3 ways to deal with a nosy coworker

Here’s how to handle nosy coworkers who live to see you sweat while learning personal information about you that you’d rather keep private.

You start a new job, and in an effort to get to know your coworkers better, you make small talk at the water cooler and in the hallways. But after a few weeks, you notice that unlike everyone else, one person repeatedly draws negative attention to how you decide to live your life.

Here’s how to handle colleagues who live to see you sweat, while learning personal information about you that you’d rather keep private.

Remember that you don’t owe them anything

First of all, it’s your life, and you don’t have to tell anyone at work about things you’d rather not get into.

While authenticity at work is crucial, there’s a difference between sharing appropriate things about yourself here and there in an effort to connect with your colleagues, and being forced to spill the beans on sensitive topics.

So don’t give your nosy coworker all the power — this should make it easier for you to stand up for yourself.

Try using a few of these phrases

Alison Green, author of the Ask a Manager blog, suggests using these lines (among others) to stop nosy coworkers in their tracks:

“‘I’d rather not get into it at work – I like to keep that type of thing private,’ ‘That’s between me and my husband/wife/accountant,’ and ‘That’s awfully personal!'” are just a few she recommends telling a colleague who “doesn’t get your first few hints.”

Show them that it’s time to move on

Lifehacker readers told the publication about the most annoying things that happen to them at work when the site posted a call for them, and then the site came up with “a few of the most common themes” and recommendations for irritating people and situations.

The section on “The Hoverer” (someone who comes to your desk for something and fails to leave for a while once done), features advice that might also just work for nosy coworkers.

“If for some reason you can’t tell a coworker that you you need to get back to work, then offer a few subtle cues that the conversation is over. We’ve outlined a few of these cues before, including: ask your chatty coworker to pick up some of your slack, talk about topics they don’t know, or be as uninteresting as possible.”

Remember, you have the power to shut down nosy coworkers who make you feel uncomfortable.

Jane Burnett|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at jburnett@theladders.com.