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What to Do If a Co-Worker Gets Too Personal

If your officemate has some tell-all tendencies, it can make your workday more than a little uncomfortable. Close quarters make co-worker friendships inevitable, but you may need to draw a line if things get overly personal. Feeling awkward about all the nine-to-five TMI? Follow these four tips to set proper boundaries and keep things professional:

  • Consider why you feel uncomfortable. Decide whether it's the nature of the subject, the way it was approached, or your own experience with the topic that made you uneasy. If it's something that you feel extra sensitive about, see if you can just move on. Your co-worker may not have realized that the conversation was inappropriate.
  • Put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself why they opened up to you. Is it because they're lonely? Because they're hoping to build a friendship? Try to recognize their motivations so that you can better handle the situation.

Keep reading for more TMI-fighting tips.

  • Don't be afraid to communicate. The first step in dealing with a secret-sharing co-worker is to set boundaries for the relationship. They'll keep up their confessional habits unless you speak up and let them know that you find it inappropriate for the office. Subtly steer the conversation elsewhere or make a lighthearted comment to convey your discomfort.
  • Contact HR if necessary. Co-worker can't take a hint? Speak with your manager or someone in the HR department and let them know what's going on. Avoid ranting or turning it into unnecessary gossip. Give short, simple examples to keep the conversation professional and come up with a solution, like switching desks.

The bottom line: Your office should be a safe, professional space. If a fellow employee veers into TMI territory and makes you feel uncomfortable, don't stay silent. Speak up right away, and if you can't seem to get through to them, report inappropriate behavior to management.

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