I’ve always hated being around super-sensitive, clingy people. Now I work with one and she drives me crazy. When I started with this company, our boss told me our two jobs overlapped. He said I’d be successful based in part on the information Ms. Clingy provided me.
At first, I thought it great that she stopped my desk so often to get to know me. We lunched together several times the first several weeks. Now, I can’t shake her lose. She over-shares and expects me to do the same. Sorry, but I’m not interested in a BFF at work.
The trouble is, she acts like a kicked puppy when I don’t answer her questions which start out, “You know a lot about my life; I’d like to more about you.” I can’t even eat lunch at my desk. As soon as I pull my sandwich out of the fridge, she shows up. I’ve eaten in my car, but that’s getting old. I’m normally okay saying “no” to people who cross the line, but I’m new here and can’t afford to make her hostile. How can I say to get her to back off that doesn’t hurt her feelings and make t hings work?
We’ve all met someone in our personal or work life who wants a more intense relationship than we do. Sometimes the person is needy. Sometimes he or she misinterprets cues, as may have happened when you initially welcomed your coworker’s visits.
Clingy people demand constant attention and support. The more you entertain a needy person’s dependent habits, the more difficult you’ll find it to set limits. Give her and yourself the gift of gentle honesty. If she pulls up a chair when you’re eating, let her know you need a personal break from workplace interaction. If she backs off, reward her by saying, “thanks for understanding.” If she doesn’t, say “You know, I think I’ll go out for a short drive.” Then, find somewhere nearby to have your sandwich.
If she continues to drop in when you are working, make yourself a poor target. Let her know you need concentration so you can focus on your job duties. Even as you’re being clear and firm with your words, say them kindly. You don’t need to be rude or harsh to make your point. Finally, if your coworker is a stage five clinger, you may need to involve your boss.
© 2020, Lynne Curry
Lynne Curry, Ph.D., SPHR authored “Solutions” and “Beating the Workplace Bully.” Send your questions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her twitter @lynnecurry10.