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Staff Senate

Ask A Question: Workplace Communication

Got a question of about the University of Wyoming or your employment here? 

Ask away at: staffsen@uwyo.edu.

QUESTION:

How should employees handle workplace proselytizing and other forms of unwanted communication? After visiting a local church, an employee has been asked frequently by a coworker who attends that church about his/her involvement in church events. The employee is a private person who keeps work and personal life separate, and finds these conversations to be inappropriate and embarrassing, especially when they occur in front of other colleagues. The employee has tried for several weeks to quietly brush these comments aside or change the subject, or to indicate that s/he is not going to events and please stop asking, but to no avail. What should the employee do?


ANSWER:

The first step in solving this type of problem is for the employee affected to communicate the discomfort with the coworker directly, firmly, and respectfully.  This could be done in private if the employee affected is comfortable in doing so, or in a formal meeting with a supervisor present if the employee does not feel comfortable talking to the coworker alone. 

It is important, before further solutions are considered, that the coworker understand clearly the extent to which his/her unwanted invitations and conversations are affecting the employee and creating an uncomfortable work environment.  It can be difficult to be direct and explicit when communicating with others this type of information, but it is to everyone’s benefit to make sure that the employees know where they stand with one another and to respect each other’s personal boundaries in topics not relating to the workplace.

If the unwanted communications continue, it should be brought to the attention of the employee’s supervisor.  If the employees have different supervisors, the employee affected should consult with his/her own supervisor, whose responsibility it is to deal with all parties involved.  If the situation is still problematic, then the supervisor’s supervisor may be needed to address it, and up through the chain of command.  Human Resources does not step in to negotiate a problematic work relationship at the outset, but has an expectation that employees will communicate directly and effectively with one another.  Once this occurs and if problems continue, or if a power issue is involved (e.g., a supervisor-employee relationship), then the Office of Diversity and Employment Practices may become involved.

Contact Us

UW Staff Senate

Merica Hall, Room 320

1000 E. University Ave.

Dept. 3413

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307) 766-5300

Email: staffsen@uwyo.edu

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