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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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Recent Answers

By smileysshowcase09/13/2013

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!

By sarah (Guest Post)01/06/2009

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?

By wayne (Guest Post)11/10/2008

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.

examples:
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


***YOU HAVE GOT MY PERMISSION TO COPY AND PASTE AND RE-WRITE A BETTER VERSION, IN FACT I ENCOURAGE YOU TO DO SO!!!!

By Fed Up (Guest Post)04/07/2008

Hi,
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.

By (Guest Post)02/10/2008

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.

By denise w (Guest Post)02/06/2008

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.

By Ellie (Guest Post)02/05/2008

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

By Hawkins02/05/2008

HELLO TD,
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.

Hawkins

By KLS8800 (Guest Post)02/05/2008

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.

By sandy [63]02/05/2008

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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