It is understandable to become frustrated when someone crosses your boundaries with personal questions. However, is it appropriate to respond in a similarly outrageous manner?
An internet user asked, “Am I a jerk for calling my coworker a ‘nosy women’ after she kept insisting to know my husband’s salary?” Here’s the full story for your context.
The Original Poster (OP) and her husband, both 33, have been together since college. Over the years, he’s had quite the career trajectory. He’s a quant PM and makes like 10X of what OP makes (and she makes a good salary haha!).
What Does OP Say
“As we’ve grown wealthier, I’ve learned that people become nosier. Friends, acquaintances, relatives, you name it. In the beginning, I would entertain the nosy questions, but since I turned 30, I’ve adopted a ‘take no nonsense’ attitude.
When people ask me how much he makes, I no longer say anything. I’ve learned the hard way that giving an exact number can have bad consequences.”, says OP.
A Bit About OP’s New Coworker
OP’s co-worker, 25, is new and she already has quite the reputation. Very chatty, catty, gossipy, you get the gist. One can just tell she craves wealth and status.
She wears a bunch of flashy designer items and is always asking the ladies around the office which of the men are single.
What Happened Last Friday?
Last Friday, their office hosted an afternoon happy hour. She approached OP and asked how she and her husband’s recent vacation to Europe went. OP told her it went well and briefly summarized what they did.
The Conversation Ahead
Then, the conversation went something like this:
Her: “So what does your husband do?”
OP: “He works in finance.”
Her: “Oh wow, he must make a ton of money to be taking you on all these lavish vacations! I hope you don’t mind me asking, but how much does he make in a year?”
OP: “Yes, we’re very lucky that he makes a good salary.” *Polite smile*
Her: “Oh come on, I won’t tell anyone. How much does he make in a year? Millions??”
OP: *Awkward chuckle* “I’d rather not say, but it’s up there!”
Her: “What, he doesn’t allow you to give an exact number or something??”
OP: *Visibly annoyed* “No, I just prefer not to say.”
Her: *Laughs in my face* “You’d think the stuck-up one would be the one with money, not the one without!”
OP: “You should learn how to take ‘no’ for an answer and when to quit being a nosy woman. It’s a valuable lesson.”
What Did OP Do Next?
Then OP smiled at her and walked away. Later on, OP had a few coworkers reach out to her and say that the new girl was crying and left early. They said OP should apologize for calling her a rude name.
“I refused. I told my mom and she said I was too rude to the new girl and that she’s young and might not fully understand ‘salary talk’.
I think she’s old enough. My husband is fully on my side but said maybe I should fake-apologize for the sake of office politics, which I somewhat agree with. But still, am I a jerk?”, asks OP.
You Ain’t The Jerk Here
“Not the jerk. Though I agree that she is young, and it was harsh but I also agree that for the sake of office politics, you should say something like ‘I apologize for calling you a rude name, but I do hope it was a valuable lesson for you and next time you are able to recognize other people’s boundaries when they draw them’.”
You Could’ve Handled This Better
“Not the jerk but I have always found ‘Why do you ask?’ is more effective than vague answers to unacceptably personal questions.
If that fails to end it, still don’t give any answers. ‘That’s not something I discuss outside my family & my tax guy’.”
Everyone’s In The Wrong
“Everyone’s in the wrong. I don’t think I need to go into why she’s a jerk.
You should be able to walk away from someone at a work event without calling them rude names. There are certain situations that might warrant it, but she didn’t assault you or steal something or otherwise act beyond the pale where you can justify losing control.
Just… walk away. Don’t put your coworkers in a position where they have to debate justifying you/anyone calling someone names. The workplace isn’t somewhere to put someone in their place, it’s where you de-escalate and then bring it up to the appropriate people.”
That’s Not How You Talk To Your Colleagues
“Everyone’s in the wrong. Yes, she was being rude and unprofessional. Your response was also rude and unprofessional.
The first time being polite fails, be direct. If being direct fails, say ‘It was nice to meet you’ or ‘Have a good day’ and walk away.
If we all swore at everyone at our jobs who deserved it, nothing would ever get done.”
Not Your Fault, Honey
“Not the jerk. You gave her plenty of chances to shut up and take what you gave her but she chose to try to walk all over you.
Not your fault, honey.”
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