A reader writes:
For several months, I’ve been supervising an awesome temp who we’re finally able to hire to our project (yay!). Though I have a manager title, our project is so small that this is my first time supervising someone.
Out of the blue today, a coworker (not someone above me in the office hierarchy) pulled me aside to give me some feedback on the temp since she heard we were planning to make the hire. According to her, I need to tell the temp to say hello to people when she walks by them in the hallways. Um… This person doesn’t work with my temp, but works in a cube nearby and felt offended that the temp kept her head down frequently and wasn’t chatty in the kitchen when they both were there. She stressed that it was really important for professionalism to say hello to people, and that it was my job as the future supervisor to give her the heads-up.
How would one even casually bring that up? It would be clear I was passing along someone else’s feedback since I have a very friendly relationship with the temp (she’s an introvert and a bit shy, but once she gets to know you she’s quite lovely). I promised once we made the hire I would introduce her around again to make her feel more comfortable with everyone, but is there something else I should do or say? It’s more important to me to make my employee comfortable than this coworker, but I want to make sure this doesn’t come up again down the line. Also — I work with a lot of introverted academic types, many don’t say hi in the hallways, which makes this feedback even more peculiar.
I’d talk to your coworker, not to your temp.
There are many, many offices where people don’t say hi every time they pass in the hall and where they’re not obligated to be chatty in the kitchen. Some people are shy, some people have their minds full of the project they were just working on, and some people … well, who knows? Who cares?
I wouldn’t tell someone, “You need to say hi to people in the halls.” Can you imagine being on the receiving end of that feedback? You’d be entirely weirded out that someone in your office thought about this enough and cared about this enough to talk to your manager about it … and that your manager thought it was an issue worth relaying to you.
That said, it’s worth considering whether there’s some larger point to your coworker’s feedback. Aside from the hallways and the kitchen, does the temp come across as chilly or unfriendly in actual work situations like meetings or work-related conversations? If so, you could definitely work with her on that — but it should come from you, couched in terms of “here’s something I’ve noticed and it could impact you this way,” not be relayed as “Jane told me you’re not very friendly.”
But if you do that, it should be based on your real belief that it’s an issue, not on feeling that you have to act in some way on your coworker’s complaint. Your coworker is welcome to share her observations with you, and you should give them real consideration– but you, as the manager, need to make the final judgment on whether you agree that there’s an issue worth raising.
Meanwhile, I’d go back to the coworker, tell her that you thought about the feedback, and that the temp is simply shy and — like many others in your office — just not a hi-in-the-halls type person. Explain she does good work, and you hope she’ll get to know people more over time, but that you think it’s okay that she’s not saying hello in the hallways. If your coworker pushes back on this, smile and say, “Thanks. I’ve heard the feedback and I appreciate it.” But it’s not her place to continue to push.