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I work here for about 4 months and one of my colleagues keeps pestering me, on my opinion. Maybe I'm wrong and it's just him being kind and friendly, but I feel bad about it and thinking of leaving this job.

When I've started working here, I've noticed that all the colleagues are very friendly and communicate openly with each other and I like all of them except him. In the same time, sometimes I think that I'm unfair or way too hostile towards him but I feel what I feel and I simply can't relax. He does the following:

  • private questions (about my health, hobbies, free time, personal life, boyfriend, household composition, etc.);
  • unsolicited advices (how to communicate with others, for example, though I have good relationships with my colleagues and friends, or how to spend my free time);
  • all of the above is very annoying and if I ignore the question, he will ask it again and again, even if it's very private and it can be understood that people usually won't answer it.

Besides he uses messenger which was intented to be used for work issues to literally terrorize me with questions like "HOW IS YOUR WEEKEND? HOW ARE YOU?" and if I won't read them, he can send up to 10 such messages in different days one after another.

I'm rather shy person, nonetheless I've decided to solve this problem. But I can't decide how to say what I mean politely. He's superiour, all in all. It would be easy if I'd just been the person who hates contacts at work (then I could've said like "don't ask me private questions"), but I like my colleagues and I don't mind to communicate with them. If I could say exactly what I think, it would be like "I like all the colleagues except you, leave me alone if you're not going to tell me something about the work", and it's both rude and weird thing to say. What can I do?

[edit] He is vindictive and tactless:

  • if someone fails his task, he will mosk him and remind of it for a week or so;
  • if someone talks back, he will speak like "maybe this work is not for you", and he's very close to our boss;
  • pretty rude jocks about other colleagues, though never too rude to call them "unfortunate joke";
  • he lets himself touch younger (male) colleagues in a rather weird way, e.g. pushing or hit upside the head (softly);

[29.11 edit] (What I've tried to do:)

Today he asked me why I didn't read his message yesterday (judging by starting words, it was regular HOW ARE YOU terrorism, so I didn't even open it) and I was unable to react politely, so I've said nothing and shrugged. But he than criticised me from the point that if I won't read messages from my colleagues, I can miss some important work issues. So I've read his message (out loud) and then said something like "John, excuse me, but when you use messenger to ask me about my dog, you should understand that when I see new message I won't think that it's an important work issue and rather consider it another personal question which has nothing in common with our work. And personal questions from you make me feel incomfortable now, so please, stop asking."

Well, he went mute for a minute. Then he smiled and said that if I'm such a cagey person, this work is not for me, maybe. I've answered that I do my work well, and it's not my job to be friends with him. Then he've just said "OK" and now he complains about me behind my back, but I feel better. Thank you for your good advices, it helped a lot!

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Neo Nov 27 '19 at 18:31
  • What do you mean by 'superiour'? Is he your boss or on a higher rank in the company hierarchy or does he have the same/ a similar job that you have and is just better at it than you are (in your judgement)? – quarague Nov 28 '19 at 8:17
  • Have you tried short clipped replies? "HOW WAS YOUR WEEKEND? Good Thanks." – Smock Nov 28 '19 at 17:21
  • @quarague, he is both on a higher rank and has the same job he does better (because he is here for 5 years or so). – Kelly Shepphard Nov 29 '19 at 10:35
  • @Smock, he will continue with "And what did you do, then? Try to use your weekend time efficiently! (A couple of advices about "rationally used time")" – Kelly Shepphard Nov 29 '19 at 10:38
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Okay, there's a lot going on in your question and your edits.

So, first up: Separate your concerns. You shouldn't ask, "Hey, my gardener is using dangerous pesticides and my daycare isn't letting my kid eat peanut butter - what should I do?" Those two things have nothing to do with one another. Likewise, a coworker asking how your weekend was and someone being overly critical about failed tasks are two completely separate concerns. This answer is going to talk about the personal questions issue (feel free to google/ask separate questions if you want.)

Second, you're trying to call an Apple an Orange. You made a very illuminating comment:

Paul, the problem is his workplace is in the same room, so if he asks me about my weekend and I answer "It's too private information" and speak with another colleague about it later, it will be more like "you are not invited to my pool party". And he is vindictive and tactless.

You're absolutely right! But... that's the problem. You are inviting one person to the pool party and not the other. Which you are allowed to do - but you can't pretend that it's something else. If you don't want to talk to this person about personal matters, that's definitely all right... but don't try splitting hairs about it. This isn't an issue of "I don't want to talk about personal stuff at work" - it's "I don't want to talk about personal stuff with you". If you're looking for an excuse or non-offensive reason for that, you're kinda out of luck.

Third, I'd like to tell you about a concept I heard about called "Attempted Telekinesis" Basically, it's a feedback loop where something annoying is happening, and you think to yourself "Holy *#$%#%, that's annoying, don't they realize it's annoying?!", mentally doing/saying things to stop it, but the annoyingness still continues, which makes you more annoyed that it's still going on, which makes you think even more things to yourself, etc. And yet... nothing in the loop actually is an action that would change the situation! You're getting more and more and more irritated by this person, and yet you're not actually doing anything that would result in something changing.

I mean, you seem pretty far down this road, to be honest - to the point where you're actually considering leaving your job simply because someone's doing something that you never actually asked them to stop doing. You even admit in your question that you may be unfair/overly-critical/etc - that's likely because you've let this build to a point where you're overly sensitive about what's going on, whereas the person causing this aggravation has no clue anything is even wrong. I'm not saying this guy is in the right... but it's also possible that this could be fixed by simply asking him not to do whatever's annoying you. It's also possible that, due to this factor, you're going to be... amp'ed up a bit when this subject is discussed. Keep in mind, this may be nerve-wracking for you, but for them, it's coming completely out of the blue.

So - What Should You Do?

Door #1, identify a good time to discuss this. And to be honest, this is likely more on your side than his. When would be a good time where you'd be calm and centered? And then, keep it simple and straight-forward:

I'm sorry, but I don't want to talk about non-work things with you. Can you please stop asking me about my weekend? And can you please stop offering personal advice?

Door #2, consider whether this is something that's better "getting past" than "stopping". To be honest, from your question, this guy seems more in the "annoying" category than anything more severe.

Well... annoying people aren't exactly rare. Being able to work with annoying people is valuable. I definitely wouldn't recommend going down the road you're currently on (which isn't working) - but it may be worth it to figure out if there are other things you could be doing/thinking/etc that would make the interactions less irritating.

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So you openly chat about your personal life in the office, in front of colleagues, but then when one approaches you (online or offline) and asks about it, you would rather he not.

That's your right, all the relationship you are required to have with other employees is professional, and it's very easy to articulate by responding, at any point in time with "I am sorry, but this is personal and I don't want to discuss this with you". And that would be the end of the story (if not, that's a whole other issue altogether).

But as you still didn't do that, the only advice I can give you is to suck it up and next time he approaches you about it, simply say "I am sorry X, but this is personal, and I don't want to discuss it with you.". No need to be hostile, or unpleasant, but firm. And that's end of this story. If you just continue responding (like you do now), without actually saying "No", then it's on you. As even if we take everything you say at absolute truth, there is nothing inappropriate in his behavior. It may be a bit on the annoying side, but that's about it.

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    "This is personal and I'd rather not discuss it" is perfectly acceptable. Adding the "with you" could be taken personally – Josh Johnson Nov 27 '19 at 19:33
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    @JoshJohnson, In this case, this is personal by intention, as OP stated clearly that she wants to discuss her personal life with other employees, just not with this one. – Tymoteusz Paul Nov 27 '19 at 19:34
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    @TymoteuszPaul The polite thing is still not to directly say that to him unless pressed, he will figure out if he sees OP being more open with others. – Frank Hopkins Nov 27 '19 at 19:40
  • @TymoteuszPaul It's just common sense to not make the case specific about someone. – Jonast92 Nov 27 '19 at 21:26
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leave me alone if you're not going to tell me something about the work

This is exactly what is in your mind and this is exactly what you tell him. (Omit the part about comparing with other colleagues because it is not his business who you talk to at personal level)

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  • While the message of what you're saying is true, but it's not a very effective way to deliver it with this kind of phrasing. Not at first anyway. I didn't down-vote, but I think it's borderline dangerous as people tend to take some advice too literal. – Jonast92 Nov 27 '19 at 21:38
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"I like all the colleagues except you, leave me alone if you're not going to tell me something about the work", and it's both rude and weird thing to say.

That, or words to that effect, is an ultimate last resort. There's a few non-confrontational things you could try first.

When he says:

HOW IS YOUR WEEKEND? HOW ARE YOU?

You could wait until you have a "reason" to contact him about something work related, even if that reason is a stretch, then reply with something akin to the following:

I'm good. I noticed the other day our shared accounts folder seems to have been reorganised, and I'm struggling to find the audit records for last September. Any idea where they've been moved to?

That way you're not entertaining his idea of talking about your personal life, but you're also not cutting him off completely.

You could also take the classic "joke" line:

Hah, well if I told you that, I'd have to kill you!

Or of course the classic "busy" line.

if I ignore the question, he will ask it again and again, even if it's very private

Much as I don't like advocating it in general, you could just make up a generic, boring answer and simply lie. So if he says:

I overheard you getting upset on the phone, was that to your boyfriend? What was it about?

...you could simply reply with:

Oh no, that was the garage, car service cost more than I thought. All fine now though.

If none of that works, then you can start to get more confrontational:

Jim, I appreciate the concern, but I really don't feel comfortable discussing that with work colleagues. I prefer to keep my work and personal life separate.

Keep stating that, and it'd be hard from him not to claim he's got the message. If he still doesn't, it's time to go to your boss (whether he's friends with him or not) and state that Jim's behaviour is making you very uncomfortable, you don't wish to discuss personal matters with him, he's distracting you using team chat for personal messages, etc. - and take it from there.

The only other advice I'd give is make sure you note down all of the times you've warned him you don't like his behaviour, as if you then have to take matters to HR it gives you a much stronger case.

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