DEAR SOMEONE ELSE’S MOM: I have worked at the same accounting firm for nearly four years. It’s a pretty buttoned-down atmosphere and people do not buddy around much, at least not in my department.
Recently a new guy, just out of college, was brought into my area. He seemed overwhelmed and lonely, and I admit it, I took pity on him and started talking to him and eating lunch with him. Now he has adopted me as some kind of big brother and is starting to get clingy rather than friendly and it is putting me on the spot. How do I tell him he needs to back-off a little without sounding like an insensitive jerk? --- ACCIDENTAL BIG BROTHER
DEAR ACCIDENTAL: It was decent of you to try and draw the new guy out a little, but it isn’t particularly healthy for him to stick to just you. Before it goes on any longer, you need to establish some boundaries, and you can do it gently.
Make it clear you have other lunch plans several days a week. On the days you do lunch with him, try to include another coworker or two as a way of widening his too-tiny circle. Since you mentioned socializing isn’t a top priority in your area, maybe you could reach out to people you know from other departments.
Hopefully, he’ll begin to feel more at ease and less reliant on you as he settles in and gets to know more people in the firm.