I've found myself in somewhat of an awkward situation, or at least it seems that way to me. Personally, I like to metaphorically wear two outfits: one for when I'm not at work and one when I'm doing my 9-to-5 day-job. I love to relax and have fun with friends and be silly online when not working, but when I go to work, I try to carry myself respectably, seriously, and professionally. I am a software engineer, by the way.

And as with a good chunk of software engineers out there, I do enjoy me some videogames, and have had a steam account since about 10 years ago, give or take. I try to put gaming in the relaxed, non-serious, non-professional partition of my life. However, compartmentalizing everything like that doesn't quite work out all the time.

Recently, the topic of a certain video game came up between a couple of my coworkers and myself, while we were on the job. I have been with the company for many years longer than either of them and am in somewhat of a minor mentoring position with them. And then came the question: "Hey, do you have Steam?" I didn't lie, of course I have Steam. And then he wanted to know my Steam handle, and that's where things start to get weird. He wanted to gift me this particular game I haven't played and to play online.

As I said before, I try to compartmentalize my professional life away from my personal life. While I respect my coworkers and bear them no ill will, I realize that the workplace is the workplace, and a coworker is not automatically my friend. I don't really want to decline his good intentions, but I would prefer to not expose the personal details--especially those of my online persona--to my coworkers. I told him that I'd get back to him after I finish up my work (because I have been genuinely very busy), just to give myself some time to think things through.

How can I best handle this sort of situation without coming off like a total prude?

  • 2
    Hello nasukkin and welcome to the Workplace. I'd recommend reading this question about accepting colleagues as Facebook friends; particularly its accepted answer. Both Steam and Facebook are social media at the end of the day, so the same advice applies.
    – rath
    Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 8:47
  • "I don't really want to decline his good intentions, but I would prefer to not expose the personal details" - from your description it seems like you will have to choose one or the other (gracefully decline, or give your details).
    – Brandin
    Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 18:44

6 Answers 6


Be open, honest, and direct.

I too like to keep my work life separate from my private life, and I have found myself in similar circumstances a few times in the past. The first time it happened, I shared my information and had the opportunity to learn from my mistakes. I think it is wise of you to keep your online persona private.

With that said, as with most things, the best path forward is to be open, honest, and direct. Explain to your coworker using the same terms you used to explain it to us. You might apologize, and compliment the person before getting started. Explain that you like him/her and that it isn't anything personal. I'm sure he/she will understand.

I've never had an issue, and it hasn't damaged my work relationships when I decline to divulge my online identity.


I'll answer your actual question directly first...

I would tell him that you don't want to give out that information in much the same way you've explained it here. Anything else would just be beating around the bush and isn't a surefire way to achieve your end goal of not disclosing the information.

Example - "Sorry, I don't like to give out my Steam details as I like to keep my work life and outside life separate from each other"

Then I'd perhaps explain that maybe you'd share your details with him once you get to know him a little better (if that's what you'd actually do).

Now to avoid the situation in future

If you really have no intention of giving out information to people regardless of how well you know them at work. Simply state that you don't have Steam or whatever else it might be that they're asking. If someone's asking if you have something like a social media profile then I can assure you that their next question is likely going to be a request as to where they can find your profile.

An alternative to this would be to answer yes, but immediately state that you don't like to give details out to work colleagues.

Regardless if you want to keep 2 separate 'lives', you're not helping your chances of making friends in the workplace which may hinder your chances of progression and unfortunately it's not what you know, rather it's who you know.

  • well having some one in your steam friend list dont make him your friend eider. I cant see how it is bad. Steam isnt your life .
    – kifli
    Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 7:34
  • Socializing at work is a great way to build a network. Although they might be the same level as you're now, they may someday progress upwards and remember you. Also if they change company, they might put in a good word for you and get you a good job elsewhere. Would you really risk that just because you don't want to mess up your Steam account?
    – Dan
    Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 12:57
  • 4
    I completely agree with your first half, but I can't +1 because of the second. Lying never helps. You'll just accidentally slip up at some point and get caught contradicting yourself. It's best just to be honest from the beginning. Besides, you can still talk and socialize about Steam and the games you play without being connected.
    – David K
    Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 13:02
  • +1 primarily for the last part of the answer: I actually prefer connecting with work colleagues via Steam/battle.net, because it's explicitly not a platform where I'm required to censor myself. Now that Steam has an Appear Offline feature, there's not even the, "home sick, but online" concern.
    – darkside
    Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 0:51

He wanted to gift me this particular game I haven't played and to play online.

You'd have to refer to your HR department about your company's gift giving policy. Most companies have strict policies about the ceiling dollar value of a gift you can give to other employees. Most companies set it to about 20 dollars (or whatever currency your country uses).

If this game costs a lot of money, you can approach it at that angle and simply say you cannot accept a gift at such a high dollar value.

As far as accepting steam friends, can't you accept them then block them without them knowing? They won't even know you're online and all they might see is your profile and what games you might be playing. I accepted a couple of people from work as Steam contacts and I never talk to them and never had any issues.


Crafting and maintaining an online image of yourself is very difficult. Like you, I have to maintain two of them, an online self, and a professional self.

A google search of my steam account would send you to 1000s of message forums, games, and probably stupid things I did as a kid because I have been using the same name since 2003. I might have my own James Gunn like message somewhere and just don't remember it, or have no option to delete it.

So how to answer this? Exactly like that, tell them you have to keep your online history secret and you cannot accept or play with them.

However, a secondary, less rude answer. Just make a new steam account, one with a different unrecognizable name. This is a perfectly fine solution. It will still be really obvious that it's not your main account, but you still get to play together, they still get to give you a game, and you can switch accounts whenever you want. You can even use family sharing and link your secondary account to your main account for lots of games (but not all). The downside of course is you are now maintaining 3 stories about yourself instead of only 2.


Try this:

Please understand that this is no offence to you. But my policy is to keep a boundary between my personal life and work. This just works better for me. You DO understand, right?

If you get any other response than "yes", don't explain and whatever you hear, just keep saying, "That's my policy." Stand your ground.


The easiest way to solve this issue without causing offense and maintaining your professional appearance would be to look at the game in question and tell your co-workers it doesn't look like your type of game, or that you're too busy with other things to pick up a new one. Online games, particularly multiplayer ones, generally take a large time commitment, and I think most would understand that you don't want to invest the time in learning some new game that you probably wouldn't even enjoy. This seems similar to a co-worker inviting you to see a movie or to go to a concert.

In fact, drawing parallels to a movie invitation would maybe make this co-worker "get the hint" that it's inappropriate--I've never been invited to see a movie by a co-worker, as it's very obvious that it's inappropriate to ask someone you aren't friends with to a movie. The co-worker probably isn't really aware of the time imposition his request would be, since he views playing this game as what he does in his spare time anyway.

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