Author Topic: Nancy the Nosy Co-worker  (Read 9347 times)

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LadyClaire

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Nancy the Nosy Co-worker
« on: August 12, 2014, 10:44:39 AM »
I have a new co-worker in my office suite, who has been here for just over a month. While our desks sit closely together, we work for completely different departments that do not really interact in terms of work and responsibilities. Our desks just happen to be that close because we're very limited on space here and there was nowhere else to put her.

This co-worker, Nancy, is very, very slow to do her work. She will be given a small, simple task to do and will take well over a week to do it. I think her main issue with slowness is because she wants to be a part of every single thing that goes on around her. My office deals with the research labs, so often times I'll have a researcher stop by my desk to ask if we can order more of this or that chemical, or they have a question about a particular form they need to fill out, or something along those lines. Any time someone stops by to ask a question or talk about something, she will stop working, turn around in her chair, and watch us, swiveling her head back and forth as though she is watching a tennis match. This has actually made several people uncomfortable, because she is so clearly engrossed in our conversation. We're not being overly loud or disruptive, and it's typically all work-related things, so we're not disturbing her work with gossip or banter. In addition to the watching, she'll sometimes interrupt the conversation with a completely unrelated question or comment. For example, one day last week, a professor came to tell me that we needed to order more of a particular chemical they use to clean the lab glassware. Nancy stopped her work, turned around, and did her usual staring. Finally, at a break in our conversation, she interjected that she dislikes going to the dentist but had a dentist appointment later that week. The professor sort of stared at her for a second and said he'd just e-mail me later about the chemicals.

It's not limited to in-person conversations. I had to call a company to get a quote for a particular service we need. She stopped her work, turned around, and watched me as I talked on the phone to the company.

It's making me uncomfortable. She doesn't just do it to me, either. Anyone having a conversation anywhere within her line of sight gets watched and she interjects random stories or questions into their conversation.

Any ideas on how to handle her?

pwv

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Re: Nancy the Nosy Co-worker
« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2014, 10:49:21 AM »
Talk to your supervisor about how disruptive Nancy's actions are and hopefully your supervisor will talk to Nancy's supervisor about it.

LadyClaire

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Re: Nancy the Nosy Co-worker
« Reply #2 on: August 12, 2014, 10:52:35 AM »
Talk to your supervisor about how disruptive Nancy's actions are and hopefully your supervisor will talk to Nancy's supervisor about it.

I have actually complained to both my supervisor and one of Nancy's supervisors about it, and nothing so far has been said to her. Unfortunately my place of work is very much a "we can't hurt anyone's feelings" sort of place, even if it's regarding inappropriate or disruptive behavior.

Outdoor Girl

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Re: Nancy the Nosy Co-worker
« Reply #3 on: August 12, 2014, 10:56:06 AM »
Is there anyway to put up a barrier between your desks so you at least don't have to deal with her staring at you?  Some sort of divider, like they make cubical walls out of?
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MrTango

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Re: Nancy the Nosy Co-worker
« Reply #4 on: August 12, 2014, 10:56:24 AM »
In that case, the next time she stops her work to listen to a conversation, I'd address her directly: "Nancy, is there a reason you're taking such an interest in my work?"

Make it uncomfortable for her to be so obvious about listening in on your conversations, and maybe she'll at least learn to be somewhat discrete about it.

VorFemme

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Re: Nancy the Nosy Co-worker
« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2014, 11:03:03 AM »
Nancy has a problem - I'm not sure what it is - but she apparently has an attention span shorter than a butterfly's, no filters about eavesdropping on listening to other people's conversations, and a seeming inability to multi-task at all, if anything going on around her means that she has to stop working (at work) to watch and listen (really, moving her head back & forth like she's watching a ball going back & forth from one end of a court to another?), and then trying to interject herself into the conversation (back to the eavesdropping interjecting herself into any conversation that she's close enough to overhear).

How does any part of her job get done at all if she spends so little time at work, you know, *working*?
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LadyL

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Re: Nancy the Nosy Co-worker
« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2014, 11:16:56 AM »
"Nancy, do you need something?" - repeat each time she stares, up to maybe 3-4 times. After that, I would wait till after the conversation that prompted her staring, and say to her directly "Nancy, it's distracting to me when you turn your attention to my conversations with our coworkers. I don't know if you realized that you were doing that?" Give her a chance to respond and correct her behavior. If that doesn't work I'd get more forceful: "Nancy, I'll let you know if I need anything from you." "Nancy, I have this handled, you can go back to your work."

I would consider requesting a work space trade with someone either not bothered by Nancy's behavior or willing to be very assertive with her if this doesn't work.

Lynn2000

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Re: Nancy the Nosy Co-worker
« Reply #7 on: August 12, 2014, 11:21:44 AM »
Trying to put a positive spin on it--is it possible this is her method of learning more about what goes on at work and how to do it? I know you guys are in different areas, but are there any general tasks, which she may need to do but doesn't feel like she's been well-trained on, and when she sees you doing them she wants to watch so she can learn better herself? It's not necessarily an appropriate way of going about it, but it could be her intentions are good.

Maybe after she does the staring thing again, after the person leaves you could say, "Hey, Nancy, did you need something? I noticed you were paying close attention to our conversation just now, so I thought perhaps you were waiting for us to finish so you could ask me something." If she's just like, "No, what's the big deal?" you could say, "Oh. Well, I think it makes some people uncomfortable when you pay so much attention to our conversation, and even interrupt it. Could you just keep on working when someone approaches my desk?"

Or her response may indicate some other issue--like if she says it distracts her, you could suggest she wear earphones, or offer to help her find a barrier you can put up between your desks (which would help you as well). And if she's like, "I don't understand how to do X and you do it well, so I like to watch and learn," you could reply, "Thanks, that's flattering, but I feel like it makes people uncomfortable to be watched and interrupted. If you want more instruction on X, I would be happy to help you this afternoon/you should talk to your supervisor."
~Lynn2000

bonyk

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Re: Nancy the Nosy Co-worker
« Reply #8 on: August 12, 2014, 11:39:31 AM »
I agree with asking Nancy what she needs.  Do it every single time she stares. Look puzzled if she doesn't need anything or interjects something random.  If she does make a random comment, reply, "oh, okay, but that has nothing to do with ____, so we'll talk about that later."

I suspect Nancy is extremely socially awkward and needs some training.

LadyClaire

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Re: Nancy the Nosy Co-worker
« Reply #9 on: August 12, 2014, 12:33:56 PM »
Trying to put a positive spin on it--is it possible this is her method of learning more about what goes on at work and how to do it? I know you guys are in different areas, but are there any general tasks, which she may need to do but doesn't feel like she's been well-trained on, and when she sees you doing them she wants to watch so she can learn better herself? It's not necessarily an appropriate way of going about it, but it could be her intentions are good.

We really don't have any general tasks that we both do. My job is managing the inventory of chemicals in the labs, scheduling services for the equipment, making sure we're OSHA compliant, and keeping track of the research grants. I also have one large event that I plan. There's more that I do than that, but it's all related to research in one way or another. Her job is scheduling appointments for faculty, keeping track of their vacation requests, and assisting the faculty with their general daily needs. So our departments really have absolutely nothing in common. She would never have to call to schedule service for equipment or help a researcher with their grant budget, or even do anything along those lines. I've also made it clear to her that my department and hers not only never intersect in terms of daily tasks, but she would never be required to act as backup for me.

She does the watching thing to everyone. If she comes across two people in another part of the building talking, she'll stop and watch/listen. She did it to the maintenance man when he was discussing the repair of the water fountain with the plumber while they were in our office suite, halfway across the office from her.

LadyClaire

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Re: Nancy the Nosy Co-worker
« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2014, 12:38:41 PM »
I agree with asking Nancy what she needs.  Do it every single time she stares. Look puzzled if she doesn't need anything or interjects something random.  If she does make a random comment, reply, "oh, okay, but that has nothing to do with ____, so we'll talk about that later."

I suspect Nancy is extremely socially awkward and needs some training.

She is very socially awkward and also inappropriate at times. She will do things like pull up pictures of shirtless men and say "Hey, look at this guy. I'd like to wake up to him every morning. I'd be late a few times though, if you know what I mean..."

Kaypeep

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Re: Nancy the Nosy Co-worker
« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2014, 12:45:01 PM »
I'd tell Nancy something like "You know, you're new here so I'm going to give you some advice.  We have an open office space here and sometimes you're going to overhear co-workers going about their business.  You need to learn to shut that out or ignore it, because what you're doing by turning to look, listen and interrupt when others are talking and doing their work is just drawing attention to yourself and the fact that you're not doing your job.  Many people have already said something to me about it.   You need to work on being discreet and minding your own business, or you're going to have trust and competence issues with other workers here."

LadyClaire

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Re: Nancy the Nosy Co-worker
« Reply #12 on: August 12, 2014, 12:54:10 PM »
Nancy has a problem - I'm not sure what it is - but she apparently has an attention span shorter than a butterfly's, no filters about eavesdropping on listening to other people's conversations, and a seeming inability to multi-task at all, if anything going on around her means that she has to stop working (at work) to watch and listen (really, moving her head back & forth like she's watching a ball going back & forth from one end of a court to another?), and then trying to interject herself into the conversation (back to the eavesdropping interjecting herself into any conversation that she's close enough to overhear).

How does any part of her job get done at all if she spends so little time at work, you know, *working*?

We've already had issues with her not completing tasks when she needed to have them done. She once took a week to make a simple set of name tags because she kept stopping her work to talk to people, or watch people. Then she accidentally closed the file with the name tags without having saved all day and lost a day's worth of work. I warned her that she needs to save as much as possible because our system crashes a lot, and if it crashes, you might not get your work back. To which she replied "yeah I know, last time it crashed I lost all of the vacation requests I'd been working on because I hadn't saved them yet".

So there are more issues with her than just the whole watching/interrupting thing.

Amara

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Re: Nancy the Nosy Co-worker
« Reply #13 on: August 12, 2014, 01:01:59 PM »
I'd tell Nancy something like "You know, you're new here so I'm going to give you some advice.  We have an open office space here and sometimes you're going to overhear co-workers going about their business.  You need to learn to shut that out or ignore it, because what you're doing by turning to look, listen and interrupt when others are talking and doing their work is just drawing attention to yourself and the fact that you're not doing your job.  Many people have already said something to me about it.   You need to work on being discreet and minding your own business, or you're going to have trust and competence issues with other workers here."

I'd take a two-pronged approach. First, the one by Kaypeep, above. Second, the one others have suggested: "Do you need something?" repeated ad nauseam. If she answers "no," then I would add "It's impolite to listen in on others' conversations, you know."

Any time others share their discomfort with you tell them how you are approaching it now. I suspect that if many people use exactly the same approach and same words she will finally get the message. Alternatively, everyone can, separately, go to her supervisor and tell that person how uncomfortable and unprofessional it is to have her obviously listening. (Her losing work and being slow is something that should, if her supervisor is at all alert, come up without anyone else mentioning it.)

Deetee

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Re: Nancy the Nosy Co-worker
« Reply #14 on: August 12, 2014, 01:10:59 PM »
Nancy is not going to change (from your brief description) and it doesn't sound like your supervisors will do anything. In your position, I would try to do anything/everything to get away.

(I was in a different situation but with some similarities-I had a desk that was in the most high traffic area of our lab. I was next to the phone-which was answered by the closest person. I was next to the door-where students and random people would come in looking for everyone else. I was right beside the informal break area. After a year, I just requested that I move to a newly vacated desk in a more quiet area. It wasn't as close to my work but I could work for more than 15 uninterrupted minutes)

So ideas that will not require Nancy changing her behavior

1) New desk?-best solution
2) Screen between your work areas.
3) Move your computer/file cabinet etc.. to  adjust where you are facing
4) When someone stops by, pick up a notepad and stand up and walk a few steps away to have your conversation (with your backs to Nancy)
5) Keep requesting a new desk area.


edit: I just want to clarify that all the ideas of how to approach Nancy and your supervisors are all great ideas. My ideas are for when/if those do not pan out. I'm hoping she is only on probation so she can be let go.
« Last Edit: August 12, 2014, 02:07:23 PM by Deetee »