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7 Ways to Manage a Nosy Boss
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7 Ways to Manage a Nosy Boss

Bosses, by and large, are not the most loved species. And yet some are more annoying than the others. One of the most maddening type is the nosy boss - a manager or a supervisor who wants to know every single detail of what you are doing, how you are doing it and why you are doing it. Not just that, this type also just assumes that it is your duty to keep him/her informed of your coordinates at all times, with scant regard to the time of the day, your situation, and even less, your mood.

How to identify a nosy boss?

While this is certainly no rocket science, sometimes (and in the initial stages of acquaintance) nosiness can be misread as concern/ friendliness/ idle chatter. As a new recruit, you may also feel obliged to respond to all questions coming your way, even if some make you feel distinctly uncomfortable.

A way to define in your mind what exactly makes up for nosiness is to evaluate whether the questions being asked have relevance to your work or any professional matter, the nature of the queries being made, whether they are often repeated, if they bother you, and most importantly if they could have a long-term repercussion on your professional growth and mental peace. So, if your boss keeps asking questions outside work or does unnecessarily close monitoring of how you are doing every task and how you are spending every single minute (official and non- official time), you know you are stuck with the nosy kind.

What is the reason your boss is nosy?

If a boss is being too curious there could be several reasons. It may be advisable to understand what makes him so interfering before chalking out a strategy to counter his menace.

One of the most harmless reasons is that you have a very chatty person for a manager - someone who just enjoys gossip and means no real mischief. Usually such a person is not even aware that he's being nosy. Trying to wriggle out using vague replies, in such a scenario, may not prove useful in the long run and a straight but polite conversation may be a better solution. As the person intends no harm, he may realize that his habitual questions bother you and stop. However, be careful to not get confrontational.

A second and more bothersome reason could be that you have a controlling boss - someone who never takes 'no' for an answer. Such a person automatically considers it his right to know whatever he needs to know about you at whatever time - "I called you an hour ago, you didn't take my call - where are you, what are you doing" or "Didn't see you at lunch, did you go out?" (if you answer that) "Where did you go?" (if you answer that as well) "Who all went?", etc.

The questions can come at awkward times also - say late in the evening when you are with your family. Sometimes it could reach a point where you start feeling more like a prisoner than an employee. This makes for a delicate situation and a variety of methods may be called for to avoid all the prying without spoiling the work equation.

A third type of nosy boss could be the smooth slayer - the kind who could take advantage of his superior position to get information that could help him professionally - like your creative ideas; or a personal information that he could use against you - for example an illness that you may not want to be known or a family situation you may not be comfortable discussing. Usually such a person is hard to figure out till lightning strikes and makes you wiser. However, once you have learnt your lesson, it's important to limit all conversation to the work at hand. and avoid any kind of small talks.

How to manage a nosy boss

Following are some tips that may help you steer clear of any unsolicited queries from your nosy boss -

Be vague. Eg. If your boss needs to know why you are going out for lunch, give a brief, general idea like - "Oh, just stepping out to catch up with some acquaintances."

Act unsure. If you are questioned on things that you would rather not discuss at work - say, your weekend plans - phrases like "I don't know yet", "Can't say, let's see" - can help you stay clear from all the probing without sounding offensive.

Take charge of the situation. If your boss is being annoyingly insensitive and takes no hint, do not lose your composure and try something stronger like - "I'm sorry I'm in a rush to finish this assignment / have to discuss the project with another team mate," act busy, pick-up your papers and make an exit.

Use humor. If you are the witty type, make use of humor to get past difficult conversations. Cut out cross-examination style questions with a poker-faced "When's the interrogation getting over?", and follow it up with a quick laugh, immediately changing the subject to something more mundane so that your boss finds it difficult going back to the original subject.

Be succinct with information. When you do feel the need to offer information, remember, you do not have to give all details. It's your prerogative to decide what information you want to share. Tell what's necessary and withhold any sensitive information pertaining to your family or friends.

Refuse politely. For more intrusive lines of queries, have the courage to calmly say that you had rather not speak on the subject as you aren't comfortable talking about it, and walk away.

Do not allow liberty with your personal possessions. If you catch your boss going through your personal possessions, looking through your drawers, private papers, emails, or checking your phone while you were away collecting a printout, challenge him without fail. A polite and slightly incredulous "Is there a problem? Can I help you?" may be enough to make him ashamed of his snooping. However stay calm. Getting angry or defensive could backfire as your manager may have genuinely been searching for a work-related document.

Lastly, beware electronic surveillance. Try not to send out sensitive emails or messages through office devices. Also, make sure you do not leave your personal devices unattended, lying around on your desk. Use these hacks to keep the nosy boss at an arms length and have a peaceful time at work.


Photo by: Thinkstock Images

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