My co-worker won't stop talking about his marriage problems

Your Life
Jim Berlucchi
January, 2018

My co-worker talks too much about his marriage problems in the office. Is there a way to ask him to stop without alienating him?

Alienate him? He’s already alienated himself.

His venting reveals low regard – first for himself, then his spouse and marriage. Add to that a lack of consideration for his work and colleagues, and you have a toxic brew.

Your best bet is to appeal to his own self-interest. Meet outside the workplace, maybe at lunch or a happy hour. Tell him you feel bad he is hurting – that you are a person of faith and one thing you can do for him is pray for him and his situation. With empathy and persuasion, ask if he agrees with even one of these points:

  • His colleagues are totally ill-equipped to help his situation. They are co-workers, not professional or religious counselors. Agree?
  • A lot of talking about our problems makes them worse. We spin our wheels, view life more negatively and expend a lot of psychic energy with nothing to show for it. Agree?
  • Marriage is personal and even sacred (if he believes so). Might he owe it to himself and his wife to keep their private matters private?
  • Does he want success at work and home? Then give to the workplace what belongs to work, and to marriage what is due marriage. Agree? Focusing on work can actually be a healthy diversion from our personal problems. Not an escape, but an opportunity to be engaged, productive and earn a living.

If he has a listening ear, he might agree. “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance.” (Prv 1:5)