How to Tell a Coworker to Back Off (With Examples!)

Having coworkers sticking their noses into your work and overstepping boundaries is incredibly frustrating.

Whether they are acting with good intentions or not, it feels condescending, it’s undermining you, and it’s annoying – all of which will have a negative impact on your work.

Telling a coworker to back off without offending them or causing a scene isn’t always easy, but it’s possible.

Here are some ways how to tell a coworker to back off that should get the message across!

How to Tell a Coworker to Back Off

If a coworker is constantly asking how your project is going or offering unsolicited advice, it can be tough to know how to tell them to back off without sounding rude.

The key is to be direct, but also maintain a level of professionalism and respect.

Here are some phrases you can use the next time a coworker starts to overstep their boundaries:

  • “I appreciate your interest, but I’ve got this covered.”
  • “I’m not comfortable discussing this with you.”
  • “This is something I need to figure out on my own.”
  • “I’d prefer to keep this between me and my team, thanks.”

Remember, it’s okay to be direct, and it’s better than saying nothing at all or just keeping your frustration inside.

If a coworker is crossing the line, don’t be afraid to let them know.

With a little finesse, you can tell them to back off in a way that won’t damage your relationship or cause any drama at work.

Related Tips for dealing with sneaky or overbearing coworkers!

How Do You Politely Tell a Coworker to Leave You Alone?

If you’re looking for a phrase that is very sensitive as you think the person is easily offended, I suggest saying something along the lines of:

  • “I’m sorry, but I’m really trying to focus on this on my own.”
  • “Can we please table this discussion for now and discuss it later?”
  • “Thanks for your input, but I think I’ll handle this one on my own.”
  • “I appreciate your help, but I’ve got this covered.”
  • “I know you’re trying to help, but I just want to work on this alone, for now, thanks.”

The problem with dealing with people who are easily offended is that you can easily fall into the trap of not being direct enough that they get the message.

It’s OK to offend them if you have no other choice and you’re in the right.

The important thing is that you’re able to do your work to the best of your ability.

At the end of the day: if you don’t get your work done because you’re too afraid of offending someone by telling them to back off, it’s going to reflect badly on you, not them.

How Do I Tell My Bossy Coworker to Back Off?

If you have a bossy coworker, it can be difficult to know how to tell them to back off without sounding like you’re not interested in their help or you don’t value their opinion.

The key is to be direct, but also maintain a level of professionalism and respect.

Bossy people find it hard to take no for an answer, or to stop, well, being bossy and sticking their noses where it isn’t wanted.

I certainly suggest being firm so they get the message.

Here are some phrases you can use the next time your bossy coworker starts to overstep their boundaries:

  • “I appreciate your interest, but this is my problem to deal with, not yours.”
  • “Don’t you have your own tasks to get on with?”
  • “You always seem more interested in what I’m doing than what you are.”
  • “I see where you’re coming from, if I need your help I’ll be sure to ask, thanks.”

Remember, it’s okay to be direct, and it’s better than saying nothing at all or just letting the frustration build-up to the point where you burst.

Related How to handle loud coworkers and signs that a coworker secretly likes you!

Signs One of Your Coworkers Are Over Stepping Boundaries

If you’re unsure whether one of your coworkers is overstepping professional boundaries or not, I can point out some of the key signs.

A few key signs to watch out for that indicate a coworker is overstepping boundaries are:

  • Do they constantly ask how your project is going or offer unwanted advice?
  • Do they always want to be included in every meeting, even if it’s not relevant to them?
  • Do they always want to know every little detail about what you’re working on?
  • Do they try to micromanage you or take over your projects?
  • Do they always have to be right and need to have the last word in every discussion?
  • Do they constantly interrupt, bug, annoy, or generally pester you?

If you see any of these signs, it’s a good indication that your coworker is overstepping boundaries.

If you’re still doubting it, I’m sure it’s because you’re giving them the benefit of the doubt or don’t feel comfortable confronting them.

You have to say something though, or their behavior is only going to get worse and you’ll just become increasingly unhappy.

If you really feel that you can’t say something yourself, speak to your boss or your coworker’s boss and get the ball rolling that way.

It will work to your advantage to start making notes and keeping a record of the behaviors you’re not happy with, too.

No one wants to end up in a situation where they’re having to tell a coworker to back off, but it’s not that uncommon, to be honest.

As long as you do something about it and handle the situation correctly, I’m sure your coworker will get the message and back off!


Image credits – Photo by LinkedIn Sales Solutions on Unsplash

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