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When Your Coworker Takes Advantage of Your Good Nature

How to stand your ground when a colleague tries to mooch off you.

Key points

  • A mooching colleague takes advantage of you because they think they can.
  • Remind yourself that you are not obligated to pay for coworkers.
  • Focus on being tactful yet consistent when asked for money.
  • Offer solutions that maintain comfortable camaraderie with your colleagues.
Adrienn / Pexels
Source: Adrienn / Pexels

Some coworkers lack tact and take advantage of the good nature of others. If your coworker mooches off you, you may not realize you have been taken advantage of until you sense a pattern developing. For instance, they may habitually borrow, with no evident intention of repaying. In a restaurant, they may run up the tab, knowing that you will split the bill.

You may not want to confront this type of colleague for fear you will make enemies at work or look like you are pinching pennies. On the other hand, you know you should put a stop to the imposition and do not want to grow resentful.

What You’re Thinking

Maybe Sarah thinks I’m wealthy because I dress well, but I am just a great bargain shopper. I manage my money carefully, with a set amount for entertainment and eating out. Sarah always runs short before payday and comes to me for lunch money, which she never returns. But how can I refuse? What gets me upset is when we go out as a team after work. I order what I can afford; Sarah and a few others go wild on the food and drinks. Then the bill comes, and someone splits the total evenly among all of us. I’m penalized for their indulgence when all I had was pasta and salad!

What She’s Thinking

Karen is so kind. With all the money she and her husband probably make, she won’t miss a few bucks. The company policy is not to divulge anyone’s salary, but I’m sure I am not being paid enough for the work I do. If I take advantage of a few of my coworkers, it is only because I’m sure they can afford it.


Your goal is to keep the friendships you have made among your colleagues while still maintaining your values.

  1. Prepare a gentle refusal. Combine this by lending a different kind of support. Offer to help your coworkers create a budget they can live with.
  2. Suggest a casual, self-service restaurant. Then, everyone pays their way fair and square.
  3. Grab the full-service restaurant check yourself. Figure out and announce what each person owes. The mooching colleague will no longer get a free ride.
  4. Speak up before everyone orders. If there are too many of you to request separate checks, proclaim that you are on a budget. You will be treated with respect rather than disdain. You will probably also learn that the majority feel the way you do but are too embarrassed to say anything.

Tactical Talk

Sarah: Karen, I’m running a little short. Could you lend me twenty dollars until tomorrow?

You: I’m sorry, Sarah, but I do not have any extra money this week. You know, I’m pretty good at math and enjoy budgeting. If you’re interested, I’m happy to brainstorm with you to figure out how to stretch your salary between paychecks.

Or: (At the restaurant.) As much as I love our team dinners, I must share that I am on a strict budget. I can’t participate anymore in the usual check splitting. However, I volunteer to take the check and then let everyone know what their bill comes to. Is that okay with everyone?

Tip: As long as you are willing to put up with their sponging, these colleagues will continue to sop up your money. Their behavior is arrogant and selfish, but they are tough-skinned, and the rebuff will roll off their backs.

Copyright© 2024 Amy Cooper Hakim

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