What you need to know:
- It is prudent to offer feedback directly to the person who needs to hear it.
- Perhaps this seemingly small talk is part of a well-calculated move to obtain personal information that he can use to bully you.
My supervisor keeps asking intrusive questions about my family, but out of respect, I usually answer him without divulging too many details.
Last week he asked what my husband does and where our children go to school. I know he does not need this information and I am not sure if he means well or not. What I know is that his questions make me very uncomfortable. How best can I address this matter?
I am glad you are concerned about this infringement on your privacy. Your boss’s small talk is making you uncomfortable so you need to speak out regardless of whether he means well or not. In any case, he should know better. By now, he should have known from your inexplicit responses that his questions cause you discomfort.
Perhaps this seemingly small talk is part of a well-calculated move to obtain personal information that he can use to bully you. On the other hand, he could genuinely be seeking to create a stronger relationship with you. Since you feel uncomfortable, take the best approach as you speak up.
It is prudent to offer feedback directly to the person who needs to hear it. Therefore, you should first let him know how you feel. This way, you will give him an opportunity to explain things, and if you are wrong, you will be able to mend the relationship because only two of you will have been involved in the discussions.
Next time he asks a personal question, say that you don’t feel comfortable answering it, but that you would appreciate his guidance on how to resolve the challenges you are facing at work.
If he asks why you feel uncomfortable, let him know that you prefer to keep your personal life private, and that you would like him to respect that.
If his behaviour persists, escalate the matter to the head of human resources or his supervisor.
Other than the standard personal details shared with an employer for purposes of health insurance, compassionate leave, or contact in case of emergency, you are not obligated to reveal any more personal information.
This, however, does not mean that colleagues should not talk about their families or meet for social events. It all just has to be voluntary. That said, managers should always remain professional and unprejudiced when making decisions.