I live in the ‘burbs with an hour+ work commute to the city. I enjoy the flexibility to work from home several times a week make my own schedule, which also varies due to the needs of the tech world. I enjoy separating my work and social life, which means keeping relationships at work professional, with minimal interaction outside of work.
My coworker is planning to move in with their partner soon, who happens to live in my town, down the street from my house. I gave Coworker a handful of rides to/from work several months ago, since they do not own a car, public transit is not close, and it was technically on my route. Now that cohabitation plans are in order, Coworker is casually asking lots of questions about my work schedule and how I feel about carpooling more often when they move (asking me during work, which is awkward). This is coupled with suggestions to hangout/do non-work stuff together.
I really don’t want to commit to being Coworker’s source of transportation, or non-work friend, for various reasons that I don’t want to share with Coworker, but I feel like a jerk for saying no and/or not committing to anything. Anticipating the pending questions of, “Hey, can you give me a ride to work X times a week? And, wanna get dinner after?”, what scripts do you have that will help me navigate this conversation, and say no/put firm boundaries in place, without seeming like an asshole, and needing to continue interacting with this person on a regular basis? Also, do you think I should be the one to initiate the conversation (since I am 90% sure it is coming), or have Coworker take the lead?
Introvert In the Suburbs
The person is asking you how you feel about carpooling, so, tell them how you feel about carpooling:
“You mentioned carpooling the other day, so I want to follow up – I’m probably good to share rides, like, once a month. Beyond that, I really like to make my own schedule, so I wanted to make sure you’re not counting on me as you plan your new commute. Good luck with your move!”
Then, once a month, maybe follow up and invite them to grab dinner on the way home. That way it’s not hanging over you & you can be in control of how & when.
You are not a jerk, you just like privacy and a flexible schedule, and you are giving them information that they can use to make good decisions.
Will this person be disappointed? Probably.
Were they trying to factor you into their plans to move? Definitely.
Should they buy a car or live somewhere public transport is an option or make another plan? Certainly.
Is that your specific problem? Nope!
Also, listen, there is no perfect way to deliver news that someone doesn’t want to hear that makes them feel great about it. If this coworker responds in a negative way to the above script, it doesn’t mean you were a jerk or that have to give them rides now.
My prediction is that they will try to pretend that they weren’t planning to depend on you for rides in the first place and you’re being presumptuous by assuming that, the same way a person who was obviously wanting to ask a coworker out gets embarrassed when the coworker is like “Let’s just keep it professional, Kyle” and pretends that was never what they wanted. If that happens, you can respond with a cheerful “Oh, that’s great to know! I’m sorry if I presumed, it seemed like you were sounding me out the other day and I just wanted to make sure you had good information. See you at work!” If they avoid you for a little bit, that’s a win. It means the boundaries are working.