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Set limits with an office busybody

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in Your Office Coach

Question: “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!”  No Privacy

Answer: 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.  
Some co-worker conflicts grow out of basic personality differences. This Quick Quiz looks at one of them: Are You a Taskmaster or a Socializer?

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