A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem
Dear Sue: Here is my dilemma: I have a co-worker who, up until
now has said very little to me. She recently started sharing some of her
personal life with me and was ranting on about how men, in general, are
not trust worthy and no good in relationships. I got so tired of hearing
her comments that I suggested she consider dating women—that maybe she
would find more satisfaction in being in a lesbian relationship.
A week later I was pulled into my boss’s office and told that my
co-worker was offended by my remark. I am not sure where I went wrong. I
do not find anything offensive about a gay relationship and would not be
offended if someone told me I should be gay. How do I learn to recognize
what is a boundary with someone?
Sue Says: In the situation you’ve described, it sounds to me as
if your coworker was, as you said, ranting, and not necessarily seeking
a solution when she was talking with you. She may have just wanted to
vent. She was complaining about men because of her involvement with
them. I can understand how your suggestion she date women appeared
A person who is ranting typically is not in a problem solving mode.
You are better off not offering advice, but what you can do if you
choose is to listen empathetically.
When you feel you are being burdened with someone else’s problem, you
need to put up your own boundaries and put an end to the conversation.
If you feel uncomfortable, say so. It is best to stay away from talking
about personal problems with coworkers. Try to keep the conversation
light, especially with this particular coworker.
Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She
is author of the newly released
101 Tips for Graduates and
How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her web site at
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