[adv/disc]Predictive scenario 01: Co-workers and discussing my personal life

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[adv/disc]Predictive scenario 01: Co-workers and discussing my personal life Empty [adv/disc]Predictive scenario 01: Co-workers and discussing my personal life

Post by Kurairush on Sun Jun 07, 2015 11:15 am

Tomorrow I'm going to a job interview and I am hoping that I will get the job.
But my "insecurebrain" has activated itself and is trying to tell that I shouldn't share my personal life with co-workers, should I get the job.

I don't mind answering questions like "Where did you go to college?", "What is your degree?" or work-related stuff.
But if I were to get a question like "what do you outside of work?", I feel like responding with either "I'm sorry, but I'd rather not divulge into my hobbies." or a fast and awkward "video games, anime, writing. That should satisfy you , so be go and be on your way."

If they respond after I said the second thing, I feel like saying "I'm not interested in discussing this further. As I said before, go and be on your way."
Though it is unlikely to occur, my insecurebrain is imagining a scenario where the same co-worker bothers me at lunch while I am sitting at a table alone.

Oy.. I don't even know why I'm worrying about this in the first place because they may choose someone else for the position after the interview. Facepalm
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Post by PintsizeBro on Sun Jun 07, 2015 1:11 pm

Is there something specific to this job that having a short conversation with a coworker about the TV show you're currently watching would be inappropriate? Or is this more a situation where you have a hard time talking about yourself with people you don't know very well?

A coworker who asks questions like "What do you like to do outside of work?" isn't trying to interrogate your or put you on the spot, they're trying to get to know a person that they will be spending 1/3 of their day, 5 days a week with. I see my coworkers more than I see my friends, that's just the nature of the work day.

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Post by Caffeinated on Sun Jun 07, 2015 1:22 pm

PintsizeBro is right, they're not trying to interrogate you. But I think I know what you mean about feeling uncomfortable with questions. It can really feel like you're being put on the spot. The way I handled that was to prepare some basic canned responses and things to say when chatting with coworkers in the break room. Things like: "Oh, you know, hang out with friends, stuff like that. What about you?" (Notice the 'What about you' at the end. That's a very handy thing when feeling uncomfortable with a question, because if a friendly person asks you a particular question, they're probably cool with being asked that same question themself.) I also paid a little more attention to sports and celebrity gossip, as those were two topics that interested lots of my coworkers and are pretty neutral topics of conversation. Another handy topic is to find out if a lot of people in the office like a particular TV show, and follow that show as well. A couple of shows I've seen work particularly well are American Idol and Dancing With The Stars.
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Post by Enail on Sun Jun 07, 2015 5:07 pm

I think your reasons for not wanting to answer make a difference to how it would be best to handle it. Is it about wanting to seem very professional, keeping work and outside life separate, feeling like your hobbies aren't ones that others in that environment would respect, something else I haven't thought of?  

I don't think either of your sample answers are your best strategy - the second one sounds hostile, and the first one sounds overtly mysterious enough that people might try to badger you into talking or assume that your hobbies are very socially unacceptable. In most circumstances, I'd think something along the lines of Caffeinated's canned non-committal responses is a better plan - people are more likely to feel satisfied with the response and leave it be without making you assert your boundaries more forcefully, and it comes across as friendlier if reserved, which will let you maintain better working relationships even if you don't want to be buddies.
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Post by reboot on Mon Jun 08, 2015 12:43 am

Best way to dodge questions about your after work life is to make yourself sound super boring. No strong interests, no hobbies, just watch TV without really paying attention to what you watch, ect.. Be super nondistinct and no one will ask you much after one time.

Side note: apparently this is advice given to intelligence agents if they want to fly under the radar. Boring is invisible
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Post by eselle28 on Mon Jun 08, 2015 12:52 am

Yeah, I'm going to add another vote for being bland. Watching TV, movies, spending time with friends. As a young man, I think you can add video games to the list without provoking curiosity. It also sounds like you like classic rock, at least for some definitions? I think it's unlikely anyone will follow up on that, either, since it's common.
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[adv/disc]Predictive scenario 01: Co-workers and discussing my personal life Empty Re: [adv/disc]Predictive scenario 01: Co-workers and discussing my personal life

Post by Kurairush on Mon Jun 08, 2015 11:33 am

Yeah, I do enjoy classic rock. I'm sure if I mentioned that I liked the Beach Boys, all of them would leave me alone. Razz
But I was considering the option of handling a conversation like this, using what Caffeinated suggested:

Them: "What do you do outside of work?"
Me: "Video games, listen to music, nerd stuff. What about you?"
Them:*insert monologue about their hobbies*
Me: "That's okay, I guess."

Though, if they do persist, I feel like saying "They say that you're supposed to keep your personal life and work separate. The only exceptions are emergencies. I'd prefer to keep things that way."
But I'm not sure if that sounds too rude. I just want to be able to work without having to befriend co-workers in order to avoid the "you're not a team player" remark.

It should not have to be a requirement for me to divulge my personal life to co-workers in order to have a job.

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Post by Guest on Mon Jun 08, 2015 11:49 am

There's a difference between not wanting to share personal information about your life and not wanting to talk with your coworkers about non-work stuff ever. The first is fine. The second, I would argue, IS you being a non-team-player. Part of working effectively as a team involves at least the veneer of polite acquaintanceship, and refusing to engage on social stuff is more how you deal with enemies you have to work with than with polite acquaintances.

I've met very few people who would object or think you rude if you had a conversation like this:
Them: Morning! How was your weekend? Do anything fun?
Me: Oh, fine. Nothing exciting. You?
Them: Oh, I did blah blah and blahbitty blah blah blah! And then I blah, and blah, so other than the rain it was great!
Me: Sounds like a great time!

But the "that's okay, I guess" or the "They say that you're supposed to keep your personal life and work separate. The only exceptions are emergencies. I'd prefer to keep things that way" sound really hostile to me, like you are broadcasting, "I only tolerate your presence because I am paid to do so," at them. And that is absolutely going to create the sense that you're not a part of the team, and you will be shut out and less effective because of it.

One of the best ways to avoid talking about yourself is to turn it into an opportunity for the other person to talk about themself instead. If you do that and are appropriately friendly and affirming about what they say, you'll come across great.

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Post by eselle28 on Mon Jun 08, 2015 12:18 pm

Kurairush wrote:
Though, if they do persist, I feel like saying "They say that you're supposed to keep your personal life and work separate.  The only exceptions are emergencies. I'd prefer to keep things that way."
But I'm not sure if that sounds too rude.  I just want to be able to work without having to befriend co-workers in order to avoid the "you're not a team player" remark.

It should not have to be a requirement for me to divulge my personal life to co-workers in order to have a job.

I would really suggest just keeping the deflections going. Something like that really just calls attention to a preference that's a little unusual, but which sounds like it's harmless. Additionally, someone who doesn't have the benefit of text and who's just hearing you talk might interpret the "emergencies" bit as meaning that you need lots of time off rather than that you're occasionally willing to work late.

If someone follows up on a statement that you like video games with, "Oh, what kinds do you like?" I would suggest just saying that you like a wide variety and then asking if they game. Same with music, same with television. I don't think people are going to be as interested in this as you think if you give dull answers, so I'd just focus on avoiding making statements about the preference, because I think they might be taken the wrong way rather than understood as a somewhat unusual but harmless preference.
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Post by Kurairush on Mon Jun 08, 2015 12:57 pm

But there's the off chance that a co-worker may continye to badger me with questions or become suspicious of my deflecting.
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Post by Guest on Mon Jun 08, 2015 1:18 pm

There's also the off chance that your coworker will leave little cursing talismans on your desk or be a spy for your rival company or be one of those Undercover Boss people or kidnap you for your organs. Sometimes preparing for the worst is going to sabotage the most-likely cases.

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Post by eselle28 on Mon Jun 08, 2015 1:27 pm

Kurairush wrote:But there's the off chance that a co-worker may continye to badger me with questions or become suspicious of my deflecting.

I guess I thought we were talking about an interview. Your interviewer isn't likely to take more than a couple of passes at that question, and if they do, that may be a sign that it is one of those workplaces where people are expected to be particularly social and may not be a place you'd be okay working anyway. I'd stick with being polite rather than drawing a boundary with someone who hasn't even offered you the job in that case.

As for coworkers, I'd give them a vague answer and then one deflection as well before you decide it's a problem. It sounds like you don't actually know what these people are like yet, and I think there's a decent chance no one will actually be all that pushy about the personal life of someone who doesn't seem interested in talking about it. If someone is pushy, I think there are cases where your script about keeping your personal life separate is appropriate, but I do think that's the most escalated option short of going to HR. Less escalated ones are, "Oh, hey, look at that email/pile of papers/line of customers! I should go check on that!" (in cases where you're on the clock) and, "Hey, I know you're trying to be welcoming, but I generally need my lunch/break to listen to music/read/do other decompressing activity." But, again, I don't think you should devote a lot of headspace to imagining this potential problem, since you don't know it will happen yet.
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Post by Caffeinated on Mon Jun 08, 2015 1:46 pm

Kurairush wrote:Yeah, I do enjoy classic rock.  I'm sure if I mentioned that I liked the Beach Boys, all of them would leave me alone. Razz
But I was considering the option of handling a conversation like this, using what Caffeinated suggested:

Them: "What do you do outside of work?"
Me: "Video games, listen to music, nerd stuff. What about you?"
Them:*insert monologue about their hobbies*
Me: "That's okay, I guess."

Though, if they do persist, I feel like saying "They say that you're supposed to keep your personal life and work separate.  The only exceptions are emergencies. I'd prefer to keep things that way."
But I'm not sure if that sounds too rude.  I just want to be able to work without having to befriend co-workers in order to avoid the "you're not a team player" remark.

It should not have to be a requirement for me to divulge my personal life to co-workers in order to have a job.


I would probably not go with "That's okay, I guess" or the bit about keeping personal and work life separate (unless you're in a top secret spy service kind of job, in which case that might not come off as strange).

In place of the "okay, I guess" part, I'd go with something like: "Sounds like fun. Well, talk to you later." (and then return to your office/desk/station/whatever). That keeps it casual and cordial without inviting more intimacy but also without signalling hostility.

Another possible response would be to acknowledge and then change the subject to work-related things. So:

Them: "What do you do outside of work?"
Me: "Video games, listen to music, nerd stuff. What about you?"
Them:*insert monologue about their hobbies*
Me: "Sounds like fun. Hey, I wanted to ask you about [work thing] project, do you know who's in charge of [aspect of work thing] for that?" (or other work-related question as appropriate)
Them: *answers work question*
Me: "Thanks!"
(all return to working/talking about work things)

If you keep your responses to personal conversation short, boring, casual, and cordial, plus always immediately change the subject back to something about work, it should be pretty clear to everyone that you're there to work and want to keep things professional.
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Post by PintsizeBro on Mon Jun 08, 2015 6:40 pm

Being able to make small talk about fairly neutral topics is also just an important life skill. I kind of wonder if that's the real reason so many people follow sports. I mean, think about it: you're watching a bunch of strangers get paid obscene amounts of money to play a children's game. Why do so many people do that, week after week, year after year? It gives them something to talk about with other people. I mean, sports can be polarizing, but not in the same way politics are. I don't care if you root for the Warriors over the Kings but if you voted for Prop 8 back in '08 and haven't changed your position since (it's been 7 years, that's plenty of time), I am going to have a problem with that.

But I digress. The point is, you can spend 5 minutes a day reading sports news and that will give you a safe, neutral topic to bring up when your coworkers want to chat about non-work stuff.

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Post by reboot on Mon Jun 08, 2015 7:27 pm

Kurairush wrote:But there's the off chance that a co-worker may continye to badger me with questions or become suspicious of my deflecting.

It is a pretty off chance. Most people care about as much about their coworkers in their off hours as you care, ie not very much. If someone badgers, just say, "I am pretty boring, not much to say. So you mentioned you like X? How long have you been doing it?" and just keep turning it back to their interests.If they ask if you have seen or played something say no (even if you have) and ask them what they thought of it. Most people would rather talk about themselves than you, so this will not seem suspicious at all and you will seem like a team player because you are interested in others.

Trust me on this though, most coworkers are only talking to be polite in the break room and are most are going to bring up weather, traffic, new restaurants close to work or some work related activity before they get to your hobbies
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Post by Kurairush on Tue Jun 09, 2015 1:30 am

Hmm.. with all of this advice, I'll be able to keep my hobbies and personal life to myself. This will also prevent any potential embarrassment at work and it will also keep people from trying to befriend me.

The problem is if I forget to utilize my scripts every time this occurs and my cover is blown if I do something like use an anime wallpaper. That still isn't a mainstream hobby, y'know.
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Post by reboot on Tue Jun 09, 2015 9:13 am

Kurairush wrote:Hmm.. with all of this advice, I'll be able to keep my hobbies and personal life to myself.  This will also prevent any potential embarrassment at work and it will also keep people from trying to befriend me.

The problem is if I forget to utilize my scripts every time this occurs and my cover is blown if I do something like use an anime wallpaper.  That still isn't a mainstream hobby, y'know.

That is easy. If someone asks what it is, just say "I do not know. I just liked the picture." Only time that might become a bad response is if the other person recognizes it and says, "Oh wow! $Anime name!" since it might tempt you to talk about anime with them.

I have to say, though, in all my years of working, the only commentary I have made or heard about screen savers is, "Oh that is pretty!" or occasionally "Where was that picture taken?". They are not really comment worthy
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Post by Kurairush on Tue Jun 09, 2015 8:40 pm

Unfortunately, I got passed over after the interview due to my entry-level experience.
But I will keep this advice in mind for the future!
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