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Admin Pro Forum

Are you the amateur psychologist in the office?

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Question: "I've slowly realized that I'm the person everyone comes to when they want to talk about life outside the office, their personal problems, their traffic woes, their relationship headaches ... I don't mind, but I think I'd like to very slowly give up that role. Does anyone have any tips on how I might do that without shutting anyone down directly? These are all nice people and I like them a lot; I just want to focus on myself and the job more." - Cassidy, Test Prep Assistant

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan August 14, 2017 at 12:36 pm

I used to be the confidant and wanted to go to battle for the employee as they’d complain about another co worker or their manager. I began to lose sleep and thought this is not my fight, so I changed it around and would ask the individual what they were planning to do about their issue? If they didn’t have an answer I’d ask them to stop complaining to me because I was stressing over it and without them making any attempt to make changes, it wasn’t fair to me. So some made those changes others stopped complaining to me. Life is good now.

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Carly August 9, 2017 at 10:35 am

It would probably benefit you to look at yourself and ask why it’s you everyone comes to. It’s almost definitely a compliment to you and signs of a warm personality. You may find it much tougher than you think to shy away from listening and helping, because you may well be just one of those people with a big heart who others are drawn to when they feel stressed. I like to think that the people at my office are just as important as the job itself, so I tend to dive right in when they have something on their mind, happy that they chose me to confide in. I would almost rather work a little harder to catch up afterwards than pull away from them–but then again, I’ve never been as career-focused as other people.

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MiChaela Mills August 2, 2017 at 3:30 pm

If a person comes to my desk and start talking about personal issues, I generally say, “Hey, can we chat later, I really have to get something out right now.” The will usually say OK and go away. Like Mel said, if it was important they will bring it back up later, but usually the urge to chat about it would have faded away or maybe they just forgot about it because it was really not that important.

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KF July 28, 2017 at 8:18 am

I think a few minutes here and there of personal chit-chat is fine but if the conversation goes on longer, use non-verbal cues (such as getting up from your seat) or, if needed, tell them directly that you have a lot on your plate and would like to continue the conversation outside working hours. Several of us AAs in the office like to have venting sessions when things get rough, challenging, or overwhelming, but we know that it’s impossible at work for obvious reasons. So we have scheduled monthly after-work Happy Hours to catch up with what’s going on in our lives. Eventually, I think those that come to you as a way for them to waste time and interrupt your work will notice, and those that are your closer work friends will understand your need to stay focused at work and catch up after-hours.

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Mel July 28, 2017 at 8:18 am

This is a tricky one, because people tend to take offense when you actually say words to the effect of “Sorry, I’m here to work,” even gently. It might be permanently shutting a door. One strategy I tried is postponing a conversation till later in the day, saying something like, “Let’s definitely talk about this at about 2; I have a project I need to wrap up.” What I found was that the urge to vent faded away for them and a lot of conversations just never came to fruition. Plus, every time I gave a reason for the postponement, I think it reinforced in their minds that I was a busy person.

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Judith July 27, 2017 at 4:26 pm

Hi, Cassidy. You basically answered your own question. Gently tell them know they are great people and you truly appreciate them and all that is going in their world, but in order to be a good steward of your time/talents and show responsibility, you need to focus on work when you are at work. If they are close or you think you can offer some real support, schedule time away from the office so you have a chance to spend quality time with them that doesn’t hinge around the phone, emails, supervisors, etc.

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