TMI, be gone! How to establish boundaries with co-workers

Here are 9 secrets to keep to yourself at work You despise your boss or another colleague You have committed a crime in the past You and a co-worker are hooking up You have big, fat future plans You're doing something illegal, even if it's outside of work You think you might want to become a full-time mom while you are on your FMLA maternity leave You are moonlighting if your current job is full time Your personal life is a shambles "I hate this job."

Even the briefest scan of Redditadvice columns and company review sites like Fairygodboss will have you pondering how anyone functions when there are so many annoying co-workers in this world. But since you do have to earn a paycheck and there are very few places that will pay you to work in utter isolation, learning to set boundaries with co-workers is a crucial skill set. Happily, advice for shutting down annoying co-workers is almost as plentiful as the posts describing what makes them so annoying. Here are some of the best tips:

Do you need the boundary? Toxic co-workers are everywhere, sapping your energy, making you second-guess yourself and generally making life hard. If this particular co-worker situation hasn't reached toxic proportions, maybe you shouldn't make a big deal about resolving your differences. Your time could be better spent on your own job goals or improving your work-life balance.

Filter the feedback. Before you start asking them to change, it's a good idea to see if you can't adjust your own mindset, Harvard Business Review's Greg McKeown said. He shared a story of his own difficulty in setting emotional boundaries. "I once worked with a manager who gave blunt feedback in perpetuity: 'You're not a grateful person!' and 'You're just not a great writer!' and 'Well, that was dumb!'" McKeown recalled. "My response, at first, was to listen as if everything she said was true. On the outside, I became defensive, but on the inside, I returned home emotionally beaten up. Every night my wife, Anna, would listen to the details of the encounters and help me to discern truth from error. One day she just said, 'You've got to learn to consider the source!'"

This made McKeown realize his problem wasn't that he didn't listen. Instead, he kept receiving input long after it ceased being productive. "I listened too much," he added. "I needed to learn to filter the feedback."

Listen first if a co-worker talks too much. "If you know the other person is a Chatty Cathy, you may be tempted to hightail it out of there immediately the second she approaches you," Fairygodboss said. "But before you do, wait to listen to what she's actually saying for a bit. You don't have to stand there forever while the other person is droning on, but if she's looking for attention, listening and demonstrating that you care about what she's discussing may fulfill her needs."

After that, though, you can also tell the chatty one you're busy, or propose another time when you are able to talk–along with a time limit. "If your colleague seems to interrupt you at the worst moments and won't rest until she finishes her story, explain that you need to stay on a schedule, or you won't finish your project."

Ask to be heard. Any time setting a boundary involves a conversation, don't blindside your co-worker, advised Harvard Business Review. "Ask permission," HBR said. "Don't just launch into your spiel. Say something like: 'Our working relationship is important to me, and there's something on my mind—can I talk to you about it?' If it's a bad time, you don't want to choose this moment for your chat; if it's a good time, you've signaled your collaborative intent."

Don't be victimized by professional victims. It's extra tough to push back when the annoying colleague likes to play the victim. After all, aren't they saying no one understands? And wouldn't you be adding to their woes if you didn't sympathize? Setting boundaries with someone who acts like the world is against them is particularly important. Otherwise, "you feel stuck," Holly Weeks, author of "Failure to Communicate" told Harvard Business Review. "You see this person walking towards you and your heart sinks."

To avoid that fate, HBR recommended a three-part strategy. First, recognize that an "everyone's out to get me" attitude doesn't have anything to do with you – don't take it personally. Second, don't judge. Instead, try to view this co-worker as someone who thinks a different way than you do. This helps you recognize that they're not deliberately trying to make you nuts.

And last, come up with ways to "protect yourself from absorbing your colleague's toxic behavior," added Amy Jen Su, managing partner of Paravis Partners and "Own the Room" author. "Surround yourself with people who bring you energy, lift you up, and who are positive forces." Other ways to decompress include taking a walk or listening to music, instead of continuing to focus on what Su calls "freaked out, whiny, and paranoid" co-worker actions.

Be firm with time wasters. Someone who can't respect your schedule or time restraints can be tough to rein in. You may have to set this particular boundary more than once and update it each time the issue arises again. Just be sure to set a firm but pleasant tone to get your schedule back on track, Claire Goodwin, legal affairs consultant with Joseph Farzam Law Firm, advised in Girlboss. "If a coworker bends your ear too frequently or too long, try to let them know in a way that focuses on your objective, not on their derailment of it," she said. "Try, for example, 'These conversations are really great, but I think maybe I need to improve my productivity.'"

The same tactic works when a co-worker crosses a boundary to give you extra work. "If someone has a habit of bringing you projects or items to work on which aren't your responsibility, instead of saying, 'That's not my job,' opt for something gentler, such as, 'I didn't plan for this task, so I'm afraid I don't have any time to allocate to it,'" Goodwin added. "This not only declines a responsibility which was never meant to be yours, but also sets an inarguable circumstantial barrier: there is no time."