Dealing with a Nosy Coworker

I have a coworker who is very nosy. He is always sticking his nose in my business no matter if it is work related or personal. Should I just tell him to stop or would this create a huge problem?

TD from Cleveland, OH

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as everyone has i am sure, have a nosy coworker. she wants to know everyones business but then when you ask her it is always i will tell you later. i have told her you never tell me later. i tried holding my self the other with not saying something in her presence. she then wanted to know what was wrong.

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If the person is butting into the conversation between you and someone (whether one on one, or your group), Politely tell this person, 'This is a private conversation, I do not mean to be rude, but if you will excuse us...' However, personal conversations really should be outside of working hours...if it is work related, and this busybody has nothing to do with the issue being discussed, then I'd tell him that you have the situation well in hand, but thank you for his input, and if you need him, that you will let him know. If he doesn't get the hint, be blunt. It is none of your business, and we really tire of you butting in where you are not needed, wanted, invited and we'd appreciate it if you would not continue to get involved in these issues. JMHO.

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You have to ask yourself how you got into this messe.Your mannerism may have attracted the behaviour.You have two options - The silent treatment, or talk to him one on one. The silent treatment by not saying anything when he start talking,do not engage in any of his jokes,comments, no eye contact,etc.One on one, tell him that you no longer want to be bothered with his stuff.Do not explain yourself, and be brief as possible.Sometimes people bring their mess to work thinking is cool, is not, rather trashy.Bring your book,or magazine to work.Read to avoid the noise, and space out.When everything fails, take a walk.


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This is tongue in cheek.. but I love answering solemnly "If I gave you that information I would have to kill you"

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Well I'm gonna add my 2 cents. When someone buts into my conversation I politely say excuse me, this doesn't involve you, we would like some privacy.(If they get angry its their problem, I don't make it mine.) If someone asks me something I don't want to reveal, I politely say, I'd rather not talk about that and change the subject. I was always running into problems like this being that I had no boundaries. I attracted others who didn't also, as I developed mine, I taught people how to treat me. But this is a pattern for most so it will take consistency to change the pattern but it does get easier.

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We all need a break once in a while. Our place is so laid back that we talk personal stuff all the time and can STILL get our work done...(also been there 21 years). We just stop talking or change the subject when someone butts in or comes in our 'space'. They get the hint, and no one is offended this way.

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I have a co-worker in my new team who sits in the next cube. He is technically knowledgeable and knows a lot about the project that I am working on. I need him for now but he is very nosy in the things happening in my cube. I have been in the company longer than he has been and know and have a lot more friends.

Every time I have some friend come over to check how I am doing in the new position, this nosy parker strolls over and tries to mingle. His humor is wry and his questions are too personal. I am scared to eat crackers if my acidity is acting up when he is around. What should I do if he keeps asking me these personal questions which I don't want to answer. He just sneaks up behind me and stands there watching sometimes until I turn around (no he is not gay, just nosy), I think.

I have also tried not answering his questions, turning away etc. But that does not deter him. If I come up with some why question, he asks "Is this some kind of a secret, I will not ask if you don't want me to.." and continues on. Or will find something else to be nosy about. I also know that the best way to get information, about work, from him is being personal friends with him. I have to constantly cook stories to answer his nosy questions. I don't know how to avoid or be rude. DARN IT! Any smart non-offensive remarks? I think I can get by with "if I tell you, I will have to kill you" kinds.

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intrusive & nosy people, asking personal questions:-

Most nosy people are unhappy or dissatisfied with their own lives. There is often a real void in their lives and they have to fill it with the lives and events of others, Quite sad really!

There are many strategies that you could try!

Here are some : -

You need to Practise them

1) Keep Pushing back the question to them (e.g. Q - "what are you doing this weekend?" A- "not sure, what are you doing?)

2) Answer questions briefly, with no explanation., avoid definite YES and NO answers. Do not "close" or "finish" questions". This will stop more questions coming and you will not be feeding the problem. Instead use humor, Vagueness, avoidance without divulging any real information. The person will give up when they realize they aren't getting proper answers.


Q) "are you going away?" A) not sure, don't know, be great if we could (AVOIDANCE, VAGUENESS)

Q) "are you dating anyone" A) we all need somebody (AVOIDANCE), why have you got someone for me (HUMOUR), lines of them (HUMOUR)

Q) "have you received any offers on your house" A) I leave it to the my husband, estate agents (AVOIDANCE), Its still on the market (AVOIDANCE)

Q) "Is that a brand new car" - It's a lovely model (AVOIDANCE), i fell in love with the colour

Q) are you working? A) all the time Q) where are you working? A) there's so much to do all the time Q) so what do you do Q) I do many things, i've got many skills (AVOIDANCE AVOIDANCE AVOIDANCE)

Q) "Have you put on weight?" Answer: "well, i can't see the scales anymore" (HUMOUR)

Avoid replies like: "thats a good question" as this encourages them to ask more personal questions.

3) Distraction,excuse or Change the subject immediately and Talk about something else. Q) "How much is your mortgage"? A) could you excuse me a second, my phone is ringing or I can't talk right now i'm in a rush, or ouch! my stomach... cramps! (anything really have a few ideas prepared).

** IN EVERYTHING HERE YOU ARE SUBTLY SENDING THE MESSAGES THAT YOU ARE NOT PREPARED TO ANSWER PERSONAL QUESTIONS ( the other person may have not been aware that they were being nosy and you have helped them)

4) Send subtle (disapproving) verbal and body language messages, to show show that you are not happy with the questions.

- Mumble, talk quieter and make it hard for the person to hear what you are saying

- ....use (mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm), (yeeeeesssssss( ohhh well!) ..... as if you are thinking about the question (the silence will be equally uncomfortable for them)...then change the subject.

- home in on one of the words and then answer a similar but different question (it will sound like you mis-heared them) e.g how long have you been trying for a BABY A) I know BABY's are so cute and cuddly). They may repeat the question but that would show how stupid and unobservant they are.

- Just talk nonsense (e.g Q - Are you in debt? A) oh yes, i came out of the house this morning and could't get the car started

- give the school-kid treatment "Nothing". What have you done at school today "Nothing", what did you have for lunch "Nothing".

Body language:

- Use all the facial expressions that you can think of to show disapproval.

If you feel that you must be truthful

Then keep your answers short and vague. I wouldn't say anything that sounds like your showing off or that things are better than they are. (The main cause of nosiness is that the person is unhappy with their lives)

Other things to bear in mind

-You may have to temporarily avoid the person If the nosiness is unbearable. But don't make the avoidance obvious. It's more about letting the other person know that you are a private person.

-If you can't avoid the person then keep the encounter short & polite (as you do not wish to hold a "dislike" or "hate" to the person). Keep optimistic that the person can change.

- model the correct behavior to the other person (i.e. don't ask intrusive questions to them). Ask gentle /unassuming questions (e.g. nice whether, nice day, oh nice to see the kids out playing etc.

Last resort

If the person's fails to understand your the subtle hints then you may have to be more direct and blunt, but try not to be rude. don't embarrass them , make them feel stupid or put them down

Here's some Lat Resort replies (when you have just about had enough): -

"No comment"

"secret information", i'd have to kill you (HUMOUR)

"That's a personal matter"

"now theres a question, do i have to answer that?"

"that's private"

"please, you are making me feel uncomfortable"

4) No matter how tempted you are to overreact, don't do it. The idea is to stay in control of the situation. As soon as you start getting defensive or going on the attack, you are no longer in charge

All this will take practice and trial and error. Don't worry if you mess-up. Go through each situation after the event and sort out what you should have done & what you will do next time. Before long things will become more and more automatic


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I work with a middle-aged woman who will ask me how my weekend was. I say it was nice, how was yours? Then I get What did you do? Well, I work 24 hours on the weekend, and they know this, so I say, I was working. Then they launch into, "didn't you do anything else?" and on and on from there.

It is like this with everything. If I change my hair slightly, I get deep probing questions about my hair. After being here for about six months, I now wear practically the exact same thing each day, same earrings, everything, just to not draw attention to myself and start the barrage of questions about ANYTHING that is different.

If I don't answer any of her questions, or my answers are short, she will launch into me endlessly. She also harasses anyone who comes in, saying things like, "Oh, I hate Fred, don't you?! OH, Fred! I didn't see you!!" - the first time (maybe) that was mildly sadly funny, but after the 200th time, it is so painfully old. She makes racist cracks about every person that comes in, and motions sexual acts to people.

The killer of it is that she is HR person, and we are in California.

I tried to gently mention the harassment laws and such, but she just rolls her eyes at me. I realize how sad her life is, but the whole thing makes me want to quit.

Any suggestions?

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OH MY Gosh! This is me all day every day. I can't believe that someone else goes through the exact same thing. What is wrong with people?? Its somewhat challenging to be myself at work as far as wanting to change up my hair or clothes because there will be a in depth conversation about it. Well, I'm a big believer of being in charge of my destiny and controlling the things around me, therefore I ignore / shrug off people when they try to go into deep conversations about my personal life/choices. They will get the picture really quick!

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This is a great article. Thank you!

I'm 42 and have been trying to get pregnant for five years, having miscarriages each time. It's been extremely painful. Of course, people love to give me advice about what I should do, esp. complete strangers, so I haven't told anyone at work. On the other hand, I'm married to a successful man, so people at work think my life is perfect and that I'm just selfish for not having children. One of the ladies just loves to Google my husband online, then drop the information in the office. It's very aggravating. On the other hand, I wonder if I should just live out loud because of the embarrassment I deal with whenever she asks me direct questions about my life. They're always personal and she hangs on every word of my answer. It's a terribly catty environment, and this woman is the office bully. She's good at it too. What she doesn't know is that this job is one of the things holding me together.

The things that have worked for me is just not engaging, keeping it short and sweet. When she asks me questions, I sort of mumble responses. One day she asked me why I didn't celebrate my birthday with the rest of the girls. Instead of telling her it's a painful reminder I'm getting too old to bear my own children, I just said "for personal reasons." She looked annoyed, as if she had a right to know and how dare I stand up to her, but that's what "personal reasons" means.

She caught me off guard the other day though. I'd gotten hair extensions for a special event. While in the kitchen with everyone around, she plainly asks, "Did you get extensions?!" I quickly said, YES! I'm going to a party where I want to look glamorous!" Now of course everyone knew I'd something done. She's just the one who had to make it a gawking moment. By opening myself up, I've been paying for my answer for two weeks. Question after question... I should've said, "No, this is just the hair I shaved off my legs this morning!" (Subtext: Biyatch)

I guess my point is that this article covers everything, so thank you. I'm hoping I can avoid her by using any of the tools offered, doesn't matter which one.

Sometimes people just don't want triggers distracting them at work. It's not against anyone.

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I need some advice on how to respond to nosy questions asked by my mostly male co-workers. I work in a scenic shop at Seaworld and the backgrounds of our small group is primarily construction. Because we work in a theme park, there are strict rules about behavior but it doesn't stop these guys from being nosy. We have worked together for many years and unfortunately, we know too much about each other.

I took a three month leave of absence from work due to anxiety and panic attacks and am returning next week. I know I will be asked a million questions and honestly, I don't want to fall back into that same old situation where my co-workers think it's okay to know my personal business. In the past, I shared my life and business with them and now I don't want to. I don't want to come across as a you-know-what, I just don't know how to tactifully and politely tell them it's none of thier business!

Most of the people in our shop love to gossip and spread rumors and back stab each other so the less they know about me, the better. If anyone has been in this situation before or knows of something I could say to squash nosy questions, I would love to hear from you. Thank you!

Sandie from Orlando, Florida

Help Dealing With Nosy Co-Workers

There's the aggressive approach of returning a nosy question with the question, "Why do you want to know?" Then there's a more subtle (?) approach that a co-worker of mine uses. She will talk at great length about a relative or co-worker that has so many nosy qualities and she will describe outrageous nosy behavior with great expressiveness. Sometimes poeple see them selves in a performance like this and it nips the unwanted behavior in the bud. Hope this helps. (01/11/2006)

By Laura Conklin

Help Dealing With Nosy Co-Workers

When your co-workers ask you where you have been, turn the question back to them, "why, what have you heard?" Smile and have a good sense of humor when dealing with them. When they respond with whatever rumor they heard, just laugh and say, "that's the best you guys could come up with? You really need to work on those creativity skills!" And, just walk away shaking your head and laughing. (01/11/2006)

By Persnickety Paula

Help Dealing With Nosy Co-Workers

You could say, "If I thought it was your business, I would tell you." Works for me most times. Sometimes you just have to be plain old blunt. (01/11/2006)

By Peach

Help Dealing With Nosy Co-Workers

Laura's suggestion will probably work the best, but for the nosy parkers for whom it doesn't work, how about a white lie telling them that as part of your recovery, you've been told to not dwell on and discuss the past but to optimistically look ahead to the future? Then you could cheerfully start talking about plans for your next vacation or even just the next weekend, or heck, even what kind of car you'd like to get next time you buy a vehicle or maybe a new movie coming out that you'd like to see. Or talk about something funny in the news like what some of those goofy celebrities are doing. In any words, start cheerfully rattling on about something other than your private business. (01/11/2006)

By Lynn from Calif.

Help Dealing With Nosy Co-Workers

I was thinking about, just saying something about "I wasn't feeling well, but I'm better now." This way, you're not giving them any info. If they gossip and all afterwards, I'd not let it bother me. You'll be the stronger person for it. Best of Luck! (01/11/2006)

By badwater

Help Dealing With Nosy Co-Workers

I've made jokes about similar things.. You could say you ran away and married a millionaire.. lol (Doesn't matter if you are already married.... Just say you're having an affair with a millionaire and don't like your spouse know...

By Carol

Help Dealing With Nosy Co-Workers

You could reply to a person's question that was being nosy like this:

"If you will forgive me for not answering, I will forgive you for asking!"

Nuff said.

Linda (01/11/2006)

By quickcooker

Help Dealing With Nosy Co-Workers

Wow! You guys have some great ideas for me! Thank you very much for responding. I really appreciate it. I tell you the truth, I would love to just look at them and tell them to mind thier own damned business but I have to work with these people every single day. It's funny what Paula and Laura said. I have actually said that in the past and I said it because this nosiness goes on all the time.
Awhile back I was thinking about asking them "Why? What have you heard?" because I figure there IS some kind of rumor going around as usual.
The great news is, I'm studying to be a dog trainer and will leave my current profession as a scenic artist within the year I hope. I would love to tell my co-workers this news but I'm going to wait. I'll be studying during my lunch hour and someone I'm SURE will want to know what I'm doing.
Thanks again everyone. Your ideas, all of them, are great!!! (01/11/2006)

By Anonymous

Help Dealing With Nosy Co-Workers

For nosy co workers.

If they ask why, how come or just want to know.

Tell them you needed to pay off some big bills ..
And you had a sure way of doing it & it was fun too.

Only you will know the truth beside your girl friends
Have fun with it... (01/11/2006)

By charlie

Help Dealing With Nosy Co-Workers

I would smile playfully and say :"Why, I've been right here, all the time. I was trying to be invisable. Did it work?" (01/11/2006)

By Doggy

Help Dealing With Nosy Co-Workers

You were on a vacation from work, got lots of rest, and wish you were old enough to retire. :o)

Then ask what they doing while you were away. People love talking about themselves.

Love & Prayers,
Linda (01/11/2006)

By lindaljh1

Help Dealing With Nosy Co-Workers

How about - "If you'll tell me why you NEED to know, I'll tell you what you SHOULD know!"? (01/11/2006)

By tedsmom

Help Dealing With Nosy Co-Workers

I usually ask "why", allow them to answer, then, while turning my back, I say, "Oh" and drop it. Very seldom am I asked twice. (01/12/2006)

By got2bcristi

Help Dealing With Nosy Co-Workers

A conversation has to be two way. If you don't answer, then the conversation stops.
When they ask where you have been, just say "I took some personal time off". If they persist by asking if you are ok, just say "great". Anything that pertains to your time off or your condition, answer in short, uninforming answers. They may just stand there waiting for you to continue talking, but don't unless it's about something else. You may also have those that have direct questions, just say the same thing, "I took some personal time off". Refuse to go any futher. (01/12/2006)

By wonderpatty

Help Dealing With Nosy Co-Workers

Ask the nosy one ...

"My goodness, why would that be of interest to you?"
Then change the subject and ask them a question OR smile and walk away saying you have to get something done.

You probably would like to say, "None of your business", but that is a bit harsh since you have to work with them!

Remember, answer a question with a question!

Good luck!

(u)(/u) (01/12/2006)

By Syd

Help Dealing With Nosy Co-Workers

As your co-workers are mostly men could you pretend to have had a "female" illness? That might frighten them off from asking for more details (01/12/2006)

By Julia

Help Dealing With Nosy Co-Workers

I worked in a job where everyone knew way too much about everyone else. It was like one big family with the same issues that all families have such as pettiness and gossip. It had its good points too. I just did alot of smiling, nodding and walking away. My mom had worked at the same job for 9 years before I started there so everyone knew stuff about me I would rather they didnt. I just made sure that when I worked there they didnt find out anymore than I wanted them too. I wasnt rude to them because I cared about most of these people and had to see them all every day, but I just didnt participate when the gossip started flying. (01/12/2006)

By christi

Help Dealing With Nosy Co-Workers

I just discovered a book in Target today called, "Mean girls grown up" by Cheryl Dellasega. I bought it on, used, for a fraction of the price. Along with that book I also bought other books on how to deal with 'Queen Bees' and other types of women. Slowpoke: these books might help you deal with the women in your work place.
I'm going to read these books to learn how to deal with my boss who is a woman. Not only is she a female, she's in her thirties and this is her one and only job in her entire life AND, she moved up the corporate ladder by backstabbing two managers she helped get fired after they had put in twenty years plus with the company. She was a secretary for these guys and when she got all the 'dirt'on these two, she called them to a meeting and told them in front of a lot of other people that she was now THIER boss and by the Donald Trump would say..."YOU'RE FIRED!!!".
She could be a lovely person if she weren't so full of herself but she has proven over the years that she is spiteful, vengeful, nasty and shows blatant favoritisms. I can't wait to turn in my name tag!!!!!!
Now if I could only find a book on how to deal with the men I work with!!! Oh, by the way, those two guys that were fired had it coming. They were running their own business using company supplies and money. No tears were shed for them by anyone. (01/13/2006)

By Anonymous

Help Dealing With Nosy Co-Workers

You owe these people nothing. They are just people at work. I understand not being 'harsh' or a 'You Know What'.. Here is what I would do..When asked the questions of why, who, when...say 'Thank you for your concern, but I'd rather not discuss my private life anymore.' I mean, your private life is just that. Private. If it isn't necessary to tell them (like being diabetic, epileptic or something) then they need not know. Stand up for yourself. How do you think they'd react if you asked them an extremely personal question..Just be kind, but direct, look them in the eye, don't back down. A good ten second stare does wonders. Good luck. They are not paying your bills, so you owe them no explanation beyond a short, direct 'I'd rather not discuss it.' (01/13/2006)

By KLS8800

Help Dealing With Nosy Co-Workers

Chances are, they are already talking......I like the "I wanted to retire, but decided it wasn't for me." Leave it at that, and move on. They say women are nosy, but some men are almost as bad! Good Luck and welcome back! (01/16/2006)


Help Dealing With Nosy Co-Workers

this is to everyone who offered your wonderful advise on how to deal with nosy co-workers. I returned to work last week with much anxiety only to be welcomed back with hugs and very few questions. While I was away, our shop did some changing and we now have a new manager who vows to put an end to the back biting, back stabbing, rumors and gossip and employees who aren't being held accountable for their behaviors. She really isn't new to the company but she's new to our shop.
I really appreciate your help. I love this site!!!! (01/21/2006)

By Anonymous

Help Dealing With Nosy Co-Workers

I have this co-worker that is extremely nosy, always looking for something to gossip about. In my mind I tell her that I don't appreciate her asking for asking questions that are not related to work, and that she can consider all topics not related to work as off limits.

The other option is to have my boss in the same room and ask her to tell my boss why she is asking personal questions about my medical situation, and why she is making claims that I am not really hurt and I am just milking my situation to get out of work. I am that angry. Is this too extreme? (11/04/2007)

By monique

Help Dealing With Nosy Co-Workers

I had the same problem at work and it got so bad that people interfered in my personal life, probably for personal gain. I reported the matter to the Employee Assistance Programme and they informed that I am under no obligation to inform on any personal matters. I could also start a grievance procedure against these colleagues. I only had to say: It's got nothing to do with you! two or three times, and that was the end of these Snoopy Dogs! (11/04/2007)

By Willem

Help Dealing With Nosy Co-Workers

How about saying to the nosey person "enough about me, let's hear your own gossip or skeletons" and see how fast they disappear. (11/15/2007)

By julie

Help Dealing With Nosy Co-Workers

Start being a little more anti-social and start keeping your business out of the work place. If a nosy question is asked, turn around and repeat what they have said, then just give them a logical answer, which mean what most people would say, but not what they wanted to hear. (12/07/2007)

By anonoymous

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January 11, 2006
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