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Setting Boundaries with Over-Sharers

Two barista discussing personal relationships at work
Two baristas discussing personal relationships at work
I have this coworker that frequently gives me way too much information about her personal life—especially her dating life. It isn’t so much about sexual or explicitly inappropriate things. She just gets overly attached to people very quickly and becomes devastated when these short things don’t work out. It seems like she’s always ‘in love’ with someone. I don’t want to seem like I don’t care about her well being, but the way she acts toward these relationships makes me uncomfortable, what should I do?

It sounds like you and I both know why your coworker is striking out in these relationships. She’s putting too much stake in (and too much pressure on) these people and it’s driving them away. It sounds like she’s doing the same to you: escalating your role in her life from co-worker to close friend. Your coworker is getting contextual feedback about this behavior in her romantic life—this pattern of vanishing prospective partners—but it doesn’t sound like she’s getting direct feedback from them about this behavior.

Now, I don’t think you’re under any obligation to break this cycle in her life (by giving her that direct feedback) but you also don’t necessarily have the luxury of simply cutting this person out of your life. So what do you do? I’m assuming you’re already fairly dismissive of these types of conversations and she’s just not picking up on those social cues—or intentionally ignoring them. You could tell her that you don’t feel comfortable discussing romantic relationships and dating in a professional setting, but then you run the risk of her seeing you talk about these things with others and calling you out on it.

I think ultimately the only way to put a stop to this behavior is to exert some level of honesty about it. You need to tell her that these conversations are crossing a boundary for you and that you’d prefer to keep conversation in your workplace a little lighter. That, or ask to move desks or something.

Looking Out for Over-Drinkers

Young businessman pouring wine in office party
Young businessman pouring wine in office party
One of my coworkers gets way too drunk at offsite work events. No one has said anything to him and I’m worried it could cause him problems or even cost him his job if it continues, but I don’t know how to talk to him about it or even if I should…What do you think?

If you care about this person and feel that you have some kind of rapport with him, I think it’d be good to have a conversation with him about this. Since you’re asking this question, I’m assuming one of these events either happened recently or is coming up in the near future. Given that information—or when that becomes true—I’d frame the discussion around that specific event.

Bring up the event—if it’s coming up—and say I wanted to mention to you really quick that at the last event we had, I noticed you drinking quite a lot. You were acting in ways that I don’t normally see you acting at work and I don’t necessarily think you’d have been acting in those ways had you not drank that much. You can keep it conversational and you don’t really need to bring up specifics.

Avoid implying that others have noticed this behavior—it’ll make you sound gossipy and might make him more uncomfortable than this conversation needs to. Assure him that you only mention it because you consider him a friend and you’re looking out for his well being. Don’t bring up alcoholism and don’t explicitly tell him what to do.

Hopefully your acknowledgement of this behavior makes him aware of it and hopefully that results in him correcting it.

Being there for Over-Studiers

Tired businesswoman studying late at office
Tired businesswoman studying late at office
My partner is getting ready to make a career change and is very focused on getting educated on her new field. This means a lot of her energy and time is going toward this. I want to be supportive and give her the space (and time) to learn the skills she needs for her new field, but sometimes I see her getting frustrated or stretching herself thin. How can I help her make sure she’s taking care of herself during this stressful time without holding her back?

A part of being focused on something is ignoring the world around you and as an outside party, you can do your partner a lot of good by reminding her that that world exists when you feel that it’s important to do so. Yes, we as humans are capable of handling a lot of stress, and in most cases, hunkering down on something 80 hours a week for a few months won’t kill us; but there are diminishing returns. If a person becomes too overworked, they don’t process information as well and it takes even more time to complete their ultimate goal.

You might also need to stand up for yourself as this unfolds. Your partner has obligations to you. Obviously you don’t want your relationship to feel like a chore or a responsibility but chances are, if your partner is neglecting you, they’re neglecting other important things too. If your partner is in school or some kind of structured training, yes, there might be periods where they’ve got exams or a very difficult class and they don’t come out of their study nook for a while. But if this becomes the norm rather than the exception, I think it’s a good idea to remind them that you (and the outside world) exists.

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This article originally published on GREY Journal.