Post # 1
I guard my personal life like a prison. Well, maybe not that tightly but pretty close. Work and life are separate and I prefer to keep it that way.
This has never been a problem, but I recently moved to a new smaller town where folks are much more social at work than what I am comfortable with/accustomed to. My boss is particuarly in everyone’s business. I think she is well meaning, but I am not interested in divulging my life.
So here are a couple of scenarios.
1. I have been invited to a few social gatherings. To keep up apperances, I went to a dinner at my bosses house. I did not bring my fiance. I have never taken him to work functions and that has never been an issue. I was asked a barrage of questions about where he was, why he didn’t come, what does he do for a living, how we met. etc. I told her politely he was not able to make it, that he had his own plans. I said we met in college and reconnected after years apart on different coasts in graduate school. I think that is plenty but she continued/continues to ask about our relationship. She has asked to see his picture. I refuse.
2. I have been asked what my parents do for a living and where exactly they live in another state when I just give the general area (i.e. Baltimore is met with “what part?” where do they work?”
I think this is way too much personal info to share at work and frankly, I dont want folks privy to my sacred space-family life.
Any thoughts on how to navigate this? I have never dealt with such nosiness.
Post # 3
@threefifteen: Are you sure it’s nosiness and not him trying to be your friend (as well as your boss)?
We spend so much of our time at work, we sometimes make some of our best friendships there.
Maybe your boss is trying to be friends with her co-workers?
I feel like questions about your Fiance and your family are just a way to make conversation.
Once you accept invitations to spend time with people outside of the office, you are indication you are willing to have some conversational give and take (that usually involves revealing some information about yourself/your family).
Post # 4
I think she’s just trying to be friendly. Honestly, I think these are pretty typical small talk kinds of questions. I’m quite sure she didn’t mean to pry, as I think most people would not consider this to be nosy. She’s just trying to get to know you. Since her behaviour is pretty normal, if you are uncomfortable I think you’re going to have to just flat out tell her that you prefer to keep your personal life 100% separate from your work life.
Post # 5
You could always say due to your parents occupations, you’re not at liberty to discuss your family life. That’ll really get her thinking… lol
Post # 6
Honestly she sounds like she is trying to be friendly, but I will tell you that I understand how you feel. I keep my personal life incredibly private around the office. I didn’t even tell anyone that I was engaged. I mean eventually they found out cuz I was suddenly sporting a diamond, but I hear you on the privacy thing. I just keep my answers as brief as possible and change the subject to something work related. There have been a few occasions where I’ve said “I’d rather not talk about that right now.” or something along those lines.
Post # 7
If you’re uncomfortable with those types of questions, you’ll have to talk to her about it. She likely doesn’t mean anything by it, and will continue to ask about your family. It will eventually get very awkward to have to dodge the questions at work and at social functions, so you may as well come clean now that it makes you uncomfortable.
Post # 8
If your boss invited you to a social gathering where everyone else brought their SOs then I can see why she would ask where your Fiance was (presuming she knows you have one). I think she is just being friendly and wants to get to know you, especially since you work for her and it’s normal for her to want to know what makes you tick as an employee.
Even though what you do outside the office is your business, the person you are outside the office gives clues to how you will function at work. You can always just give her enough information to satisfy her natural curiousity without giving away too much.
Post # 9
Thank you for your comments. I do think she is nice, and trying to make me feel welcome/get to know me. But I think boundaries are important and that she is crossing them. Why does she need to know the exact area of a city where my parents live? Why does she need to know the organization where my fiance works? I think that is way too much detail. I try to make small talk about the weather, politics, events around town, but she wants to focus on my personal life. For instance, she asked if I had any friends in town. I said yes, they have helped me settle in. She wanted to know where they lived, where they worked, how I knew them. That is too much for me.
I worked for my prior boss for 6 years and he not only never met my partner, I doubt he could tell you his name. He was a fantastic boss and remains a mentor. We have spent weeks together traveling abroad and we talked a lot, about work. I told him I was getting married shortly before I left the organization and all he said was congrats, Im happy for you. No questions. This woman hasnt known me but a few months and she is wanting wedding details (there arent many) and all sorts of info on him.
Post # 10
@threefifteen: Some people are more interested in really getting to know their employees and some aren’t.
She probably is just trying to be friendly. When I got engaged many of the women at work wanted to know all about wedding plans, etc while the men weren’t really all that interested.
Just let her know you’d rather not talk about your personal life. You may have to decline some social invitations if you do not want to make social small talk.
Also, I’ve found the shorter/briefer your answers the more likely someone is to ask follow up questions. So if you say, “my parents live in x area” a common follow up question would be “OH, where in x?”
Maybe I’m wrong, but I assume when someone tells me they grew up near x or their parent’s live around x they are not giving more detail because they are assuming I won’t know the area.
Post # 11
Sounds like your new boss and co-workers aren’t necessarily wrong, they’re just different than what you’re used to. And that’s okay. It will take time to adjust, and you should never divulge any more than you’re comfortable. Just remember that you’re in a new place with new norms and see if you can strike a suitable work-life balance. 🙂
Post # 12
@threefifteen: It really sounds like your boss is just trying to get to know you. I’m much the same way and will pick a topic and continue with it just to make conversation. You could either switch the topic or pull her aside and tell her you’re uncomfortable discussing your personal life. Honestly, I think the latter option may hurt her feelings if she’s just trying to get to know you like it seems she is.
Post # 13
Thanks everyone. I appreciate your thoughts. I do keep my answers brief, and that is when the pushing/nosiness comes. As I am sure most of you know, saying nothing is not politically astute in the work setting and “social invitations” are not really social. You don’t go to the bosses dinner, you might as well kiss your chances for progression goodbye.
Post # 14
@Gemstone: Thanks, Im trying. I am from a place where “how was your weekend” was answered with “Fine”. And no follow up. These folks want to know, what you did, who you did it with, and if you’ll do it again!
Its very difficult for me.
Post # 15
@threefifteen: Okay, yeah, she sounds a little too intrusive and I doubt she even realizes it. But I think if you give her semi-vague answers and then change the subject to something more neutral she might get the hint eventually.
Post # 16
@threefifteen: It may be best to turn the questions back onto your boss when she’s getting into an area where you don’t want to talk about it. So rather than just giving short answer and somewhat inviting the next question, you can steer the conversation in a direction you are more comfortable in.
Yes, some “social” invitations are not necessarily optional. However, sometimes if you are too short with your answers you might be seen as anti-social or disinterested or even bordering on hostile.
You can be social and conversational without divulging a lot of personal information.