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I work in Midland, Texas, which is really in the middle of nowhere. I'm originally from Houston and took this job because it's the only one.

Whenever I go out of town on business, especially to a large city, and return to my work, my coworkers get so paranoid that I will leave Midland. They ask if I will leave. One of the managers (not mine) gets so concerned even when I say "Oh, I had a good time" after a trip. It's slightly annoying, but then again I'm not losing sleep over it.

What is the best way to deal with this situation?

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    Why should you worry about their worrying? If their worrying translates into a good performance review and more money to you, why is their worrying a problem to you? – Vietnhi Phuvan Jun 28 '14 at 3:34
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    I it possible it is a joke? Like saying to somebody "where was the interview" if they wear a tie to work. – mhoran_psprep Jun 29 '14 at 0:21
  • move to the big city, my friend. There... nobody will ask anything at all; you may disappear and reappear 6 months later with nary a blink from the jaded city-dweller, come to the jungle :p – Adel Jun 30 '14 at 0:15
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    Generally, if the question is "are they all paranoid?" the answer is "no, but you might be -- or at least you're probably misinterpreting/miscommunicating." – keshlam Nov 10 '14 at 4:29
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I work in Midland, Texas, which is really in the middle of nowhere. I'm originally from Houston and took this job because it's the only one.

Have you shared similar thoughts with your coworkers? Because it makes it look like you're negative about your job. Are they really paranoid or do they have some reason to think you might leave?

You can deal with the situation by making it clear that you are not leaving. If they depend on you it's understandable for them to feel worried.

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It's slightly annoying, but then again I'm not losing sleep over it.

What is the best way to deal with this situation?

Since you aren't losing any sleep over it, and it's only slightly annoying, your best way to deal with it is probably just to laugh and ignore it.

But you might want to do a quick self-check here.

Since you admit that you "took this job because it's the only one", you may be giving off some unintended vibes to your coworkers.

Are you unhappy that this was the only job you could get, wishing you were better off, and unintentionally projecting this to your co-workers? I've seen this happen with more than one co-worker. Once it starts, it seems to be difficult to stop.

Sometimes we secretly want others to share in our unhappiness. That's not a good thing to be feeling, and not a good thing professionally. Others may start to view you as a miserable person, and may stop wanting to work with you.

I'm not saying any of this applies to you at all. But it's worth doing a bit of introspection and determining if you need to do something about it or not.

If not, great - just ignore the slight annoyance.

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It's possible your co-workers are anxious that you might leave. Perhaps they have had a history of people coming in from bigger cities, only to turn around and leave again. If you are making frequent trips, it may signal to them a dissatisfaction with the city (have to get away whenever you get the chance). And perhaps there are other things you are doing (little comments about things you miss about Houston, for example, or things that Midland seems to be lacking) that could be triggering concerns. Let's face it, you only moved there because you couldn't find a job in a better place, and you do refer to it as the "middle of nowhere." In addition to their fears, they may at some level feel insulted that you don't seem to care for their town - people tend to be proud of where they live.

You might be able to alleviate their fears and assuage their feelings by making positive comments about the city, talking about a great restaurant you found or asking them for recommendations for clubs or events to go to. You could also answer their questions about your trips with comments like, "I had fun, but it's good to be back" or "Houston's great, but I don't miss sitting on I-10 for an hour every afternoon."

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tl;dr version:

Next time it comes up, simply let people know that:

  • You are happy where you are
  • Haven't even considered any plans to leave
  • While you enjoy a good "What-If?" fantasy as much as the next guy, you are much more interested in accomplishing the real world work at hand.

Repeat this by rote every single time it comes up, and people will get the idea and leave it be.

"Buy my Book" self-help/personal-development/discover-the-"lion"-within you answer:

Your options are to tolerate it, or to confront it.

Tolerate It: Continue doing what you have been doing up to this point. Give up any unrealistic expectations that things will magically change for the better with time, and accept that you will have to endure this low level but worrisome and consistent annoyance for the duration of your time at this company.
You will have to go on covering for other peoples' actions with acquiescent small talk, demurring banter, and lots of utterances of "Haha, well, you know how it is..."
Eventually, it might get so bad that it turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy on the part of your co-workers and you do leave.

Confront It: Stop doing what you have been doing (all of the above), and start dealing with it in a gentle but firm way.

STOP:

  • Tacitly granting others permission through silence and in spite of the fact that by not informing them their choices irritate you, you are to continue building an uncomfortable environment for you.
  • Allowing anyone to extract promises -- even implied promises -- that you won't leave the company. You can't make that promise because you are business professional, not a fortune-teller.

START:

  • Sharing with each person, privately and respectfully but firmly, that you don't appreciate speculation of your leaving the company, even if it's joking or "just kidding." You can couch this conversation with "I know it's silly and it shouldn't be a big deal, but I feel like I can just be honest with you and let you know it just bothers me." This will help frame this as you are bringing the person you are talking to into your confidence, rather then lecturing them.
  • Sharing your discomfort with anyone you've spoken to one-to-one about the previous point. If they persist even after you've asked them not to, the burden of a pleasant conversation / respectful relationship is on them. Don't cover for people who can't respect your stated concerns and expectations. Say nothing -- literally nothing -- when another person brings it up in conversation. Let the air go out of the room. All they get from you is a blank slate. If they press, start asking questions. The other person brought it up -- let them explain why it even makes sense to worry you'd leave the company. Don't feed the insecurity trolls.

These are all suggestions: adapt to your personal communications style as you see fit. A more aggressive tone works for some people -- personally I'm not one of them. The critical thing is to make a choice and to demonstrate your commitment to that choice through consistent action.

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