How to deal with a nosy coworker
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How to deal with a nosy coworker

Dealing with a nosy coworker? If you’re actively avoiding a coworker because of the way they talk or act around you, then you know how frustrating nosy colleagues can be. They pry about your finances, your personal life, your friendships and workplace politics until you feel like you want to pull your hair out.

(Respectfully, don’t do that.)

Instead, when you’re face to face with a nosy coworker, here’s what you should do. 

Determine what upsets you about their behavior

When you think about your nosy coworker, start by asking yourself, “What exactly makes me mad about them?” Is it the way they talk about your salary? Is it their arrogance? Is it how they belittle you during work meetings? Homing in on the source of the issue will help you understand where your frustration is coming from. 

The other thing that’s important to know is how you feel—pinpoint the sensations you experience when your nosy coworker starts getting up in your grill. Do you feel like they’re too pushy with personal boundaries? Is the way they’re intrusive about your kids? Do you feel like they disrespect your work when they comment on your projects?

Determining what about them upsets you and how it makes you feel—in short, the intentions behind their actions—will make it easier to deal with the problem. 

Assume positive intent 

Now that you’re aware of exactly why you’re upset and how it makes you feel, it’s time to take a step back and assume positive intent regarding the situation. What do we mean by that?

Assuming positive intent means getting rid of those negative assumptions you just made about your nosy coworker. If you think your colleague is arrogant because they like to feel powerful over others, wipe your mind clean of that assumption. If you think your colleague is nosy about your salary, take a pause and let go of that notion. 

Assuming positive intent helps you see situations objectively. Sure, it might feel good to think badly about your coworker, but it’s not going to help you solve the issue. Instead, viewing them in a positive way can help you understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. 

The benefit of that is twofold. First, it helps you let go of some of your anger regarding their intentions. Maybe they’re asking about your salary because they want to make sure they’re getting paid fairly. Or maybe they always ask about your kids because they’re planning to have some of their own in the future.

The moral of this story? Even if someone’s behavior is frustrating, it doesn’t mean it’s malicious. 

Control your reaction

Sure, you could blow up on your nosy coworker. You could easily say something nasty (like this poster we talked about on our podcast) and feel superior. 

But would that really help the situation?

Not really. Consider the fact that after you blow up on this person, you’re going to have to CONTINUE working with them. If your goal is truly to create a better work environment for yourself, then you’re going to need to resolve this situation in a way that stops the problems you’re having with your nosy coworker—instead of exacerbating them. 

To do so, the following are a few things you can try:

  • Have an honest heart-to-heart with your nosy coworker. Let them know what’s bothering you, and then try to make new agreements about how you approach each other.

  • Reduce your contact with this coworker. If a conversation doesn’t help, see if there are ways to work less closely with your problematic colleague. Can you switch projects, departments or teams?

  • If all else fails, bring up your concerns with management. If your nosy coworker becomes so problematic that it prevents you from getting work done, that’s a concern the larger team should know about. Don’t hesitate to talk to your boss about the situation if the above tactics aren’t working. 

Try journaling 

News flash: we’re huge fans of journaling here at The Journal Talks Back™. It’s why we started this entire blog in the first place—to show people how and why journaling can change their lives.

If you’re dealing with a nosy coworker, journaling can absolutely help you deal with the situation. If you want to say a bunch of nasty things to your nosy colleague, feel free to let loose in a journal entry about them. Doing this can help you let off steam without hurting anyone’s feelings. 

More than just a tool for venting, journaling can be an effective method for problem solving. Try journaling about all the ways in which you can improve your situation, or what an ideal conversation with your nosy coworker would look like. Write about how you’ll feel after this situation is resolved, and then write about the resources you have to tackle this problem. 

Don’t deal with a nosy coworker alone

Speaking of resources, there’s another one you can try when it comes to dealing with a nosy coworker: us. We’re trained coaches who know all about the difficulties of workplace politics. Start by listening to our podcast to get a feel for the way we coach others, and then book a free consultation call so we can help you sort out your nosy coworker problem.