Let's call him Tim.

Ever since Tim got hired in our dev team we have had a good professional relationship. As time went by, I realized he was asking questions I didn't want to answer, for example: "where are you going?", when it was lunch time.

Since 2 months ago I've been successfully ignoring Tim's non-related work questions because I am always with my headphones on. That seemed to stop him a little bit.

However, he seems to be like the kind of people who would sneak in everybody's conversation. If we are talking about something he didn't listen from the beginning, he would ask: "What are you guys talking about? What did you guys say? What?" in less than 2 seconds.

I have been polite enough with him, but there have been 2 times when he has been out of line for me and I feel I can't stand it anymore:

1) The other day I was arriving late to work because I had important things to do (I'm a foreigner in the country I'm living right now so I had to go to the Visa place)

When I arrived to work, Tim was asking me how my day was at the Visa Place. I said: "It was great, I did everything I had to do there"

My boss also wanted to know about my day there, but he is my boss. He is entitled to ask all the questions and ask for papers or verification if he feels like to.

My boss didn't ask any questions. Tim said something like: What paper did they gave you there? Let me see it.

I couldn't believe it. But I felt he wasn't believing in me, so I showed him the paper and he was ok. My boss didn't even look at us when that happened, but of course he was aware it happened. Our office is not that big.

I had to go again to the Visa Place another day. That day, when I arrived work, Tim was having a conversation with himself about how I could have done it in one day instead of 2 different days. Which I didn't like because: 1) I am not lying. 2) My boss does not have a problem with me going 2 days to the Visa Place. 3) I don't have to explain anything to Tim.

2) My boss asked me to go to the tech store near our work.

Tim was interested in knowing if I was going to tech store A or tech store B. I don't know why he wanted to know, I had to buy things for my computer and my boss', Tim wasn't related to this purchase.

Tech store A is near my job (15 minutes walking), Tech store B is a little far away (let's say 20 minutes walking) but had everything my boss and I needed to buy.

So I said I was going to Tech store B. Tim didn't seem happy with my decision (I wasn't asking for his opinion either). He insisted me in telling my boss I was going to Tech Store B. Which wasn't a problem because this seems for me an obvious thing to do (going to the place where the things me and my boss need are available).

I went out, bought the things and went back. My boss was happy to see me, but Tim didn't seem like he was happy. He said: You took so long. Why did you took so long? You see? Going to Store A was going to take you longer than going to Store B.

I couldn't believe it, it was happening again.

This time my boss was listening to the conversation. He didn't say anything, but I felt like Tim was trying to say I took so long on purpose. I didn't say anything after that and remained silent until it was time to leave.

3) Tim sneaks into my bags when I buy things.

4) Tim would ask to try my food.

I'm not the only one complaining about Tim's behavior. There is another coworker who feels the same way about Tim. There are other coworkers but they just don't pay attention to him.

I don't hate Tim. I don't want to be his friend. I only want to be his coworker and be as polite as I can.

How can I make him stop?

Should I address this with him? Should I talk about it with my boss?

I don't feel like talking about this with my boss because I feel like we can solve this ourselves. And also, I don't want Tim to feel bad. If he feels offended that could change our work "good aura".

A couple of things:

Tim is clearly not my superior, he is just a coworker.

I don't understand why he seems like he's trying to put me in a bad light.

What is the politest way to say?:


  • 10
    Tim is extremely rude. You shouldn't ask for the politest way to say things, but for a way that works.
    – gnasher729
    Jan 31, 2018 at 7:34
  • Why is your boss not supporting you in this?
    – Mawg
    Jan 31, 2018 at 14:53
  • 1
    It's on any case Tim your 5 years old sibling? I mean....c'mon.... Jan 31, 2018 at 18:58
  • Tim may not know that his behaviour is considered extremely rude by others, including you. This may have many reasons, but you might have to be very explicit about setting boundaries. This means clear, not necessarily rude. Mar 27, 2022 at 11:08

4 Answers 4


Rob's answer is quite good and if it comes to some kind of direct confrontation, solid advice, but I have something to add:

so far you have actually entertained his questions - you answer them and engage in further discussion about these non-work related questions, which is likely encouraging Tim to continue with this annoying behavior.

So as a first step, you could just stop answering his questions or answer with a "dead end" response that leaves him with no traction to move forward.

"where are you going" - "to lunch" do not say more, just go

"where are you going to buy electronics" - "to the store" do not say more, just go

"how did it go at the immigration office" - "great" "can I see the papers they gave you?" "no" do not say more. go about your business.

You can offer these responses in a friendly tone and even with a smile - there is no need to be rude, just don't open yourself up for further questions. If he keeps asking, just stay silent, walk away, etc.

I think you can take a cue from the coworkers who have no problem with Tim: they ignore him and it's apparently effective. If you refuse to fall for his bait, he may very well get bored with you and you might not have to confront him at all.

eta: if you catch him going through any of your belongings (or new purchases or whatever) I don't think confrontation should be avoided: "Tim, keep your hands off my stuff." Past that, no discussion necessary. If he asks "why", just repeat the command perhaps with "I don't need to explain this to you"

  • Solid answer +1.
    – JonH
    Jan 31, 2018 at 20:29
  • Tim is no longer a coworker... thanks for your anwser, it helped me a lot.
    – anon
    Sep 3, 2020 at 23:47

I believe there are two problems here which come together:

  1. You are too nice.
  2. Tim is rude.

You can counter problem 2 by solving problem 1:
Tim : "Can I try your food?"
You : "No."

Tim is going through your bags when you buy things:
"Tim, I'v noticed that somebody has gone through my bags while I was absent. I find it particularly unpleasant and if it happens again, I'm seriously considering informing management about it. Do you know who that was?"
I believe Tim won't admit that it was him and he will seriously think twice before doing it again. :-)

Be aware, when dealing with the techstore issue, he has a point: when going to one store would have taken less time, then he's right, so don't go into that discussion.

Next time, when you need to do some shopping (like the Visa place), don't mention it to him. You just get up of your chair and wish him (and the other collegues) a good afternoon or say you'll be back within ±15 minutes, and when he asks what you will be doing, you just answer you're taking care of some personal things.
Tim: "What things?"
You: "Personal ones."

Good luck


Q: "What is the politest way to say?"

You've been that route with him a few times, undoubtedly others have also, likely not only at work but elsewhere. Work is a safe place for him, over a back alley or a bar.

You can try over at IPS.SE for the politest possible method, here at workplace.SE it's more about work and efficiency (along with compliance to company policy and applicable laws).

Simply tell him that he:

  • Inquires about matters that are not his concern.

  • Interrupts conversations he is not a part of.

  • Inquires about things protected by privacy laws (Visa).

  • Presupposes to know of the working of things he knows nothing of (Visa), and questions such matters to undermine your relationship with your employer.

  • Gives unsolicited advice and questions approved decisions (Tech Store).

  • He invades your privacy (goes into your bags).

  • Interrupts your eating to ask for your food.

I don't hate Tim. I don't want to be his friend. I only want to be his coworker and be as polite as I can.

You should and you've done that; move to the next stage.

How can I make him stop?

"Make", "ask", or "tell"? [rhetorical question].

Should I address this with him? Should I talk about it with my boss?

Whether you want to take another swing at him or rip a strip off your boss is your decision. There are some patient and talented people at: http://interpersonal.stackexchange.com/ .

I don't feel like talking about this with my boss because I feel like we can solve this ourselves.

We differ in our opinion about that, or you wouldn't involve us.

And also, I don't want Tim to feel bad. If he feels offended that could change our work "good aura".

No doubt Tim doesn't want your to feel bad, you should embrace Tim's helpful ways and do all you can to promote the needy behavior [sarcasm].

Unless you intend to forgive and forget and Tim is willing to cease and desist there's no "good aura"; only bullying and offensive behavior. It also says something about HR and management if they are fully aware of this.

Beware that Tim's not someone's (owner, CEO, large customer) relative and protected from complaints before you risk a confrontation. Is there a reason (irreplaceable) both of you should remain there?


It sounds to me like Tim is just trying to make conversation but doesn't have the social maturity to do so. It sounds like he wants to make conversation, but instead asks what you feel like are personal questions. I'm sure he's doing it to others, or maybe he wants to be friendly specifically to you because you are near him. It's unclear if you are male or female and you may feel like he's trying to get romantically involved.

It's also unclear if English is your first language - or even vice versa, if you co-worker is a native speaker. I found in some situations, people learning English may take terms differently than native speakers.

Since the questions are annoying to you, you should let him know. Tell him you do not wish to discuss person matters and eventually it'll stop. For example, if he asks, "What you filled out at the visa office." Tell him back, "Why do you want to know that?" He might answer back that he might need to fill out forms and wanted to know what he needed to fill out. He might be friendly. Or on the flip side, if he's just asking to be annoying, he'll stop or get the clue.

Or in the tech store situation. Maybe he has some tips or knowledge about what's in the store. "Which store are you going to?" "Oh I am going to store A." "Oh yeah, I know X at that store and I got some coupons, let me print them out."

Or in the lunch situation, was he sitting by himself? Maybe he wants to ask if he can come with you. "Where are you going?" "I'm going to food place A, would you like to join?"

Or in the conversation situation, when he says, "What were you talking about?" "Oh, we were talking about the basketball game, do you like basketball?"

Thus far he sounds friendly and harmless. Don't take things literally or too seriously.

  • That you can take this charitable view suggests you are a good person, +1 :) But remember, try as we might to make friends and influence people, there are still jerks in the world...
    – AakashM
    Feb 1, 2018 at 8:51
  • It's not my fault he doesn't have the social maturity. I'm a man and so is Tim. We speak Spanish. He isn't harmless. Because of his questions in front of my boss, he has put me in situations where I could be judged like I had taken more time than needed to do X task. I've been nice to Tim enough. I've been answering Tim's questions with dead ends and it seems he is getting the message.
    – anon
    Feb 6, 2018 at 21:35

You must log in to answer this question.