She Has Her Nose In Everything!

Question:

What do you do with the busy body coworker that has to stick her nose in everything and I mean everything: looking at my e-mail and every time someone comes into the office she comes out of her office and sits there to see what’s going on. Just plain annoying! I want to deck her. What would you do or how would you handle her?

Signed,

On Deck To Deck Her


Answer:

DearĀ On Deck To Deck Her:

There are workplace problems and there are workplace annoyances. In this case you are annoyed by Ms. Nosy. You don’t describe any of her behaviors that adversely affect your performance, lest her nosiness drives you so up the wall that you can’t focus on the job for which you are hired. Does she know looking at your email and spying on your office really annoy you? Have you told her that? You don’t say how you know that Jane looks at your email, but assuming that you know that is a fact, usually the an effective way to cope with a coworker’s annoying behavior is to confront that individual firmly, “Jane, I’ve seen you looking at my email. Stop it. It’s not your job to know what is sent to me or I send. Do you hear me? I don’t look at yours. You have no business looking at mine. Can I depend on you to stop it?” The issue of looking at a coworker’s email is an invasion of privacy. You can use those three words to make you point and add that if you see her again doing so, you will report it to your boss. The same firm approach applies to her checking on what’s going on in your office, “Jane, why do you park yourself outside my door almost every time someone comes into my office?” If Jane answers, “I don’t.” Then with tight lips and clenched teeth, say, “That’s not the way I see it. I’ve noted on my calendar, five times you just happen to sit rather close to my door when someone came in the past week. So curb your curiosity. I don’t want to log that you are out there a sixth time. I’m sure you have enough to do without monitoring my office.” If you want to soften it a bit, don’t smile or joke, but you might preface your remarks with, “Jane, I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but . . .” If indeed Jane hangs around your office when she should be working, her behavior is more than an annoyance. It is subtracting rather than adding value to your work organization. Perhaps, You can make that point by saying, “Jane, I’ve listed several times you are idle outside my office while someone has come in to speak with me. Did you need me or that individual for something? You and I and others are assigned to this work area. We are here because management thinks we need to be close enough to communicate and cooperate. When you have a specific task related to me, I’ll be available and I know you would be there for me. But until there is something specific that demands our interaction, I want to focus on my job. What do you think I’m trying to say?”

Yet another approach, after you have confronted her about looking into your email, is for you to have a time-out meeting with her, saying, “Jane, we’re coworkers and I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about what we might do to make this place a success. As you know these days lots of people don’t have jobs like we do. What we do or don’t do can make of break this place. I’ve noticed that you like to know what’s going on, so it has occurred to me that you probably have lots of ideas about what we might to do to cut wasted supplies, wasted time, and wasted energy.” This kind of confrontation should start her thinking and talking with you about ways to make a difference. It could be a way to make that nosiness pay off. In almost every workplace, those closest to the job can think of ways to cut waste and fat from the system. Just imagine how differently Jane might appear to you if she were focused on that.

These few remarks might be classified as extinguish it, push it away or co-op it. Which ever of these or other approaches that undoubtedly you will think of will be better than gossiping about Jane or steels your self to her nosiness. Can you think about how my signature sentence might apply to your annoyance? Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. “Taking” suggests action on your part. “Making” suggests the benefit your coworkers might have if you could transform irritation to determination to think and work interdependently.

William Gorden