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When vagueness is your friend

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in Your Office Coach

Q: “I share an office with a very nosy woman. ‘Tricia’ is good friends with our manager and has a reputation as the department tattletale. She constantly monitors my activities and asks what I’m doing. My job involves spending time on the Internet, so she probably thinks I’m Web surfing.

“Tricia seems jealous of my friendship with other co-workers and frequently inquires about their personal business. She doesn’t get along with most of these people, so I suspect she’s pumping me for information to give the boss.

“Although I love my job, I’m becoming paranoid about my office mate. What should I do?” Tricia’s Target

A: Kindly remember that you are not required to share information just because someone wants it. That’s rule number one. Rule number two is that you can usually divert an inquiry without being rude. Your goal with Tricia, therefore, is to respond in an amiable manner while revealing nothing of importance.

When she asks what you’re doing on the Internet, say something like “Oh, it’s another boring project.” If she presses you further, reply that you don’t have time to explain, but it’s really not very interesting. If you consistently provide nebulous responses, eventually she will stop asking.

When Tricia probes for dirt about your colleagues, the best response is to be completely clueless. Simply smile and say “I really have no idea” or “I haven't heard anything about that,” then change the subject.

You certainly don’t want to alienate someone who is buddies with your boss, so just be sure that all your conversations with Tricia are pleasant, friendly and vague.

Do you have co-workers who are difficult to trust? Here are some things to consider: Trust and Betrayal at Work.

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