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Courteous Clapbacks to Common Nosy Workplace Questions

Category: General Etiquette

We’re going to give people the benefit of the doubt that they mean well and curiosity just gets

the best of them. Still, this doesn’t make you feel any less uncomfortable when a coworker or

boss asks a personal or even rude question. Often, you can get away with not even dignifying

the intrusiveness with a response. But, just in case you’re in a situation where a response is

needed, we’ve prepared some courteous and classy clapbacks to common nosy questions in

the workplace.

As a reminder, it’s not only what you say, it’s how you say it. Depending on how close you are

with the person, you might feel comfortable addressing some of these questions. If you don’t,

you are completely within your right to not answer them at all. Don’t let someone’s title or

seniority in the organization intimidate you. Try to remain calm, straight to the point and polite.

Rise above your negative thoughts and handle the situation with poise and a smile.


How much are you making now?

“I make enough to pay my bills and enjoy myself. What about you, are you happy with your


Deflection is key here, and even if they share their salary you don’t have to feel obligated to

respond with yours.

*Disclaimer: Equal pay for women in the workplace is a topic that is near to our hearts, and at

private companies who don’t publish salaries, open communication about salary may be one of

the only reliable ways to determine whether you are being paid fairly among your counterparts.

Even if you don’t want to share specific numbers, ranges can be helpful. That being said, salary

is an extremely personal topic and one that shouldn’t be discussed if you don’t feel comfortable.

How much money did you spend on your house?

“We paid the market rate for homes in our area. We do have a good realtor that can help you

find a home in your price range. I’m happy to recommend him/her.”

If they persist….

“I don’t discuss money with anyone outside of my (partner, parents, etc.)”

Change the subject immediately after your response, but do so with a cheerful smile. It removes

an awkwardness from the situation.

Why don’t you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?

“I’m still looking for the right person. When I find them you’ll know.”

This response only works if you are actually looking for someone. Contrary to popular belief,

some women and men enjoy being single. Crazy, right?

When are you and your boyfriend/girlfriend going to get married?

“When we’re ready.”

Don’t fall into the trap of blaming this on your boyfriend or girlfriend. Keep a united front. This

skill set will be extremely important in your marriage (if you choose to take that step).

When will you have kids?

“We’re really happy with our family of two.”

Kids can be a touchy subject. You might want them in the future, you might not be sure, or you

might even be unfortunately having issues conceiving. Whatever your situation, this response is

simple and to the point and doesn’t delve into the complexities of parenthood, which is frankly

no one’s business but you are your partners.

Is that your real hair?

“I’m glad you like my hair, but I’m not sure you realize that question is incredibly rude.”

Let’s call a spade a spade. This question is rude and there’s no need to address it if you don’t

want to speak on it. This also works if someone asks to touch your hair. The answer is no!

What did you think of the debates last night?

“For my own reasons I would rather not discuss this. Do you mind if we talk about ____?”

Conversations on politics and religion should be avoided in the office. Even if you think

someone has similar views then you do, it’s a good idea not to discuss at work. You never know

who else is listening and could potentially be offended by your candor. Politely suggest another

discussion topic, even if it’s work-related.

How do you like working with X?

Don’t fall for it! It’s a trap! Never, ever, ever talk smack about a coworker to another coworker.

It’s bad for your personal brand. This also goes for workplace gossip. Stay out of it. Shut it down

immediately. Even actively listening can be viewed as participation. Water cooler talk has a way

of spreading around the office faster than the flu. If someone asks you how you feel about

someone at work say something positive and move to the next subject.

What are some other nosy questions you need help responding to in the workplace? Comment

below, and if you enjoyed this read visit the Common Courtesy blog for more modern etiquette

coaching and advice for millennials.


Founded by two self-proclaimed southern belles, Common Courtesy is millennials’ go-to guide

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