Soooo.... This week I'm quite sick, but not the kind of sickness that could prevent me from working, at least if it doesn't worsen at some point. It is not contagious at all, by the way. So I can freely work in my open space as usual.

Yet, I need to take some medication to feel better, and I have no choice but to take it at the beginning of my working day. Due to some side effects I just can't take it before going to work, I need to take it at the beginning of my work, and also during my lunch.

My problem is one of my coworker is particulary inquisitive and keen on good gossips. To say the least he is a gossip, and thus I'd like to avoid having to answer anything about my disease. It is the kind of shameful one, that would make me very uncomfortable if anyone outside of my relatives knew about it.

I need to avoid his questions, and if possible I'd like to do it smoothly. With that kind of people, being aggressive or acting like being on the defensive will most likely trigger his curiosity and hunger for tasty information.

So, how can I dismiss his question without being rude or triggering even more questions ?

As of now I'm working in France, but I don't know if that is very relevant.

  • 5
    Can you take the medication in private? Like at the coffee corner, or even the bathroom faucet?
    – yo'
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 14:34
  • 2
    @yo Definitely I could. But I think it is not the best way to seem not suspicious to try to hide I'm having some unknown medication don't you think ? "Look look Kaël's ingesting some weird pill/powder" :o
    – Kaël
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 14:39
  • 1
    @Kaël Yeah, I know and I agree it's not an optimal solution, that's basically why I only commented, wanted to know whether you considered it or not...
    – yo'
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 14:56
  • What do you mean by "shameful" illness? Can you elaborate without being too specific? It may have some bearing on how you handle this.
    – Spratty
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 14:57
  • @Spratty I just mean by that it's the kind of illness you don't want to talk about too much, because some would judge you for it others would mock you stuff like that, and your reputation might be impacted.
    – Kaël
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 15:11

3 Answers 3


On second thought, thanks to Kerkyra's comments on my previous answer, it would sometimes be preferable to even lie a bit. For example, dismiss your annoying coworker's question with a catch-all response:

Oh, it's just a headache. I'll be fine soon.

Or something like that. Because headaches are normally not contagious and can happen quite often anyway.

Why this might be necessary is that in response to my previous answer, sometimes the gossippy coworker might go around telling everyone, "Hey, did you know Kaël has this weird disease he/she doesn't want to talk about? What do you think it might be??"

(Idea stolen from Kerkyra's comments)


French here,

I know exactly what kind of person you are referring to. They live through other people's life because their find their own life boring.

I think it doesn't matter at all if it's contagious or not, and I also think the fact that France here is a very important factor that matters a lot.

To be honest, being passive-aggressive here is probably the best thing to do. Just try to be sarcastic, cynical and intelligent in your answer. I know it's rude, but you got to make him feel bad about asking. This is the only way they will consider you, you need to show them their opinions do not matter.


Tell your gossipy co-worker that you are taking pain medication for a joint problem, or something else that's boring. Maybe you have chronic knee pain or something else fairly run-of-the-mill. Obviously not infectious, and has no impact on your life expectancy, so not worth gossiping about.

Come up with an equally boring story about how it started, or just something vague like 'I don't know, it just started hurting a while ago and eventually I went to the doctor. He/she just told me to take this medication a few times a day and now it feels better.'

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