Invasiveness rarely begins by feeling like an invasion.
First, etiquette is tested, then social norms.
Whether we are talking about stolen time or stolen belongings, the method remains the same.
Soon the boundaries we’ve set for our personal comfort or safety are broken and we are left feeling resentful, or worse, violated.
So what can be done when insidious invasiveness has broken out into all-out invasion of our personal spaces?
That was the issue facing Redditor and Original Poster (OP) Lower_throwawau091 when she came to the “Am I the A**hole* (AITA) subReddit for judgment.
“AITA for telling my coworker to stop using my personal belongings?”
OP set the stage.
“So, I (28F) have been working at this small software company for about three years now, and I genuinely love my job.”
“I have great coworkers and the work environment is generally positive.”
“However, there is this one coworker, let’s call her Sarah (32F), who has been increasingly crossing boundaries.”
“A bit of background, Sarah joined the company around a year ago, and we were initially friendly.”
“We would have lunch together occasionally and chat about random things.”
What started off small…
“I didn’t think much of it, and it seemed like a normal office friendship. However, over time, I noticed that Sarah had started to use my belongings without asking for permission.”
“For example, she would take my stapler, pens, or even my phone charger without asking.”
“At first, I brushed it off as her just being forgetful and not realizing that these were my personal items. I tried to be understanding and not let it bother me.”
…Soon took a turn.
“But then, things started to escalate.”
“One day, I brought in a special lunch I had prepared as a treat for myself.”
“It was a dish that my grandmother used to make for me, and it had a lot of sentimental value.”
“I had placed it in the fridge with a note clearly stating it was mine.”
“When lunchtime came around, I discovered that Sarah had taken and eaten my lunch.”
“I confronted her, and she apologized, claiming that she thought it was meant for the whole office to share. I didn’t buy it, but I let it go to avoid causing a scene.”
“Over the next few months, Sarah’s behavior continued to worsen.”
“She began using my personal laptop without asking, even though we all have our own work computers.”
“She would also use my coffee mug and other personal items, despite me having my name on them.”
“I tried to address it politely and asked her to stop, but she would just laugh it off and say she didn’t mean any harm.”
“Finally, I reached my breaking point last week.”
“I had bought a new, expensive pair of headphones to use at work, and I had left them on my desk overnight.”
“When I arrived the next day, I found Sarah using them at her desk.”
Having gone from minor annoyance to theft, something had to be done.
“I was furious and asked her to hand them over immediately. She tried to play it off as a joke, but I had enough.”
“I told her that it was not funny and that she needed to stop using my personal belongings without permission. I said it was disrespectful and a violation of my privacy.”
“The rest of the office heard the commotion and some of my coworkers agreed with me, while others said I was overreacting and should let it go.”
“Sarah hasn’t spoken to me since, and the atmosphere has become tense.”
“A few coworkers have even suggested that I owe Sarah an apology for embarrassing her in front of everyone.”
OP was left to wonder,
“So, AITA for telling my coworker to stop using my personal belongings?”
Having explained the situation, OP turned to Reddit for judgment.
Redditors weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
Redditors decided: NTA
Some pointed out that this was Sarah’s own fault.
“You asked her multiple times to stop using your stuff and were perfectly civil when she literally ate your lunch and tried to pretend that she thought it was ‘for the whole office'”
“(Funny how it was clearly single serve, and she ate it all herself).”
“But she kept essentially stealing from you.”
“If she didn’t want to be ’embarrassed’ by a ‘scene,’ maybe she should’ve listened to your multiple requests to stop using your stuff before you escalated to causing a scene.”
“This didn’t happen in a vacuum, and she knows it.” ~ toxicredox
“The headphones/lunch were yours and not hers. While I would argue using a stapler isn’t harmful, it just adds to everything else.”
“What is most irritating about her seems to be she tries just to laugh it off and carry on like she hasn’t done anything wrong.”
“Don’t apologize. Wait for her to do that.” ~ Lex1982
“Yep, the ‘I didn’t mean harm’ Is the sh*tty defense, not the apology.”
“It doesn’t mean anything anymore if it happens again and again. She doesn’t listen to you and will use it again and again and hope there won’t be any consequences at all.”
“After all, She has no ill will, so why are people angry at her willfully forgetting boundaries. /s”
“‘I’m Sure you didn’t mean any harm, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. That’s why I ask to stop using my personal stuff and eating my lunch and quit stomping over my boundary which I clearly said to you over and over again.”‘
“I’m getting a ‘If your a friend, I am automatically in the clear and I can do whatever I want. Afterall, we are friends!'” ~ ToastAbrikoos
Others felt there were mind games afoot.
“Sarah knows what she is doing. She is psyching out OP on purpose.” ~ ScaryButterscotch474
“This, this, a thousand times this OP – this is not just about the stuff, she is f*cking with you intentionally – this is workplace bullying.”
“You need to escalate to HR and when you do, make clear that this is a pattern of intentional theft.”
“She is likely trying to get you fired, and you should be NC with this person, not a word, and inform HR that the next time she takes something, you’re going to call the police and do that.” ~ Reddoraptor
One good escalation deserves another.
“NTA but you need to go to HR” ~ leopardprintbra
“‘She began using my personal laptop without asking, even though we all have our own work computers'”
“When reporting to HR, OP probably needs to lead with this incident because getting bogged down with stories about staplers and pens will make her seem petty.”
“She can list all of the incidents to show a pattern of escalation and persistence (in a written report), but emphasize the important one(s) when speaking with HR in person.” ~ the_rabble_alliance
“The pens/staplers just set up a situation of escalation.”
“If it had just stayed pens/staplers it would really have been nothing g to worry to much about. But the computer 100% should have been where this got brought to HR” ~ veneficus83
“NTA and you should also escalate it to your manager to let them know it happened and see if they think it should be escalated further.”
“Someone who can’t be trusted to accept personal boundaries, and doesn’t take their coworkers seriously, is a liability.” ~ gumbuoy
“Info: Does she only do it to your stuff, or does she do it to your other colleagues as well?” ~ Borgteddy
“Yeah, I’m curious about that too.”
“My college roommate was like that, but it was only me she targeted since we shared the room. I was the only person she could use their sh*t like this.”
“Dunno what her new roommate thought of her, I got her kicked out of my whole building, and she left after freshman year.”
“But in an office setting, I do wonder if she just picked OP because she was friendly with the klepto initially or if others have experienced this as well on some level.” ~ armchairshrink99
“This is what I came to ask.”
“If it’s other people, too, then she needs to be talked to by HR.”
“If it is just OP.”
“Then there is something going on. Is there some sort of conflict or slight or misunderstanding between you in the past?”
“Did she want to be friends outside of work or make any romantic overtures that were rejected? Or is there some sort of connection between you, such as having an ex in common or something like that?”
“If she is targeting you only, it honestly would scare me a lot.”
“She could be obsessing about OP, and it could escalate.”
“It is one thing to use someone’s charger without asking.”
“This sort of prolonged campaign where she is eating your lunch and wearing your items, however is on a different level IMO.”
“It seems personal and intimate and almost like she’s wanting to become OP or get close to her.” ~ annewmoon
Of course, this isn’t about the earphones or the recipe, or the pen.
This is about permission.