How to address a co-worker shamelessly pushing her home business at work?
June 22, 2012 11:56 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for advice on how to tell a nice, but shameless coworker who keeps trying to sell everyone her "super juice" product that she really needs to stop.

So one of my coworkers is very deply involved with a pyramid scheme company who sells a "super juice" product (and now various other associated bars and shake powders) for about $40 a bottle (which lasts 1 week).

Two people in our office actually sell it; but the other is not pushy, shameless, obnoxious, or relentless about pushing the product like the woman I'm concerned with.

Her obsession with this product and her attempts to push it on her fellow co-workers, guests, and basically anyone who walks into the office, is causing some really negative effects:

Everyone is hesitant to talk to her because she will fit a sales pitch into any conversation. For example, in the midst of a staff meeting she saw a bottle displayed in a promotional picture and suggested her product be placed there.

People who used to enjoy having lunch with her really hate having to do it now, but continue for fear of offending her.

Her co-workers are embarassed when we have guests or visitors to the office because they always get the pitch.

A few recent examples:

A staff member was leaving and coming around to say her goodbyes - she was given a last attempt sales pitch and some pamphlets on her teary way out the door. This person was going to medical school and has a huge loan - I doubt she can afford this juice.

A new staff member is training under this woman. Her 2nd day here she got the pitch, which a lot of us found really awful since the woman may feel pressure since it's a "supervisor" situation. This person is also on a contract, which means she took a contract job - probably because she needs the money, and it's kinda rude to push a $40/week juice habit on her.

A former staff member came back to visit and was cornered and pitched to - we were all so embarassed because we don't think he'll visit again now to avoid her.

I don't really want to talk to the supervisor about this, though several staff members have talked about doing it. But I'm really not sure how to address this woman about this whole thing without offending her. I don't even know if I talk to her that she will see reason.

She just seems absolutely shameless in her sales pitches and it's really starting to offend others in the office.

Should I even try? Any suggestions?
posted by Serendipitous to Human Relations (27 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
How are you responding to the pitch? It seems like step one would be to firmly say "I'm not interested, please stop trying to sell your product to me." And have other people say it too. Every single time she pitches it, say it. If you've never said no or not asked her to stop, then she's not really doing much wrong yet (I mean, she's being overbearing, but if nobody's put up boundaries, she's not crossing them.)
posted by brainmouse at 11:59 AM on June 22, 2012

Best answer: Does your company have a policy regarding solicitation in the office, or is there a conflict of interest section in your code of conduct? This might be the easiest way to get her to back off without escalating the matter to HR. You could couch your response as concern that she might be violating a company policy and that you don't want to see her get in trouble.
posted by heldincontempt at 12:00 PM on June 22, 2012 [9 favorites]

This is something that should certainly be addressed through a supervisor or an HR department. If that's who this coworker is, then go over her head. Most companies I've worked for have policies against soliciting sales during work hours or on company property precisely because it is annoying and distracting.
posted by mibo at 12:00 PM on June 22, 2012 [15 favorites]

You should definitely talk to your superviser about this. It's very unprofessional, and if she is doing it to customers/visitors (wtf?) then it is definitely the boss's business.
posted by Think_Long at 12:00 PM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

This is absolutely something to speak to her supervisor about. This isn't just unprofessional behavior in the office, and it's not just affecting you and your coworkers - guests and visitors should absolutely not be getting pitched with a product that has nothing to do with your business.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:00 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't really want to talk to the supervisor about this, though several staff members have talked about doing it.

This is clearly messing up the workplace dynamic. Go to the supervisor as a group and make it clear that you have nothing personal against her blah blah blah but she needs to shut the hell up with the fruit juice.
posted by griphus at 12:01 PM on June 22, 2012

Response by poster: brainmouse - We've all told her politely we aren't interested. But she continues anyway. She knows I've stated very clearly what I think and that I'm not interested - so have others. But she just won't stop.
posted by Serendipitous at 12:02 PM on June 22, 2012

This is the reason "no solicitation" policies exist in businesses. You really should point that out to someone...being introverted, I don't have the best example for approaching her, but it's important someone considers the negative effects of this. ESPECIALLY because she is approaching customers/clients: it's horrible to have your business tarnished with this association. Some wording of this problem ought to put a stop to this practice.
posted by Eicats at 12:02 PM on June 22, 2012

ah, after post: exactly what heldincontempt said!
posted by Eicats at 12:03 PM on June 22, 2012

OK, in that case, yes, definitely talk to her supervisor or HR. If it's been made clear to her that people aren't interested, then she's harassing you. She's also embarrassing you and making your company a worse place to be. You do not need to worry about offending the person who is harassing you after you told them to stop -- she is creating a hostile workplace.
posted by brainmouse at 12:03 PM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Just to be clear: the point of going to the supervisor as a group, rather than by yourself, is that it's inherently not going to be confused for a You vs. Her personality clash, but rather her clearly making it difficult for everyone involved.
posted by griphus at 12:06 PM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

There's no magic solution here that doesn't involve either 1) being way more assertive with your refusals and/or 2) getting the boss to shut her down.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 12:08 PM on June 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

I don't really want to talk to the supervisor about this, though several staff members have talked about doing it.

Why not? This is what supervisors are for. If everyone got along, we wouldn't need them, would we. You think it will get her in trouble, but odds are you're wrong. Unless she's also incompetent, her boss will want to keep her around and will just warn her to tamp it down. If she can't, then does she deserve your protection?
posted by Etrigan at 12:14 PM on June 22, 2012 [6 favorites]

You've asked her to stop. She didn't listen. Try one more time, verbally, or in writing, copying a supervisor.

"It is INAPPROPRIATE and UNETHICAL to bring in your personal business scheme into our workplace. I've asked you to stop once, and if you continue to do so, I'm sorry, but I will notify senior management."
posted by HeyAllie at 12:14 PM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Going to a supervisor takes the responsibility off your hands. If you think it's submarining her, then tell her, once more, that if she tries to solicit you at work one more time, you'll escalate.
posted by xingcat at 12:15 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is freakishly, wildly unprofessional and you definitely need to bring this to her supervisor's attention.
posted by elizardbits at 12:15 PM on June 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

this is one of the reasons why HR exists. have no one approached HR about this?
posted by violetk at 12:20 PM on June 22, 2012

Oh, and instruct woman she's training (in private) to under no circumstance buy anything from her, regardless of pressure or seniority, and reassure her that the rest of the office is behind her if the juice-peddler tries to pull anything.
posted by griphus at 12:21 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

At every company I've worked at, this would be a fire-able offense.
posted by empath at 12:21 PM on June 22, 2012 [21 favorites]

I don't understand why you're worried about hurting her feelings. She's not worried about bothering YOU!

Take her aside and tell her, "Your side-business is causing problems here in the office. Your relentless hawking of this juice is putting us on edge. You've been inappropriate with visitors, co-workers and even people who report to you. I'm letting you know that if it doesn't stop, I will take it to (insert name of person who can shut it down instantly). Trust us, we know, if anyone here wants your product, we'll come to you first."

Then follow through. If she stops. Awesome. If she doesn't. Report it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:22 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

if you truly do not want to go to her supervisor, I would give her one last firm shot, and put it on her: "What do I have to do in order to get you to stop this? I have told you I am uninterested; I have told you to stop. If we can't work together to stop this, I am going to have to bring the boss on board to stop it, because this needs to stop." Then just look at her and wait. This can be a really effective technique.
posted by KathrynT at 12:23 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Her co-workers are embarassed when we have guests or visitors to the office because they always get the pitch.

This has been a firing offense everywhere I've ever worked. If "guests or visitors" also includes customers? It would be on the spot termination.

I would simply ask her supervisor, incredulously, if this behavior is really allowed. If the supervisor maintains the party line of "welllll, my spine's at the cleaners, I dunoooooo", then ask the supervisor if they could please get an official opinion from their higher up, because it is out of control and inappropriate.

You know, I'm kind of soft-spined myself, but even I would have casually responded to her next sales pitch with, "aren't you afraid you're going to get fired for this? Or are you making so much money that it doesn't matter?"
posted by Lyn Never at 12:23 PM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

N'thing that this is completely, utterly unprofessional (not to mention obnoxious to others and embarrassing/damaging to the company), and unquestionably something that should be taken to a supervisor. I wouldn't even hesitate. Shut this down now. This is just so ridiculous and absurd and CLEARLY something that the company would want to put the kibosh on, I'm not sure why it wasn't officially addressed ages ago.

Get the other coworkers together and report it to a supervisors ASAP.

One note, though: forget about worrying whether folks she's pitching to can afford her stupid juice. No one is being forced to buy anything. If they want to, that's their choice. But no one should get pitched to at work.
posted by phunniemee at 12:58 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Tell your supervisor. What this person is doing is completely inappropriate and unacceptable and it's likely that HR has policies against these sorts of activities.
posted by imagineerit at 1:14 PM on June 22, 2012

I don't have anything other than "to the supervisor with you!" to add, but I just wanted to mention that this sounds like season 5 of Big Love, when Margie got into selling "Goji juice." Watching that might give you some tips--as I recall, she eventually quit the selling.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:01 PM on June 22, 2012

Supervisor! Inappropriate and unacceptable to pitch to customers, annoying and wasting work time to pitch to coworkers. If she does it during breaks or at lunch, you need to step up and tell her that you won't have lunch with her.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:04 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Why are people afraid to be rude to her? She's being 100% unquestionably, unconscionably rude to everyone around her. Her behavior is completely unacceptable and she should already have been fired for it. The fact that she hasn't is amazing to me.

Talk to her supervisor. (Though I have to wonder exactly what they've been supervising to let this go on for so long...)
posted by billybunny at 7:13 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

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