Very gentle ways to set boundaries with a needy colleague
Zhampagne · 03/07/2021 23:21
I'm at the end of my tether with a colleague and ridiculously I feel guilty even typing this. She is in my department (secondary) and was generally very capable, if a little prone to perfectionism and fretting over details, until a period of illness which is very likely long Covid. Our head of dept and headteacher have been very supportive and she has been offered wellbeing support and adjustments to her working patterns which will kick in from September.
In the meantime, however, she has seemingly become very dependent on coming to offload on to me. Her confidence has been knocked and she wants to pick over every interaction for reassurance. It's incredibly time-consuming and I am finding that I can't get my own job done. We work in the kind of challenging school which saps a great deal of your emotional energy, plus I have three young children of my own.
I know we only have another two weeks but I would be really grateful if anyone has any words of wisdom for how I can set some very gentle boundaries. I like and respect her but I don't think she is strong enough for AIBU-style straight talking right now.
FortunesFave · 03/07/2021 23:28
I would simply try saying "Have you thought about booking a session with a counselor?" and if she doesn't get that, then simply stand and with a nice smile, say "Oh sorry X I just have to go and make a phone call and do a few jobs, I haven't got time to talk"
FortunesFave · 03/07/2021 23:29
I do sympathise, I had a colleague of sorts stick like glue to me yesterday, weeping as I tried to peel myself away. I also attract needy people and unfortunately it's because if you listen kindly, they will keep coming back. They're used to get short shrift from others so grip on when they find someone who is a bit soft.
MrMucker · 04/07/2021 09:33
Give them a time slot. Seriously.
Tell them "Look, Im too busy to talk, why don't you come and see me Friday after school (eg) and we can sit and have a coffee together"
Remind them of this every time they want to come and chat.
I think dismissing them out of hand is a bit brutal. But obviously you need to get your job done.
Don't lead them on by saying nothing. And don't compromise your own work by putting up with the distraction. But offer them something if you possibly can. Just schedule it.
You could do with a sit down too yourself at the end of the week anyway, even if you do need to dash off for own family commitments. So that way the whole thing would be less one sided.
parrotonmyshoulder · 07/07/2021 07:34
I had a very similar situation a few years ago and it was really draining. I did like the colleague, but didn’t have time for the (one sided) support session every day! I told her about my own counselling and how it helped, and she managed to get some sorted for herself. Initially a six week block through Occ H, then paid for herself. She must have learned about boundaries within the sessions as it all got a lot better!
Now, in a new job, I’m much more blunt (and have no friends!) - people generally ask for an appointment.
Zhampagne · 08/07/2021 22:42
Thanks all. Your suggestions are much healthier than my previous strategy of hiding and working in unexpected corners of the school so I couldn't be tracked down!
Phineyj · 13/07/2021 23:01
Maybe she could ring the Education Support Partnership helpline. It's free.
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