How to Deal with a

Needy Intrusive Colleague

“I have a work friend who has become quite needy and clingy and frequently interrupts me to talk about her personal problems or workplace issues when I need and want to focus on my job.

I don’t want to be rude but it’s getting to be too much. How do I distance myself without seeming rude and uncaring?”


Dear Irritated,

Your work friend is overly focused on herself and under-focused on the needs and interests of others.  This may be her usual style and you’re only becoming aware of it, or it may be situationally based on her current stressful situations.  In either case, it’s important for you to identify what you need and then express your needs.

Here are 3 scripts:

  • Assertively and kindly say something like, “I know you’re under a lot of stress right now, and yet I have to get my work done. I’m happy to talk after work (only if you are) but I’m just not able to spend time during the day chatting about this. I know you’ll understand.”
  • When she comes up to you and starts talking, interrupt her in a kind tone and say, “I’d love to chat but I have to stay focused on this project right now. Maybe we can talk after work.” And then go back to your job.
  • Express concern by saying, “You are really stressed right now and I’m concerned about you. Have you thought of talking to a professional counsellor about this? If you don’t I’m worried you will become unwell, and that will only make things worse.  [We have an EAP Program/extended health coverage that you could access to get help.]  Some of what you’re telling me is beyond my ability to help you.”

By Donna Marshall, M.A., Counselling Psychology, RP, CEO and Co-Founder


Endorsed by

Excellence Canada
Tom Beegan
Donna Marshall

Donna Marshall
M.A., Counselling Psychology, RP
CEO and Co-Founder

Dr. Stephanie Bot

Dr. Stephanie Bot,
C. Psych., Psychoanalyst
President and Co-Founder

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