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When mirroring goes way too far

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in Your Office Coach

Q: “You have previously written about ‘copycat co-workers,’ but my copycat is really extreme. ‘Megan’ has started dressing exactly like me and even went to my eye doctor to get the same glasses. She always duplicates my order at lunch and has items similar to mine on her desk.

“Last week, I happened to meet someone who is friends with Megan. This complete stranger knew a lot about me because Megan apparently talks about me all the time. This is getting kind of creepy. Should I be worried?" Uneasy

A: Some copycat co-workers are pathetic, ineffectual people in search of an identity. Others are emotionally unbalanced and obsessed. But in either case, the recipient of this unwanted attention usually finds it rather unnerving to encounter a mirror image day after day.

If Megan just seems to be seeking a role model, begin gently nudging her towards greater individuality. For example: “Megan, I’m flattered that you admire my taste in clothes, but if we look too much alike, I’m afraid people won’t see your own unique personality.” Try putting some one-of-a-kind items on your desk or delaying your lunch order until she places hers.

Remain pleasant and professional, but keep all conversations focused on work. Don’t become overly friendly or share any personal information. Eventually, her fixation should subside or shift to another target.

On the other hand, obsessions do occasionally escalate into stalking. If this woman ever starts approaching you outside the office, immediately notify your boss or human resources manager, then contact the appropriate authorities for advice on self-protection.

If you have challenging coworkers, you might find some help here: How to Deal with Childish Adults.

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