A coworker in the cubicle next to mine only wants to talk about her daughter when someone comes to her cubicle to engage in small talk. The conversation may start out talking about things like our last company meeting, weather, politics, sports, economics, etc., but the conversation always ends with her talking about her daughter.

I and other coworkers in our area have to listen about how her daughter did this or that, how her daughter is spending too much time on her phone, how her teacher was mean to her, how much her daughter is spending on clothes, where her daughter wants to go to college, how angry she got when a relative made her daughter sad, and on and on.

My coworkers and I have discussed this and we would like to know if there a polite way to tell her that we don't always want to hear about her daughter every day?


3 Answers 3


Someone who is in the conversation with her can get her off her hobbyhorse by changing the subject or ending the conversation, though this may leave her feeling sad and less friendly with all the rest of you.

Got any plans this weekend?

. . . 5 minutes of back and forth about weekend stuff . . .

Oh, that reminds me of the time my daughter went to [etc etc]

Speaking of family, my brother is [something totally unrelated]

or after the first few sentences of daughter reporting:

Sounds tough. Well, I'd better get back to work.

This is easiest if there's no reason for the chat - in some workplaces you might need to wait at someone's desk while a process finishes or whatever. But you can always change the subject quite abruptly.

As an eavesdropper there's not much you can do, but you could have a prior arrangement with your nearest neighbours where you will come and rescue them. When you hear the conversation being steered to her daughter, you walk over and

Sorry to interrupt you two, but [DeskPersonName], can you take a look at this error message for me? [or some other likely reason to need DeskPerson to leave the conversation with DaughterReport.]

This can be a multi-way rescue pact if you like. Obviously if she becomes aware you are all doing this behind her back she will be deeply hurt. Weigh that against the resentment and gossiping that is already happening before deciding to implement this plan.


From the topics she chooses around her daughter it seems that it is troubling her a lot. You could ask her

I have noticed that you mention your daughter's problems a lot. Do you feel overwhelmed by them? Do you get the support you need from your friends and family? You could even consult a professional if you think it's taking a toll on you - they could help both you and your daughter if she needs emotional support.

This shows concern and the advice can actually help her. If she just wants to blabber about her daughter she will get embarrassed that she sounds so emotional and she repeats herself by always talking about her daughter, so she will hopefully stop or at least reduce it.


Edit: My answer is only valid if she is talking to you directly or your co-worker (even though the "I need to work" thing could also work knowing you need some calm).

The office is a place where you spend a lot of time, with most of the time people you would probably never talk to at the bar or anywhere else. You've got to deal with each others flaws and well, it's a pain in the ass because you can't fight with people since you kinda need to team up to do a great job and keep a sane atmosphere.

To me, you can do 2 things :

  • Ignore her.

Of course you cannot just pretend she isn't here (actually you could), but do not answer her. Just make 'hmm' noises so she might understand you are absolutely not interested in her daughter's life.

  • Tell her you need to work

That is not rude and most of the time, true. I would just say things like :

Wow sorry but I REALLY need to do these things, I'm so late in my agenda!

Last but not least, you have to consider that some people do not understand the gentle way. Sometimes you want to be subtle and definitely not rude, but some people are very self-centred and cannot understand how you couldn't be interested in her stories; it's her daughter, right? In this case, you cannot mix being the good and gentle person AND not having to deal with her boring stories.

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