Q: Dear Workplace Wonda,
I’m no Emily Post, but isn’t it appropriate etiquette to acknowledge an individual with a friendly greeting when you come into contact with them. I’ve noticed that sometimes employees will walk right past you in the hall way without even a glance up. As a matter of fact, the other day I waved at a co-worker who was leaving the parking lot and she just blankly looked at me. Has our society become so emotionally protective that to initiate a friendly acknowledgment to our own co-workers is too much to ask? Why should I go out of my way to be friendly when others would just as soon be invisible.
Signed, Desperate for a Hello.
A: Dear Desperate for A Hello,
Let me start off by saying, Aloha, Bonjour Salaam, Hola, Howdy Doo, Salutations, and What Up?
I would not take the seemingly cool reception too personally. In reality, people vary in how they interact, how often they interact, and how engaged they become. This is also true when dealing with complete strangers in stores or parking lots.
Extroverted people who are energized by interaction with others are more likely to say “Hello” to total strangers or co-workers they may not know very well. Introverted people may not see a reason to greet people they don’t see as their friends. That doesn’t make them mean, just maybe shy or uncomfortable around people they don’t know well.
So, part of what you might be seeing is that everyone has a different style and way of interacting. Most of the time, it has nothing at all to do with others; it has to do with them.
Another reality in the workplace is that people walk back and forth and around the building all day long. Saying “Hi” every time you pass someone in the hallway can be cumbersome. An initial “Hi” or “Good Morning” would seem reasonable. After that, a smile would probably do. Personally, I think it is awkward to just walk by a coworker and act like you don’t see them even though they are within three feet of you. But, sometimes people are just preoccupied, deep in thought, or on a mission to get to their destinations.
Are the days of a man throwing his coat over a puddle for you to walk across without getting your shoes wet, over? Absolutely (sigh)! Should employees walk around like the Night of the Living Dead, foregoing common niceties? Absolutely not!
The following are a few tips that might increase friendliness among people who don’t know each other well:
1. Take the initiative. Give a hello or a smile to someone you don't know well. The next time you see them, it might result in at least a smile from them.
2. Introduce yourself. Perhaps say, “I see you all the time but don’t really know where you work or who you are. I’m...”. Don’t impose more than a brief introduction. Familiarity encourages acknowledgment the next time you see them.
3. Most acceptable by people seems to be making brief eye contact, a quick smile, and the raise of your hand slightly in a greeting.
Signed, Workplace Wonda
Oh, I almost forgot my manners, Aurevoir, Auf Wiedersehen, Arrivederci, Adios, So Long, and Goodbye.
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