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My manager asks me personal questions I don’t want to answer

A Reader Writes:

My relatively new manager keeps asking me personal questions, especially in our 1 on 1s, which I’d rather not discuss with her. How do I avoid it gracefully?

Dear Reader,

The approach you should take depends on the type of questions she is asking you.  If the questions are inappropriate, such as, “How is your marriage?” there are gracious ways to set boundaries while maintaining a good relationship.  The next time she asks, you can say jokingly, “I can see where that would be an interesting topic but I’d much rather share my progress on my current project.”  If she is overly patronizing regarding a family matter that she may have learned about (or that you shared with her at an earlier time but now regret doing so) it’s perfectly fine to say “Thanks for asking.  I find it uncomfortable to talk about that, please don’t be offended.”

If the questions are in the realm of typical social discourse, such as inquiring about your weekend plans or what you did on vacation, there seems to be a style difference between you and your new manager.   It sounds like your previous manager respected your boundaries and did not ask personal questions.   Your new manager, however, may not yet understand your need for privacy. But there is another explanation to consider which could help you align your styles.  Your new manager could be insecure and not sure if you like her or if you are happy in your role.  If this is the case, your manager may be looking for various ways to relate to you and there is little harm in indulging her with superficial answers so she feels you are OK with her and your position. She will likely respect your boundaries in the future.

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