Nosey Coworkers

Guidelines for Handling Nosey Coworkers

An office is very much like a small community, with a variety of personalities gathered in one area; the perfect breeding ground for nosey coworkers.  This type of behavior can be extremely detrimental to a productive workplace; learning to deal with these individuals is important to keep a peaceful environment in place.

It seems there is at least one in every office; the person who feels it is their business to know everyone else’s business.  The larger the organization, the larger the number of these individuals will be present.  The havoc they can raise is astronomical; affecting productivity and team spirit as well as the atmosphere of the entire office.  Since most people spend more time at work than they do in any other area, it can make 40 hours seem like an eternity when uncomfortable situations such as the emotional drain from stress exist. It is imperative for both company productivity and employee wellbeing that this type of behavior be strictly discouraged.

Address it from the start

The easiest time to deal with coworkers who try to pry is at the very beginning.  It may begin innocently enough; a casual conversation that seems pleasant at the start but then ventures into personal questions or comments.  The prying may involve others rather than yourself, evident in clever questions or sly comments about another coworker or supervisor that is meant to evoke information from you.  It is at this moment that the meddling should be brought to an abrupt halt.  It is possible to do so in a polite yet firm manner by simply announcing to the individual that you do not take part in such gossip or conversation, and then pointedly changing the subject to something as innocuous as how you appreciate the positioning of the water cooler.

Nosy coworkers will soon realize that you are not the source of information they crave, and turn elsewhere in their attempts to pry.

Becoming the target

Sometimes, the personality of the prying individual may not be recognized until you have unwittingly given them some piece of information.   It may have been an innocent remark about the size of your own work load as compared to others in the same department, or an observation you made about another coworker.  And, in the natural way that meddlers operate, the nosey parker has passed on the information to others and in such a way as to cast an unfavorable light on you.  Regrettably, at this stage it is impossible to take back any comments but you can still take charge of the situation.  If possible to do in a group setting, address the coworker about the statement you made; such as “unfortunately, Joan misunderstood what I said about my work load being heavier than the others; I only meant to say that business is picking up which is a good thing and will soon affect all of us.” 

When it gets out of hand

There comes a point when nosy coworkers can become mean spirited.  Using information gained from their prying to get on the good side of a supervisor, such as reporting the number of personal phone calls a particular coworker receives at work, can not only threaten the security of other employees but also create an atmosphere of dissention.  It is vital at this point to set an appointment to meet with a supervisor to bring the problem to a level where it can be addressed.

Because an office is such a close knit environment, it is important to always display good behavior that can positively affect others.  In doing so, it keeps nosey coworkers at bay and helps to attain a productive and peaceful workplace.