Q.: How do you deal with an office busybody? One of my co-workers simply must know everything about everyone. She constantly tries to get information about what we are doing or where we are going. This drives us all crazy, but we don’t know what to do. Please help!
A.: First, you need to grow a spine. Then you have to set some limits. By continuing to respond to your nosy colleague, you are rewarding the very behavior that you wish to discourage.
Busybodies typically prey on people who worry too much about being polite. These timid souls feel obligated to engage in any conversation that someone initiates, no matter how irrelevant or inappropriate.
To extract yourself from the clutches of this meddlesome woman, you must stop fretting about being rude and start standing up for yourself. The following “escape lines” may help.
At the office, work provides the perfect excuse for ending any conversation. When cornered by a gabby co-worker, you can always extricate yourself by saying, “I have a lot to do today, so I need to get back to my desk.”
However, if she starts prying into personal matters, you must establish clear boundaries. For example: “I appreciate your interest, but I’d rather not talk about that.” Or “Sorry, but there are some things that I prefer to keep private.”
When she asks where you are going, just reply “I’ll be back soon” or “I have to be out for a while.” Then leave quickly, without responding to any follow-up questions.
To preserve office harmony, you should deliver these lines with a pleasant tone and a friendly smile. If you keep this up, eventually your intrusive co-worker will learn to ask fewer questions.
Q: Two of my management colleagues receive no appreciation from the owners of our company. The owners often give recognition to employees, but never say anything to these managers.
The two managers are married to each other and are the sister and brother-in-law of the owners. They both work long hours, produce great results, and do whatever the owners ask, yet they never get a pat on the back.
The sister frequently talks to me about this situation, but I don’t know how to help. If I tell the owners how she feels, that will only make matters worse. Dropping subtle hints hasn’t worked. Any suggestions?
A: To put it bluntly, this is not your problem. And the sister has no business making it your problem. If this couple feels unhappy and unappreciated, then they need to talk directly to their relatives. Enlisting you as an ally is completely inappropriate.
Although you can certainly express your own appreciation for the managers’ contributions, you must avoid getting involved in their family dynamics. Since you only see these people at work, you have no idea what may be going on behind scenes.