They can be fat, skinny, tall, short, young, old, male, female, clerk or senior manager, busybodies come in all shapes, sizes, industries and job titles. That's part of their skill.
Busybodies aren't always easy to identify at first, and before you know it they've become our confidants who know everything about us. They can then make life unpleasant when they decide to use their knowledge to get their way or just to spread rumors.
There's no clear solution for busybodies, so here are ways to take control of the situation, keep the busybody at bay, and make your life a little less stressful as a result:
Here is a negative association: Hello Joe, I am on deadline with project. Listen, since you have a few free minutes, could you give me hand by making copies? If he begins to notice that every time he approaches you to gossip that you try to assign work, he will avoid you.
Here is a polite confrontation: Rob, when you have a moment, I want to run something by you.' Then, when you are in a quiet place, away from others, say, 'I wanted to get your opinion on something. I have no idea if this is true, but I heard from various sources that you were sharing things about my personal life around the office. I wanted to come to you and ask you if what I heard has any merit.'
If that person responds with, 'Who told you that?', say 'It doesn't matter. I heard it from several folks. The important thing is to determine if there is any truth to it and so I'd like to discuss this with you. If I'm off-base here, just let me know.' Then let them tell their side of the story. Don't react with anger even if they do. Remain calm and in control at all times.
Here is how to protect your privacy: One way to handle a busybody is to not allow yourself to be lured into a sense of comfort or trust. You have to assume that if they spread secrets about other people, they will share what they know about you. Be friendly but don't divulge anything you wouldn't discuss at a party. It's OK to let this person know when they are busy downloading all their great gossip on you that you don't feel comfortable hearing other people's intimate details. They learn very quickly that they won't learn things from you and that you will not reinforce their bad behavior.
Here is a distraction: Develop a special project for them to run, which literally took all of the work hours and some personal time. They will be excited about it and may not have any more time to continue running around the office busybodying.