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How to deal with nosy co-workers

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Mind your own business

You know being nosy and gossiping at work is never a good idea, but what do you do when a co-worker is badgering you for personal information? Our experts weigh in.

How do I get nosy co-workers to leave me be?

Woman gossiping to co-worker

Your question:

A co-worker of mine (let's call her Alice) keeps asking me if another employee (call her Ginny) at our company is gay, and keeps speculating every time she sees her. I happen to know that Ginny is a lesbian, but doesn't want to come out at work. Alice is an older married woman and I think only wants to know for the gossip value. One, do I tell Ginny about it; and two, how do I get Alice to stop going on about this?

The expert answers:

Idle curiosity can be a very dangerous thing, as it often leads to gossip and rumors! Alice sounds she is indeed being office nosy-bodies and only wants to delve into Ginny's sexual preference for the sake of knowing, which frankly is none of her business. You must ask yourself this..." What benefit does is serve Alice to know that Ginny is indeed a lesbian?" My answer would be, "ABSOLUTELY NONE!" In addition, betraying Ginny's trust will only get you into hot water. You will probably lose a friend and word will eventually get around that you divulged something that wasn't yours to divulge.

In addition, I don't find it necessary to add fuel to the fire by alerting Ginny about Alice's consistent sleuthing, as that may cause unnecessary friction and an awkward confrontation between the two women.

"It's none of your business."

Next time that Alice prods you for information, tell her the following:

It is no one's business in the office if Ginny, or anyone else for that matter, is gay. Asking others that kind of personal information is unnecessary and should not be discussed. Most companies have a code of ethics against sexual discrimination and Alice's sniffing and sneaking for information might be construed as breaking that code. Even if you were aware of her sexual preference, you are sure that Ginny would not appreciate it being discussed by others.

And by the way, how does knowing if she is attracted to women or men affect Alice's job description...it doesn't! Explain that if Ginny wanted the office to know her sexuality, she would have probably sent an inter-office memo or email to all employees. Since Alice is a bit older, you can remind her of the following etiquette rule: It is not polite to ask a woman her age, so wouldn't asking her sexual preference be a major faux pas? If you want to take the quick and direct route, simply tell her to mind her own business!

If Alice doesn't take "No" for an answer, firmly tell her that if she feels that inclined to find out whether she is indeed a lesbian that you suggest she talk to Ginny directly. My guess is that Alice will not send that email to Ginny asking if she wants to get a cup of coffee!

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