A nosy coworker can be really irritating and distracting with her constant butt-ins and stalking behavior. In addition to creating a distraction, a nosy coworker makes it difficult to keep anything private at work. One of the dangers of snooping is that your coworker may stumble across something she doesn’t understand and misconstrue your intentions, getting it all wrong as she runs and tells the boss or starts a rumor based on her conclusions. To bring peace back into your workplace, you need to find a way to reign-in the office snoop or least get a handle on her behavior.
Refuse to participate in conversations with the snoop. Set boundaries about what you’re willing to discuss at work. When approached about your behavior, what you are doing, details about your current project that don’t involve her or any topic about your personal affairs, explain that you are not at liberty to discuss the matter with anyone at this time.
Reply to awkward, nosy questions with humor. If the snoop wants to know why you're taking a day off, respond with something like “my coworkers are driving me bonkers, I’m sure you can understand,” or “I’m stealing away for a secret rendezvous with Brad Pitt, shh, don’t tell anyone.”
Answer questions with vague responses that don’t really mean anything. According to etiquette consultant Maralee McKee at Manners Mentor, people often shut up when you give them an answer -- any answer. “Because that’s the way I do it,” “because I need to,” “because it’s what I do,” may turn the snoop on her heels and get her to eventually stop asking all together.
Explain how her interruptions bother you and that you don’t feel it's appropriate for her to continue butting in on your work. Explain your boundaries clearly and request that she stop her intrusive behavior.
- If a one-on-one conversation fails, get your other coworkers involved and arrange an intervention. Preface your talk by pointing out the positive qualities the snoop brings to work and then describe the behavior that has got you all up in arms. Offer solutions to what you perceive as a workplace problem and then allow the nosy gal to talk. When she knows that others feel the same way, she may be more open to listening to constructive criticism. Arrange for follow-up meetings to assess her progress.
- If you play tit-for-tat and become rude to the nosy person or start gossiping about her behavior without mercy, expect a backlash. Your actions could get you labeled as the “B” in the office. Protect your reputation and don’t play games with the snoop – it leads to no good for anyone.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."