The Snooping Co-worker. It just seems that he (she) has an unnatural interest in you and your work. His eyes conduct a thorough scan of your work area whenever he comes by. He’ll unabashedly pick up papers from your desk and read them. He has no problem asking questions that clearly cross over into ‘none of your business’ territory. You sometimes feel like he knows more about your life than you do.
Although Snoops might occasionally have some kind of nefarious agendas, they are more likely to be just harmless, but irrepressibly curious individuals who are unclear of the boundaries of what is socially appropriate.
Whatever the motivations, the behavior is worth addressing for both your benefit and theirs. Here are two great approaches that people have shared with me:
1. Make a joke about it. The next time he asks a personal question, or starts rifling through your paperwork, say something like, “What – do you work for the CIA or something?” Keep it as a running gag. The next time he snoops you could say, “There’s the spy guy again!”
2. If humor isn’t your strong suit, try a more direct approach. If the Snoop starts looking at your paperwork, take it away from him, smile, and simply say, “sorry, I’m kind of a private person.” Similarly if the Snoop asks you a question you don’t want to answer – hold a hand up, smile, and say the same sentence.
Both approaches are effective – and don’t have the unpleasant side-effect of alienating a co-worker.