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I work with another individual in an office (we work in a large office everyone has a roommate (s) ) She has been in her job for 15 years. I have been in my position for 5, in the past I was a trainer for our department.

Our company was purchased, we updated our computers June 2018. She asked lots of questions (that she should either know or has resources to look up) she's just lazy and asks me. I think it's unfair of her to constantly depend upon me to answer questions. I have my own job to do.

I did set a boundary with her, by letting her know that it creates a lot of workplace stress by depending on me to be her sole source. which of course she broke within 1/2 hour. I figured out, that she just smoozes me or knows how to manipulate me. In order that I answer questions....

Has anyone ever experienced this? It is hard for me to set boundaries ( this is a weakness of mine that I'm taking ownership of & working to improve), she knows this. Any suggestions on how to effectively handle this situation?

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    "It is hard for me to set boundaries " you must fix it ! "this is a weakness of mine that I'm taking ownership of & working to improve" you are on the right track! work harder on fixing this problem of yours!
    – Fattie
    Jan 25, 2019 at 18:34
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    "I am busy right now. Can we come back to this after lunch?" May 15, 2019 at 11:00

3 Answers 3

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Has anyone ever experienced this? It is hard for me to set boundaries, and I think she knows this.... Any suggestions?

Be clear, yet polite, on the moments you are/are not available to answer her questions. We all have other things to do, so one must be careful not to leave those tasks behind just because one feels compelled to help others.

Next time she asks, and you are busy, I would try phrasing it something like this:

Hello, [name]. I would love to help you, but right now I am in the middle of something important that I must complete. Try looking for the answer by your own for now, and when I am free I will come back to you and gladly help find the solution if you haven't already.

After that, be firm on your statement.

If she insists, insist back to her that you must finish this first before helping her. If she is reasonable she will stop asking and wait for you to finish (or better yet, find the solution by herself).

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  • "this is a weakness of mine that I'm taking ownership of & working to improve" OP just needs to KICK ASS on the personal improvement front. OP is here for reinforcement. Just keep up the good work OP! Regarding this PITA co-worker, take it as a great learning opportunity for you to learn how to set boundaries!
    – Fattie
    Jan 25, 2019 at 18:36
  • @Fattie I agree that setting boundaries and being firm on them is a useful skill to learn, otherwise you will continue to be interrupted and expected to help everybody whenever they want to.
    – DarkCygnus
    Jan 25, 2019 at 18:38
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    indeed, I was referring to .. the OP actually points out that this is a self-problem OP is already working on !
    – Fattie
    Jan 25, 2019 at 18:49
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I have had coworkers like this. Sadly, you may need to set aside not worrying about her feelings and be very direct. I have sent people away telling them that I am not here to be their crutch and to use Google just like I do. When someone finds a golden goose that keeps providing golden eggs, they have no motivation to stop coming back for more. Stop being that goose and she will move on.

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  • I feel that this is no different from the other (mine) answer (to be firm when saying no when one's busy). Care enhancing yours? Perhaps a suggested phrasing, or a way to "send people away telling them that you are not their crutch" (TBH, that phrasing does not sound very polite or professional).
    – DarkCygnus
    Feb 21, 2023 at 23:15
  • @DarkCygnus I think my comment is more firm than yours. You started off with worrying about being polite and I am eschewing that concern. I also suggested to admonish them a bit by making it clear that I am no longer interested in helping them but for them to do their own research. Your comment leaves leeway for them to continue bothering me but just at a later time.
    – rhoonah
    Mar 8, 2023 at 16:05
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    I literally said "After that, be firm on your statement. " ... so what I suggest is to be firm... anyways you are right and have a fair point, that your suggestion is to be less polite/professional because that sometimes "inspires" people to continue to abuse or take advantage of you.
    – DarkCygnus
    Mar 9, 2023 at 0:31
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Some folks are very bad at reading social clues; you may have to be blunt about it. Some folks just don't have, or want to develop, the skills to research things themselves; sending them away with "here's where to look" may help teach them, and/or make pestering you less attractive.

Sometimes the right answers are "I'm busy, schedule a meeting", or "post the question on your-equivalent-of-slack and I or someone will get to it when we have time, if you haven't solved it yourself by then."

If you think it's a need for social contact, and you aren't averse to same, suggesting you discuss it over lunch might not be inappropriate as a way to teach them that there are better ways to approach people than interrupting with technical questions. (But see the recent question here from someone who was obsessing over her boss and having trouble with the concept that casual friendship doesn't imply anything else. Some folks need a blunt statement about boundaries.)

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