Ask Manjot is a monthly advice column by 5X Press writer and therapist Manjot Mann that tackles all things womanhood, relationships, mental health and more. Submit your questions here

Dear Manjot, My boyfriend has this work colleague that keeps calling him "honey" and confides in him regarding her personal affairs. We both think this is a little weird but he doesn't know how to go about creating boundaries without making her feel uncomfortable. What should I do? 

Dear Reader,

This sounds like a tricky situation. Navigating work boundaries with colleagues can be difficult. I remember a few years ago I started working in an office where one of my colleagues wanted to spend every coffee break and lunch time discussing her relationship. It was super awkward and it made coming into work hard. Setting boundaries at work is tricky because you want to feel comfortable but there is that added layer of not wanting to make things difficult in a professional setting.

I imagine this is a person your boyfriend sees everyday and so he wants to keep the relationship cordial, however boundaries are important not just for him but for you as a couple as well. 

The first thing to tackle when setting boundaries is to think about how this colleague is crossing the line. You mention she refers to your boyfriend as “honey”. Does she do this only at work? Do they go out for coffee or lunch or for a walk and is this where she crosses the line? Is it via text message or email?

This might seem harsh but if he is uncomfortable it’s important that he articulates this through both actions and words. 

This means letting her know he doesn’t feel comfortable going for coffee or for lunchtime strolls anymore. Phrases such as “Oh I don’t feel like going today but thanks for asking” or “Hey, I’m going to make some phone calls on my break” might be helpful. It might take some time but she will eventually get the message (we hope!). 

Your boyfriend can also take the direct approach and say something along the lines of “Hey, I’m glad we’re friends but I would really appreciate it if you would stop calling me honey. Thanks for respecting my boundaries”. This method is effective but not everyone’s cup of tea as it can be difficult to be this assertive with someone you work with.

In therapy, when discussing how to communicate a difficult message, we talk a lot about the “sandwich method”. You say one nice thing, followed by the message you want to communicate and then end off with another nice thing. That way your message is sandwiched between two positive comments and this makes it easier for you to convey and for the other person to receive.

You also mention that she shares a lot of personal details with your boyfriend. If your boyfriend doesn’t respond and instead allows her to continue to share she may perceive his silence as consent. If he is uncomfortable it’s important he speaks up and cuts her off before she starts telling him more than he wants to hear. Phrases such as “hey, thanks for sharing but I don’t know if I’m the right audience for this” might be helpful. He can also be more direct and say “hey, I’m not comfortable getting this personal, I appreciate you sharing but I would prefer if we didn’t discuss this.” 

I also want to take a moment and commend the both of you for addressing this issue. I imagine as the girlfriend this can feel confusing and frustrating. It’s important that you tackle this issue as a team and it seems like you are. It’s also equally important that your boyfriend take the initiative to set boundaries so that things don’t escalate further. 

Remember, boundaries can be hard but they are necessary. Practice makes perfect, try different ways to communicate your message and be kind to yourself as you navigate this challenging issue. 

Sending you all the positive vibes,

About the author

Manjot Mann

My name is Manjot Mann and I am a mom, counsellor and writer. I have my undergraduate degree in Criminology/Psychology and a Masters in Counselling Psychology from Yorkville University. As a child I wanted to be a superhero, specifically Sailor Moon. As an adult I found there was no one like Sailor Moon running around in cute shoes saving people from monsters and so I took a desk job and hung up my imaginary cape. When I became a mom and fought my own demons, I realized I needed a career change. As a counsellor I help people with real and imagined monsters. As a writer I bring awareness to the fact that monsters exist and that there is a whole lot of superhero in all of us.

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