ASK THE STRATEGIST: Copycat Coworker
March 28, 2011
Dear ATS: I have a coworker who copies everything I do – how I talk and the clothes I wear. We were cool at first, but now I try not to associate with her unless I have to. She even changed her hair to how I used to wear mine. How can I get her to stop and let me be me? – Anonymous, Maryland
An old adage says imitation is the best form of flattery. We humans tend to like it when people embrace us and want to emulate our ways of thinking, values, and even our physical characteristics. However, when imitation goes beyond our comfort zone and becomes “weird,” what was once flattering can start to feel freaky.
Since your quest for advice primarily focuses on your coworker’s penchant for imitating your appearance, I assume that your coworker still acknowledges the boundaries insofar as work performance, i.e. not taking credit for your work, or throwing a temper tantrum if she is not partnered with you on a project.
Your coworker may be a young person who respects and admires how you present yourself in the workplace and merely wants to emulate it. If the employee seems harmless, then say nothing and let her infatuation drift off in time.
If her fawning severely impedes your productivity on the job, then you may want to talk, gently, with her over lunch. If you are good at humor, presenting your concerns in a light-hearted manner may be most effective. Whatever you do, avoid appearing as if you are chastising her, which inevitably will make your coworker defensive. If she makes you feel uncomfortable to the point that your gut instinct is telling you there is a potentially more dangerous issue, including stalking, you may want to talk to your human resources representative or an immediate supervisor for intervention or workplace training.
Good luck, and keep us posted.
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