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I have a colleague who works in a different department. She's a few years out of college while everyone else who works for the company is mid to late 30's or early 40's. As she has little experience, I believe she got her position by being able to communicate effectively or at least knowing how to socialize well (some people are naturally great talkers).

The problem is that most of the females and some males don't really want to deal with her unless they have to, because although she's generally nice and very inquisitive about people generally, once you get to know her and she sees you as someone she can be friends with, she starts expecting you to behave in a certain way.

For example:

  1. She has a habit of wanting to seek advice from colleagues about her personal life. She also gossips but then if you mention her name even indirectly she'll get mad at you for even bringing her name up. Whereas I believe you shouldn't be telling people things that you don't want brought up.

  2. You can't even say anything about anyone she considers a friend even if you weren't being negative. If you do, she'll reprimand you for it

  3. She is very clingy and gets upset if you don't have lunch with her or don't want to spend time with her after work. She talks to people a lot even when they are busy.

  4. She gets upset if you tease her. She's very sensitive.

So I have two questions:

  1. How do I deal with a difficult individual at work that I really don't have to work with as our projects don't normally coincide?

  2. Is it possible to get someone to understand how difficult they are when doing so makes you look like the bad guy?

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    re: Q1: what does "deal with" mean if you have little to no interaction with that person? re: Q2: what is your ultimate goal for telling someone with whom you have little contact that you think they are "difficult"? – jcmeloni Apr 17 '14 at 0:17
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    If you "really don't have to work with [her]", then why deal with her at all? – aroth Apr 17 '14 at 5:10
  • @I believe having work friends but not with everyone. She's one of those individuals who doesn't know how to seperate the two. If I decline having lunch with her she gets pissed off. she interrupts private work related conversations I'm in all the time and I have keep telling her to give me a minute as I'm already in a convo and she acts like she didn't notice the other person. I don't have to deal with her work wise as we don't have similar projects but she's always interrupting me whenever I'm on a phone call or busy because she wants to socialize. – Jen G Apr 17 '14 at 17:10
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How do I deal with a difficult individual at work that I really don't have to work with as our projects don't normally coincide.

You seem to have 3 main routes to choose from:

  • Be nice to her.

    Pretty straight-forward. You know the benefits and the costs.

  • Try to shake her off (without being too mean).

    The general idea is just to respond with vague non-answering responses. Examples include:

    • I don't really have any good advice for that, sorry.
    • I don't really know.
    • I'm not really one for gossip.
    • I don't really have an opinion on the matter.
    • Sorry, I'm just in the middle of something. Can we maybe talk about this some other time?

    With regard to lunch or after work, you could perhaps just respond with a generic "Sorry, I have other plans" or "Maybe next time".

    Yes, she might get upset, but if you don't want to talk to her...

  • Directly tell her that she's friendly enough, and you have no problem working with her, but you're not really interested in socializing [with her] outside of work.

    ... or perhaps a more generic "I don't really socialize with coworkers". This option isn't really ideal if you actually socialize with other coworkers outside of work, as you may need to deal with the possibility of her finding out and possibly confronting you.

    Yes, it's way more likely that she'll get upset if you choose this approach, but if you want to go for the quick, honest approach, this is the one.

    Either this will cause that she mostly leaves you alone during work hours as well, or you may have to resort to one of the other options.

Of course most of the above comments might be seen as strange to her if you were okay with it before, either you can ignore that aspect, or try to go more for the "After thinking about this a bit, I don't think it's a good idea" type of responses.

You don't seem to want to be mean to her (which is a good thing), but, if she doesn't listen, you may need to be (at least a little). Perhaps most significant is interfering with your work - this is really unacceptable. One approach to deal with this is to get earphones (if possible) (and pretend to not hear her, or have difficulty hearing, while wearing them). If you don't want to wear earphones the whole day, you could perhaps respond with the "can we maybe talk about this some other time?" response and put in your earphones before she could get another word in.

Is it possible to get someone to understand how difficult they are when doing so makes you look like the bad guy.

I think telling her that you don't want to socialize outside of work (as suggested above) is about as much as you can say without being overly mean.


Being perhaps more honest than is good for me, I'd probably go for directly telling her that I don't want to socialize with her, although there's something to be said for the other approaches with regard to trying to spare her feelings.

  • I like your responses. She was nice in the beginning til she got clingy and kept interrupting me at work even while I was on calls but is rude to you if you interrupt her. Then she wanted to hang out everyday. Then she started reprimanding me for mentioning a colleague at work that I had a past issue with. Once it became apparent she was clingy or I had to starting what I said I just stopped wanting to talk to her but she's ALWAYS around and she works in a diff dept – Jen G Apr 17 '14 at 17:22
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First, you need to establish some boundaries:

  1. "I'm sorry, I really try to keep my work and personal life separate. I can't help you with that sort of thing." and "I will discuss any of the staff with regards to their participation in my assigned work with whom I deem it necessary to do so." If she is trying to reprimand you, remind her that she is not your superior.
  2. "I will discuss any of the staff with regards to their participation in my assigned work with whom I deem it necessary to do so."
  3. "I'm sorry, I really try to keep my work and personal life separate. I can't help you with that sort of thing."
  4. Don't tease her. She's your colleague, not your buddy. See #1 and #3.

Section 2:

  1. Don't deal with her. If you don't have common projects, steer a clear path. Be polite, but maintain distance.
  2. Take care of #1 and #2 won't be an issue.

I have seen similar behavior from coworkers in the past. In my opinion, they have had over-indulgent parents, and they have not matured into adults, yet. Don't try to be their parent, and don't let them make you behave like a child. Behave courteously and professionally, and keep your distance. She'll either get the hint and grow up, or she'll find someone else to "play" with.

  • . She makes it hard to get along with because if you talk to her once she thinks your friends and wants to hang out everyday, she keeps interrupting me while I'm on phone calls or in serious work convos just to chit chat. You can't talk about anyone indirectly cause she'll get mad. She even admits to having high expectations and standards of ppl. it's gotten to the point where u feel like telling her to go away but of course we can't do that. We have to get along with p no matter how smothered you feel – Jen G Apr 17 '14 at 17:16
  • @JenG - I understand that, but you are enabling her behavior. You have to stop her: "I am sorry, I need to work on this task. Did you have an urgent work issue?" And who cares if she gets mad? Keep repeating my #2 from above. Do you answer to this person? Stop being afraid of her feelings. You're there to work, not to parent. – Wesley Long Apr 17 '14 at 17:22
  • I wish I could but I work for a company where you practically be nice to ppl even if they frustrate you. But I don't wanna pretend to like someone because they'll keep thinking you do lol – Jen G Apr 17 '14 at 19:22
  • And ppl have gotten in trouble the past because someone got offended by some harmless situation with a colleague. – Jen G Apr 17 '14 at 19:23

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