think that they’re genuinely helping a lost tourist find their friend. On several occasions, I’ve actually had staff here assume that I am traveling together with a complete stranger just because we happen to be of the same race or nationality. So the staff can totally be helpful and on your side, but they might also THINK they’re being helpful by actually helping your stalker, so it doesn’t hurt to be clear.

      But absolutely yes, it should certainly be easy to lose someone in Tokyo!

      Hope you have a fantastic trip! This is an awesome country! XD

    4. Yes… unless coworker knows (or has enough info to guess) what flight LW is on and buys a seat on that same airplane. And then follows right behind them in the customs line. And then jumps after them into whatever transport they’re taking to their hotel. If coworker is willing to show up in Japan uninvited, my guess is they’re going to make the effort to try to get on the same planes.

      1. That’s a really big ammount fo money to invest on stalking on such short notice, tho. I hope that the coworker is “just” lying to try and make the LW pay attention to her in that way. I mean, instead of thinking about her vacation and her friend, the LW is thinking about her stalker. It’s a way to control the LW.

        The coworker has already proved she’s a liar, so it’s not too far-fetched to take her threats to fly to Japan as more lies. Not that that makes her any less creepy or dangerous.

      2. Trip insurance may be your friend in this case. Highly recommended on a major undertaking like this anyway.

      3. I’m wondering if there is some sort of erotomania going on here. It’s just so extreme. (I’m certainly not going to Dx second- or third-hand on the Internet, tho.)

  13. I second what ferdalangur said above: Japan definitely has a culture of privacy, and service staff at hotels and restaurants should be willing to help you out.

    I also second the Captain’s suggestion to consider changing your hotel if at all possible. I realize that often you have to pay up front to get the best deal, but the peace of mind of even paying a change fee could be worth it.

    In fact, if it were me, I would do the math on moving the whole trip up a week or two. (Not back; back gives coworker the chance to change any plans they have made.) A trip to Tokyo is not cheap as it is, so I understand if budgets are strained, but you might be willing to shell out a couple hundred bucks in order to not be looking over your shoulder for this person when you’re supposed to be on your dream vacation. Something to consider.

    Best of luck, and have the most amazing time in Tokyo! I miss it so much.

    1. Though many US-based intermediaries for deals require upfront payments with nonrefundable deposits, US based companies also flee liability for personal harm like it’s the plague. If LW’s barrier to changing hotels isn’t something like THIS particular hotel being of significance to their years of planning/this is the ONLY financially feasible place, and the barrier is just a refund problem, getting a customer service rep appraised of a personal safety issue may change the refund situation. Ask to keep escalating–companies probably don’t have a policy on this, and (speaking as an attorney) this is the kind of thing that any reasonable company will decide is better to refund than to take a risk on–the mere cost of researching whether it’s actually a risk or not is almost certainly more than the nonrefundable portion of LW’s deposit, and LW is likely to have success if she calmly, politely, and insistently escalates.

      1. “the mere cost of researching whether it’s actually a risk or not is almost certainly more than the nonrefundable portion of LW’s deposit,”

        This bit of information is a pearl beyond price.

        1. I said it elsewhere, but it might very well be worth looking into trip insurance. Some workplaces even offer it as a benefit!

  14. Wow. Just wow.
    I can’t even imagine. This borders on stalker like behavior. I totally agree w/everything the Captain said. And great suggestions from the hotel worker.
    Last year, when I went to London, I didn’t mention it to anyone except one of our student workers. My reasons varied. This year, some people know I am going, but I’m not discussing it with anyone. I don’t really have any friends at work.
    Good luck to you, and enjoy your trip!

  15. I agree that the boss needs to know. This seems like a situation that could escalate to a hostile work environment for the LW if this creepy co-worker feels slighted and retaliates. I would definitely want to give the management a heads up that you see something coming down the pike.

    I also hope you’ve looped in your friend to this. They may want to change up the itinerary if they’re feeling wary anyways.

    Tokyo is wonderful though, have a fantastic time!

    1. Yeah, I second this. The fact that co-worker picked this trip to mess with doesn’t seem like an accident to me; it’s important to the LW, it involves a lot of planning and a lot of money… it’s a place of personal vulnerability, basically.

      This reminds me of something an old roomie used to do. It’s a very effective tactic for manipulating people: dig yourself into the most vulnerable part of someone’s life and disrupt it and/or make yourself essential to its success. (Honestly, it sounds so much like the person I used to know that I wondered briefly if it was the same person.) I suspect that this will not be the last time Co-Worker does this to someone, even if it’s the last time Co-Worker does it to the LW. HR definitely needs to know about this person. This kind of behavior is illegal, creepy, and bad for the company.

  16. If I was the boss, I’d want to know. And I think HR should knhow as well. This is a safety/liability issue, and I’m willing to bet that her behavior has been an issue for a while. She isn’t being clueless. She knows damn well she’s not welcome and she’s being creepy as fuck.

    1. Definitely. This is blatantly manipulative and stalker behavior, and I doubt someone behaving this way is likely to let it drop after the vacation, whether she actually shows up there or not. I’d alert boss & HR now.

      1. This could just be me, but, LW, how are her other interactions with you, prior to the creepy trip hijacking? It’s possible she is stalking you in ways unrelated to your trip. You might want to consider double checking your home and internet security (changing passwords, etc). You might also want to ask someone to keep an eye on your home while you’re gone.

        Sending you all the Jedi hugs.

    2. Mmmhmm. I’m willing to bet coworker has been creepily inappropriate with others, as well. These sorts of incidents don’t just come out of nowhere most times.

    3. Agreed. She’s harassing a co-worker on company property; a good boss should see that as a company issue.

  17. Oh LW, your boss is going to be completely flummoxed by this. This is the weirdest thing.

    One alternative reason she might be “bragging” about this around the office is that she may be trying to misrepresent her relationship with you. (People have done this to me, it is confusing and weird.) She may be trying to gain status or some other perceived advantage by representing to co workers that you two are SO close you are like totes going on vacay together besties 4 lyfe!

    She may also be trying to cover for taking a large amount of time off and actually have no intention of traveling with you? This would be weird, but THIS IS ALREADY SO WEIRD so why not?

    I think confirming that she’s taken the time off is a great next step. That is a very concrete thing your supervisor can help you with and it may help allay your fears, or determine your course of action.

    If she seems like she’s definitely going, and nothing seems to dissuade her, I might do a little recognizance on what her plans are. Have a trusted co worker ask her where she is staying, what other plans she has made, perhaps over drinks and then rearrange your own plans accordingly. This is, not the least sketchy option, but if you can get a third party to act interested and gather information for you that might make your own vacation more relaxing, then I support this. But I’m sure there are draw backs to this plan that I have not yet thought of.

    i do think no matter what you do you should inform your boss, it’s possible that your work relationship is going to be strained no matter what happens with your upcoming vacation. This person has made it weird, and it’s going to be weird. You deserve to be protected from that weird as much as possible.

    1. If she has booked the time off, I hope a good boss could un-approve it. This isn’t like the video-game hater; this is someone openly planning to use their vacation time for *stalking*, which I’d hope is quite illegal.

      That’s not guaranteed to stop her, but, she’d have to choose between the stalking and the job.

      1. I’m actually not sure that they can un approve time off for this reason? It’s a work place,they can’t tell you you can’t take time off because they don’t approve of what you’re planning to do with it. This may depend on state law or workplace policy. for example, at my office, I’ve never heard of someone getting denied requested PTO, that’s not even a thing because of how our work is configured, you take time when you need/want to.

        1. Yeah, agreed. I think a manager could un-approve time because of work needs, like they are very busy at that time and need extra coverage, or too many people have already requested PTO, but for them to ask you what you’re doing with the time and then deny it based on that is, if not outright illegal, at least fairly unethical.

          Also, although Coworker is being creepy, I don’t think she’s done anything illegal. A lot of stalkery behaviors aren’t illegal unless the stalkee has taken out a restraining order (and even then it’s hard to enforce). She’s planning a vacation – there’s nothing illegal about that.

        2. They can unapprove time off for any reason they want to–the ONLY thing governing them would be company policy, and they can change or break company policy too. Companies have huge power over this.

          The state labor dept. might intervene if requested by an employee, and they’d probably only be governed by company policy, but I would imagine any company policy would say, “We might have to rescind approval, and we’re allowed to.”

        1. A recent question on “Ask a Manager” – the LW was applying for leave and the manager seemed happily on the way to approving while making small talk about what the person was going to do. When they mentioned they had qualified to participate in a video game tournament the manager did an about face, declined the leave and made comments about how it wasn’t a worth while use of the time.

          1. Man, I really hate when people judge how you chose to use your vacation and time off. This is why every year since I’ve graduated college when I take off the first thursday/friday of the B1G basketball tournament and the first Thursday/Friday of the NCAA basketball tournament, I use little white lies about getting spring yard work done (which some will actually be done, it’s just not the sole reason of why I’m taking the time off). I don’t need anyone else’s input on whether that’s a good use of my vacation; it’s something I highly enjoy and it’s none of their business. See also: taking Wed/Thurs/Friday off when a new WoW expansion was released when I was still playing WoW. None of their business. So I gave other reasons I was taking the time off. Luckily, I’ve been in my current job long enough that everyone just accepts a simple, ‘because I want to’ as my reason for taking my time off.

          2. @MJRawr I might wanna start doing that too. I have a colleague who will tell me everytime when i answer his question regarding my holiday destination that this is boring, why won’t I even leave the country? And I can honestly do without that.

    2. The drawback that I see is that, if this is stalking (and it looks like it is), then getting even more engaged in the surreal world of coworker’s is a) likely what coworker is going for with her behaviour, and b) going to buy the LW another 3 weeks/months of creepiness and boundary violations. I think it’s better to disengage.

  18. I am hoping against all apparent hope that Coworker thinks this is an awesomely funny joke she is playing, because every time she mentions joining you on this trip you get so worked up over it, but that she doesn’t have any plans actually to DO it. That’s still annoying and you have every reason to shut it down, but it’s maybe marginally better than her actually joining you on your trip. Maybe.

    I think you have to plan for the worst, though, and that means arming the nuke of “I am going to Tokyo with my friend and having a coworker along is unacceptable. You are one of the people I’m taking this vacation to get away from – not because I don’t get along with you, but because I want to spend time with my dear friend without thinking about work. If you continue to plan to join us on this trip, or even to joke about doing so, you will irrevocably harm our working relationship. You must stop. Now.”

    1. Yes. Not to mention the “life-long dream” part. A bit like planning your wedding night and having a friend say, “Oh, that’s right! We’ll be in the same hotel. Let’s save money and share a room!” except Problem Co-Worker is not even suggesting, she’s being pro-active in her boundary violation.

      Honestly, this whole thing sounds like a wacky 90’s Owen Wilson/ Woody Harrelson comedy… and not worth you precious Netflix time.


          “Lost in Translation 2: Get Lost” is now my headcanon title for this letter.

      1. It is Geek Social Fallacies made manifest. “You and I are BFFs and you’re going to Japan with another BFF which means all three of us can be BFFs together on this trip! Besties!!”

        I have very close friends who do not get along with other of my very close friends. I used to try to bring them all together. It didn’t go well. I don’t do that anymore. A friend who heard me talk about something I was doing with another friend and tried to horn in on that would quickly STOP being a friend, particularly if I had already made it clear that this was friend-and-me-and-no-one-else time or if I was pretty sure that pushy friend and other friend wouldn’t get along.

  19. Interestingly, I’ve heard this sort of question in advice columns before, but often between casual friends or family. I had no idea it was this prevalent. Yeesh. Good luck!

      1. I’ve seen it, yeah. But it’s always from actual friends/family, not from a near stranger.

        Not that friends/family barging in where they weren’t invited is any less obnoxious, but at least one can picture the bizarro-world where they think they should be welcome. An acquaintance? The mind boggles.

          1. I must admit when I was 17 I invited myself on a friends European trip. Hilariously she bailed (as ya would, I thought she liked me more than she did, awkward) and I ended up traveling with ANOTHER girl who had invited herself along. Mutual friend ditched both of us to travel domestically and we ended up going on this epic journey. Well, until we got sick of each other and parted ways (by which I refused to travel to the next city and she went on without me).
            Anyway, I was young and got the hint when she decided not to go, and she never ever actually said “I dont want to travel with you” she just didnt buy a ticket. If at any point she had said “Hey friend, you’re lovely but I dont want to travel overseas with you.” I would have dropped out of the game immediately. Ditto with the other girl who ended up crashing my holiday plans. I would have preferred to travel alone than with her, but at the end of the day I didnt have the skills to tell her that so we ended up travel buddies. I am glad we went overseas together, we had fun and she is still a beloved acquaintance.
            So, I can understand how someone clueless could invite themselves on your holiday, but I cannot fathom how they could be persisting with it when they have been told flat out they are not welcome. In front of people. Many times. Thats totally whack.

          2. Yep. We learned to never mention vacation plans in front of DH’s unstable older sister, because SIL would always whine, “I WANT TO GO. I never get to go anywhere and you get a vacation every YEAR. You should take me with you.”

            SIL didn’t go anywhere because she didn’t work, so she never had money. And she was an absolute nightmare if DH’s family traveled together to a wedding or funeral – tantrums over restaurant choices, tantrums over tourist activities the rest of the IL family didn’t want to participate in, tantrums over having to share her hotel room with her parents (she couldn’t pay for her own), throwing up in the car after she didn’t want to take motion sickness meds because they made her sleepy, banging on our room door and yelling, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN THERE?!” And apparently, we were supposed to pay for the privilege of her joining us on our vacation and behaving like this, because there was no way she could pay her way.

            So if the family asked what we were doing for our vacation, we would just say, “Eh, we’re thinking the beach. We haven’t settled the details yet.” or similar. Right before we left, we would name a general area, just so DH’s parents knew where we were, but we never gave itineraries or hotel info. We also learned to block her from our phones, otherwise she would call us pretty much constantly “to be funny.”

            She’s never figured out why I didn’t want a closer relationship with her.

      2. I’ve had lots of people invite themselves along on my vacations. So many that I’ve actually stopped talking about travel until I’ve actually departed. I travel almost exclusively alone and usually it’s along the lines of “so you won’t be looooooooooooooooonely because that’s sad. womp.” Except: (1) that’s incredibly rude; no don’t do that and (2) I actually PREFER to travel alone and (3) see 1. I don’t even like traveling with my family. We all do things at wildly different, discordant paces and enjoy wildly different things so, the rare occasions that we DO travel together, often the only things we actually do together are fly in and out and have a meal or two.

        Once it was a “You’re a woman traveling internationally alone and of course you’d want a man to go with you.” Which I got to gleefully point out was actually creepier and more threatening than anything I’d ever dealt with traveling alone internationally as a woman as I was ending what was left of the “friendship.”

        I am not a particularly friendly person. I am blunt. I have a small number of close friends and a slightly wider circle of acquaintances I keep up with. I have a really serious resting fuckoff face. I don’t understand what triggers this but it happens to me a lot.

        1. Oh my god I’m so sorry. Who thinks “ah yes this expensive trip overseas that she EXPRESSLY PLANNED for HERSELF AND HERSELF ONLY is definitely something I should tag along to.” Tagging along to a BIRTHDAY PARTY is rude. Tagging along to an actual literal out-of-country trip is UNTHINKABLY rude.

        2. Your last section is me…to a T. Have you seen that “I’m really mean but people think I’m just being funny” meme? That’s me. I’m full of snark, I have no problem being direct and I am easily exhausted by people. That being said I must admit that recently I’ve found myself wanting to do a week at a cabin with my husband and kids and possibly another family to help offset the cost. The issue is I don’t like anybody outside of my husband and kids enough that I want to spend a week on vacation with them. Oh well…..

        3. I *LIKE* traveling alone! If I’m driving, I get to pick all the music, stop where I want to, eat where I want to, leave and arrive when I want to, and it is awesome. If I am going overseas, I’m going to want to explore on my own, and I’m introverted so constant “this is so awesome!” (or, worse, complaints about how X thing/food/cultural difference isn’t like how X is at home) chatter from a companion would actually stress me out. Ideally, if traveling with others, we all go do our thing during the day then meet up for dinner / drinks (or an event we all are equally enthused about) at night. If a significant other is along, there will be bedtime at roughly the same time. Otherwise, everyone gets up whenever, goes to see whatever they want and can afford to see, gets their social time at night, and goes to bed whenever. It works for me.

      3. My father has followed almost the exact same pattern many times. The key to how he does it is the same as OP’s Stalker — spreading the story of the stalker being included as widely as possible and relying on social pressure to coerce the stalkee into giving in. It didn’t work out so well the time he tried it on me.

        I was not very far into legal adulthood and wound up with an unexpected week off work. I decided use it to do my first significant solo travel as an adult, but lack of money limited me to a short trip and planning got pretty funny.

        Somehow my father got wind of it, including that my intended destination was National Park A. Immediately, with no hint whatsoever to me, he started calling up various relatives daily full of stories of the detailed plans he was making for the Magical Father-Daughter Odyssey to National Park A that supposedly we were going on together. Apparently it involved a major detour on my part so that he and I could spend most of a week driving to and from National Park A on some kind of magical roadtrip of togetherness. I don’t really know, because I never heard one word of it from him directly, only secondhand.

        And I didn’t hear even that until two days before I was about to leave. I visited a particular aunt, not having heard anything from anyone about anyone going with me on my trip, and she said something like, “So, you’re going on this big trip with your father!”

        I looked at her blankly and said, “Nooooo…” giving her one of those side-eye, “What is this insanity you speak?” looks.

        She said, “But your father has been calling me every day for over a week telling me about the plans for your big road trip together!” I gave her the same look and told her that I had no plans for a trip with him, and he’d never mentioned any to me.

        At this point she was pretty flummoxed. She a couple of rounds of “But HE SAID” and I just kept saying this was the first I’d heard of it, and I had no plans to go anywhere with him. Eventually I did tell her I was likely going to National Park A on my own, however. “But that’s where he says you’re going together!”

        As we further what he’d told her, it was pretty damn crazy. Extra crazy — I had never spoken of my plans directly to him. He had never spoken of his wished-for-plans directly to me. It was all a whole lot of social engineering on his part. I don’t doubt he thought he could bulldoze me into it this way. I think he has done this successfully to others. I’m pretty sure he pulled this exact same stunt on my eldest sister and got her to cave and do what he wanted.

        Aunt said maybe I’d better call him and tell him I wasn’t going. I pointed out it was pretty weird for her to suggest I call him to decline an invitation he hadn’t made for a trip he’d never mentioned to me. She said it was, but she thought I’d better call him and tell him “no” anyway.

        So I did call him, and said Aunt had told me he’d been telling her all about some trip he was planning? He started this massive word vomit of plans and how great it would be. I told him I wasn’t going anywhere with him. He sputtered a bit about how he was “helping”, I said, “You’re not invited.”

        “Oh.” He sounded like he didn’t know what to say. I suspect he assumed I would roll over and take it.

        “If I go anywhere, the entire point was to go somewhere by myself.”


        “And don’t ever make plans for me without asking me first.”


        LW’s stalker coworker is assuming the same kind of social pressure will work for her. My father figured I’d be unable to both shut him down to his face and refuse to capitulate in the face of a gallery of aunts all trilling about how wonderful the Magical Father-Daughter Roadtrip was, oh Helen you have to go, it means so much to him and he’s done so much to prepare…

        In the same way, Stalker Coworker is assuming that she can get officemates to gang up on LW, and that LW will cave and not turn Stalker away once in Tokyo, since Stalker would of course then sob to the whole office about how mean LW was on their joint vacation.

        1. Oh my GOD. Go you for SHUTTING THAT SHIT DOWN, but I was not aware that this was a THING. I am sorry your dad was weird and manipulative about that, yikes.

      4. Yep, my husband and I learned not to mention our vacation plans around my coworkers or his because they would say, “Oh, that sounds fun. I’ll talk to (spouse) and we’ll join you!” And they would be super surprised and confused when we said, “Eh, no thanks, we prefer to travel just the two of us.” As far as they were concerned, it was a “more the merrier” deal, which is a common attitude in our region when it comes to parties, holiday plans, dinner out, wedding receptions and basically any time there are people gathered. But DH and I want to know people pretty well before we travel with them. We’ve had some friendship-ending experiences with people, because our travel style was different than theirs. (For instance, we like to eat at local restaurants, but the people we traveled with would only consider chain restaurants. I’m not going to miss out on the amazing waffle place I saw on the Food Network, because you only like the way Denny’s makes eggs.) So we refused to travel with people until we knew we would be travel compatible. And we certainly wouldn’t be cornered into traveling with people because they decided to glom on to our vacation.

        So we learned not to talk about our vacation plans. If people asked, we said, “Oh, we haven’t finalized the details yet.” They would push, “But you always plan such INTERESTING vacations!” We’d smile and say, “We’re still deciding.”

        LW, your coworker’s excitement over the trip doesn’t outweigh your right to privacy and an un-interrupted vacation. This is NOT OK behavior. It wouldn’t be OK for her to invite herself if you just going to lunch. You said no, that’s it. You don’t have to give a reason. No negotiations. Her inability to accept or understand that is not your problem.

        1. I tend not to share plans until I get back. Only those who need to know find out, and they don’t get any more detail than necessary. Partially this is to avoid broadcasting my whereabouts on social media, which sets a welcome mat out for any larcenous locals wandering onto your social media pages (because they know you won’t be home protecting your property), partially it is to avoid bumping into people I didn’t make plans with on purpose, and partially I sometimes have to cancel plans when I feel physically unable to follow-through.

          Why? Because my narcissist mom ruined more than one set of plans when I let her know about them in advance. If she doesn’t know, she can’t forbid (LOL) or interfere.

          This is why I “forgot” to let her know when I was in my early 20s and quit my three shitty jobs to drive to the West Coast from North Carolina, planning to see the sights along the way there and back, and HQ myself in Las Vegas to work for traveling money. I sent her a postcard from Graceland. Also, I enjoyed my travels (which she could not ruin) greatly.

          If my mother hadn’t succeeded in ruining plans more than once, I would never have gotten into this habit. My advice? Please don’t let someone ruin your plans BEFORE you adopt some similar guidelines. 🙂

        2. “But you always plan such INTERESTING vacations!”

          “That’s because we CHOOSE our traveling companions!”

      5. My dad tried to invite himself along on my honeymoon. And prior to that he successfully invited himself along on an international trip with my best friend (who was NOT happy about it, but I hadn’t yet learned how to stand up to my dad’s manipulative ways).

    1. I have also read about this kind of situation in advice columns, but it’s almost always been parents or siblings inadvertently inviting themselves along, or trying to violate boundaries that supposedly don’t apply to parents/family. Coworker is something new to me.

    2. Yeah, my in-laws have no respect for boundaries whatsoever and routinely attempt to invite themselves along on vacations intended for solely my husband and I. They didn’t go so far as to book hotels (because they’re cheap), but my father-in-law tried to talk us into letting him sleep on the couch at the tiny Air BnB we were renting one week. And when we went to DC for a few days, they were genuinely upset that we did not invite them along to stay in the hotel room with us. The only reason they didn’t try to come to Florida with us was because we were staying with my husband’s mom (his parents are divorced).

      We don’t tell them about vacation plans until we’re basically on the way there.

      1. To this day I remain convinced that if I told my parents that they couldn’t share our hotel room because we were planning on having sex, they’d say “great! we can watch.”

        1. We tried to imply that with “We want some alone time and privacy,” to which he replied “oh, I won’t get in your way. Privacy won’t be an issue.”

          Thankfully my husband sees their craziness for what it is.

      2. DH and I started dating really young. DHs parents were used to being “chaperones” for so long, that it took them longer than average to see us as independent adults who deserved alone time together. They didn’t try to join us on our honeymoon. (The location info was written in a sealed envelope and given to DH’s dependable brother, only to be opened in case of extreme emergency. SIL mentioned above was BESIDE HERSELF that someone knew something she didn’t and did some crazy crap to try to get the info out of him. She never did. ) MIL/FIL were actually very pleased we could afford a special wedding trip, because they hadn’t been able to.

        But in the first year or so, they called frequently, they would call from the driveway of our apartment and say, “You asked us to call ahead! We’re calling ahead! HARHARHAR!” And anytime we were taking a weekend trip, say camping or to this awesome artsy community festival three hours away, they would say, “That sounds like fun! We’ll come along!” DH got really good at saying, “That doesn’t work for us, bean dip?” But finally, about a year into our marriage and we realized that this wasn’t going to change unless DH was more direct, he pulled his dad aside and said, “Look, we are adults who want to enjoy the years of our marriage where we have free time and extra income. But your insistence on calling every day, showing up at the apartment at all hours unannounced and trying include yourself in our weekend trips is preventing that. If you want us to have the time to make grandkids, you gotta back off!” FIL immediately stopped. MIL didn’t get it until she pulled into our driveway and “called ahead” only to have DH tell her she couldn’t come in. She asked why and he said, honestly, “Because we’re busy and naked!”

        She never did it again.

  20. How disturbing. This is beyond strange and it is a shame that LW has to deal with this while she has been looking forward to this trip for so long. I wonder what the motivation of this woman is, and since I can’t look into her head, I can only speculate. This denying of reality-behaviour strikes me as obsessive and stalker-ish … perhaps it’s really best to get the boss involved sooner rather than later and ask him to let LW work on differrent projects or in different departments if possible, as the Captain suggested (very clear and focused response).

    1. I think it’s pretty basic bullying.

      Bullies have stories that justify their behavior and make the bully the victim, heroically standing up for themselves or sadly taking abuse.

      I think Stalker tells herself that no one can tell her she *can’t* fly when and where she chooses, book herself into what hotels she chooses, etc. So anyone trying to tell her she can’t go where she pleases when she pleases in public just because LW planned to go there first is being a big ol’ meanypants.
      I think after LW told Stalker she was not invited the first time, this is the reasoning Stalker employed to decide she’s still going. And the anger kicked in, because bullies are all about anger, no matter how they seem on the surface. So Stalker decided she was still going and got angry. LW, Stalker reasons, is being selfish to try to claim Stalker can’t go to public places. And LW would be meeeeeeeeeeeean if Stalker were there, all alone in a strange country, and LW and her friend went all mean-girls and wouldn’t hang out with Stalker. So Stalker will show them — she’ll make sure everyone knows they should be on Stalker’s side. So LW will have to either be nice or pay.

      Actually, think no matter how nice LW is to Stalker in Tokyo, Stalker will badmouth LW afterward. We’ve already seen what a liar she is.

      1. ~ Light Bulb! ~
        Your second paragraph was thrilling for me to read. “Naming Things” has removed the slippery slope that has ruined my life before now.

      2. LW, after sleeping on it, I think you need to really think about the fact that Stalker is motivated by bullying and the underlying anger.

        Stalker has created a narrative where you are Best Travel Buddies Forever, off to have magical once-in-a-lifetime experiences together. Further, in Stalker’s narrative, Stalker is the ingenue in a strange land and it is your sacred, irremovable duty to care for and cruise direct Stalker through the Magic Journey. In Stalker’s narrative that she tells herself, this is all right and good and true. You doing anything that doesn’t go along with that is wrong and bad and mean.

        And we’re already seeing how Stalker deals with being told “no” — a massive campaign to spread lies about you through your workplace.

        I hope I’m wrong, but here’s what I think that means: Any more of you not going along with Stalker’s narrative will get more punishments for your “mean” behavior, and they will ramp up in severity and craziness.

        You need to get an authority involved NOW. Your only shot at stopping the escalation is for Stalker to face consequences strong enough to make her cut it out. She’s on a mission to heroically stand up against what she has decided is your terrible wrongness. She’s only going to ramp up. The only thing that will stop her is consequences she’s not willing to face. And she’s feeling quite confident you can’t provide any such consequences.

        Your mutual employer can. Your local legal system can. Get help, call a hotline, start the process assuming this is only going to get worse. Because that is your best shot at making it stop.

        In the case of my workplace stalker that I described here, he was supposed to be a high-level manager capable of many types of responsibility. That made it extra frightening for me, because I was, worried, naturally, that there would be some old-boys-club reaction to protect him. But the times, they are a-changing, and instead it meant that he found he had to shut that shit down immediately or be held unfit to occupy his lofty position.

        Your stalker needs some kind of external consequence. She’s betting that all you can do is fight the mean-girls-clique-y-war-of-words and she’s confident she can win that one.

        1. ^^^^ THIS. Same type of thing happened with my stalker. She felt entitled to my time, plans, resources and life because she had this fantasy where I was her friend, and she views friendship as a badge of status that casts her in its rosy glow.

          She has never stopped trying to punish me for ending that friendship, telling her “no” and sticking to it.

  21. It’s O.K. to lie. We like to think of ourselves as nice honest people, but remember that her behavior shows herself to be so bizarre that she’s either lying to you or lying to herself, or um, something. I’m not going to try to figure out anything rational about her behavior. My point is that it’s O.K. for you to lie back. You tried the blunt truth, so now you have permission to:

    – Switch your hotel and itinerary plans as the Captain suggests in E.
    – You could also let slip where the new hotel is where you’ll be staying– and then don’t really change your reservation.
    – Or do both. Let her find out some indirect way that you’ve changed your hotel reservation to a new one. Then actually check in to a 3rd location.
    – Do the same with the dates you’re taking off from work.
    – Keep lying as a matter of course. Mention to one co-worker one thing and another co-worker something else, and then go and do a 3rd something else entirely.
    – You could cancel your trip altogether because you need to stay home and nurse a relative who’s having surgery. Really, once you start lying, run with it. Say anything. Then go on your trip.

    Deep breath. Toyko is a large city with lots to do. I really don’t think it will come to dodging her around the city, but if it did, it would be relatively easy.

    Realm of imaginary flight of fantasy that often makes me feel better: When people step too close, it’s natural to step back, but sometimes the best way is to step so close that THEY’RE forced to step back. Imagine telling her how glad you are that she’s coming and paying for this, this, this, and the other thing (your plane ticket in addition to her own, your hotel room, etc.). Tell her that you need her money from her, cash, by this date. Think of something that would make her uncomfortable. Imagine telling her that you’re glad she’s coming because she’ll be sharing a room with your elderly aunt who needs help in the bathroom. This isn’t for real, but I find it does me a world of good to play these scenarios in my head. They give me courage be more blunt, or they make the little lie about the hotel reservation that much easier.

    1. I 10000% agree that defensive lying is a legitimate self-protection strategy. Small quibble, I wouldn’t lie to co-workers about the dates I was taking off from work. It’s unprofessional, could cause work problems and sour working relationships. I would feel free to lie about when LW is actually travelling, where she’s going, who she’s with etc., just not the actual days off or other work-related information.

      LW this is seriously bizarre behaviour, I am sorry you have to deal with it. Maybe make yourself a little anti-stalking Japanese phrasebook?

      “What is your policy on confidential customer information?”
      “Please help me, I am being followed by a strange person.”
      “Can I hide here for a couple of minutes?”

      I wrote that and I don’t even know if I’m joking? This is just so weird and over the line. Be prepared for your coworker to turn nasty when they realise that their massive boundary violation has been reported to the boss, I know I would just about vanish in a puff of mortified smoke if I even dreamt that my boss or coworkers thought I would do something like this, I can’t imagine how someone who actually *is* doing it would react.

      1. Good point. You want to make sure to seem unpredictable to the Stalker CoWorker while remaining reliable to everyone else.

        1. For that reason, I wouldn’t tell different coworkers different things. That also makes you look weird. If you change your story, tell the same lie to everyone.

  22. My take is a bit different from the Captain’s. The coworker is threatening to stalk you. Depending on the jurisdiction you’re in, Coworker is already stalking you.

    First I’d read up on your workplace’s harassment policy. It may spell out the steps you take to some extent. I had a situation not too long ago where a coworker was trying to insert himself into my personal life after I had told him very plainly, more than once, not to. Here’s what I did:

    1. Checked on workplace’s harassment policy. It said that if the harassed feels able to do so safely, the first step is to firmly tell the harasser to stop the problem behavior. I was pretty damn wigged out, but realized I would look more on top of the situation if I followed this step. Step 2 was to take it to my line manager.

    2. I called the domestic abuse hotline for my jurisdiction and spoke to an advocate — those people are experts in stalking and how to deal. The advocate listened to the whole situation, listened to my workplace’s policy, offered suggestions, helped me feel confident as I solidified a plan. The advocate made the point that one of the biggest things a stalked person can do for their own safety is to tell people in their environment that they can trust that they’re being stalked, and by whom.

    3. I wrote an email, but didn’t send it, to the stalker. I described the problem behavior, described the times I had already requested that it stop. Then I said that while I looked forward to continuing to work with the harasser in the workplace, away from work the harasser was not to approach me or my car or my home at any time for any reason. I closed with a polite something about being sure we could still work together professionally or something *in the office*.

    4. I got an appointment with my line manager. 5 minutes before that appointment, I sent the email to the harasser. I then cued it up on my smartphone to forward a copy of it to my line manager and had it ready to go, so all I had to do was hit “send”.

    5. I went to the appointment with my line manager. I started by saying that I hoped the situation we were meeting about was already taken care of, but I felt I should inform Manager in case it did not stop but got worse. I then explained I had to send the harasser an email telling them never to approach my home, my car, or me outside of the workplace. I then explained why, describing the situation and describing my communications telling the person to stop it. I said that I wasn’t looking for any action to be taken so long as the harasser stopped trying to socialize with me away from work. I then offered to send the manager a copy of the email. Manager said yes, so I sent the copy.

    6. I told a few trusted colleagues about the harasser stalking me, explaining that the advocate had advised this. They were all supportive.

    Luckily, that ended it in my case. If you can both check you workplace’s policy, and get to talk to an advocate in your jurisdiction, you can feel that at least you’re taking the steps that will help you if Coworker doesn’t cut it out.

    1. Helen, damn, I am really so very sorry you had to deal with that. Thanks for giving us the benefit of your experience, this is all very solid advice.

    2. Thank you so much for posting this, it’s very helpful. I’m glad you are no longer dealing with that creepiness!

    3. As a manager in a corporate setting myself, I completely agree with this. Even if there is no romantic/sexual component, what OP is experiencing is workplace harassment and the manager should treat it as such. And I think “unapproving” previously approved vacation time in this scenario would be an option, although I would hope not to have to do that. But if necessary, I’m sure I could think of some work-related reason why we just couldn’t let stalker go on vacation for all those days.

  23. Oh LW, this is bizarre and frightening and I’m sorry you’re dealing with it.

    Just to reinforce what the Captain said: you absolutely can bring bad coworker behavior (especially something as beyond the pale as this!) to your manager even if it technically is an issue relating strictly to your work. As someone who has managed people in the past, I would want to know–even just to keep an eye on the situation. Sometimes the whole picture of a particular Serious Business issue can only be put together if multiple people tell you their piece. Do not worry that you’re wasting your manager’s time or attention: you are absolutely not.

  24. Wow … this is bizarre and scary. I do hope things work out well. I once saw something analogous to this once at a former workplace – a young woman was getting married, but had not shared information with anyone in the office and had not invited ANYONE from the office. A much older woman found out where the wedding and reception were being held and turned up at both. This caused problems for the bride because the reception was an expensive sit-down dinner with carefully arranged seating. The uninvited “guest” pretty much waltzed in and sat herself down and waited for dinner to be served. The bride was still fuming about it when she returned from her honeymoon.

      1. The more I hear about things like this and how often they seem to crop up, the more I am surprised I haven’t seen this as a “to-do” on wedding planning checklists. At the very least, it could be a good article, if there are freelancers looking for topics to pitch to wedding-industrial complex sites out there..

    1. Wow. This is where your best man and maid of honour should quietly but firmly handle the issue.

      If that had happened at my reception, they wouldn’t have stayed longer than a canapé.

      People are so rude.

  25. I once had a coworker who, after hearing how someone else we worked with was going on a trip, pulled a stunt like this. It became a very constant topic. She had detailed plans for how it would all go down and made everyone very uncomfortable. At some point during a work event, a conversation with her husband revealed none of it was true. He was both surprised and upset to hear about it. Turns out she had a habit of that kind of lying.

    Eventually this whole thing led to her losing her job. It took a long time because of some red tape, but management took it all very seriously as the destructive, toxic behavior it was. And it ended up not being an isolated issue.

    Tell your manager LW. This is probably not out of the blue, and it’s creating an uncomfortable, threatening environment for you at work, which IS, unquestionably, a work issue. This is stalker behavior. You are in your rights to bring it up and request help shutting it down, at least at work. Your boss can’t make this person not follow you, but they can require that the coworker stop talking about it at least.

      1. Attention.

        “Oh LW’s going to Japan, what an adventure, looking forward to the photos, bring us back some Pocky”

        (coworker engages in stalkerish behavior)

        “Omg did you hear coworker invited herself on LW’s trip? Wtf isup with that? CCo-worker co-worker co-worker”

      2. “Hello, I am a very vicious and bitey dinosaur!”
        “Oh, God, no, go away.”
        “Have you met my eighty six siblings?”

    1. When I was pregnant with my first born child I carpooled with a co-worker. She was strange…especially when it came to pregnancies. Every time someone announced they were pregnant, she immediately came in the next day and announced she’d had a miscarriage. In one month she had five. One afternoon when I was close to the end of my pregnancy, we were driving home when another person in the carpool asked me about what I’d done about planning for the worst: will, life insurance, etc. During the conversation I mentioned that I was planning on naming my sister guardian if something happened to myself and my husband. Weird co-worker (who was driving, which made it even creepier) turns to look at me and in a tone of voice I can only describe as betrayed said “WHAT? I thought you were going to leave the baby to me!!!” The rest of that ride was so eerily quiet and uncomfortable. The other person in the carpool complained about it and the co-worker was removed from the carpool list. I made sure my hubby and I shared rides after that and I never was alone when I knew she was around. To this day it freaks me out.

      LW, I’m sorry that your co-worker is doing this to you. I think the advice here is amazing and I really hope you keep us updated with how this pans out for you.

      1. “Leave the baby to me.” That sounds like a line from a horror film. On top of the general creepiness: it’s a baby, not a piano or your IRA! You aren’t giving your child away as an inheritance someone else is assuming the parental role.

      2. Okay, that is straight out of an Urban Legend film but got cut because it was too creepy.

      3. That’s so unsettling, yikes. And sadly I’ve known people close enough to this kind of thing that it doesn’t surprise me all that much, either.

      4. Okay, I thought LW’s coworker was the creepiest co-worker ever. But yours just ran away with that dubious prize.

    2. I’ve met people who’ve pretended to suffer miscarriages (gah, why are there so many weirdos?) but thinking you’re going to take a coworker’s baby in case they die? That’s King Solomon slice the baby in half level creepy.

      1. Yeah, I first ran into this as an attention-seeking quirk as an undergraduate. One of our hallmates (who had a number of issues, many imaginary but some not, that all encouraged her to demand non-stop sympathy and attention from people) apparently had had more miscarriages, abortions and pregnancy scares than the number of periods she could have possibly had, even if she started menstruating at age 9 (which could MAYBE happen, but, um, no). I mean, my math skills aren’t the best ever, but SERIOUSLY.

        It unfortunately resulted in me being skeptical of most “ME TOO, WHAT A COINCIDENCE” or “let me hijack this conversation with my tale of personal tragedy” reactions to acquaintance’s fertility-related news. And that’s a shame.

        1. I definitely don’t go around assuming someone is faking a miscarriage/fertility problems/pregnancy, and I do feel kind of bad for calling people who fake miscarriages “weirdos” just now because I’m sure they have a lot of personal problems, but in one case, the girl faking her “miscarriages” was doing this in front of someone who did suffer a miscarriage, I guess because they saw the attention she got and decided “Me too! I want some of that! Only without the part where I actually go through the pain and heartbreak!” It’s sad and fucked up, and maybe they don’t do it to be mean, but it often hurts people that do suffer from infertility/miscarriages, because those issues are so private and invisible. My grandma had three miscarriages and she very rarely talked about it, but it caused her a lot of pain, so I hate that people would think that’s a harmless way to get attention.

        2. I’m going to make up a little note card with “let me hijack this conversation with my tale of personal tragedy” printed on it and hand it to her every time she does this. It would be mean, but effective.

  26. Just want to echo what everyone else is saying. Your coworker’s behavior is very, very strange here. It’s mind-boggling that anyone would think this is an acceptable way to behave! I’m so sorry that your coworker is putting all this stress on you because now that the specter of them finding you is out there, you’ll be on edge during the entire trip (at least I know I would be) even if they never actually go or turn up anywhere. I really, truly hope coworker never finds you. I second the idea of looping in your boss (this is very strange behavior on your coworker’s part. Very strange) and taking any steps you can to change your trip. if you can change the dates, change the bookings, change the timing of absolutely any part of your trip, do it for your own peace of mind. Best of luck, LW!

  27. I agree with Helen Huntingdon, but I’d also be prepared to have to explain stalking & local laws around it to Boss & coworkers. Many people think of stalking as something that only happens with romantic partners or exes; maybe sometimes with weird family members or cults. But anyone can be a stalker: friends, coworkers, neighbours, the random stranger you don’t even remember meeting, actual complete strangers that you’ve never met at all. It doesn’t have to be about sex or delusions of love, either.

    Setting people up with the info about what stalking really is can stop any ‘you’re exaggerating/it’s not that bad’ nonsense before it gets started.

    I’m also a big fan of telling people what framework you want them to use for understanding your problem. Mainly to prevent them from defaulting to the framework they know and understand: ‘I’m having some minor everyday social awkwardness with a colleague’

    I think you need them to use their framework for potential criminals or personality disorders or whatever: ‘I’m concerned coworker may be delusional or even dangerous, and I’d appreciate it if you and/or HR could call them in and ask if they have any health issues or stressors, or a history of fixations, obesessions, or criminal stalking. I’m not saying that’s what it is, but this behaviour is just so bizarre I’d really appreciate it if someone would check up on them, and it can’t be me, because the [police/stalking helpline/experts] told me I need to break off all contact with Coworker’

    Be prepared to be persistent when you speak to your boss, HR, and other coworkers. You’re dropping a bomb on a person who expected to have another routine day at work; their first instsnict is likely to be to minimise or put you off, just because they’re not mentally prepared for this level of WTF-ery. The sheer weirdness of their behaviour gives abusers and criminals an advantage, becuase normal people honestly can’t understand it, so they try to upt some normal spin on it to make it comprehensible. Reassure then that it’s okay to find this weird af, and go in there with some resources for them, a summary of the situation, and some suggestions for what to do next, like any good employee dropping a problem in the boss’s lap.

    1. Good points.

      One of the things that helped me in speaking to a domestic violence advocate before anyone else, is that the first person I talked to was an expert on all the applicable laws and who would believe me. That helped a lot.

      Part of what I covered with the advocate was how it would look to begin taking the matter through the county legal system and the local police. We decided that was the next step if reporting the situation to my manager didn’t stop the problem. So walked into that meeting knowing I had options for protection if Manager didn’t take it seriously. That really helped a lot, just knowing I had a backup option.

    2. Oh goodness yes – I once came perilously close to stalking a former close friend who decided very suddenly that we couldn’t be friends anymore. I was heartbroken, and terrified of running into her since we lived in the same neighbourhood.

      In hindsight, it was not actually ever a healthy friendship. I had been accustomed to always knowing what she was up to, and it was deeply disorienting not to know where she was or what she was doing. I found myself looking into shop windows on our street to see if she was inside, and once or twice walking by her home. I managed to stop myself from trying to look in her window from a safe distance, and it was around that point that I realised that my behaviour was reeeeaaaaally not okay.

      I managed to knock it off for the remaining few months until I was able to move farther away. I’m mentioning this because it was scary and shocking to see how close I could come to being so creepy that it is literally illegal; it made me realise that many people are probably capable of similar behaviour under the wrong circumstances.

      I do not excuse my behaviour, and I definitely do not excuse the behaviour of the LW’s coworker. I just want to reinforce the point made above by Miscellaneous 42: stalking is more common, and happens in more types of situations, than many people think.

      Also … don’t behave like I did. It is just never a good idea. And it was only after I did stop that I started feeling better about myself.

      1. Yes! I actually have two family members who were given restraining orders after turning into stalkers. One I wasn’t at all surprised about given her past reactions to breakups and how she monitored her exes. The other was a jaw dropping surprise. I never thought he’d be a stalker and yet, not only was he stalker but he even broke the restraining order and got arrested.

        I’d also like to point out that stalking is never okay…despite the fact that it’s often a punchline for a lot of television and movie plots.

    3. +1111111111111111111 on this

      LW, loop your boss in, and loop in any trustworthy colleagues beause chances are, you and this person will have to continue working together, and if this is the sort of behaviour they’re expecting you to put up with, then it’s all the more important to have support and a TEAM YOU in your office.

      Your colleague’s behaviour isn’t merely disruptive – it’s dangerous. Regardless of what their actual intention is in making those comments, the result is the same – you are put off, and creeped out. They have already proven themselves to have no respect for your boundaries or your feelings; when you tried to be assertive their response was to act offended, and then continue as before. They’re expecting you to go along with this construction they’ve made about your AMAZING TOKYO TRIP because MANNERS, and you say this has never happened before – I say, what is going to come next? Because such things can escalate.

      Work relationships are weird and some places actually try to make light of someone’s inappropriate behaviour because a) the cognitive dissonance is too great, b) it’s easier than getting rid of the person because (law, job, tenure), c) others have already been on the receiving end of this behaviour and they have been conditioned to put up with it, d) other reasons which I cannot think of, and e) ALL of the above. My experience – not nearly as bad as yours, but relevant in illustrating this example – is that I once had a coworker who would disrupt the work day, talk shit about my manager and try to get me to participate, make thinly veiled racist remarks about a colleague to the colleague’s face, and no-one could do anything about it. The best my friends and I could do was work around that behaviour and disengage as much as possible, but it was toxic and I personally had a lot of resentment building up over it.

      I say this because sometimes, bullies and stalkers condition us to accept their aggression because social codes/manners/workplace politics/gender expectations, and then gaslight the shit out of us and others when we try to stand up for ourselves. (I just assumed I could come along, you already had everything planned out, surely it won’t be a big deal if I tag along, isn’t it NICE that LW organised everything for US etc.) And they make it extra hard for others to get involved (I’m just playing, it’s our way of bonding, remember when I joked I’d vacay with her in Tokyo? She’s not upset, she just likes to complain.) Don’t let them gaslight you. Document everything and stick to your guns, and I hope your trip goes well.

  28. My jaw is dropping while my shoulders go up around my ears. They’re starting to converge. Nthing everyone who said this is SO NOT OK. I hope your trip is ultimately great and awesome and coworker-free.

    1. Sorry, I started snickering at “They’re starting to converge,” and tried to keep reading, but it stuck in my brain and now I’m full-out giggling. Such a good line/image.

  29. For both work and personal things, a couple times, I have gone to my manager (different managers), as suggested here, and basically said, “I don’t need action on this yet, but This Thing is happening and I might need action from you and wanted to give you a heads up.” Sometimes things were fine and resolved and sometimes I needed help. One time was for a coworker that was starting to exhibit stalking behavior. Because I’d laid some ground work with my manager, I felt confident being able walk in and say, “Coworker is not okay and I need help.” Manager stepped in and coworker backed off (although just a brush with this behavior made me understand how truly awful being stalked would be).

    The caveat is that you need a reasonable manager.

    My hope is this coworker has created an elaborate lie and no tickets are purchased to anywhere.

    1. But what is she getting out of such a weird and creepy lie? Attention? Why is she so fixated on getting such a bizarre form of attention from a coworker? I guess it’s a power game? Or better to be noticed for bad reasons instead of ignored?

      This whole thing reminds me of something I saw on a true crime show (I think it was Obsession, Dark Desires, which is a really good show where the victims of stalking tell their stories). A woman who was being harassed by her neighbor said that her neighbor would often sing along to songs she (the stalking victim) was listening to in her home. She put the nail on the head- it wasn’t that the neighbor was singing, exactly, but that someone she barely knew was listening in on her life, and the neighbor wanted her victim to know that.

      I think your suggestion to talk to the manager is a good one, because someone has to back up LW’s worldview, because this seems to be devolving into gaslighting. The LW never invited coworker yet coworker is acting as if they’ve been lifelong travel buddies. This coworker is so scary I hope LW never ever has to be alone with her for job related reasons (like they both stay late past work or have to go around places together). I think LW might find the workplace chapter in The Gift of Fear to be pretty helpful.

  30. Regarding this one bit of CA’s advice:

    “Privately, depending on how well you get along, give them the straight dope: ‘Thanks for asking, but I’m keeping the details private from Coworker. I’ll show you pictures when we get back if you want!'”

    I’ve had really, REALLY bad experience equating “we get along” with “I can trust this person” when it comes to co-workers. This advice is great if you know your co-workers are reasonable and will have your back on this. Otherwise, there’s a very good chance a statement like that will turn your situation into the next juicy office gossip, which will muddy the waters with your boss when it comes to which of you is being inappropriate. I think that unless the person you’re speaking to is a friend outside work, they don’t need to know that you’re hiding the details from Coworker.

    1. A variation on that would be “Thanks for asking, but I am [or “Friend and I are”] keeping the details private for now. I’ll show you pictures when we get back if you want” without specifying who they need to be private from.

    2. Yeah, there are plenty of less dramatic situations where I’ve had that experience. We were friendly, and got along, and then I realized they were completely untrustworthy later. “We get along” does not at all equate to trust.

  31. Definiftely document the behavior and your responses and go to your/her supervisor or HR (as appropriate for your workplace) to talk about this. It is work-related: your co-worker is creating a hostile environment for you.

    As others have noted, her behavior is also in the realm of stalking and may in fact constitute stalking. Following you across the world against your expressed wishes, if she does actually do it, almost certainly qualifies. I am hopeful that your workplace authorities can solve the problem, but you may need to be prepared to involve the police if they can’t or won’t. I’m not sure the workplace harassment constitutes a criminal violation (versus a civil violation), but any escalation, like actually following you, may well be criminal behavior. I know that involving the police can seem like an extreme step, so if you do need to take it, please remember you’re not the one escalating things, she is by behaving in a way that necessitates that step on your part.

  32. The problem isn’t in Japan. It’s what happens when you get back. Remember, this coworker will still be in your workplace (most likely) and might escalate in unpredictable and bizarre ways out of frustration at your, quote-unquote, rejection of her. I mean, even more bizarre than now. This is 100% a work-related problem, because it’s happening at work, and you owe it to yourself to document everything and make sure Boss and HR are fully up to date before you leave.
    Anyway, I hope your vacation is fantastic in all the best ways.

    1. I was just thinking that I would be surprised if the stalking was limited to this trip. LW, please be sure to lock down your work and home space while you’re away. Inform any people caring for your mail/pets/plants of the potential problem — name and describe her specifically. Make sure your computer and desk are locked at work and people covering your projects know not to take direction from anyone but you (another reason to tell your boss). (A dude who didn’t like me once volunteered to “cover” for me while I was away. I came back to find dozens of voicemails complaining about “Why did you out that ass shot of the woman in the thong bikini on the front page {of prestigious newspaper} ?!??!”)

    2. I was going to say the same, that this is absolutely a work-related problem. Because even if it stops now, even if she stops talking about it and doesn’t come on your trip and nothing is said about it again – will you be able to work with her again? Will you feel comfortable sharing even minimal details about your personal life with her? Would you be comfortable telling her that you’ve been looking forward to seeing a specific movie this evening? Would you worry about telling a different coworker that you were looking forward to the movie, in case it got back to the first one somehow?

      I don’t want to speak for you, but I would definitely worry about all of the above. Your coworker is not acting rationally, and I would have no reason to expect that she would suddenly change her behaviour once this vacation was over. I would find it very difficult to work with someone who has behaved like this, and I would have a hard time trusting anyone in the office not to relay information back to her. (Not maliciously, I mean, just in casual conversation. Someone who didn’t know the situation could say to her “Oh, LW was thinking about seeing that movie too!”…and there she is behind you in line.)

      TL;DR, definitely tell your manager. Even in the best case scenario from here, your relationship with this coworker is going to be pretty damaged, and your manager will want to know about it. Good luck.

      1. This! Being stressed and anxious and worried about what coworker will do next and whether it’s safe to talk about something as simple as her plans for the weekend is definitely going to affect LW’s work and happiness in the office. If I were a manager I would definitely want to know about something that is so likely to affect LW’s productivity and might well end up with LW leaving her job so she can feel comfortable at work again.

  33. I am so sorry they are harassing you, LW. I hope personnel or your boss will help you sort this out.
    I had a neighbor who did this sort of thing to me, inserting themselves in my social life and refusing to take no for an answer. It did not stop until I moved away.

  34. I agree with everyone who has pointed out that this stalking behaviour.

    Based solely on the LW’s description, to me it has a whiff of ‘celebrity stalker’ about it because the co-worker isn’t actually a friend of LW, it sounds more like they are acquaintances.

    If this is so, then keep in mind that celebrity stalkers are not usually dangerous so long as they are in the romantic crush phase of stalking. Celebrities (or their security staff) keep a close eye on fantasy-romance stalkers anyway because some percentage of them move out of the romantic crush into being very angry and then looking for revenge.

    I think LW needs to let her manager know what is going on because Co-worker may become angry and start sabotaging LW at work. LW’s manager needs to know before anything like that happens that there is a possibility of it happening. Additionally, LW might consider clearing out as much personal stuff from her workspace as possible, especially anything she would feel bad about losing or seeing destroyed. Change all passwords and do so on a regular basis (weekly, at the very least). I suggest using an app that generates randomised passwords so that there’s no way to use personal information to guess passwords.

    In other words, I think LW should make herself as small and impervious a target as possible.

  35. Holy shit, I’m so sorry. I want to let you know to not feel bad about contacting your boss or HR – a co-worker is harassing you and while she may not quite be stalking you yet, she is very clearly communicating an intent to do so. This is absolutely a hostile work environment! It is absolutely something your place of work should be concerned with, and should be made aware of and monitoring. Strength to you <3!

  36. I’m so sorry this is happening to you!

    I second (fourth, fifteenth) going to either your manager, or HR. Being stalked by a coworker (or having them threaten to stalk you) outside of work is still a work issue.

    If your work is unable/unwilling to help, and she does get the same time off as you, I think it’s entirely reasonable to email the Front Office Manager of the hotel something like “Hello, my party is not with the Smith party. In fact, they have been very strange to me in the past, and I would prefer to be on a totally different floor from them, potentially a different tower or building with a different set of elevators, if possible. Do not release my floor, room number, length of stay, check out date, etc, to anyone. Do not transfer calls to my room.”

    I’ve never been to Japan, and I’m happy to hear that their front desk staff seems very professional. Here in the US, I have worked at several different hotels in the last few years. Every hotel should have the policy of not giving out room numbers to people not listed on the room, but I would worry about Coworker asking to be “on the same floor as her friend,” because it’s possible they’ll honor that without really thinking about it. The hotel also should not say your room number aloud, they should only write it down for you.

    This probably makes me an asshole, but sometimes when I’m traveling, I intentionally test the security of hotels I’m staying at (while playing dumb and never being rude to the people who are rightfully turning me down). Like I’ll book it under my name, and see if they’ll check in Mr. Raptor instead. (They should not!) One hotel in Lake Tahoe actually checked in my husband when it was my dad who booked the rooms and we happened to get there first. My husband and my dad obviously have different last names, and they’re also from different states so it’s not even like two people from the same obscure city showed up at Lake Tahoe. They even changed my dad’s info to my husband’s, which would have really confused Dad when he got there if they were not actually traveling together.

      1. Guest: Kkkkkhhhhhhgghhh. Kkkkkkhhhhhgghhhh. Can I get a key to my wife’s room? Kkkkkhhhhhhgghhh.
        Front desk: Is your name on it as well?

        (Hilarious mental image of literal Darth Vader at the front desk; deeply upsetting reality that any spouse could be an abuser that managed to track down the abused. And people do NOT thank you for refusing to give a key. Please thank your front desk agent for checking your ID and refusing your relatives, they could use it.)

        1. I always thank people when they ask me for ID for my credit cards, and in situations like this.

          1. Or tell them to stop apologizing for doing it, already. I tell them I appreciate them for doing their job.

          2. Cashiers aren’t going to stop apologizing until people stop acting like it’s an insult to be asked for their ID. 😦

        2. Yes. I was traveling for work one year, and through a goof up on the company’s side (not the hotel’s fault), my name wasn’t officially on the room; because I checked in with my partner, whose name was on the room, I didn’t realize. So of course that was the year I lost my key. The poor hotel front desk guy fell all over himself apologizing for not being able to give me a replacement key since my name was not in fact actually on the room. I kept saying “no no it’s fine! I’m really happy that you won’t just give a key to anyone who asks!”

  37. If she is serious you might run into her at the airport or on the plane.

    We had a friend with a daughter the same age as ours and she would always ask where we were going on vacation. We were very close then however and were one of those friends who’d meet up for a day or two at the destination, but not for the whole vacation. It got super weird though when we were no longer very close! Then it got creepy. We would be vaguer and vaguer about the places and the dates.

    Until one year we told her a city name and it became very awkward for her to ask “Which one? The one in the States or the one in Europe?” Like it clarified, even for her, that we were avoiding her and sneaking away from our own house to go on vacation!

    One year she tried to invite herself to my dad’s for Independence Day. I said it’s just family, so she invited herself to a party NEXT DOOR and called us from there. EEEPPP!!!

    1. Athens??? Cambridge??? I’m driving myself nuts trying to figure out which city would make a person ask that (rather than just assume one or the other, like Paris). This is fun!

      1. Syracuse? Versailles, Indiana versus Versailles, France? Troy, New York? Hm, you’d need a time machine to go back to the Grecian Troy to get the full effect, but I guess people might want to visit the birthplace of Uncle Sam.

    2. Hey, there’s a town called Mars in Pennsylvania. I knew a coworker who was born there. He LOVED it when people asked him where he was from. So, tell people you’re going to Mars, then come back with lovely pictures.

  38. I would like to second the recommendation to talk to the hotell. I have asked a hotel, “Hey, is [name] staying here?” and the answer was, yes, would you like to call the room? Kind of cool, I felt like a detective (they didnt tell me the room number though). If OP doesn’t want that to happen, talk to the hotel.

    1. Yes. I work in hospitality, and although official policy is “never discuss anything with someone who does not have the full confirmation number, e-mail address on the reservation, and last four numbers of the credit card used,” we would lose a lot of business from people with PA’s, student sports teams, and families trying to coordinate vacations if we enforced this— so we don’t.

      1. Total aside: As a PA, I have allllllll the required info for Boss Man lol! It’s surprising I don’t have his full credit card number memorized by now, now that I think about it…

  39. Oh, LW! I hate that this is happening! I agree with everyone who is saying to loop your manager in, so I won’t restate what has already been said better than I could say it!

    All of the hotels I stayed at had excellent security – key card access to the floors with rooms, sometimes key card access to get onto your floor as well! If you can’t switch the hotels at this point (or don’t want to – my first few nights in Tokyo were at a very specific hotel that afforded a 24th floor view of the Shibuya scramble – sometimes you pick a hotel for REASONS!) it may give you peace of mind to ask for information on how guest safety works. Front desk staff were incredibly professional and accommodating.

    The police are wonderful in Japan – even if they do not speak English or speak it very well, I found that they WANTED to communicate with you even if it was difficult. I can’t tell you how many times I would hand over my phone to a police officer with google maps or a website of what I was looking for open and receive directions or even be walked to my (nearby) destination! And they don’t mess around – one night in Osaka we saw 2 police officers arresting a drunk who was putting up a bit of a fight – no joke, in 2 minutes there were 15 cops on the scene even though those first 2 cops had him pinned in a flash on their own – it was surreal to watch and almost completely silent until the cars with sirens came on the scene. They do NOT mess around! In my experience, Japan is an incredibly safe country and the cops are invested in keeping it that way!

    The crowds – I have never seen anything like them! You can lose someone quite easily in a Tokyo crowd whether you mean to or not! (I found the trick to navigating a crowd is to try to walk as straight a line as you possibly can to get where you need to go and slow or speed your pace a bit to keep from colliding with others – you can just sail through!)

    LW – I hope you have an amazing trip! Japan is amazing, the minute I got back from my trip I started planning my next visit! To a one, the people were warm and welcoming and making even the slightest effort to communicate and fit in was so appreciated. People will meet you more than halfway and I cannot exaggerate how far a huge smile and some charades will get you – I needed insoles toward the end of my trip … uh, I don’t speak Japanese, but even if I had taken it in school, “insoles” is not vocab I would expect to be covered! LOL I was in a huge busy store (Don Quijote!) and went up to an employee with a big smile, pointed to my feet, made a sad face and then motioned a squishsquishsquish motion with my hands and again pointed to my feet. He smiled and led me right to the insoles! Google Translate, Google Maps, Hyperdia and a huge smile are the keys to smooth sailing in Japan – simple greetings and “sumimasen” and “arigatou” will get you even further. Enjoy every second!!!

      1. I can’t picture anywhere else that would have worked! LOL 🙂 We also traveled outside of cities where there was even less chance of someone fluent (and comfortable speaking) in English, and maybe there were a few minutes where the person we were interacting with seemed a bit nervous or hesitant to deal with us at the start, but as soon as we showed that we were friendly and not trying to take advantage or be pushy (see: “Gaijin Smash”), everything was wonderful. And even the tiniest smattering of Japanese opened doors – everyone was just lovely! Japan is great and I encourage anyone and everyone to go if they get the chance!

  40. I have had this happen to me. Luckily, the person in question (an ex coworker who is now an acquaintance, we’ll call him A) didn’t have enough details because he asked if he could come right off the bat.

    A came along on a hike with friend B and me a few weeks ago. B asked my plans for my holiday and I began explaining. A immediately asked if he could come. I said no pretty bluntly, because I’m not fond of A and my friend who was coming with me despises A. B told A off for inviting himself. A whined about how offended, insulted, and humiliated he was by my refusal. I said it was final and changed the subject. (Yay for not working with A anymore – tact not required.) Fast forward to my vacation, and I get a message from A on the first day. He’s arrived, where should he meet us? My friend and I had a long discussion over several drinks to figure out the wording of my reply: “We’re doing our own thing, but you might enjoy checking out place Z tomorrow – we quite liked it.” Then A had the audacity to complain the next time he saw me that he wasn’t impressed with my trip planning because place Z was busy and he thought it was overrated.

    1. That is a remarkably strategic reply, I’m impressed. Sending him to place Z was a great idea – he thought he was getting a semi-shared experience, and you got to make sure he wasn’t where you were.

    2. “A whined about how offended, insulted, and humiliated he was by my refusal.”

      And of course it was your refusal that put him in that situation, not his trying to barge in on your plans, right?

  41. I worked in a hotel in NZ and have stayed at numerous hotels in the U.S. I wouldn’t bank on it being as secure as you’d hope. I think housekeepers have the sense not to let any random person into a room, but your coworker already knows your name and what you look like. It’s so easy to come up with a plausible story and get at least *some* information out of them or the front desk person. Stalkers and controlling people will fucking lie about anything to get what they want. They’ll go sailing over boundaries no normal person would cross and a lot of times they’ll get away with it because they’re acting so weird that people don’t know how to handle it.

    Numerous personal examples: my mother tried to have a locksmith break into my apartment (and would have succeeded if I hadn’t shown up when I did). When I cut off all contact with her, she called everyone we both knew and pressured them to contact me and relay my personal information to her, and sometimes it worked; they would actually call me and try to guilt me into talking to her, which never worked. Years after I stopped speaking to her she would still periodically park her car on my street so she could watch my house and try to figure out where I worked, which stores I went to, etc. and this only stopped when I moved away from the area. My parents were divorced but my dad had a degenerative illness and she helped take care of him late in his life. She would tell hospital staff they were still married so that they would give her his personal medical information. She ran off every other caretaker he had, including me. She refused to let social service workers see him. Did she eventually get caught out on all this stuff? Yes, but she also got away with a ton of stuff before that happened, and a lot times other people knew what was going on but would let her do what she wanted because otherwise she’d throw a huge fit.

    I truly hope your coworker backs the fuck off and that none of this gets any worse than it is, but until that happens, be very careful. Treat your personal information like it’s top secret government files. Don’t give an inch to your worker–which likely you’ll be pressured to do for the sake of not causing drama–because she’ll take a mile, no question.

  42. This is the time for the flattest affect you can manage, and no kindness. “So I hear you and X are going on a trip?”

    “No. We are not. I don’t know why she thinks that.”

    “Hey, you excited to see me on our trip?”

    “No. I’m not going to be socializing with you. I have other plans.”

    “Is it really sooo hard to add someone else?!”

    “You’re not invited, so that’s not the point.”

    Practice this. Make it awkward. Nuke the conversation and let it sit there to either force her to back off or behave so irrationally that you can gauge her as a threat.

    This is creepy and utterly unacceptable. Just, wow. Full of nope.

    1. If you want to drop this particular bomb, there’s a stock phrase over at Etiquette Hell:

      “Why would I want to do that?”

      Emphasis on the “I” if necessary.

    2. “Is it really sooo hard to add someone else?!”

      “In this case, absolutely impossible.”

      With the possible follow-up,


      “Because I said no.”

  43. This coworker may be my sister’s mother-in-law. (Not literally.) She is godawful about 1) injecting herself in places she has not been invited and is not particularly wanted, and 2) refusing to accept direct communication.

    The extra layer in the anecdote that comes to mind is that MIL has a cabin in another state, and would frequently and generously suggest that if Sister and BIL and Kid ever wanted a little getaway just by themselves and MIL wasn’t using it, they were welcome to it.

    After several such invitations, Sister and BIL finally decided to take MIL up on it. They told her the dates they were thinking of going, and she immediately said, “Oh, that’s great! We can all go. It’ll be a great family weekend. I can’t wait to make plans.”

    Sister and BIL quickly backed out of the arrangement. They will not be asking again.

    (Other things MIL is known to do: find out what someone’s least favorite color is, then make them a quilt in that color, all the while bemoaning, “They’re going to hate it. They never appreciate anything I do for them.” Also known for: “joking” [supposedly] about trying to get a Muslim coworker fired by planting a story that the coworker was an extremist. Really. My sister gave her an earful, and it never went anywhere, thank god.)

    (Basically what I’m saying is…the person I know most closely who would pull some shit like this is openly manipulative as fuck, so it wouldn’t surprise me if manipulation more so than social tone deafness is the coworker’s issue here.)

      1. The ability to play martyr and rail about how ungrateful people are. That is itself a reward for some people.

    1. How is the quilt even going to be unwanted? I mean, I would take a quilt in my favorite color.

      Are they rejecting quilts based on her favor-sharking and the emotional debt? Does she have really bad taste in prints? Does she use childish patterns for adult quilts? Are her quilts poor quality?

        1. Correct, least favorite. Her daughter, a wonderful boundary-setting creature, hates lime green and has told her mom so, because of Incidents in the Past. MIL, at some family gathering: “Oh yes Darlene, I’m making Kyla a lime-green quilt right now. She’s going to hate it, she hates everything I make for her.” (Tortured sigh) She does this with all kinds of gifts, and when you unwrap the gift, says, “I know you’re going to hate it because [thing that makes it specifically unappealing to that person],” forcing everyone to be like, “Oh no, it’s wonderful, that thing doesn’t matter, this is great, we love it…”

          Never does she say, “Could you use a quilt? What are your favorite colors?” It’s just, BAM SURPRISE TACKY QUILT, and if she’s mad at you, it’s a color you hate. If there’s such a thing as rage-quilting, that’s what she does.

          1. No horror, just a delighted giggle. “Oh, Mom, lime green! This is the funniest gag gift. You know I hate lime green, but this will make the greatest donation to the nursery school. They’re gonna love it. Shall I pass on their thanks to you?”

            It’s what I do with all unwanted gifts. A big smile, a thanks, and a description of what I intend to do with it. “Used clothes from the rummage sale? Great! I’ll have a look through and drop back off again whatever I can’t use.”

            “It was so kind of you to go through your closet for hand-me-downs! I’ll see what appeals and give the rest to the charity sale. You never know what someone will like.”

            “This is broken, but sometimes my kids like to take apart things to see how they’re put together. I keep hoping they’ll develop an interest in mechanics. Thanks. Oh, and if they don’t take to it, I’ll just give it back. The city dump charges for larger items to be carted away. It was so thoughtful of you to wrap up this old broken item and put it under our tree.”

    2. SHE WANTED TO SPREAD A RUMOUR THAT HER MOSLEM CO-WORKER WAS AN EXTREMIST???!!?? Why are people focusing on the quilts here?

      (although I suppose it’s super-creepy that ‘deliberately makes people things they’ll hate’ is actually *so far off* being the most weirdly offensive thing about this person’s behaviour).

      1. Because we’re familiar with the concept of bigots. The concept of regularly going to a lot of effort specifically to make a gift someone will dislike? That’s newer.

        1. It’s definitely the weirdness for me. If you told me someone didn’t believe in the Holocaust or Canada, hated immigrants and people named Steve, and thought being gay and having an asymmetrical haircut were both sinful….I’d realize the first of each of those pairs were the problem, but I’d still be there like “But wait, what do you think is to the north of us?”

      2. Basically yes – it’s about the amount of trouble taken. It doesn’t take much effort to spread a spiteful rumour, but making a quilt takes weeks. The fact that she does it specifically as a punishment makes sense of it, because that goes into ‘plotting revenge’ – presumably she’s a brooder. But while a lot of people spread vicious talk, a quilt represents enough work and expense that you’d think she was inconveniencing herself more than her victim.

        I guess if she enjoys quilting, though, and she’s a vindictive person, she gets the same pleasure that a nice crafter gets from making a nice gift – you get the fun of making it while enjoying the thought, ‘They’ll be so pleased/upset when I give them this!’

        1. you get the fun of making it while enjoying the thought, ‘They’ll be so pleased/upset when I give them this!’

          That is so wrong and yet somehow funny.

  44. LW here! Thank you so much for responding to this so quickly, and thank you for the advice and great scripts. I have begun implementing these suggestions today. I’ve explained to all my (reasonable) friends at work that the vacation is now a no-go subject, and I’ll be documenting any further conversations with Coworker. I will be talking to my manager on Monday as well.

    I think I’ll keep changing hotel arrangements as a last-ditch plan for now, though. The one we’ve booked is great for our needs and J’s advice is reassuring.

    Once again, this is just mind-boggling. Friend and I have been on vacation together before and absolutely nothing like this has ever happened.

    Thank you all!

    1. Good luck! I hope that everything goes well and creepy coworker backs off immediately. Or, barring that, that your boss and reasonable coworkers support you and keep creepy coworker very busy and very away from you 🙂

    2. Good luck LW, if you don’t speak Japanese yourself and have a trust worthy Japanese speaking friend it may be worth getting them to write out a note explaining the situation in Japanese. Said note can live in your and your friend’s purses and hopefully never be needed, if you do have to go get help you can do so stress free knowing that the police officer or whoever you go to for help will know what’s up asap. My friend did this because he has allergies so it was an easy way to check food was safe but also in the event he did get sick the note could be found by medical staff.

      That said I hope this doesn’t happen and you and your friend can just enjoy Japan, it’s awesome.

      1. Just double-check a couple of words with an online translator. Because there are jokers like me out there, and my first time in Japan I spent a good hour trying to bribe hotel employees to tell my colleagues that our shirts for an event, which had some Japanese on them, actually said, “I am a jelly donut.”

        My evil plans fell through because I couldn’t find anyone who spoke enough English to understand graft and corruption.

        Travel tip: Japanese people are astonishingly tolerant of people who don’t speak the language but are willing to play charades to communicate.

  45. Absolutely tell your manager this is going on and your coworker is being very inappropriate and weird and not listening to you when you tell her that she’s not going to Japan with you and she has to stop lying about it to everyone.

    Other commenters please correct me if this could backfire but:
    Could you fight the lies with the truth?
    Is there a way to tell all your coworkers, preferably in writing like an email or a forum announcement, that you will be out of the office from date to date because you are going to Japan with Your Friend’s Name?
    Like, not mentioning your stalking coworker at all and perhaps saying something like “The two of us have been planning this for a while and we’ll bring back photos!” Make a public and official true story of “LW and her one Best Friend Go To Japan” and Stalker’s “LW invited me to join her in Japan” story looks a whole lot less plausible.

    People might ask you “oh, is Stalker not going too?” and you can say “no and I don’t know why they keep saying I invited them when I didn’t”

  46. I’ve only scanned the comments, so I apologise if this has been brought up before – but there’s another really good reason to bring this up with HR or a manager before you go.

    If coworker has purchased tickets she’s likely to have an awful time. As others have pointed out, Tokyo is a big city. If she hasn’t bothered to do some rudimentary research about how to navigate the train system, where she’s staying and what she’s going to do she’s likely to just be lost and unhappy. While this has the excellent side-effect of not ruining your holiday as she’ll be unable to follow you – you do want to make sure that you have control of the narrative in your workplace.

    Because if she comes back to work after her holiday and tells everybody about the terrible time she had after she was abandoned by LW it’s going to be difficult to do damage control. I mean, she can go to HR or a manager and talk about how she was bullied and left stranded by LW on a vacation they were planning together and about how unfairly LW treated her. And she can say that she understands that HR don’t control what happens outside of work, but the whole experience has been so distressing and she needs to be kept away from LW etc etc.

    My advice would be to get in front of this before whatever weirdness is forthcoming

  47. Honestly, I think it’s time to crack open the Art of War. You’ve done reasonable, you’ve done assertive. Now it’s time for: assault on all fronts. On the formal front, the public front, the ‘you’re being documented’ front. Take the narrative out of her nasty, nasty hands.

    I like Helen Huntington’s email sending tip of doing it right before you see HR as it gives her no time to react, anticipate or plan to multiple moves. She’s already rehearsed managing you, but they never expect having to lie formally to everyone. Like you she probably doesn’t see it as ‘work territory’. Abusers are usually more confident on personal (and therefore uncharted) terrain.

    I’d combine it with some misdirect about ‘I changed plans anyway so don’t bother’ I.e.

    Hi Coworker,

    I’ve told you this a number of times in person already, but as we are workmates we are now at the point were I need to document this in writing.

    When you asked me for the details of my trip on (date) you didn’t tell me why, you seemed like you were just interested. Of course I was happy to discuss a trip with a friendly colleague.

    When you invited yourself along on (date), I told you immediately that you were not welcome on a long awaited trip for just me and my best friend.

    When you told another coworker about ‘our trip’ on (date) I waited until she was gone to save you embarrassment but then repeated to you that you were not coming. I was alarmed to hear you saw it as no big deal and were going to use the information you had about my trip to come along uninvited anyway.

    From then on, I was even more crystal clear. I told you in front of three coworkers on (date) that no you weren’t coming. You have persisted with this very unnerving stance that yes you are. This breach of basic politeness has of course affected our working relationship and made onlookers very uncomfortable.

    As a result my friend and I have had to change all the plans I revealed to you, at great expense and inconvenience, so as to avoid your stated plans to gatecrash. The only things I can’t change are the dates as it was difficult for my best friend and I to coordinate schedules.

    I am asking you, as a show of good will, to give me the space I’ve asked for. If you have booked those dates off, do not try to follow me in any way.

    I am hoping against hope that this was just a tasteless joke and that you will happily agree to reassure me now you know how freaked out the suggestion of stalking has made me.

    I’m sure we could rebuild trust as colleagues if it was just a misunderstanding.”

  48. LW, it sounds like you’ve already made most of your plans but if you do want to change things I would say plan more time outside Tokyo. It’s a cool city but it wasn’t the highlight of my trip to Japan by any means. And as a bonus, you could repeatedly mention the change at work without saying where else you’re going. “Friend and I decided it would be a shame to fly all the way over there without seeing other parts of the country so now we’re only spending the first X days in Tokyo.”

  49. It sounds like she is mentioning this trip around the office to other people. I wouldn’t recommend asking an acquaintance to step in the middle of this situation, of course, but could you pull aside a coworker that you trust and ask them if they think she’s serious about this Japan trip? Or anything they may have heard? It might help to hear what she is saying around your workplace while you’re not around to gauge just how serious this situation is. Obviously she is wildly out of line but her behavior makes me wonder if she isn’t going to escalate it in some way. Not be to be all scary but this is so out of the ordinary that I wonder what is next.

  50. There is something about this that is bugging me. “someone who could ‘show her all the sights’. ” Why does she think LW is her personal unpaid tour guide?

    Is LW of Japanese heritage? I did not gather this from the message or perhaps I missed it. I could see a really inappropriate bigoted co-worker deciding that an Asian person (of any nationality) is just waiting to be her unpaid tour guide for Tokyo. Adding documentation of racist behavior to co-worker’s bad behavior of stalking might possibly make it more of a convincing case for boss/ HR.

    From personal experience of racist behavior being taken seriously and addressed, but harassment/ stalking being treated as “too ambiguous” and “Get over yourself.”

  51. Is it possible the coworkers have an inside joke bc the LW won’t stop boring the office of every detail of her vacation? Listening to her prattle on sounds more boring than actually working. She should not talk about it anymore and just go on the trip. If this coworker actually shows up at the hotel, then switch hotels or just continue with plans and do not hang out with her. In that unlikely event, then it would make sense to tell the Boss when she returns, though I suppose the Boss already knows as he approved coworker’s vacation request.

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