21

What is a good word(s) for someone who excessively asks for information that they have no business knowing?

This person constantly asks what other people have on their schedule. This same person (and I apologize if I am getting too personal) was recently caught rifling through other employee schedules. I have terminated the employee and was issuing a termination letter.

  • 5
    The word prying conveys a sense of electronic breaking-and-entering that makes the conduct (or misconduct) sound like a firing offense. – Sven Yargs Sep 29 '15 at 0:44
  • 4
    I could tell you but it's not really any of your business. – AllInOne Sep 29 '15 at 14:02
  • Auditor .... :) – Ditto Sep 30 '15 at 12:28

12 Answers 12

55

In general, this person could be described as nosy. If you happen to be in Pittsburgh, PA, you could also call the person nebby. A good noun for this is busybody.

  • 8
    In British English, you can turn "nosy" into the noun form "a nosy parker." We also use "busybody," but that implies they want to interfere rather than simply wanting to know the facts. I don't recall ever hearing an American say "nosy parker" though. – Level River St Sep 29 '15 at 7:13
  • 1
    "Nebby" is also common in certain parts of the UK (eg Scotland / the North East). – psmears Sep 29 '15 at 9:12
  • Also "prodnose" is used. – Ben Sep 29 '15 at 10:07
  • 6
    This answer may have come before the comment by the OP, but nosy seems to be a little casual for someone that was actually digging through paperwork that wasn't theirs. A nosy neighbor might ask whose car was outside your house, or where you were on Saturday, but when they start reading your mail, they've gone way beyond nosy... – JPhi1618 Sep 29 '15 at 15:55
  • 2
    Nosy does not suggest doing anything illegal either. The title says someone who asks for information but the text says rifling through papers which sounds like it might not be legal within the constraints of office rules of conduct. It seems odd to fire someone for looking at other employees schedules, unless there is confidential information in there, in which case it becomes spying or snooping. – NibblyPig Sep 30 '15 at 8:37
34

Intrusive may qualify this person or his behavior.

Definition: annoying someone by interfering with their privacy; intruding where you are not wanted or welcome to thrust or bring in without invitation, permission, or welcome.

  • 1
    This seems the most appropriate under the circumstances. – dennisdeems Sep 28 '15 at 19:40
  • Asking about something is not quite the intrusion. S/he's asking to be admitted, not actually going in to wherever is private. IMHO. – einpoklum Sep 29 '15 at 7:34
21

Asking about such things excessively is being nosy.

Illicitly acquiring the answers to these questions (e.g. by rifling through other employee's private information without permission) is instead a violation of privacy.

Nosy is a derogatory term which, in a business context, may make it sound like you, rather than the employee, is at fault. From the viewpoint of a 'nosy' person, the other party is 'hiding something', just like how calling an employee a 'crybaby' may result in others wondering if in fact the issue is that you are 'insensitive'. Derogatory character trait terms like these tend to come in pairs. If you do feel the need to include a character-trait based derogatory term for this, "Intrusive" sounds better than "nosy" in formal contexts. You should really avoid both, though.

A violation of privacy is an event/action and taking grievance because of it makes your position sound neutral and supported. From the perspective of the privacy-violator, others will assume, your privacy didn't matter, and that claim is socially unacceptable. (It also provides actionable information the people you have a problem with can use to change their behavior in the future, but that's better left to workplace.se to discuss)

  • 1
    This is the most comprehensive answer on this page. The rest of them just answer a crossword clue with a word (most of which are contained herein). – Mazura Sep 30 '15 at 0:07
  • Yes that's a good answer, but the thing that's missing is then a catchy word for someone who violates privacy. But perhaps your point is that such a word doesn't exist and that we'd better qualify it the long way in formal circumstances – tobiak777 Sep 30 '15 at 7:54
  • 3
    @red2nb I'm all for brevity, but in this circumstance you want to remove all interpretation from the process. Spell it out clearly and with (as much as possible) zero ambiguity. Catchy words are cause for headaches. – Jason Sep 30 '15 at 13:50
  • 3
    @Jason But more even than that, it's important to make this about the action/incident not the person. "You're a privacy-violater!" is an insult (even if justified) and it implies that the person acted as they did because of who they are; it removes their agency by making the action their character rather than a choice they made. This is bad both because it makes it sound like it's "not their fault" and because it sends the message that there is nothing they can do about this in the future: they are just 'a bad person'. Really though, this would be better addressed on The Workplace – the dark wanderer Sep 30 '15 at 16:43
  • @thedarkwanderer agreed on all counts – Jason Sep 30 '15 at 17:27
5

In New Zealand (and Australia) there is a colloquial term "sticky-beak" which is used both as a verb and a noun. As in to stick ones beak where it does not belong.

i.e. "Luke is such a sticky-beak" or "Rachel, stopping being such a sticky-beak".

noun: sticky-beak

1. an inquisitive and prying person.

verb: sticky-beak

1. pry into other people's affairs. "I don't mean to stickybeak, but when is he going to leave?"

4

Snoopy would be another good option.

  • 13
    I think that's too strongly associated with the WWI Flying Ace at this point. – the dark wanderer Sep 28 '15 at 19:39
  • @thedarkwanderer: Yeah, peanuts :-) – einpoklum Sep 29 '15 at 20:13
  • Calling someone "a snoop" is valid and avoids the imagery. – JPhi1618 Sep 30 '15 at 18:53
  • "Snooping" might be a better version. – user1359 Sep 30 '15 at 19:45
4

If slang is acceptable to you, nosy parker or buttinsky may be what you're looking for.

3

In the context of a business or a relationship where there are clear rules, you could say that the person "violated boundaries". In this case, he or she violated clearly-established boundaries of privacy set forth by the business.

To me, this is much more professional than saying nosy or using another adjective that describes the person's internal state or our reaction to his actions. It's not a firing offense to be nosy; it IS a firing offense to let your nosiness cause you to cross boundaries inappropriately. Remaining dispassionate and scrupulously factual (hint: "nosy" isn't something that can be proven in a court of law) are best practice in business.

2

You could say that the person is inquisitive,

unduly curious about the affairs of others; prying.

  • 26
    In most contexts, "inquisitive" will not read as nosy or prying. Rather, the more common sense of the word is the one listed first in most dictionaries, e.g. "given to inquiry, research, or asking questions; eager for knowledge; intellectually curious". If anything, using "inquisitive" to mean "nosy" will seem overly polite. – recognizer Sep 28 '15 at 16:59
  • 15
    I suggest you insert the word "overly" before "inquisitive": "He's overly inquisitive," for example. Don – rhetorician Sep 28 '15 at 17:22
  • 10
    Just being "inquisitive" does not - in my experience - carry a negative connotation. – einpoklum Sep 29 '15 at 7:35
  • 2
    The definition notwithstanding, "overly," as suggested, or something similar (inappropriately, unnecessarily, excessively) needs to qualify "inquisitive" to avoid the potential positive connotation. – Michael - sqlbot Sep 29 '15 at 14:17
  • I had the same issue in a similar question. Using "overly" feels redundant to me. I quite like the adjective form of "pester" as a negative form of "inquisitive"; the person is "pestersome". – YPCrumble Dec 21 '16 at 20:04
0

Although it's usually used to describe the form of question they're asking, I would call this person impertinent.

Intrusive or presumptuous, as persons or their actions; insolently rude; uncivil:

  • Welcome to ELU :-). The definition you gave is probably from a dictionary, so can you please edit your answer to include the reference? Thanks! – Lucky Sep 29 '15 at 11:12
0

Clinically, I would say disrespectful of boundaries. Also, intrusive. The opposite is "infiltrating," when people bring magazines for my waiting room that support their political agenda.

0

Depending which variety of English you speak or part of the English-speaking world you belong to, inquiring might fit the bill.

An inquiring person would ask a lot of (nosey) questions while an inquisitive person is curious. The inquisitive person might also investigate things or do experiments. "Inquiring" is more negative to me - perhaps because of the tabloid newspaper The National Enquirer (yes, that's the spelling they use) which prints a lot of gossip and rumors "because inquiring minds want to know!" (one of their slogans). (Myridon, Mar 19, 2010 - WordReference.com)

0

Personally I would consider using the word invasive or invasive behavior:

British English: invasive You use invasive to describe something undesirable which spreads very quickly and which is very difficult to stop from spreading. Collins Online

This is stronger than intrusive in the sense that you are clearly talking about passing beyond acceptable boundaries and invading others privacy. It sounds a lot more formal and less childish than "nosy" or it's variants. It also carries the connotation, from the all too familiar "invasive cancer", of something that will do severe damage if it is not stopped.

If the individual was specifically seeking the schedule details of one or more specific individuals then this might be considered an aspect of stalking.

protected by Community Oct 14 '15 at 9:13

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.