coworker is upset that I don’t say good morning, a winking intern, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My coworker is upset that I don’t say good morning to her

I recently started a new job about six weeks ago and my personal desk is in a communal back area. My issue is that a new colleague of mine expects to be greeted every morning and there are times where this feels natural to do but others when it doesn’t. (It doesn’t help that our desks are next to each other either.) I have no issue with responding to a general “good morning” but it’s the expectation to initiate that I find irritating. If she wants to be greeted, why not start the conversation? Am I out-of-line for feeling this way?

I work with the public and when I arrive my mind is focused on the work day and getting ready for “on” mode of being with the public. When I’m not at the public desk, I like my personal desk time to be quiet and free of expectations from others. I see this colleague frequently throughout the day and she is a very chatty person (which I’m not) so I’m already feeling a pressure to converse when I’d rather not. I’ve tried avoiding eye contact or appearing busy but she has brought up the issue of not initiating the “good morning” — she said something along the lines of “Why didn’t you say hello to me this morning?’” And now she watches me expectantly when I arrive to see if I’ll say something to her. Should I just suck it up and purposely say it every morning?

That’s obnoxious. She’s welcome to greet you in the mornings if she’d like to, but there’s no reason that she should expect you to be the one to initiate it, and taking you to task for not doing it is really bizarre. It sounds like she’s already at work and thinks that the arriving person (you) should say something rather than walking in silently. But that’s not a universally established rule in an office context; you’re allowed to walk in silently if you’d like, and if that bothers her, then she can greet you. (If she does greet you, it of course would be rude for you not to respond. But it sounds like it’s the initiating that’s the issue.)

In any case, if she’s senior to you or otherwise has influence over well you do in your job, then yeah, you should suck it up and say good morning to her when you see her. She’s being ridiculous, but it’s not a hill worth dying on. But otherwise, I’d be awfully tempted to ignore her expectant looks, or to address it head-on by saying something like, “You know, I’m usually focused on getting my work started when I come in, and looking at me so expectantly is coming across really oddly. If you want to say good morning, please feel free to but I’d rather you not continue the pointed looks.” (But again, you can only be that blunt if she’s not senior to you.)

2. My employee shares front desk coverage and her coworkers are sniping at her for being a few minutes late

I’ve just started a new job as a manager and already need advice! One member of my team, Jane, is an admin for our department, but she rotates covering the front desk with a couple of other admins from another department. This other department is separate, although related, and does not share our reporting line. They just happen to sit in the same suite of offices. Lately, these other admins have been fussing at Jane for being a couple minutes late (3-5, maybe, not every time) from lunch and breaks. I’ve observed Jane long enough to know that she is conscientious about her job and her time and is not abusing the coverage offered by the others. They’ve just all of a sudden decided that these few minutes each week are a huge burden on them and have gone so far as to blast emails to me and the entire group of admins scolding her.

I’ve let her know that I’m not concerned about her, that she isn’t in trouble with me (and by extension our own management) and won’t be unless she becomes seriously, chronically late. Should I do more than that? Should I stick my nose in to what amounts to a temper tantrum by another department’s employees?

Yes. If another department is upset with her, that’s very much something you should be involved in.

But first, are you sure that being five minutes late really isn’t a problem? In most jobs, that wouldn’t be a big deal, but when you’re talking about front desk coverage, it can be. For example, if Jane is supposed to be back by 2 p.m. to relieve Bob, who’s scheduled to be in a meeting or on a call right after that, it can be a problem if Jane is strolling in at 2:05. (And of course, when it’s 2:04, Bob doesn’t know she’ll be there in one minute; he has to worry it could be longer and has to wonder if he should be rescheduling things.)

So the first thing is to talk to the people who are complaining, and/or their own managers, and find out more about the concern. If it’s just “we don’t like waiting a couple of extra minutes,” that’s one thing — but if it’s impacting people’s work, that matters and you’d need to tell Jane she needs to be on time. And actually, you might need to tell her that either way — this is a job where coverage does matter, and if everyone else observes coverage times to the minute, then Jane might need to be more precise about it herself. And that’s not “Jane is in trouble”; it’s just “Jane needs to slightly tweak what she’s doing.”

But if other people involved in the front desk rotation also are late by a few minutes with some regularity and this is about them sniping at Jane for some other reason, then your approach would be different. In that case, talk with them, ask about the actual work impact, and hear them out — and ask something like, “I’ve noticed other people are often a few minutes late; what is it about what Jane’s doing that is more of a problem?” (And who knows, maybe you’ll hear there’s more to this than you thought.) But if it continues to seem like personal sniping, then you say, “If you have a problem with Jane’s coverage in the future, please come talk with me. I don’t want emails scolding her going out to a group. Talk to me and we’ll resolve it.” And you may need to say this to their managers as well. But first, hear them out with an open mind — because Jane being generally conscientious doesn’t preclude the possibility that there’s something she needs to alter here.

3. Taking personal calls on your office phone line

I was wondering what you think about the use of office’s landline for personal reasons in two different ways:

First, for scheduling medical appointments or calling home to check on their kids. This used to happen more at my office but it has now subsided after a few matter-of-fact comments from the supervisor, such as “I can’t believe banks are calling our office seeking one of our employees, I wouldn’t ever use my extension number for personal reasons” or “I would use my cell phone for that call.:

Second, to call friends/family members who also work at this institution at their extension number, but not to discuss work-related things. For example, my next-cubicle colleague constantly receives phone calls at her extension number from her brother who works two floors below, always for personal reasons such as “What time should I pick up your daughters at band practice today?” This is what’s been bothering me more, because we always take each other’s calls to handle our clients. It’s been nagging at me to constantly stop what I’m doing and pick up her calls when she’s in a meeting and it’s her brother looking for her. I can’t let her phone to keep ringing because it might be a client.

Am I being too nitpicky? It’s my personal belief that the landline in my desk is for work-only purposes, but it might be wrong of me to apply that to others. What’s office culture on this?

It’s not inherently wrong to take those sorts of calls on the office land line. In fact, in the days before cell phones, that was completely normal. It’s true that now people are more likely to use their cell phones for personal calls, but there’s nothing inherently objectionable about using your office line instead (assuming that it’s fine for you to be taking personal calls at work in the first place).

That said, in your situation where people are answering calls for each other, it does create a problem if you’re constantly answering your coworker’s phone in case it’s a client and finding yourself taking personal messages for her. It might make sense to say to her, “Since I answer your phone so much when you’re away from your desk, would you mind having Bob call your cell instead?” But that’s about this particular situation where you’re all answering each other’s lines, not about anything wrong with using office lines for personal calls in general.

4. Intern keeps winking at me

An intern working for someone else in the academic lab where I work has recently started winking at me to acknowledge me (for example, when we pass in the hallway). It bothers me a bit since it comes off a bit flirty and I’m wondering 1) if this is widely seen as inappropriate or if I’m overreacting and 2) should I address this with him? I am a woman in my late 20s and he is a man in college; I am not his supervisor or involved with his project, but I am senior to him in position and duration of time in the lab. If I should speak up, which I’m thinking I may as a professional courtesy, I was thinking of framing it as “Hey, you may not realize, but this comes across as professionally inappropriate.” I could also talk to the person who supervises him and ask her to address it, but am thinking that may make it a bigger deal/more uncomfortable than it needs to be. Any other thoughts/suggestions?

Some people are winkers and use winking liberally in all contexts, including to mean “hello.” I don’t get it, and I agree it comes off as flirty/smarmy/something in that vicinity. (How do winkers go through life without realizing that so many people take it that way?)

But yeah, talking to his manager about this would make it into a bigger deal than it is. The framing you’re thinking of — “Hey, you may not realize this” — is good. The other option is just addressing it right in the moment the next time it happens, as in, “Hey, what’s with the sudden winking at me?” … followed by, “You probably don’t realize this, but winking comes across a little oddly in a work environment.”

5. My nosy coworker will guess I’m quitting when my house goes up for sale

About two years ago, my husband and I moved when my husband was offered a new job opportunity. The housing market in our new location made it much more cost efficient to purchase a home than to rent and so we jumped on the opportunity and invested in our first home. (We love it!)

One of my teammates at work happens to live in my neighborhood. We realized this when we ran into each other walking our dogs. Since then she’s asked a ton of personal questions at work, in front of others, about the home — how much we paid, what kind of renovations have been done or do we have planned (it’s an amazing older home), how many rooms it has, etc. Annoying (and invasive), but okay.

Here’s the problem — my husband’s job hasn’t quite lived up to expectations, so we’ll likely move again if the right opportunity comes along. His field is the kind where he’ll interview in advance and then we’ll have lots of lead time (at least six months). My job is the kind where if I give too much notice, I’ll be pushed out early. Plus, in the past when we’ve moved, I’ve often stayed in my job until the end of our lease while I research and search for something new in the new area. I anticipate that I’ll want to wait to give notice until we find a buyer for our current home or I find a new position in the new area.

What do I do if/when we decide to move and put our house up for sale? I’m certain this coworker will notice and ask about it. She’s a pretty loud person in general, and I know she shares information she comes across widely and without hesitation. I’m not sure what she’d do if she were specifically asked to keep information private. Should I make up a cover story? Be honest but try to get her to be my ally and proactively ask her not to say anything at work? Figure out a way to avoid answering her questions (not sure this would work)? You always have great suggestions for difficult situations, so I’m hoping for some help on this one!

Yep, it sounds like you may need to make up a cover story. That sucks because obviously it’s not great to lie to a colleague, but you’re in a situation where a nosy coworker is likely to spread information that you’re entitled to keep private. You’re not obligated to allow that out of a devotion to truthfulness, so I think you’re ethically in the clear to shade the truth. Can you say you decided the house was too much space for you, or that you decided to rent rather than own, or that you’re moving to be closer to your husband’s work (which is true!), or that you just realized it wasn’t the house for you? Which of these to go with depends on how comfortable you are answering (or better yet, shutting down) the follow-up questions that she’s likely to ask, but you’re really not obligated to share your plans because you’re unlucky enough to have her as a neighbor.

By the way, if she’s super nosy, it might be smart to give her name to your real estate agent — because I could see her showing up at your first open house and asking your agent questions about where “the sellers” are going.

{ 584 comments… read them below }

    1. BuildMeUp*

      I like this idea!

      Or, if you want to compete for the passive-aggression crown, you can give her a pointed look back and have a standoff until one of you says good morning…

    2. cats! cats! cats!*

      I like this, too! I like to smile and wave as I set down my coffee on my desk, then quickly exit to put my lunch in the break room refrigerator, grab something from my mailbox, etc… (exchange as needed for your own routine). Short and sweet, unless I’m speaking with my boss, in which case I’ll be a little more formal and attentive.

    3. Mookie*

      I feel like, because this co-worker takes herself so seriously, doing this could initiate a good-morning stand-off in her mind where she rushes to “beat” the LW to the punch, resulting in a much more distracting, startling daily ritual than it sounds like the LW would prefer. Like the LW, I wouldn’t mind being greeted and returning a greeting every morning, but injecting it with an adversarial tension would not relax me or help me to focus on the tasks before me, which are the LW’s stated goals.

      I could see this person deciding to be extra exhausting and decide to create and then ‘enforce’ a rule and rota where she and the LW trade turns on who does it first to keep things ‘fair,’ pretending to believe the LW has now permanently bought into it, no backsies. Or maybe I just know and am related to too many of these people who have to play power games about etiquette when what they’re really preoccupied with is a weird idea of mutual ‘respect.’

      1. Mookie*

        Sorry, BuildMeUp previously mentioned a ‘stand-off’ element to this, as well. I’m just teasing out why that kind of interaction is not conducive to a calm start to a productive day for many people, perhaps the LW included.

      2. Newbie*

        This is all so interesting to me because in my country, it’s imperative that you say good morning when you enter the building/ office space. People who don’t greet the receptionist or office mates who are nearby are considered impolite. Many times in shops and restaurants, cashiers won’t serve you until they are greeted. You’re even expected to greet bus drivers and thank them when boarding and exiting.

        1. Artemesia*

          I live in Chicago and 80% of people getting on and off buses greet the driver too. The co-worker is being a drip here, but the norm most places I have been is for a new person entering a space to greet those already there. It is pretty impolite to rush past people and start futsing around with one’s workspace without greeting those already there.

        2. Kathleen_A*

          I think the coworker is being petty – but the OP isn’t coming off great here either. Just tell her “Good morning.” It’s polite, it’s not hard, it takes no time at all, and you can still get right to work afterwards. So just do it. The coworker is making too big of deal about it, but then again, so is the OP.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            This is exactly what I thought. I am neither a morning person not particularly outgoing, but I can manage a, “Good morning, everyone!” when I enter the office. It just seems like the collegial thing to do, acknowledging that people exist and you see them. (I am also a manager, and not greeting my team and my assistant would not reflect well.)

            It strikes me as one of those things that is easy to resolve (even if LW’s office mate does come off as a bit of a control freak) with little energy or effort rather than having a problem fester.

          2. OhNo*

            I think it depends a bit on what the coworker’s reaction is to being greeted. If it’s just a quick exchange of “good morning”s, then I agree that the OP might just need to suck it up.

            But if this is one of those coworkers who responds to any greeting with an extended litany on the weather, the traffic, the busy-ness of their morning, and about twelve other topics, I can see how the OP would prefer not to engage until (or unless) they’re good and ready.

        3. Anne Elliot*

          Chiming in to +1 this as well. I am American but live in the South and where I live it is low-key impolite to enter a room with other people in it without greeting the room (or the one person in the room). Around here, no one is likely to say anything about it or engage in the Good Morning Standoff that appears to be brewing (because that also is impolite). But many will silently judge you for it. It’s minor, but it’s a bit rude, would be the wide thought.

          But perhaps this is also a generational thing? I am approaching 50 and a bit out of touch on the standards observed by Kids These Days. Is it possible that the objecting coworker is significantly older than the OP and she is observing a different set of norms?

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            I’m in the South and have been my whole life, and whether or not you’d be expected to greet everyone is pretty context-specific in every office I’ve been in. I would never judge anyone for not saying hi to everyone. In open office areas, a lot of people will do a “good morning” greeting said to the room in general but not to anyone in particular, but not everybody does.

            1. Anne Elliot*

              I’m not certain if we’re talking about the same thing or not. I’ve never been in an office where you’re expected to great everyone (“Good morning Sam; good morning Ellen; good morning Alicia; good morning Wakeen, etc. etc.”). But the general expectation is that you do greet “the room” if you’re walking into a space with several people in it. More specifically, if you go into a room with only one other person in it, as here, and you fail to greet them — yep, that’s rude. Elevators, IMO, are different. If you’re going into an elevator with a stranger in it, maybe a “hi” or a smile, but maybe not. But if you were to walk into an elevator with a known coworker in it and not acknowledge their existence in your space, most people I work with and know socially here in the South would find that a bit rude. Obviously I can’t say this is true for every office. But it has been my experience in the South and contrasts sharply with the expectations I found at home in the North. But then, in my home state no one ever told me to have a blessed day, and that happens all the time down here.

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            My in-laws came to visit us years ago, and my MIL talked for DAYS about how she just could not believe that people on the metro didn’t talk to one another. She was stunned when I told her I wore headphones specifically so no one did talk to me – that’s my quiet/alone time! I’m happy to help someone staring at the map and looking befuddled, but I do not want to strike up a conversation with my seatmate.

            1. RKMK*

              It’s funny because in metropolitan areas and in situations like the subway, not talking to each other IS politeness. I read a whole study about urban spaces and everyone subconsciously keeping interaction to a minimum to allow everyone else to feel like they have space to themselves when they’re surrounded on all sides by walls of people.

          3. Aurion*

            I think it’s more regional than generational. I’m a millennial and I definitely say hello/good morning every morning. I don’t go out of my way to say hello to the colleague on the other side of the room/make rounds/bellow out a hello to the room at large, but anyone I pass by on my way to my desk/the hot water kettle will be greeted. And I’ll greet people who sit close to my desk and arrive after I do.

            Maybe the OP is right on principle, but escalating this to a standoff seems…weirdly difficult on both sides.

        4. Mephyle*

          I moved to a country like Newbie’s country and I had to learn this. Coming from the more casual greeting culture that I was raised in, where most of you are, it’s not really something I understood fully until I had lived in it. Think of something really rude you could say or do to a person – turn your back pointedly at them, swear at them with no provocation, throw your drink at them, or something like that. Failing to greet is more or less on that level of impoliteness.
          Yet if the co-worker comes from a subculture that inculcated that idea about obligatory greeting, she should learn to adapt, because she and OP are not living in that culture.

        5. Kelly L.*

          You know, I normally get irked at unspoken expectations like that, and yet there’s a part of me that really likes this. I want to go into a store and be ignored until I give a cue that I’m ready to engage!

        6. TinLizi*

          I think it depends. In college, I worked at Trader Joe’s on the 3am stocking shift. I would come in, put my bags in the break room, clock in, check in with the supervisor, go to my assigned section, grab the boxes to stock and then while working greet the coworkers around me and ask how they’ve been. One coworker who usually worked in my section thought it was rude that I didn’t go up to each coworker in the store and greet them and explain pleasantries before starting work. I saw that as wasting time, when we had limited time to get the store stocked, and I could talk while I worked.

    4. Washi*

      Haha, I like it! And I mean, I like it as a genuine question for her. Since I’ve moved to the DC area, I’ve had several coworkers who have a particular idea about when you “speak.” This was finally explained to me when one of my coworkers was really grumpy about not being greeted by another coworker – she’d been taught that it is Good Etiquette that when you walk in a room, you are the one to “speak” (greet everyone.) And everyone used that specific word – like I remember one coworker complaining “I hate it, these people get in the elevator and don’t speak.” My coworkers were genuinely shocked and quite skeptical that I had not been taught this.

      1. NorVA Resident*

        I’m in the DMV as well and have been since I was a teenager and while I don’t notice if someone doesn’t do it, I definitely generally nod and/or say a greeting when getting into an elevator, walking into a conference room, or passing people in the office hallways whether I know them or not. However I also won’t hesitate to avoid eye contact if I’m rushing past someone/someone’s office if I’m in a hurry in the morning, etc. I wouldn’t be offended when someone doesn’t greet me jumping in the elevator but I think this is another of the perceived etiquette issue that is common in the DMV because there are so many people with the older fashioned Southern etiquette mindsets but at this point a lot of DMV residents are a lot of transplants from the rest of the US where you don’t have those same ideas that you have to look someone in the eye and greet them every time you walk in a room/elevator.
        (Postscript: I will fully admit sometimes when I travel to the Northern part of the US especially to New England it takes a hot minute to get used to the fact people generally don’t nod at each other on the streets, etc and I grew up there until I was a teen.)

        1. Ali G*

          Ha! Yes! I’m from NJ and I was taught from a very young age to not talk to strangers. I know that was more a safety thing, but until I went to grad school in the south, I had zero experience with strangers talking to each other. I’ve sine learned to make idle chit chat while waiting in the grocery line etc., but I’m not likely to ever “greet” random strangers on the street or in the elevator.

          1. 5 Leaf Clover*

            I’m also from New Jersey and now live in Minneapolis, and some people seem really offended when I don’t say hello to them in the elevator! It feels incredibly intrusive to me (you don’t own me, fellow elevator passenger!) – but I do think the OP should consider whether this is the norm in their particular culture.

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Holy hand grenades, that don’t talk to strangers thing was for kids, according to my mom. She talked to everyone, and so do i. What else do you do in lines in NYC?

            1. No, I'm not posting my name.*

              You figure out what you’re going to order, get your deposit set up and ready to go, get your wallet out and fill out most of the check so you can pay as soon as the cashier is done ringing you up, pay attention to keeping pace with the line… whatever you can do to speed things up for everyone else, including the person who has to apologize to people who are going to be late because you weren’t ready when it was your turn.

              My Ex used to try to start conversations instead of reading the menu in line. He was always surprised to be asked to step aside while he figured out what he wanted in certain famous NY delis so he could make up his mind without holding up everyone else. He was even more surprised when I didn’t stand there with him but went ahead and ordered, got my food and found us a table while he figured out what he wanted.
              Clearly we were incompatible.

              When I say I’m from NY, people here in the Midwest always exclaim how RUDE everyone in NY is, which always makes me wonder what they think they’re doing. The first day I was here, three cars in the far left lane crossed 4 lanes of traffic to turn right and wagged fingers out the window at people who blew their horns. The next block, some fool held up dozens of cars to let somebody in from a parking lot, nevermind it was nearly 1PM and people were going to be late because he was being ostentatiously “nice”. There’s a lot of performing “nice” here. Beyuch.

              1. Rice cakes*

                Side note, but where do you go that people still pay with checks? I haven’t seen that happen in years!

        2. Frozen Ginger*

          DMV transplant to the Northeast here. People up here are surprised when I tell them I’m an introvert because I’m always greeting and chatting with strangers. Well, yeah, but I do it because I was raised to consider that to be the polite thing to do, not because I enjoy it…

          (Also when my Northerner boyfriend and I visited New Orleans he was astounded by the number of strangers who would ask us how we were as we passed. He was so confused, whereas I was like “I missed this!”)

          1. Canadian Public Servant*

            Took me several posters to realize everyone didn’t work at very friendly “Departments of Motor Vehicles.” At first, was mostly puzzling about how they were such polite places, since that’s not my experience!

            1. 5 Leaf Clover*

              Me too – for everyone who doesn’t want to google, it’s apparently “District, Maryland, and Virginia”

            2. anonymouse*

              I’d been living in Maryland for five years before I finally realized what “DMV” referred to.

              1. NotAnotherManager!*

                It’s a relatively recent thing. I’ve lived in the DC metro for 20 years, and this whole DMV thing just became a prevalent thing maybe 5 years ago. I still find it jarring because my MIL worked at the DMV (the one government agency), and that’s my primary association.

                1. Canadian Public Servant*

                  Can I blame Drake for this? He’s the one who popularized the (to me) obnoxious nickname of “The Six” for Toronto, and I might be less annoyed if he’s just handing out jurisidictional nicknames all over.

          2. CmdrShepard4ever*

            Oh I would hate this from strangers. I feel like the expected response is “Good, and yourself? or Good how about you?” If you want to give a greeting that says I see you fellow human and I acknowledge you that is what “Hello” is for. I think “How are you doing?” should be used by friends, family, coworkers with whom you can say “Actually not so well my kid was sick all night and I didn’t get any sleep.”

        3. JB (not in Houston)*

          This is so strange to me! I have lived in the South my entire life, and I’ve never encountered an expectation that you need to say hello to people in the elevator. Quite the opposite–usually the grumbling I hear is from people complaining about the guy who just exited who had insisted on trying to carry on a conversation with those of us trapped in the elevator with him.

        1. General Ginger*


          Please don’t talk to me on the elevator. Chances are, I am not able to respond because I’m holding my breath due to someone’s strong cologne, anyway!

        2. Washi*

          Yeah, I’ve made more of an effort to greet the room when I come in, even if I can’t physically see my coworkers (we are in cubicles, so when I’m walking to my desk I just sort of say “good morning” loudly) but I don’t initiate greetings in elevators. Eye contact + half smile is as far as I go.

          1. CW*

            Something I used to do when I had to walk through the whole office to get to my desk was to keep my headphones in and aim a vague smile around in the morning until I got to my desk. Exiting quickly and grabbing a coffee or even to stop by the restroom in the AM resolved the rest and sometimes I even made it to lunch without saying anything.
            I highly recommend headphones though, visible ones (overear) work the best.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            I do it at work when I know everybody on the elevator. But then, I’m in the southern part of the Midwest, where people are generally chatty anyway. If I’m on an elevator somewhere else, oh hell no. I might ask what floor you want if I’m near the button, but that’s it.

      2. toomanybooks*

        Oooh, I’m another DMV person, and my inclination is also that it’s rude not to greet people when you walk into your office. I work with a few other people in my department in our own section of the office, and the person coming in always says good morning or hello. I’m inclined to think that this is the office norm in this case too since OP#1 is new to this office. They probably do look particularly rude and antisocial by not saying hello. I like to have quiet mornings to myself to get started on my workday as well, but greeting my coworkers takes only a second.

        1. Curmudgeon*

          This is such an interesting thread for me! I was mildly scolded for not greeting each person in my DC office when I arrived every morning. (My desk was in the back so I passed everyone else on my way in.) But they wanted me to stop at each office and say good morning individually, which I found awkward and disruptive. I kind of ignored the request because I was leaving the job soon after, but it still strikes me as weird! I’m a native Midwesterner, but also an introvert and not a morning person, so I would hate to be greeted individually by multiple coworkers every day. Thankfully in my current office that is not the norm.

          1. Peachywithasideofkeen*

            From another Midwestern Introvert, I agree! I will usually say hello if I pass by someone on my way to my own office, but I don’t stop in all the offices I walk by just to say hi. I share an office with someone else and I think it would be weird not to greet her. Sometimes we don’t say hello right away if she’s on the phone or talking to someone else, and sometimes we both then get into doing other things, but we eventually greet each other, but I probably wouldn’t even notice if it didn’t happen. I would thinkg it’s so weird if everyone started coming into my office in the morning to say hi!

      3. Chameleon*

        You know that scene in romcoms where someone has just fallen in love and they walk down the street being happy and dancing and giving flowers to random old ladies on the street?

        In Seattle, saying “good morning” to everyone in the office would come off like this.

        I occasionally will greet the person I literally share an office with, but not really that often. And some stranger speaking to me in an elevator? *shudder*

        1. biobotb*

          Not in my experience in Seattle. I have coworkers who make the rounds to greet everyone every morning and it’s not over the top like you’re suggesting.

          1. Elaine*

            Speaking as a native Seattleite, I would say Chameleon is a little closer to the typical situation. Yes, of course some people are more outgoing, including situations involving strangers. I would bet some or even many of them came here from somewhere else. Our reputation is polite, not friendly to strangers. A coworker from Florida commented that she often speaks to people in lines and they always answer. I responded, “Of course they do. They’re polite and it would be rude not to answer. Does anyone in line ever initiate a conversation with you?” “Oh.” My boss does want me to say hello and goodbye, so I do. She is from Texas, not Seattle.

            So OP, consider what is typical of your area and also your office, which may be impacted by where your coworkers are from. And then just give in, say hello, and quickly move on with your business.

            1. biobotb*

              Speaking as a native Seattleite myself, all of the people I was referring to are native Seattleites.

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                Seattleite here as well. I walk in and say “good morning all” and keep walking. I feel I kinda have to since I’m “the boss” though.

          2. Anon in Seattle too*

            In our shared office space of 7 people in Seattle, none of us are native Seattleites. If I am in early and only a fraction of people are in, I will say “Good morning.” Otherwise, I tend not to do so, especially if I am the last one in, which is often the case. However, I do feel some discomfiture, and I’m not sure I am doing it “right.”

      4. Lizzy May*

        I’m Canadian and live in a major city and while we have a reputation of being polite, the reality is it’s cold here, public transit sucks and we’re all grumpy about it. I would never make small talk with a stranger in an elevator or talk to people on the street I don’t know. But I do a general “good morning” when walking into my office. It’s nice to acknowledge my coworkers and it’s an easy way of letting everyone in earshot know I’m here. (Last thing I want to do is startle someone.) I do the same general “good night” when I leave. I would never walk around to every desk greeting people, though. Overkill.

      1. Been There, Done That*

        LOL, I like the way you think.

        Other possibilities:
        –OMG, our in-laws just found out where we live!
        –People really DO win Publishers Clearinghouse! I’ll send you a postcard from Fiji!
        –Our housecleaner doesn’t like this house.
        –We finally finished unpacking and discovered there’s not enough room for our Donnie and Marie Osmond memorabilia.

        1. AKchic*

          “We like to keep the mystery alive…”
          Then just leave it at that. All questions will be answered with that phrase, blithely repeated. Matter-of-factly repeated. Pointedly repeated. All with a knowing, serene half-smile on your face. It’s unnerving, but eventually, she will stop asking you. She may ask others (oh, who are we kidding, she’ll bombard everyone with questions), but just tell everyone that there’s no story to tell. The house is too big, you’re moving, but damn is she too nosy and her nosy-neighbor AND coworker routine was enough of a drawback to the house as it was, so realizing the house was just too big and wanting something smaller and away from her was enough for you and your spouse to want to sell.

    1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      She is still going to show up at the open house, open every door and closet and report every detail back to the office.

      1. Been There, Done That*

        Ooh, follow her around taking video on your phone. Next day at work: “Here’s Lulu going through my closet, and here she is looking at my husband’s clothes, and this is a nice shot of her checking out the things under my kitchen sink…”

      2. snuck*

        Ayup. Agree.

        But it won’t be for long, and it will just highlight her level of crazy pants right?

        See if the realtor can do selective opens only – by appointment only – it’s more pain for you because you will not have just a few home opens, but have to be ‘home open ready’ at short notice and possibly more often, but if you have a high quality house in a high demand market… it’s a good way to go. Qualified buyers only – ie people who are actually really buying, not sticky beaking… and it’s the RE agents job to screen for this. AND give them the co workers name and say “This is a nosey person from the office who is likely to try to get in, I will not have them in, they are NOT buying, just going to cause drama”.

        And then… when nosey coworker asks shrug and say “We love the area, but the house isn’t quite right for us, so we’re exploring other opportunities” and you are… employment as well as housing!

        1. Marthooh*

          **Carefully catalogs sticky beaking for later use.**

          Do warn the realtor, though—even without selective opens, they can be ready to say “Oh, I can’t gossip about my clients!” or “I didn’t ask them, so I don’t know.”

          1. TootsNYC*

            actually in almost every case, the real estate agent shouldn’t tell people why you’re selling.

            If there’s something structurally wrong with the house, you’re required to disclose, but “don’t like the commute” or even “don’t like that we don’t have a master bath” is not material, and nobody needs to know it.

        2. Artemesia*

          When your house is on the market that is the way it is anyway. Ours is now. We usually get notice a day ahead of showings, but sometimes just hours and everything has to be in polished and put away mode. We are slobs so it is agony to live like this. Rarely do houses sell at open house; usually serious buyers are brought in individually by agents.

      3. Susan K*

        I don’t know, my read of this could be wrong, but I wouldn’t necessarily conclude that the coworker is that nosy. I sort of get the sense that she found this thing she has in common with OP #5 and is excited to talk about it. Other than asking how much she paid (which is rude, but then again, nowadays it’s really easy to look up that information on Zillow, so even that isn’t especially private information), I don’t think the other questions are particularly invasive. I’m a very private person and I don’t like to share a lot of details about myself with my coworkers, but even I wouldn’t mind someone asking me how many rooms my home has or if I’m planning renovations.

        That said, it does seem likely that the coworker will notice that the house is for sale and ask about it, so probably a good idea to have a cover story ready,

        1. Southern Gentleman*

          I’m consistently amazed, while reading the comments section on AMA, how many people find things to be “intrusive,” or “invasive” that some of us perceive as simply taking a friendly interest in a co-worker. It must be cultural. I live in the Deep South and it’s just normal to ask people you see every day what’s going on with them. It’s polite “getting to know you” small talk.
          If we stayed within the boundaries demanded by many of the commenters here, we would be considered unfriendly, aloof, stuck up, snobby or some other impolite descriptors. “She really keeps to herself,” would be a benign thing to say; but the connotation would be much stronger.
          It’s a head-scratcher… and I’m still confused about the DMV thing.

          1. MrsCHX*

            I don’t think “how much did you pay for your house?” is small talk. That’s a very invasive question and conveys a lot of information or misinformation.

            I think the renovations thing is small talk since it’s such a popular thing nowadays.

            1. Maggie May*

              in some states it’s public information which isn’t really invasive, and if you also have a house in the neighborhood it can be good to know

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                Yeah, that’s probably not the best standard for whether something is invasive to ask about. After all, court proceedings and records are generally public information, but it’s pretty intrusive to say “JoAnne, how’s the divorce coming along? I see that Nigel is alleging cruelty as a ground for getting more of the house proceeds” or “Hey, Sam, how did it feel to see your mom’s murderer in court yesterday?”

                In some cultures talking about how much someone paid for their house might be perfectly fine, but in most parts of the US, this would feel a little too personal to ask.

                1. Happy Lurker*

                  I don’t ask. I just go to the local Registry of Deeds website and look up my new neighbor. It’s slightly creepy, but it beats asking the neighbors and it keeps me abreast of current home values.

              2. Clisby Williams*

                Are there any states (in the US) where it’s NOT public information? If I want to know what any of my neighbors paid for their houses, I just look it up online at my county’s website.

                I get that some people seem to feel like the price they paid for their homes is private, even though it’s not, so that question can come off as a little nosy. The others just sound like normal conversation to me.

                1. Ellex*

                  Civil proceedings are public (which includes divorces and estates). I believe criminal proceedings are not publicly available in most locations. Property tax/deed information is also publicly available and even online in many places.

                1. GreenDoor*

                  Yea, lots of stuff is public, but if you’re a polite person, you maintain the illusion of privacy. I work in the government sector so our salaries are public but no one goes around asking each other how much they make. And you still have to jump through hoops to obtain the information from HR. I see the questions about the house as the same. Sure you could check the City’s website or go on Zillow and find the house and see the inside. But coming right out and asking is rude.

          2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Your first mistake is thinking anywhere on the internet where we gather to discuss social/professional interactions are a group of regular/standard bunch. It’s rarely the case.

            This sample size is polarized and tiny. Welcome to the island of misfit toys ;)

          3. 5 Leaf Clover*

            It’s definitely cultural, and I don’t think either side is right or wrong, but I’ll try to explain the “logic” of my northern sensibility for those who find it bewildering. It’s a sort of personal autonomy idea – that each person is free to go about their business without being beholden to others. You don’t owe me your energy and I don’t owe you mine. I will add that this only applies to niceties – people in the north won’t walk by someone having a heart attack any more than people in the south would; it’s just with gestures of politeness that we don’t feel it’s necessary to do the work of exchanging pleasantries. Because niceties are not expected, we assume the goodwill is there without needing to do the dance.

            1. doreen*

              I find these conversations absolutely amazing, mostly because my experience is so very different. I have lived in NYC my entire life and it is certainly a different sensibility than the south – greeting total strangers you pass on the street doesn’t happen in NYC the way it sometimes happens in the south. But I’ve never lived or worked anywhere in NYC where there wasn’t an expectation to greet people that you sort of know – the neighbors you see all the time but you don’t know their last name, the receptionist/security guard at the front desk, a general “hello” as you pass groups of desks. And it has always been the person coming in who is expected to greet those already there. The coworker doesn’t come off well for making an issue of it , but the OP would be considered impolite everywhere I’ve ever worked and sometimes that has consequences. I know someone who works in an office building with heavy doors. There is a button security can press that will automatically open them- but security is only technically permitted to do this for people with an official ADA accommodation. In reality, they do it for lots of people who are carrying packages or who simply have difficulty opening the door – but not the person I know. And I’m sure it’s no coincidence that she’s the sort of person who walks past the same security guards twice a day never saying “good morning” or “good night”.

          4. Former Expat*

            I commented once about how in some cases, the commentariat has opposite views of the same situation (or at least very different). Then I immediately got a brusque comment from a commenter who thought I was taking a particular view of the topic!!!

            I agree that sometimes people read the same situation in wildly different ways. I guess that is why the rule on AAM is to take people at their word. If LW says her coworker is invasive then we should assume it is invasive. But I hear what you’re saying. I’ve lived all over and I still get surprised at the different interpretations of “small talk.”

          5. Empress of the Galaxy*

            It’s definitely cultural. I’m constantly surprised by how many people in the comments here think asking me personal questions is friendly instead of nosy and intrusive. If people did that routinely here the best we might say is “they’re very….friendly” in a tone that makes it clear this is not a good thing. They’d be considered nosy, intrusive, pushy, rude and some other not so kind things.

            But that’s the thing with people – we’re all different. And that’s a good thing. Most of the time.

        2. General Ginger*

          IDK, where I grew up, asking how much you paid for anything, from clothes to housing, was a pretty standard, not at all impolite question. Same re: how much do you make. I’ve not lived there in ages, and it’s still weird to me that where I live now all of this is considered rude.

        3. OP #5*

          Good point. Nosy may be too strong of a word, but she’s definitely … talkative. And I care less about the questions to me than the fact that the info about my home and personal life gets repeated throughout our office with others as a conversation piece.

          I may also be being sensitive about the questions — it was mainly the cost of the house one that bothered me. (I would have been fine with it if she had just looked it up without asking me directly, lol.) And the fact that she asked in front of two other people with varying salary levels. I probably also feel a bit weird about it because it is one of the more expensive houses in the neighborhood and I hate those kind of comparisons.

        4. TootsNYC*

          and **I am amazed at how often people just completely dismiss or discount the OP’s assessment of their own lived situation!

          I don’t know, my read of this could be wrong, but I wouldn’t necessarily conclude that the coworker is that nosy. I sort of get the sense that she found this thing she has in common with OP #5 and is excited to talk about it.

          Ya think? Since you haven’t been in the conversation, haven’t seen how the questions were delivered, or the specifics of what was asked, or observed whether the questioner is barrelling right past the cues that say, “I don’t want to talk about this”?

          I’ll trust the OP that this woman is nosy.

          1. Yorick*

            The coworker seems kind of nosy, but I think that commenter was saying that other comments took it to the extreme (assuming the coworker would go to an open house and snoop through her stuff and then gossip about it at work, for example, seems like way more than asking questions about your neighbor and coworker’s homeownership)

            1. Susan K*

              Yes, that is exactly what I meant — just because the coworker/neighbor is interested in making conversation about OP #5’s house doesn’t mean she is a stalker who is going to go to an open house so she can dig through the closets and gossip about it at work. I think people are jumping to extreme conclusions when the letter makes no mention of the coworker having a history of crossing that kind of boundary. All OP says about her “own lived situation” is that the coworker asks a lot of questions about her house and shares information she comes across. There’ a pretty big difference between that and entering OP #5’s home to look through her personal belongings.

      4. Bah Humbug*

        I won’t have open houses just so my nosy neighbors can be entertained. In my area, few houses actually get sold that way, but agents pick up clients. Nope.

        1. Brandy*

          yep, just sold my home. No open houses. And I have 1 neighbor I didn’t want in the house and told the agent who it was by name so if he called they wouldn’t show him the house. Also I had some looky loos schedule multiple visits and hang for a bit and did this several times, I told the agent no more showings for them. The looky loos took to coming and sitting in the driveway, even when we were home, they finally quit.

          1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

            ” The looky loos took to coming and sitting in the driveway, even when we were home, they finally quit.” What?! That is so weird and more than a little frightening! Is this a common experience? In keeping with the theme of regional difference today, “looky loo” is a term I had never heard until I moved to the Midwest, and I love it.

            1. Brandy*

              These were people that had several houses in the neighborhood, the family all lived on the same/our street so we thought they were wanting another house for another family member but then no offer came.
              Ive always said looky loo and Im in the South. Lol

        2. Part Time Poet*

          When I put my house on the market I, too, did not want my next door neighbor to know. He was an idle idiot with a lot of family money and told the previous owner that he wanted to buy it and demolish the house for the land. I was also concerned that someone in my office might see the for sale sign and I didn’t want them to know until I resigned. So our real estate agent said that we didn’t have to put up a for sale sign! Brilliant since it would still be listed in the MLS. It worked beautifully!! It sold quickly because real estate agents check the MLS constantly. Once the house was sold and I resigned, she put a For Sale sign with “SOLD” a the top. Our neighbor came running over aghast that we sold it without his knowledge and how could we do that! We laughed. We told him that there were no laws we knew of that required us to put up a for sale sign. Unless your neighbor regularly checks online for houses for sale in your neighborhood, this trick might work.

          1. FOWG*

            We had a neighbour take that a step further by selling the house and not putting a sold sign out front. Instead they kept quiet, telling only the few people they wanted to know. Then they waited until a Monday morning when everyone around had left for work, brought in the truck and loaded up. Gone before the neighbours returned home from work to discover the now empty house.

            Realtors are great about keeping things quiet if you ask them to.

            1. R.D.*

              Wow. I would dislike moving into a neighborhood when no one knew the house had been sold. It would make it harder to meet and get to know the new neighbors. When they finally realized you were new you’d be constantly fielding questions about “What happened to Harvey and Barbie?” instead of actually building relationships with your neighbors.

              1. Dankar*

                We got that from our neighbors when we didn’t even move! My mother had our house listed, but changed her mind a few weeks after it had gone on the market. We took the sign down and went back to life as usual. The next weekend, a neighbor came up while we were doing yard work and told my mother, “I’m so happy someone moved in and is taking care of this house. It looks so much better than when the last family lived there!”

                My mother was too embarrassed to correct her, and all we’d done at that point was trim two of our larger trees!

              2. GreenDoor*

                RD this happened to us. Our offer was acepted the day after the sign went up. The Nosy Rosey of the neibhorhood came over and pretty much accosted us about what happened to Bill. (He was 94, went from Wisconsin to visit some army buddies at an old folks home in Arizona, loved it so much he called hsi daughter up and told her to sell & he wasn’t coming back). Nosy Rosey was livid that no one told him Bill was selling/leaving. And somehow it was our fault. So weird! People are really weird about this kind of thing so I don’t blame OP for wanting to keep it on the downlow, especially if she needs to keep her job until things settle down with the move.

                1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

                  People asked us about the previous owner when we bought our house. We had never even met them and the house was repossessed so we had zero information. It was most annoying when collection agency people came around!

            2. Yorick*

              That’s a bizarre level of secrecy, unless you’re trying to escape from a stalker or something.

          2. Guitar Lady*

            Just curious, why wouldn’t you want to sell the house and land to your neighbor? If he pays full price what does it matter what he does to the house once you leave? Seems like it would be easier than doing all the work of finding a buyer.

            1. Snow Drift*

              Same question. If I had the money and the opportunity, I would be thrilled to buy my neighbor’s house and rip down their Garage Mahal. Don’t see why that’s an issue, as long as I’m paying fair market value.

            2. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Maybe they don’t want a beautiful house torn down to build the Garage Mahal. (Love the term, it’s now part of my vocabulary! )

            1. Salamander*

              I love it, too. We have some very unpleasant neighbors who believe that they should know about and have input on everything that goes on a mile around. I don’t want them pawing through our things or hassling us, so I can absolutely see doing that.

        3. Venus*

          Same here. Apparently the one successful tactic around here is open houses for other agents with clients, so that the agents are more likely to bring potential buyers to the place, but my agent said that they only do it in specific situations (when there are a lot of houses for sale, and when the house is particularly well furnished and put together).

        4. Pebbles*

          My husband and I each had an open house to sell our homes and got multiple offers in the first day. But the market was (2 years ago) hot in our areas and we had an entry-level town house and a 1950s-built walk out rambler. Although I didn’t appreciate the one neighbor who pooh poohed the custom remodeled kitchen we had done when we first got married as being “too small” when potential buyers were also walking around our home. All that to say YMMV with open houses.

        5. Aitch Arr*


          My condo went on the market on a Friday and had an open house on a Sunday. 9 parties came to the open house and I had an offer by dinner time. This was in September.

    2. Merpaderp*

      Well, careful though, if you’re in the US if a house is known to be haunted you have to disclose that while selling it!

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, the tricky thing is that the admins are being obnoxious in how they’re communicating their concerns (blasting scolding emails is not super effective). But have they mentioned this in front of you before? Because it sounds like you’re waiving off their concerns, and as Alison notes, there may be legitimate feedback that’s being obscured by how they’re communicating that feedback.

    If you take out the “fussing/sniping” characterization, would you consider their feedback more seriously? Have you had a chance to gauge whether the delays are actually affecting their work? I think playing devil’s advocate in favor of their critique may help you identify if there are real concerns that merit your attention.

    1. BuildMeUp*

      I agree, I think the OP should take a closer look at this situation if they haven’t already.

      Aside from preventing the other admins from getting back to work, depending on how the coverage is set up, the employee could also be eating into her coworker’s lunch break. I’ve also worked places where the office culture expectation was that admin coverage would show up a couple of minutes early for a handover of any notes, messages, etc.

      1. Blue*

        I’ve only worked one job that involved rotating coverage like this, and people were *very* particular about you being precisely on time because if you weren’t, it ate into their break time. Regardless of the reason for it, this was the culture in that office, and if someone’s boss had given them leave to ignore it and regularly waltz in 3-5 minutes late, it would’ve made that person extremely unpopular. I agree that OP shouldn’t be so quick to brush this off.

      2. Lemon Bars*

        Also the OP is a new manager so they dont know how the other admins managers are about time and their lunch times. I dont think OP gets how big of an issue this is.

        1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          Yes – if the person covering the desk only gets 12:30 – 1:00 for their lunch break, and the other admin shows up at 12:35, that could be five minutes off their lunch break they don’t get back because THEIR boss expects them to be on time. Five minutes off a half hour lunch break can hurt – even more so if you need to do the switch-over and catch the other person up, then you loose ten minutes off a thirty minute lunch break and that can really hurt. It doesn’t seem like much time, but when that is the only downtime you’ve got…

          1. Sarah N*

            And, it sounds like it’s multiple times a week! I think anyone could understand an occasional thing, but at multiple breaks/lunches it really starts to eat into others’ time.

      3. Mommy MD*

        It does sounds like their concerns are being blown off. Jane can be told to be on time. It’s work, not a social hour.

      4. JSPA*

        I may have missed it, but is this a situation where the front desk really, truly has to be staffed at every minute? It doesn’t sound like this is emergency services.

        After all, at many businesses, even when a reception desk is staffed, if two calls come in at once, one will go to voice mail. And if several people come in at once, someone may be waiting for ten minutes (let alone five). It may be a job where the reception functions double with other functions, and it’s actually pretty normal for someone to be out of their chair or away from the phone for a few minutes.

        Say it’s the scheduling line at the plastic surgery practice (as opposed to the other line, for patients to call in with problems post-surgery). Or the installation scheduling line at the home improvements store.

        Maybe it actually is AOK if the calls to that specific line go to voice mail. And that clients walking in get told, “Nancy will be with you in a few minutes.”

        If the other admins usually handle more time-sensitive calls, they may be taking it upon themselves to decide that a phone going to voice mail, or someone left sitting for five minutes, is completely unacceptable (when this may not in fact be company policy). OP #2 needs to get a firm ruling on how essential it is to avoid coverage gaps. If it’s policy that there be no gaps, OP has to tell her person to tighten up, or step in and cover. If not, OP needs to get that clarified for the other people on receptionist duty, and expect that they will take the same amount of latitude.

    2. sacados*

      This is true.
      Especially the part about whether the other admins and/or their managers have brought this up individually to OP or not. Regardless of any coverage issues/work impact that may be happening, if the other admins are going straight from zero to sudden blast emails, then I would argue that is also in and of itself a problem that needs to be addressed.

    3. Been There, Done That*

      I think there’s more to look at here.

      If the griping has only started lately, is it because Jane’s slight tardiness started lately? Or has it been OK/not worth mentioning in the past?

      Tardiness is an issue, but so are bullying and office cliques that gang up on one person. The scolding blast emails are a red flag and the ones doing it don’t have standing to “scold” anyone. This behavior is inexcusable, and two wrongs don’t make a right.

      Having a new manager–Jane’s–changes the office dynamic. I’m wondering if that could be a factor in this. For example, testing out the new manager via Jane. Or trying to jockey for position in the admin pecking order now that Jane’s old manager is gone.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It depends on what the scolding emails say. It could just be something like, “We want to reiterate how important it is to arrive on time for your desk shift — lately that hasn’t been happening and it’s inconveniencing those are us who are delayed as a result.” If that’s what the OP means by “have gone so far as to blast emails to me and the entire group of admins scolding her,” that’s not bullying or a big red flag.

      2. JamieS*

        Alternatively Jane’s tardiness could be an ongoing issue that they’ve tried to resolve other ways and the emails are a sign they’re at the end of their rope.

          1. Beaded Librarian*

            I know one thing that can happen at my library is that someone is delayed going to break so gets back a few minutes late. Or they get delayed handling an issue while heading out to relieve the next person. If that’s the case it should be comminuted more effectively, but there might be legitimate reasons it’s happening.

              1. Cat Fan*

                And wouldn’t the person who came in before Jane went out be aware that it was their fault she was late?

              2. Zillah*

                The OP says it’s not every day. That said, even if it’s just once a week, it can really add up for others who are being affected.

              3. Beaded Librarian*

                Not every day and not always the same people. But I would feel comfortable saying that once a week or so someone is checking who is supposed to be relieving them because they are not there yet. We do try and make sure that people know what is going on but things happen.

            1. Cercis*

              What used to happen to me is that I was the fourth in a string of people providin relief. The first would get delayed by 5 minutes and it would stack up to me, when I’d be 10 minutes late taking my break. I was expected to shorten my break by that 10 minutes, but the others weren’t and after a while I decided that I wasn’t okay with that and just started taking my full break (after discussing it with them and with my boss, but not exactly with permission). The world apparently ended because I wanted by breaks or to be paid for the time I was working rather than on break.

              So I switched to being the first relief and then the last person got to take the flack, so then we started a rotation of who would take first relief, etc. There was an expectation that you wouldn’t “tattle” on the intermediary reliefs, but that expectation stopped after we switched around a bit.

          2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Especially when she’s covering the front desk.

            If she was late returning to her own department, that’s up to her boss to care or not care about. She’s got a pass there.

            But when she’s inconveniencing and disrespecting her colleagues in the other department with the tardiness, nope nope nope.

        1. Observer*

          Given that that OP just responded by an email blast saying that Jane is not in trouble, and wasn’t even sure they should get involved any further, that’s not an unreasonable supposition.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        Or this was a problem in the past that Jane’s former manager actually managed and had under control, and Jane is backsliding now that she has a new manager who isn’t holding her feet to the fire about it.

    4. Mookie*

      If I were Jane, a conscientious person, I’d be disconcerted enough by these weird mass e-mails that I’d not be late again. Maybe that’s not always possible for her, so fair play, but if it’s petty to complain about a few minutes that truly inconvenience no one, it’s kind of petty not to just arrive on time if you can. It’s become a distraction for way too many people who don’t need to be looped in on this at all, and now Jane’s name is attached to minor melodrama (which may or may not be partially of her own making).

      If you want to get one over on people who use the letter of the law to unnecessarily harass people, follow the letter of the law. Take the oxygen out of this.

    5. AnotherAlison*

      This whole situation is why matrixed organizations are helpful. As the new person, OP2 probably can’t try to initiate that large of a change right now, but in the companies I’ve worked for, the administrative team has functionally reported through one administrative manager and then been assigned to work for specific departments and projects. The administrative manager would be the one to handle an issue like this because they would fully understand the impact to all their direct reports covering the front desk and would have authority over all of them to address the issue, whether it really is the tardiness, other admins not personally liking Jane, or something else.

      1. Walter White Walker*

        See, now that’s interesting. As an admin, the places I worked that were matrixed were the worst in terms of the admin managers playing politics, gossiping and selectively micromanaging. Enough so that I have decided I won’t do it again – I will only work where I report to the person I support. Anything else is asking for headaches.

        1. Been There, Done That*

          I’m with you on this one. Back in the day (I don’t think it was called “matrixed” then), I was in this kind of arrangement. It didn’t work. You had a boss on another floor somewhere and a bunch of middle and department managers pulling you in all directions because each one thought you were “their” assistant. You were expected to “handle” it and prioritize the work, but good luck to you when Joe found out you put Frank’s project first.

    6. Emily S*

      It’s funny how often the “blast email” approach backfires with the sender seemingly not having considered that. I was recently one of 12 people who received an email from an external vendor trying to shame one of our coworkers for not responding to his emails, and my immediate reaction was, “Wow, this vendor is really aggressive/dramatic.” I don’t know what the deal is with my coworker and that vendor – he isn’t on my team or in my management chain – and I’m inclined to give the benefit of doubt there’s a reason why he wasn’t being responsive to that particular vendor, whereas I immediately judged the vendor negatively for attempting to put my coworker on blast to a random dozen people he works with. Particularly because the email just excoriated him without allowing for any possible reasonable explanation for his behavior. I’ve always understood workplace etiquette to dictate that it would have been more appropriate for the vendor to say something more like, “We’ve had trouble reaching this person, is he still the best contact, or is there a better/additional person we should be emailing?” instead of jumping to an accusatory, “This unreliable person has not responded to our emails, please speak with him or provide another contact for us.” Even if you think the second is what’s going on…it’s rude to assume that’s the only possible explanation and then go on the warpath shaming them to everyone who will listen/everyone whose email address you have.

      People never seem to realize that shit-talking others almost always makes you look at least as bad as the person you’re speaking ill of. (In fact, there’s some psychological research that shows people will unconsciously attribute to a person negative traits that they frequently complain about in other people, as well as unconsciously attribute to someone the positive traits they frequently praise in others.)

      1. Elder Dog*

        Dear Vendor. Are you talking about the person who died suddenly last week? Would you like to know where to send a donation in memoriam?

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, I think this varies by office. At nearly every office I’ve worked in, it’s fine to take/make personal calls on your office line. It’s the duration or frequency that can become objectionable, but the use of the office line isn’t inherently wrong (depending on the employer’s norms).

    1. LarsTheRealGirl*

      I think “depending on employer norms” is key in this case, because her supervisor has not-so-subtly called out that it’s an issue.

      That being said, OP, it’s entirely reasonable that internal calls (yes, even to family), just aren’t as much of an issue. For example, if you leave the company, they don’t want to still be receiving calls from your dr office or dentist or bank; it puts them in an awkward position.

      Also, in case you’re not at your desk, is your coworker taking your calls like you take hers? In that case, it’s even awkward now, that she needs to answer your personal calls. (And again, personal internal/personal external is a factor.)

      1. OP #3*

        Yeah, I just didn’t really know how acceptable this was in office culture because our supervisor has made it clear that she doesn’t like this sort of thing but when I talk about this with friends they seem to think it’s fine.
        I think what makes it different here is that we’re a goverment institution so there’s this sense of solemn behaviour to be expected, if that makes sense.
        Also, I’m not the one whose bank keeps calling and I agree 100% that it leaves us in an awkward position because we have an ex-employee who stopped working here like 3 years ago and we still get calls from banks seeking him out to pay his debts, it is increbidly awkward to answer those!
        When I’m not in my desk, she also picks up my calls but not even my mother knows my work number, so this issue is more one-way from me to her which is probably why it nags me so much!

        1. hbc*

          I think your supervisor doesn’t like it because it’s affecting people other than the employee. If the callers aren’t going through a receptionist, no one else is answering your phone, and the office phone plan isn’t some ridiculous pay-by-the-minute plan, getting a 10:15 call is the same on a cell or a work phone. But that’s not your situation.

          I will say that the bank ex-employee one might not even be his fault. (Aside from incurring the debt, of course.). Most institutions ask for all your numbers, and even if he didn’t give it, the debt collectors are probably hounding him on any and all means of contact they could dig up.

          1. valentine*

            Why is it awkward, OP3? Can you not forward the call to HR or just say he doesn’t work there and, if you’re not allowed to hang up on him, hang up on yourself?

            1. OP #3*

              Funny thing, I’ve had HR forward these types of calls to ME. Which sincerely makes me wanna die. The awkward part is from all the harassment that these banks usually do, I’ve had one of them YELL at me when I asked him not to call again on this number because the employee no longer worked here.
              Also, addressing comments below and above, I don’t blame the former employee at all, because I know these banks and debt collectos can buy lists with phone numbers and all sort of information from other debt collectors (at least in my country, they can). What I think could be done on his part was update his work info at those institutions once he left, but he might be evading the debt collectos deliberately, so…

            2. Michelle*

              Agreed. When I get calls asking for an ex-employee I just say that person is no longer with the company.

        2. InfoSec SemiPro*

          In general, its pretty average to be able to take and make some limited calls. Doctors that are only open during business hours are real, families and pets and homes need attention. We are not only our work selves and allowing time for bodily functions and life functions is pretty normal. And at about equal measure – taking 3 minutes to run to the bathroom or get an appointment scheduled and then getting back to work is usually ignorable in the scheme of things.

          Your situation is different – your supervisor doesn’t like it, so calls that can be avoided probably should be. As for taking messages, mine would likely be limited to “your mom called” I don’t want to know a lengthy family reason for calling and I’m not going to take the time to write it down. (barring emergencies “your mom called because your brother got hit by a car” is different from “your mom called and wants to organize the Thanksgiving menu, she wants you to bring apple pie, the potatoes,…”)

          I’d limit your message taking, be slightly less accommodating to family stuff. “Oh, Joy’s mom, I thought you were a client, I’ll tell her you called, Bye!” and hang up. With brother downstairs, I think you can address it directly with him. “Oh Bob, we keep this line open for clients, can you call her cell? Thanks, bye!” Don’t make it a conversation, impart information with a pleasant tone and then hang up.

          Debt collectors are different again – that may not be anything ex employee did (other than not pay his debts and maybe not even that) they’ll hunt down any number they think has relevance and go at it.

          1. Washi*

            I totally agree re: make it less convenient for personal callers. You do not have to be her secretary! I think you can feel free to put the burden back on them and ask them to call her cell phone.

        3. Seeking Second Childhood*

          About calls for former employees–this is the script I was once instructed to use: “I’m sorry that person no longer works here, and we are not allowed to provide more information than that. Please update your records.”
          If the caller gets pushy, transfer them to HR.

        4. Bah Humbug*

          If this is a government office, there should be a personal use of official equipment policy. Find out what it is. If limited personal use is allowed, then you will have to such it up. If it isn’t, then you can complain. I work in a US Federal office and we are allowed to use the office phones for personal calls.

          1. OP #3*

            It is, so I’ll definitely look up into that. Although I’m not very hopeful because things are not as legislated here as they are in US. It’s actually super amusing to me as a long-time silent reader of this blog how many things fall into like federal, state and company policies in the US.

            1. Observer*

              Our office recently changed our personal use policy to allow limited personal use. The reason was that people were doing it anyway, and by having a policy that no one was following, it made us vulnerable. If no one follows a policy and the management is (or should be) aware of it, you might as well not have the policy. Now, our policy allows limited personal use, and leaves it to the manager’s discretion if someone’s usage is disruptive.

              Obviously this is US specific, but I suspect that something like this may be at play where you are, or the manager would actually say something like “these are work phones and our policy is that they may not be used for personal use” rather than the passive aggressive “I would never do that” she’s been using to call it out.

          2. The Orc Speaks*

            I work for at a US military facility. Our office is in the 3rd level basement and used to be a bomb shelter with no cell service. Personal calls are made on desk phones. If a call gets loud, excessively long, or seems too personal our supervisor says something to the employee. It’s a quiet office. You can hear EVERY DETAIL of co-workers conversation.

            It would be nice if people were a bit more self aware about their conversations. I really don’t want to know your house is in foreclosure, your grandkid was arrested, or that your daughter’s husband is cheating on her. Most especially I don’t want to hear the conversation with your friends about what’s going on with your lady bits.

            1. Erin W*

              I work on a college campus, but I have the same problem–I don’t get cell reception in my office. If I walk to the building across the street I can get service, but honestly if I just need to spend 3 minutes on the phone asking my husband if he can get groceries on the way home, or scheduling a haircut, I’m not going to tramp outside in the cold to do it.

          3. TootsNYC*

            Oh, I think that even if limited personal use is allowed, the OP doesn’t have to suck it up!

            I think she can use Alison’s script and say, “Since I cover your phone, it gets disruptive; could you have your brother call you on your cell?”

            Though, if cell phone use during work is discouraged, THEN I would say she’ll just have to cope. She could ask the brother to not leave detailed messages, and her colleague to leave post-its where they’re easy to find for leaving messages.

        5. Miss Wels*

          I never gave my mother my work number but she found it by googling the number for our reception and then asking to be transferred to me. So it may not be the coworker’s fault. My mother doesn’t call very often though.

        1. OP #3*

          Voice mail is not really a thing at all here, unfortunately. Anywhere. I’ve never heard of a single person who has used it outside of Hollywood movies. I’ve always found it a very neat concept, tbh

          1. Barefoot Librarian*

            I use voicemail! I’d never get anything done if I didn’t block out times when I won’t answer my phone for an hour or so. I just check the voicemails after. I’m a department head in a library, if that matters.

          2. Parenthetically*

            This is the most mind-blowing thing I’ve heard on this website in a LONG time. No voicemail?

            Also your supervisor’s way of addressing this sucks tbh — if there’s an issue with people using landlines in a way that doesn’t mesh with your company culture, your supervisor needs to address it privately and specifically with those specific people, not make general comments about how they would never do XYZ or they “can’t believe” banks are calling on the office lines. They need to say, “Jane/Bob/Fergus, because of reasons A, B, and C, we need to keep the office phones free for business usage. Please let your personal contacts know that, if they need to get ahold of you during business hours, they should call your cell phone.”

              1. Washi*

                Yeah, when I worked briefly in Eastern Europe, people didn’t really use voicemail for their personal phones. It led to some weird norms – people would take non-urgent phone calls in the middle of conversations when I would probably have let it go to voicemail. It was hit or miss with businesses, but often it would be the same thing – people would call multiple times or a bunch of different numbers rather than leave one voicemail. This may make things tricky for the OP, if the cultural norms are such that callers prefer to leave a message with a human rather than potentially having to leave a message on the coworker’s cell phone.

          3. Ann Perkins*

            That seems really odd that nobody uses voicemail. It’s very much the norm in office culture. I work at a local branch of a huge company and the only time a call doesn’t go to voicemail is if you’re calling an actual hotline within the company.

          4. Où est la bibliothèque?*

            Do you maybe just use a different term, like “answering machine” or “ansaphone?” I know there are places where voicemail is seen like a more high tech version of those.

          5. JSPA*

            Really???? Would it be too nosy to ask where you’re located? I’ve never had a land line nor a cell phone without voice mail (or at least an answering machine) since sometime in the late 1980’s.

            1. OP #3*

              Because this has led to many (relevant!) questions: I’m from Brazil. It’s just not part of our culture at all. I mean, my cell phone has the function of voicemail, but it’s as if it doesn’t, honestly. Not to speak for the whole country, but I would also guess that probably only multinational and international companies in cities as big as São Paulo and Rio would operate with this system here, if they do, because they’re probably national branches from US or European companies.
              I am truly saying that the only instance where I’ve ever seen actual intentional use of voicemail was in movies and TV. I work for one of the most important government branches in my State and if someone calls the “front desk number” (let’s call it that. The number on the website), it’ll ring endlessly either until someone answers or the caller gives up.

        2. AKchic*

          My gov’t phone doesn’t have voicemail. The date on my phone screen says 1/13/97. Prior to the earthquake on Friday, it was reading 1995, so I guess the earthquake made it time travel 2 years.

          1. Aurora Borealis*

            It erased my missing call count. It went down from 23 to 0. Now I feel much more productive.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, I feel like there is a difference between just using the phone for non-work reasons versus apparently giving out your work number as your place of contact.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          I actually agree, I think everybody agrees that it’s okay to make limited personal calls from the work phone (in my case, I’d have to step away from my desk to make a cell phone call, meaning I couldn’t keep working while I’m on hold with the electric company – I think my manager actually would prefer I use the desk phone) – but the issue here is that the employees are apparently giving out that number as a contact for family members etc to call in to, and it’s creating workload for the employees. That is a different case to me and is unusual in my experience.

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      It’s pretty irritating to have to be a co-worker’s “secretary” and take messages for them, though. Even in the olden days before cell phones, it would get on my nerves if I had to cover the phones and some number of the calls weren’t from customers/clients/public/whatever, but instead were personal calls, and I would have to take notes. It seems like this is part of the issue that OP is describing: having to answer the phone, not knowing if it’s a client or a personal call.

      1. OP #3*

        That is 100% my issue: I can’t let her phone keep ringing and I don’t know if it’s gonna be a client or a personal call. There have been times where my extension would start ringing on line 2 and I was with her mom taking a message on line 1. To be fair, whenever she needs to talk her brother, she usually calls from her cellphone. He’s the one who calls her extension number and never her cellphone.

        1. valentine*

          You can put personal calls on hold, even abruptly, to take other calls. What if you don’t take personal messages and only ask them to call back or forward them to her mobile?

        2. Michelle*

          For personal calls tell them she’s not at her desk and ask/tell them to call back later or call her cell. Part of job is answering the phone and I get friends/family that want me to take message and I always ask/tell them to leave a voicemail because I don’t know when I’ll be seeing the coworker again.

        3. Observer*

          I’m going to agree with the others – don’t take anything mote than “X Called” perhaps with call back info if they are not reachable with their normal means.

        4. TootsNYC*

          I would start insisting that the only message I’d take would be: “Mom, 11:45” or “Doug, 2:15”

          I’d ask her to alert her family, and then to Mom, I’d just say, “sorry, I can’t take a message–I’ll let her know you called.” And then I’d hang up, while Mom was still talking if necessary.

          and certainly never say “can I take a message,” but instead, “She’s not here, I’ll let her know you called. Bye.”

    3. Asenath*

      In my experience, it’s allowed, but personal calls on office time is usually kept to a minimum. I remember someone being criticized in an open office setting because of the frequency and content of her personal calls, which co-workers couldn’t help but overhear. They were generally her attempting to get her children off to school in the morning and settling their constant squabbles in the late afternoon. Her husband must have been on a schedule similar to hers (this was before their divorce) and they seem to have assumed that the children were old enough to get themselves out to the school bus, and take care of themselves after school with the long-distance supervision.

    4. Lemon Bars*

      It also depends on how open your office is. When we were in offices with real walls and doors there was no issue with personal calls, but when we moved to an open office and Mary with the naturally carrying voice talking to her kids twice a day and husband 2-3 times, and scheduling doctors appointments and asking about details daily is now the bain of my existence. I really think it depends on how you are annoying your co-workers with personal calls or what they can hear, most people will reasonable try not to listen in on your personal calls as long as you are reasonable with the loudness and length of the call.

    5. sunshyne84*

      Yea, but most offices don’t have you answering others phones. I know when I worked retail I hated my managers wife calling every five minutes when we were busy. If it’s the kids school, that’s one thing, but a brother just wanting to chit chat can be pretty annoying.

    6. Lauren*

      I’ve never seen an office where this would be inappropriate.

      And OP#3 would have hated my mother if they’d worked together in the 90s, before the ubiquity of cell phones.

      My mom was a single parent and I had to walk home alone pretty far. So she made me call her at work each day to let her know I was at home and okay. I also had to call her at work if I was sick or if there were other issues I needed to talk to her about.

      No one ever had an issue. If my mom wasn’t available to talk, the person on the other end would let her know I’d called. They understood.

      1. Old Millennial*

        Agree. The only phone numbers I know by heart are my own cell phone number, my family’s landline when I was growing up, and my mom’s office number. She retired almost 10 years ago but I can rattle off her number faster than almost anything. This was pre-cell phone, pre-speed dial (but post-voicemail), so if there was an issue at home, like the time I burned mac & cheese on a snow-day when I was 12, who ya gonna call? Mom’s office!

    7. Person from the Resume*

      I agree. It’s not inherently a no-no. It used to be common before the ubiquity of cell phones because your were not reachable during the day except by your work number.

      That said in the situation where you pick up a co-worker’s line when they are not there makes this frustrating and a circumstance where a person should not give out their work number for personal business especially since cell phones are commonplace.

      You should ask your co-worker to stop this. You can also recommend the caller call your co-worker back on her cell phone later.

  3. Zona the Great*

    Answer by not answering the house question. “I saw your house is for sale! Where are you moving?” You: “Oh the house was always an investment. We’re looking for our next one now.”

    1. Drew*

      This is fantastic. My suggestion was going to be, “We realized we wanted a better neighborhood,” but that could backfire.

      I also really like Pay No Attention’s suggestion below of proactively discussing it in the office. If you’re already talking about it, there’s no joy for the gossip-monger.

      1. Butter Makes Things Better*

        So true. And if it turns out that the nosy neighbor isn’t so much gossipy as overly eager to share this in common with OP, it’s still a great option.

    2. Payroll Lady*

      I guess I am too straight forward, but I would honestly just tell her, “I’m surprised you think it is your business”. And then go on to explain that asking about things like this could put coworkers in very awkward positions. For all she knows we could be going through a divorce, dealing with financial issues or a multitude of other personal reasons. If I wanted to share, I would.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        That would come across as incredibly hostile and likely to exacerbate the whole situation.

        1. PB*

          Yes. I can’t imagine this going over well anywhere I’ve worked. Add to that, it wouldn’t be a super effective strategy. Now, it looks like you’re trying to hid something.

      2. SarahTheEntwife*

        But you don’t have to go into painful backstory to answer the question “where are you moving?”. Certainly any question can be unexpectedly sensitive, but this seems like such an utterly normal thing to ask of someone who’s selling their house that the scorched-earth tactic is going to come off really bizarrely.

        1. Emily S*

          Yeah, when there’s literally a big sign in your front yard that says, “WE’RE SELLING THIS HOUSE” you can’t really pretend that people asking about it is somehow offensive. For better or worse, home-buying and home-selling is fairly public activity in the US, and it’s very commonly discussed in public, at work, with neighbors, etc.

          That doesn’t mean you have to disclose anything you don’t want to, and there are some great deflections suggested here, but there’s really no grounds to accuse the asker of having violated some sort of privacy or etiquette norm by asking about your rather public home-selling activity.

          1. MrsCHX*

            Posting a sign isn’t actually necessary.
            But also, there’s no requirement to participate in what others deem is a “norm”. I moved about 6 months ago and was having a convo recently and a coworker said, “Really? I didn’t know you moved!” and before I knew it I said, “Well…why would you?” And I meant that. I’m not unfriendly, I just don’t need to discuss the details of my life with any/everyone.

            1. Observer*

              No one is saying that you need to share all the details. And, as others have noted, plenty of people have offered some good suggestions as to deflecting the question. All people are saying is that IF you post a sign, it’s a bit disingenuous, at best, to act as though someone was digging into highly personal and sensitive information by asking a question about it.

              And, agreed – the OP doesn’t have an obligation to post a sign. In fact, not posting a sign was something that was suggested.

            2. Emily S*

              Saying, “Well, why would you?” is several degrees less hostile than, “I don’t see why it’s any of your business.” One is just acknowledging that they wouldn’t have any reason to have known something about you that you didn’t tell them. The other is aggressively admonishing them for asking about it.

              I’m very private about certain things myself, but I don’t snap at people who ask me about them as though they’ve violated a boundary. I just deflect, demur, and generally carry on being pleasant.

              1. Been There, Done That*

                Reminds me of an Ann Landers column I read when I was a kid. Somebody wrote in for advice about handling people who ask nosy questions. Ann’s advice: Say “If I thought it was any of your business I’d tell you.” I tried it once in early adulthood when my mom was at my place, saw an appointment card from a medical provider, and started asking my health care issues. Stopped her in her tracks.

        2. AKchic*

          “where are you moving to?” is easy… “Away from you”
          But I would save that one for when OP knows they are leaving the job too. But, I’m somewhat hostile with nosy people.

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Way to feed your coworker’s imagination. What she can come up with after this answer might be a lot worse than the truth; and WAY worse than “we are looking for the next house”.

        1. Genny*

          Yeah, sounds like a good way to get rumors of your impending bankruptcy and divorce started. I can just hear nosy neighbor’s gossip already. “Did you see Jane yesterday? She looked so tired…probably because of all the financial trouble she’s going through right now. What? You hadn’t heard? She put her house up for sale and everything. I haven’t seen John around in a while too. Hope everything’s okay with their marriage. Financial trouble can be so draining on a relationship.”

      4. Parenthetically*

        That kind of response is so needlessly combative that it’s going to raise suspicions even for a person who doesn’t give a crap about your business and is just making conversation. Even a polite, discreet person is going to see the For Sale sign in your front yard. Why bait a busybody with hostility when you could satisfy their curiosity with a platitude like Zona suggests?

      5. Operational Chaos*

        I’m with you on this. People tie themselves in knots worrying about stepping on other people’s toes when those same people think nothing of peeping through your figurative windows.

        1. Parenthetically*

          “I saw the For Sale sign in your yard! Where ya movin’?” is really, really not “peeping through your figurative windows,” it’s an idle question anyone might ask just making conversation. Being hostile here is 100% going to backfire. Would you rather be morally justified in telling someone off, or would you rather successfully get this person off your back? Because I guarantee hissing “It’s none of your business” is going to cause more problems than it solves. This isn’t about protecting Nosy Nancy’s feelings at all. It’s about what’s going to be most effective in stopping her questions.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yep, I’ve done it, worked well. I didn’t even have the time to prepare the story and my coworker made it all up for me. How nice of her it was.

      Details: when I was younger and less assertive, I had a pushy, boundary-crashing, Anti-Semitic, racist coworker, who came from the same home country as I, and so decided that she and I were friends. She’d stop by my cube and chat regularly. I was much younger and less assertive, and so never thought to tell her to get lost. Then she told me that her position was being eliminated and her boss had told her to start looking. I was so happy :) On her last day, she stopped by my desk and I was mentally prepared for her to ask for my phone number and for me to say no. Instead, she said, “my new job is in (your city). What’s your address, so I can stop over after work sometime?” I was so caught off-guard that I blurted out the first thing that came into my head, which was “oh we are actually selling the house” (We were not.) She just took it from there! “oh are you guys looking for a bigger one?” – “Yes!” On her first day at her new job, she sent me an email to my work account, which I deleted without opening, and I never heard from her again (whew).

    4. DaniCalifornia*

      This is great! Any follow up questions can be responded to with “Why do you ask?” and then after that “Well that’s a private matter.” and walk away.

    5. 5 Leaf Clover*

      I like this! Could also add “we’re looking at something but I don’t want to jinx it by talking about it” which is technically true

      1. Parenthetically*

        Or the old faithful, “Gosh, we’ve been talking about it so much at home that I need to take a break from it! You know how it is — I’m just all house-talked out. Now how about those TPS reports?”

    6. blackcat*

      Or something bland: “I’ve never really liked the layout. I thought I could learn to love it, but after years, I’ve decided I really need my llama shaving room to be further from the bedroom.”

      1. Parenthetically*

        Totally. And doesn’t everyone have something like this in their house? It’s all meaningless blather that will fulfill Nosy’s need for information without actually giving away anything important. “Oh, I dunno, does one really want a big backyard nowadays?” “I’m just not sure about double-height entryways anymore.” “One day I’ll find a house with a whole wall of south-facing windows; that’s the dream, eh?”

        1. blackcat*

          Right, and it can be a totally legitimate complaint!

          I can go on and on about how I have tried to make the kitchen in my house work for me. I’ve got endless complaints. I LOVE everything else and really, really love the neighborhood. But that f-ing kitchen. And it has an f-ing stairwell in the middle of it (!!) so it’s not fixable.

          The thing is, this conversation will bore anyone to tears. Even my architect friends! No one is going to persist in a long conversation about Totally Bland Thing that has bothered you about your house.

          1. Parenthetically*

            Yes! A bored busybody is a busybody who leaves you alone!

            (STAIRS IN KITCHENS, good Lord, my dearest friends have the kitchen layout from hell — literally their pantry cupboard/the only place in the kitchen that will fit a trash can is down half a flight of stairs! WHO DOES THAT?! Who looks at those drawings and says, “Yes, this seems convenient!”

            1. blackcat*

              I spent $$ on a lovely stainless steal trashcan, which sits awkwardly by a wall, making a narrow area even narrower. BUT IT WAS THE BEST SOLUTION. F-ing kitchen.

    7. JSPA*

      This is great because

      It avoids negatives about the house–after all, you don’t want her gossip reaching potential buyers–which rules out “oh there were some issues” or “oh, you know, houses.”

      It avoids anything she could take and pass along as implications of any health or financial or relationship or coping problems on your end–which rules out, “we found it a bit overwhelming” or “it’s not really working out for us” or “we’re going through some life changes.”

      It covers any irritation she might have, about not getting a chance to buy it first at some sort of “friends price” (an interest in the house itself might be powering her interest). [note, “friends price” is often not legal anyway as it’s discriminatory]

      It doesn’t tie you in to any place for your next house.

      All of that said…

      if you can afford it–even though it’s always a risk to commit to a new job without housing lined up; and even though it’s a pain to sell remotely; even though you may need to sell the house to afford not only a new house, but even rent on a nice place in your new location–it’s probably worth working through what the options would look like if you planned to rent in the new location for six months or a year, thus allowing plenty of time to sell in the old location, with the house going on the market around the time that you give notice.

      It also may burnish instead of burning bridges, as far as recommendations. “We were going to try the long distance marriage thing, but realized we need each other nearer, and then this great job offer fell into my lap” is hard to resent.

      Several moving companies have combined “moving and storage” options which would let you live lightly in a rental while finding an ideal place. Include the costs for caretaking / maintenance, and for travel to close on the deal in person. And frankly, you’d otherwise be looking at buying remotely, rather than selling remotely (or your husband handling most of the buying, while you handle most of the selling).

  4. Celia Bowen*

    #2 Two things stood out for me here. Firstly, being ‘in trouble’ (or not) isn’t the issue – you can give feedback about something without anyone being ‘in trouble’ and you might need to.

    Secondly, do you fully understand that when you are providing front desk coverage and the next person is late, you are trapped and can’t leave? It’s not about whether or not she is chronically late. It’s that she isn’t showing up to provide coverage when she is meant to.

    I think you need to separate the obnoxious
    communication and deal with that separately, but that you should have told her to be on time to the desk.

    1. I coulda been a lawyer*

      In fact when I had a staff member who was habitually late for her 2 hour per week shift at reception I would go instead. It showed the others that their time was recognized as being valuable and put more pressure on the weak link to straighten up. The union was aghast as well.

      1. Mookie*

        Yes. Arriving late to see a manager or supervisor actively doing your job is normally all the low-level reprimand most people acting in good faith need.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      Also – 5 minutes late once in a long while is very different that frequently being 5 minutes late. It adds up – if it’s once a day (only 1/3 of the time if she’s got a lunch and morning and afternoon breaks), that’s 25 minutes a week she’s taking from the other admins.

      Another thing to check – how often is she 3-5 minutes *early* coming back from break and relieving the person covering the desk? If she’s frequently 5 minutes late, but never early, than that says she has no problem inconveniencing others, but isn’t willing to inconvenience herself.

      I think you do need to pay careful attention here. Her lateness isn’t affecting you, as her manager, but it might well be inconveniencing other people. If you shrug your shoulders and say it’s no big deal, it could affect your own reputation in other departments.

      1. Been There, Done That*

        Is there any information on whether the others are always on-the-dot punctual or maybe they’re occasionally a couple of minutes late too?

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Exactly. Occasionally is OMG there was a water main break and I had to walk three blocks out of my way to get back from the sandwich shop. Daily-to-weekly is just bad planning.

        1. Antilles*

          There’s no information in the letter indicating one way or the other…but it’s a key point to know. If everyone is 3-5 minutes late, then it’s probably less of an issue, but if *everybody* is usually punctual except OP’s Admin, then it comes off as incredibly rude – basically that the Admin (and OP too!) either don’t recognize how her lateness impacts others or just don’t care.

      2. Marthooh*

        I was so surprised that the OP had already told Jane that it’s okay to be a bit late every day. I understand the instinct to protect your own people, but she actually is “abusing the coverage offered by the others.” 15 – 25 minutes per week is not insignificant.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Yeah, I would guess this attitude on the OP’s part is not helping the situation. Finding out that the latester’s manager is cool with her cutting into your break will only escalate the bad feelings.

          I had a coworker years ago who was always 5-10 minutes late for her 8-hour shift. She never thought it was a big deal (except that she never got Employee of the Month because of it) but it meant the person before her couldn’t leave, and our bosses were skinflints who didn’t like to pay overtime, so the person on the earlier shift got reprimanded for going over her hours too much.

          1. Chinookwind*

            Plus there are practical consequences to not arriving on time for coverage, especially when the person at the front desk needs coverage for even bathroom breaks. When I was a receptionist, coverage being 5 minutes late meant sometimes crossing my legs or hoping there are no leaks because you have everything regimented for those prescribed break times. 5 minutes may not seem like much unless you are the one who can’t leave.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I’m surprised the OP can’t see “late is okay returning to our department” isn’t the same as “you can’t be late relieving someone on the front desk”.

          I’ll be late all I want when I’m just returning to my desk and dailies. But if I’ve got a meeting or need to cover phones on a short staffed day, I’ll be on time or a couple minutes early. If I’m late, it’s rare and I apologize for it.

          1. Kes*

            Yeah, I suspect OP is used to a non-client facing office environment where 3-5 minutes late is not a big deal and providing flexibility to employees is a benefit. However, this is not that situation – if she is routinely 5 minutes late to relieve others at the desk, that is 5 minutes extra they’re stuck at the desk and can’t leave for their break, regularly – that’s a problem. The others are depending on her arriving on time and she’s stealing time from their breaks as a result. OP doesn’t need to make the others stop complaining, she needs to get Jane to arrive on time to the desk as scheduled.

        3. Yay commenting on AAM!*

          Since she’s the only person from their group doing front desk coverage, my guess is that she’s the “break” coverage, not a dedicated front desk person, and has other job/duties that are a higher priority than covering the front desk.

          I’ve been that person, and while I always thought it was important to respect other people’s time and give them their breaks in a timely fashion, if you have other job duties, that’s just not going always to happen. If I’m on the phone with a customer, or get pulled into a meeting, or am in a meeting that runs over, or have to go offsite for something and won’t be back by break time, or have to get to a stopping point in something that’s difficult to pause, the break is going to have to wait, because my boss would prioritize breaks at the very bottom of my job description. That’s just, unfortunately, a fact of life.

          1. Chinookwind*

            Cool…but is the person you are relieving allowed to eat or drink when they are at their desk? Do they still get their full 15 or 30 minute break without flack from their boss?

        4. Psyche*

          Yeah, she actually is abusing the coverage provided by others. They have made it clear that they are not ok with providing the extra coverage. Since the OP is not their manager, he does not have the authority to tell them that they have to provide this coverage. He needs to make it clear that being late to providing front desk coverage is not ok unless it is truly a rare occurrence. Of course, if others are late just as often it is different, but it seems more likely that it is affecting their breaks and work than that they are all bullies.

    3. Glomarization, Esq.*

      A+++++ It’s not so much about whether the admin’s conduct is adversely affecting OP. It’s how it’s affecting the co-workers who have to pick up the slack and/or can’t leave for their own lunch, appointments, other duties, and so on when this one admin is late.

      Yes, they could be more professional about expressing their frustration. But it looks like there really might be some there, there.

    4. Emily*

      I agree with this! If the culture is “we observe coverage times to the minute” then strolling in five minutes late would make me pretty upset — it’s more an issue of not respecting your coworkers at that point.
      To be clear, they’re still not handling it well! But I do understand the frustration.

    5. sunshyne84*

      Yes she definitely needs to handle that. Any job where I needed relief, it was a very serious offense to not get it on time.

    6. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      Yup – Front Desk is not like a lot of other jobs, you usually cannot leave for anything. Five minutes can be a long time if you really have to use the rest room and have been holding out waiting for your replacement to show up. When I used to lifeguard and was on stand for an hour or more sometimes a replacement coming just a little bit late could be agony.

    7. Genny*

      I can also imagine the other admins are worried that occasionally being 3-5 minutes late will morph into more frequently being 7-10 minutes late if they don’t nip it in the bud, which may be driving some of their angst (at least it would for me if I was in their position).

    8. ElinorD*

      I’m adding this while admitting I haven’t read all the responses yet before chiming in. I was lunch/break
      front desk coverage when two things happened: 1 – receptionist was late more often than anyone knew, and I was afraid to speak up because I didn’t want to get her in trouble. She would call me while I was in the middle of another work task and say, “Are you ready to come up? I need to get home so the dogs don’t crap the house.” – For 3 years my job revolved around my colleague’s dog’s bowel movements. I don’t want to point the finger at your direct report unnecessarily but you never know what excuse she gives. That might be part of the issue. 2 – I got assigned to support someone new, and she did not like that I was still providing lunch coverage for our receptionist. Her way around that was to put so much pressure on me that I made a mistake. Then she could say, “See? Elinor can’t handle the workload. Take her off of (lunch coverage + other duties). It got ugly and I’m the only one who lost out. Check with the managers of the receptionist’s coverage. Their work for other depts might rely on a strict time schedule, so 5 minutes stuck at the front desk could mean a lot. — please note that my experience might be very different so take it with a grain of salt.

  5. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

    #5 I’d preempt the nosy coworker by telling others that you’re thinking of selling the house before you actually put it on the market. That way when she sees the sign, it’s already old news when she starts to run her mouth. Go with “investment”or “not a great fit” or whatever, but get your story out first. If you’re in a strong housing market, make sure the house is shown by appointment only otherwise she’ll show up at open houses to snoop through your closets.

    1. Antilles*

      This is a really good plan. Getting ahead of the news lets you frame it appropriately, rather than letting it get out with her speculation.

    2. Parenthetically*

      Ooh, this is good. Feeding her meaningless information on your terms rather than trying to hide things from her.

    3. Lucille2*

      Great suggestion! I was thinking OP could keep the story pretty generic like how they had planned to sell all along after investing in some updates in the home. It’s not unusual for couples to buy a home with the expectation that they would be moving in a few years for bigger, more desirable neighborhood, closer to work, or a number of other reasons. Perhaps OP just really hates something about the house and has always wanted something with a big yard or updated kitchen or something closer to the city. It’s easy to spin a story that isn’t an all-out lie without giving away too much detail.

      1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

        Right! It’s so easy to come up with reasons to make a local move — downsizing/upsizing, want/don’t want a pool, different school boundaries, hate the HOA, need more land for your new pack of llamas. I would never think moving = quitting unless someone specifically said that; but I’m in an area where commuting within about a 45 mile radius is very normal and there’s a wide variety of communities in big cities, suburbs, mountains, dessert, or beach all within that area. Unless the OP is in a rural town that just doesn’t have many options — such that moving means moving away — I think she can just say they’re looking for something different.

  6. Harvey P. Carr*

    #1. I once ignored a co-worker who said hello to me as we passed in the hallway. But I didn’t know this person and thought she was greeting a friend who was walking behind me. Turns out there was no friend, just me.

    She took the unintentional snub very personally. In later encounters at work, she’d make all sorts of snide remarks and personal attacks to me. She wasn’t exactly making a case for herself as someone I’d want to have as a friend.

    1. sunshyne84*

      haha definitely happened to me, or I do say hello back, but my voice is too low for them to hear….oh well

      1. irene adler*


        I try to avoid the ‘good morning’ greeting to one co-worker because then I’m met with a litany of all her health woes, an evaluation of her sleep the night before, an in-depth review about the traffic or the drivers she encountered on the way in, complaints about the weather, a run down of all the work she has to do and it just goes on and on.

      2. TooTiredToThink*

        Oh my word. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve said “Good morning” back and gotten “I SAID GOOD MORNING!” I’m at the point that I’m about ready to start asking them if they’ve thought about going to a hearing doctor.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      That’s why I love working in IT. Everyone is deep in their own thoughts, not perfect on social skills, not wanting to interact with people more than absolutely necessary for a job, or a combination of the three. Half the time, people won’t even notice each other in the hallway. Definitely, no one would care if someone they don’t know doesn’t say hello back.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I was thinking that maybe OP1 is used to that kind of situation. In my office I like to say hi to people when I arrive but if the person looks like they’re absorbed in something or is listening to headphones, I don’t. Maybe OP could say, “Oh, I thought you were busy” or “I didn’t want to distract you if you were focused on something.”

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      What a miserable life to be trapped in…to take someone possibly not even hearing you as a “ef you!”. I would just start “lol why are you mad tho?” with the personal attacks afterwards. She’s clearly sideways, not my problem.

      But I’m a goofy hermit most days. I laugh off everything.

  7. Leela*

    OP #2 I was once the sniper for a similar situation! It was because of one of the reasons Alison described: I had other things I was supposed to go to and I had absolutely no idea when the other employee was coming back. Two minutes from now? Thirty? Two hours? I can’t say that the situations are comparable or that’s why they’re doing it but she would sometimes take the afternoon off, clear it with the manager, and no one would tell me. Meanwhile I’m expected at a 1 on 1 meeting, or I’m supposed to be helping and everyone’s asking where I am and I’m just sitting there going “I’m sure Sansa will be back any minute…” over and over for an hour. It was very stressful and blocked a lot of my work needlessly, and got me really bad will with people from other departments because as far as they were concerned I just couldn’t be counted on to be available when I said I would be, even though I was there and ready to go.

    1. jcarnall*

      Oh, that’s awful. Particularly, if you ask me, her manager for not organising cover for Sansa having okayed Sansa’s afternoon off. Leaving you just stuck there because you thought Sansa was going to be back was plain bad management.

    2. Anon, a moose!*

      Ugh… There’s a particular kind of horror when you watch the person who was supposed to cover for you as needed unexpectedly breeze out of the office for the day at 11 am.

      Goodbye, lunch. Goodbye, bathroom break. Goodbye, sanity.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        Sounds like a situation where asking that person’s manager if maybe they could come cover the desk because you have meetings scheduled might be helpful in making a point?

        1. Anon, a moose!*

          Yeah, this particular case was complicated for a variety of reasons, but it definitely led to a discussion about coverage procedure. Which was deeply uncomfortable but only became more necessary as time went on.

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      True. If they have a meeting to attend at 1:00, and their replacement comes in at 1:05, that means they are late to their meeting. So just a few minutes can be a big deal, especially if things are generally starting on time.

  8. Wasssup*


    Two can play this game. Ask her “Why are you staring at me when I come to work in the morning. is something wrong?”

    1. Mary*

      I would also be tempted to do a passive-aggressively cheerful, “You OK? Something wrong?” BUT being realistic, that would be escalating the situation and ultimately that’s extra grief in my morning that I could do without. A simple “hey, you all right” and then moving on is definitely the least-energy, least-aggro way to deal with it.

  9. Dr. Anonymous*

    OP #4: Bear in mind that the intern may have a tic (involuntary winking) that’s just now showing up. They can show up in times of stress. Years back, I winked back at a colleague in meetings for weeks, thinking we were sharing a private joke, and then realized her eye just twitched in a winky way.

    1. Woodswoman*

      I had a coworker with this same winking tic, and at first I found it odd that he was winking at me until I had spent some time with him. It took me a while to realize his winking was involuntary. I think the key is how the intern behaves overall. OP, do you ever see the intern in other contexts besides passing in the hallway? If he’s doing this winking in general, it may be nothing. But if he only does it when he sees you, I agree that i comes across as uncomfortable and inappropriate.

    2. curly sue*

      This. I’ve got a student with Tourette’s that mostly manifests as a facial tic / winking. It can be a bit distracting at first, but it’s 100% not under their control.

    3. TL -*

      One of my friends has a wink-twitch and I always think he’s trying to clue me in on a joke that I just can’t figure out.
      We were at a wildlife park and he said, “I really like koalas,” WINK, while we were looking at a koala and I was still like, are you insinuating your wife is a bear, is there an inside joke, is this a movie reference I should know?

      But he’s definitely also had a woman or two say they feel like he’s inappropriately flirting with him because of it (he’s always quick to clarify if asked, though). If it is a twitch, it’s usually easy to tell because it comes at random times and generally doesn’t make any sense, like above.

    4. Nicole*

      Yep, my left eye does this when I’m stressed and/or sleep deprived. So basically all of college.

  10. Canadian*

    OP1: I dunno. It seems kind of rude to me to not greet someone/acknowledge their presence when you first run across them. I get not doing the whole “how are you/how was your commute” stuff, but to not even mumble “morning” or “hey”?

    Then again, I would never call out someone for not doing it – that’s bizarre. It would irk me though and make me wonder what would happen if I stopped communicating as well. Would we just never talk or acknowledge each other again?

    But then, I’m Canadian…

    1. kilika*

      My thoughts. It could be a cultural thing to some extent – I’m Israeli, and somebody walking by without some kind of acknowledgement reads as really cold to me, especially if they’re in the desk next door. But being in the US and other countries has led me to believe that people just don’t do that.
      Still, for me I always find it offputting and have to remind myself it’s not an on-purpose thing. Then again, I wouldn’t call somebody out on it either, because that’s weird.
      I guess I just don’t quite understand why saying “hey” when walking in isn’t the natural thing to do.

      1. Kanye West*

        I also think that the “obnoxious” thing it to not say a simple “good morning” and acknowledge the other person’s existence when entering a room unless (s)he is on the phone or something. The reasoning to not do it seems convoluted. In Australia (where I am right now) more often than not the standard greeting is to ask the other person how she is doing which brings it a step further.

      2. Choux*

        I don’t do it because a.) my headphones are in or b.) I’m involved in a conversation in my own head and I’m totally oblivious to people around me. I have to really WORK to be present and sometimes I just forget.

      3. valentine*

        Why does colleague get a pass and also get to task OP1 with initial-greeting duty? Colleague is now eyeing OP1 instead of speaking, which would result in a response.

      4. Cats on a Bench*

        I’m in the US and I would normally greet someone upon walking into the office. Probably not much more than “hi” or a hello wave if they’re on the phone and look up when I come in, but there would be acknowledgment of some kind. If they didn’t look up then maybe I wouldn’t say anything. Maybe. But I also wouldn’t get all bent out of shape over it if I were the one sitting there and the other person walked in without saying hello. I’d probably just say hi and go back to work.

    2. Pnuf*

      Yeah, the colleague is being weird but it sounds like OP1 is being quite rude. Surely saying hello to the people who are already in a workspace you arrive in is fairly basic courtesy?

      1. Ron McDon*

        That’s what I came here to say!

        I’m in the UK, and it would feel extremely rude to enter a shared room at work and not greet people who were already in the room! I don’t understand why just saying ‘hello’ is such a big deal – unless the OP doesn’t like their colleague and doesn’t want to interact with her at all, which you can’t really do at work…

        1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

          I’m not a huge fan of the people I share my desk space with, but I can always mumble a “morning” (it’s rarely a ‘good’ morning) before sticking my headset on and getting started with the day, just because it’s polite to do so.

          If, on the other hand, any one of my colleagues immediately expected a “how was your weekend/commute/dog’s worming treatment”, they can go and whistle. I’m there to work, not to chit chat.

          1. kilika*

            See, to me a morning greeting doesn’t have to go beyond a ‘hello’ of some sort, it doesn’t have to turn into a whole chat.

            1. londonedit*

              Exactly…UK here as well, and when we come into the office in the morning we’ll always do a quick ‘Morning!’ exchange with whoever’s there. That’s it, for the most part – on a Monday there might be a ‘Good weekend?’ ‘Yes thanks – you?’ but most of the time it doesn’t turn into a whole chat. Sometimes the person who walks into the room will say ‘Morning!’ to whoever’s there; sometimes the people already in the room will say ‘Morning!’ when someone walks in…most of the time there’s just a general chorus of ‘Morning! Hello!’ and that’s it. Not a big deal.

              1. Mongrel*

                I’m torn,
                Yes it’s a little rude to not say hello, although I often defaulted to a vague wave at people while supping tea, I also think it’s rude to get that huffy about the expectation of good manners, especially when the person may be busy or preoccupied.
                Not dumping on OP, sometimes getting your game face on can be a chore that I completely understand ;)

                IMO, the correct way for the co-worker to handle it should be to assume that the OP’s attention was elsewhere and initiate the greeting after they’re settled at their desk, not stew on it all day.

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Native New Yorker now living in New England.

            We acknowledge people even if it’s just the next person in line behind us. It won’t be a full conversation, but we say hi at least.

            (Now I’m thinking of the Douglas Adams quote from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy : “Hi is a friendly noise that humans make. “)

        2. Ms Cappuccino*

          I live in the UK too and sometimes people seem too busy to say good morning. But they generally say it if they aren’t too busy though sometimes they forget.

        3. snuck*

          I’m in Australia…

          Same here… a breezy “Hiya” while then busying yourself into your desk putting your things away…

          Or if you are there first a quick “Morning!” with a smile on your dial, and then, turn back to work.

          Easy. No drama. And zero invitation to chat… just acknowledge, smile, and go back to work.

        4. Colette*

          On the other hand, I don’t like to distract people who are clearly working when I get in or leave. If they look up, I will greet them, but otherwise, I will just go about my day.

      2. Someone Else*

        To me it depends. If as you walk in you naturally make eye contact, yes it would be rude to then not acknowledge that and either do the smile-nod or say hello. But if the orientation of the workspace is that the other person isn’t facing you, or they’re doing something and not looking or whatever, I don’t see anything wrong with walking in, dealing with your own stuff and just getting on with the day. The entering person doesn’t need to go out of their way to say hello if the other person is just there and already working but wouldn’t otherwise be paying attention to them. Especially when it’s cubicle-land and there’s a pseudo “your space” and “my space” but it’s also shared but we’re sort of pretending it isn’t because it’s not shared for intentional reasons, it’s only shared because there aren’t actual walls. In this case, it seems like to be polite OP does probably need to, because it seems like the coworker expectantly waits for her hello, which means she is probably looking over, making eye contact, something and that point whether you wanted to or not, you’re interacting. But if the coworker weren’t literally looking to her when she walked in, she doesn’t need to make a point of saying anything. The worker’s sort of manufacturing the scenario now where it is impolite to say nothing. which means it’s already a bigger deal to both of them than should be necessary, in my opinion.

    3. Suzie*

      I think it’s nice manners to greet those you pass as you walk in (just a quick, ‘Morning,’ as you keep walking). I also agree as well that you don’t need a long-winded conversation. Now as a manager I see both sides with my employees, and those that come in with a pleasant greeting seem to be happier in the day vs the quieter ones. Not that there’s anything wrong with being quiet at all and wanting space from exhausting greetings but naturally I see people move towards the more smiley, cheerful folk. A greeting is a pleasant way to start the day.

    4. Lilo*

      It isn’t really the norm in my office, but I do walk past about 3-8 people every morning (depends on whther I am an early or late arrival that day), most who have already launched into work and are busy. In my office it isn’t normal to greet someone until you are interacting with them for work. We are generally close, but the first hour is triage time to assess the stuff that has come in over night and plan your day out.

    5. Traffic_Spiral*

      I think it is a cultural thing – morning greetings are very important in some places and unnecessary in others (like the exchanging-of-business-cards ritual). I’d talk to her and say “look, I’m not a morning person and I hate talking to people for the first hour or so when I need to start up the work day. It’s not personal – I just hate mornings.” Then remember to say something nice to her at lunch break.

      1. Margaret*

        It’s cultural, and it’s a matter of degrees. I worked in West Africa for awhile and had to learn that if I didn’t greet my coworkers, they’d come up to me and ask in a sorrowful tone ‘you didn’t even greet me today.’ I didn’t think that was a big deal until I saw my manager deliberately not greet a woman she was mad at- it absolutely devastated the other lady, she slunk out of the room.

        I’m in South East Asia now and we got a call on our anonymous sexual harassment tipline by a manager explaining her subordinate was refusing to greet her. If I forget who I’ve greeted and greet them twice, they roll their eyes at me and point out we’ve already said hello, clearly a little offended that I can’t remember I’ve already said good morning to them that day.

        One of my colleagues worked some years in Korea and was required to walk to the office of the company director and politely greet him every morning when she arrived at her job.

        OP, I doubt you’re in any of these settings, but maybe it’d help to think of this as a spectrum of social norms around greetings and your coworker is just a little further to one end of it than you are?

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I had a coworker at my first job who would go around the entire office at the end of each day, poke his head into everyone’s cubicle, and say good-bye. He had a reputation of being weird. He’d do great at your colleague’s former Korean job, I guess!

        2. Washi*

          Agh, yes, trying to remember who you’ve already greeted…I work on a Russian-speaking team now, and you have to greet people when you come in, but you’re only supposed to say “hello” once per day per person. I cannot for the life of me remember whom I’ve greeted already, and sometimes my coworkers are like “you already said hello.” I don’t know how they keep a counter in their heads!

      2. Eliza*

        I think it depends not just on the culture but on the workspace. If it’s a busy environment where different people are constantly filing in at different times throughout the day, having everyone start a round of greetings when they come in can add further disruption.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, I’m often not up for chatting yet when I first arrive at work. I just woke up 30 minutes ago and haven’t had any caffeine.

      4. Dragoning*

        I agree. I have enough trouble with mornings without having to pressure myself to do the happy-smiley-friendly-greeting nonsense. Talk to me around lunch.

      5. Sam.*

        Yeah I am super not a morning person. I haaaate small talk when I arrive at work and while I’ll say “good morning” if it feels rude not to, I’d rather just smile and say nothing. A “Hey, just so you know, I’m not ignoring you on purpose. I’m just not a morning person and need some time to get going after I get in,” has seemed to smooth things over in the past – especially if I do occasionally seek them out later in the day to chat.

    6. Daisy*

      Is it that weird of the coworker to bring it up? I also think OP is being really rude (and weirdly adamant about defending it). Isn’t it better of the coworker to say something? Of course personally I’d just silently stew over how unpleasant my colleague is, but this site usually seems to be on the side of saying something if someone’s being weird at work.

      1. Fish Microwaver*

        Yeah it also seemed to me that OP was strangely adamant about not greeting Coworker. I suspect Coworker has picked up this vibe and is playing OP, which is a bit weird but something I might do under the same circumstances.

        1. Bostonian*

          Except she’s not adamant about not greeting Coworker. She says she does it sometimes, but other times is too deep in thought to think of it. I can totally understand this happening sometimes. Nobody is constantly always thinking about other people.

          And unless Coworker was saying “hi” and not getting any response from OP, then Coworker really is being weird by bringing up the fact that OP doesn’t ALWAYS say hello. That’s an unusual level of emotional handling.

      2. Bagpuss*

        To be honest, I think they are both rude. OP not saying hello or Morning when they walk in seems rude, but co-worker staring etc is too – they could simply say ‘good morning’ themselves and let OP answer.

        1. Cassie the First*

          Presumably the co-worker notices the OP when she walks in (hence the staring). The co-worker can simply initiate the greeting – what’s wrong with that? There’s no indication that the OP doesn’t respond to a greeting, just that she sometimes doesn’t initiate. This isn’t a military salute, where the junior officer salutes the senior officer. Unless the co-worker thinks there’s some etiquette rule that the approaching person has to greet the person that was already present.

      3. snowglobe*

        I think the weird thing is that if it’s such a big deal to the co-worker, why doesn’t she just say ‘good morning’ first? If I’m at my desk and someone walks in (and I’m not really busy), I’ll say hello. And if I’m coming in and walking past someone at their desk, I’ll also say hello. What does it matter who says it first?

      4. a1*

        I wonder how OP replied when coworker asked about this. She doesn’t say. That was the perfect opportunity to say what she said to us in the letter or to otherwise set expectations. Something like “I need to be focused and everything else fades away.” “I’m not a morning person and it’s not natural for me all the time.” “Don’t take it personally, it’s just not natural for me.”

        1. a1*

          Follow-up thought. If the answer was more along the lines of “Sorry, I was lost in thought” or “Sorry, you looked busy” then I can see why coworker would look “expectantly” when OP arrives.

    7. Amerdale*

      I agree.
      I’d feel ignored too, if my colleague walked to their desk right next to mine without a short “Hello” or “(Good) Morning” – and I’m the total opposite of a chatty person. It’s totally normal here to greet everybody, who is already there. Doesn’t have to end in longer small talk and rarely does, but it acknowledges everyone. Okay we are eight poeple in four offices at best, so it is quickly done. In a larger Office I guess I wouldn’t greet everyone when coming in but still the people I pass on the way to my desk and definitly anyone I sit close to.

    8. Ms Cappuccino*

      I am glad to see I am not the only one who finds normal to greet someone when you first meet them.
      I am from a different culture too.

    9. Maggie*

      I think the hour and the nature of the work matter, too. I used to teach at a high school where classes began for students at 7 AM, meaning I arrived at work as early as 6:20 AM on cold, winter mornings. When I’m preparing to face 15 year olds pre-dawn, no, I have zero interest in greeting anyone. We’d all wander in in silence and head nods were normal. A loud ‘Good morning!’ in our rural environment, while mentally preparing for a public-facing, busy day? I totally get where the OP is coming from– no thank you. But by 10 AM the same behavior seems insane; of course you’re awake and ready to say hello by then. So I think the start time matters, too. If OP is starting work at 9 AM or later, the getting feels more normal. If OP is starting between 5 and 7 AM, the coworker annoys me, too.

    10. DeskBuds*

      No, I know what you mean. It isn’t rude enough that I’d ever bring it up, and it’s not even rude… but I was all for thinking it was reasonable until:

      >there are times where this feels natural to do but others when it doesn’t. (It doesn’t help that our desks are next to each other either.)

      Eh, I mean, I out of habit say “Good morning” to the person whose desk is next to mine. As said, wouldn’t think it’s rude, but a simple acknowledgement seems easy enough. I have a notion that it’s polite to acknowledge other people you know when you enter a room. I can see how if my coworker walked in and sat down and got straight to work that it could come across as off-putting, though of course we can’t know how it comes across.

      So, I’m not sure if I would be completely unaffected, but I definitely would never bring it up with a coworker because that’s impossible to do without making it a bigger deal than it is.

    11. D*

      Seriously, the pile- ons that happen in this comment section are infuriating. I nearly always regret venturing in here nowadays.
      To quote the LW:
      ‘My issue is that a new colleague of mine expects to be greeted every morning and there are times where this feels natural to do but others when it doesn’t…If she wants to be greeted, why not start the conversation?’
      That reads to me as if sometimes the LW does greet her colleague, but that when she doesn’t, her coworker never greets her but rather sits there waiting for the LW to ‘initiate’. Further as per the letter, the colleague has, on at least one occasion, passively aggressively called the LW out over the issue.
      Perhaps we could take the LW’s word for it that sometimes it doesn’t feel ‘natural’ to greet her colleague (perhaps her colleague is on the phone, or looking pre-occupied, or performing her morning salmon slapping dance – who knows). And if it’s ‘kind of rude to … not greet someone/acknowledge their presence when you first run across them’, then the LW’s colleague is just as rude – first time she’s run across the LW too remember – but y’all just jump on and basically call the LW names.
      Besides, even IF the LW is totally ignoring all accepted social conventions around morning greetings (not that we can know whether she is, given we don’t know where the LW lives and works), there are better ways to offer advice about conforming to social rituals than calling the LW obnoxious , rude, etc. If you can’t say it politely, don’t say it – insults almost never make a person more receptive to suggestions – even if said suggestions are pearls of wisdom.

      1. MK*

        It’s not less infuriating when people throw the “don’t pile on” card to shut down a different point of view, or when they overlook any qualifiers in the comments. No one in this thread was nasty to the OP, no one said the co-worker was reasonable in her response, most people explicitly said her attitude was weird. But it’s not doing any favours to the OP to let her go on thinking her way of doing things is absolutely the norm (especially when she states the rather unreasonable view that you get to have “private time free of the expectations of others” at work).

        Frankly, I do find supposed “pile-ons” useful in challenging views that I considered self-evident before. If I see a couple of comments questioning my attitude, that’s just a couple of people who disagree. If I see a couple of hundred, obviously this is a pretty widely held point of view. I would think it is useful information for the OP to have, that a significant number of people/cultures would consider her own behaviour an issue.

        1. D*

          I didn’t say people shouldn’t have a different point of view, or that people shouldn’t challenge the LW’s to think about different perspectives. I said:
          1. we should take the LW’s word for things she has written,
          2. comments in this thread were calling her names,
          3. name calling is an ineffective way to get someone to reconsider their behaviour.
          A thread of people saying things like, ‘have you thought of how it might seem to your colleague?’, ‘ It might be worth considering the social conventions in your office/country and thinking about how you in line with these’ etc, would be challenging in a constructive way. Comments like: ‘It seems kind of rude to me’ , ‘reads as really cold to me’, ‘the “obnoxious” thing it to not say a simple “good morning”’, ‘sounds like OP1 is being quite rude’, ‘would feel extremely rude’, (from the first 4 comments in this thread) are not constructive and are not polite – they are just a pile-on.

          1. Pnuf*

            None of that constitutes name calling, and shutting down criticism of poor behaviour as such is basically putting your fingers in your ears and shouting ‘LALALA!’

            1. D*

              You honestly believe that telling someone they are being ‘really rude’ and that you would think ‘how unpleasant’ they were, isn’t a form of name calling? And that suggesting that it would be better to give constructive criticism instead of using phrases like that as the only feedback in a comment is the same as going ‘LALALA’?
              I’m not trying to shut down the criticism, I’m suggesting that said criticism be given politely and constructively- and lots of the comments on here manage to do that, so it’s is obviously possible for many people. Let’s hope the LW reads those and actually gets some useful feedback, and has a chance to consider suggestions on how she can approach the situation in the future.

              1. Myrin*

                I mean, I’m not a native English speaker so I could be totally wrong here but yeah, I personally honestly wouldn’t ever consider that “name-calling”. It’s quite blunt and not sugar-coated, but that’s about it.

          2. MK*

            I agree that we should take the OPs’ word for the facts they present, yes; I am not sure how this applies in this letter. And “rude” is not a slur, or name-calling.

            1. WSG*

              Exactly this. I am taking OP at her word. I think not acknowledging the presence of one other person in a shared space is rude, no matter the reason. When I was having emergency surgery, the surgeon managed a quick “hello everyone” as he came through the door. Surely OP isn’t so busy and important she can’t manage the same.

              1. Dragoning*

                Frankly, I hate people who walk into a space I’m already in an expect me to care that they are now there–especially if we are not meeting, but happen to be sharing a space.

          3. A Girl Has No Name*

            You seem to be taking issue with the descriptors of “rude” or “obnoxious”, but neither of those words are inherently mean, and none of the commenters indicated that OP was a rude person, just that the behavior of not greeting the co-worker seemed rude. It is okay to disagree with that assessment, but I think it is often helpful to know how other people see a situation. In this case, a number of commenters have indicated that they’d too consider the OP’s behavior rude or odd. That is helpful info for the OP to have. It may be that there is some misinterpretation of the original letter happening, and the OP can clarify in the comments if needed. But this doesn’t seem to be an inappropriate pile-on, just folks agreeing that they’d see this behavior differently than how OP is seeing it.

            1. Been There, Done That*

              I agree with D on this — those words might not be inherent name-calling, but as I was reading them, they came across as pretty harsh and judgmental.

          4. Zillah*

            I think it’s really important to draw a distinction, though, between not taking the OP at their word and suggesting alternate interpretations to what the OP is reporting. People can be honest and still be missing something.

          5. Bostonian*

            Yeah, you can totally have the opinion that it’s rude to never say “good morning” to a colleague you sit next to, except that’s not what’s happening in the letter. It comes off as an unnecessary pile-on because people are projecting and making things up that aren’t in the letter.

    12. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Have worked in Canada and in the U.S., in a dozen different workplaces and three very different geographical areas, and not saying “good morning” or “heya” or something on approaching one’s desk would make someone come across as an oddball at best, outright rude at worst. Every place is different, but a quick acknowledgement of the new workday — even if I got up on the wrong side of the bed — has been a universal North American office norm, for me.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, I work in a small department of hardcore introverts and we all say good-morning. I wouldn’t say we’re super close otherwise, but we’ll at least hand-wave. It doesn’t have to be a big, chatty greeting.

        It would be *super* weird not to greet somebody who sat next to us, too.

        That said, I cannot imagine why the coworker won’t initiate, unless she has some kind of point to prove. Geez.

    13. Asenath*

      Ha! I’m Canadian too, and my first thought was that in my office, it’s normal to say “Good morning” to everyone the first time you see them. And of course, you wouldn’t criticize someone who didn’t, but even so, I try to remember to greet the co-worker whose desk is around a corner so she doesn’t think I’m ignoring her when I greet everyone whose desk is along my direct route to mine (located right in the back, so I pass almost everyone).

    14. Dinnah*

      Yep, I find it irritating- we work in the same workplace, therefore let’s be civil, we might end up having to work together more in depth in the future- a mumbled greeting or even a nod is enough. But actually avoinding looking at the person and ignoring her? Not ok imo. I live in northern Germany and some people here don’t even look at you at times, let alone greet, it rubs me up the wrong way. But then again there are normal greeters and, together with the other letter, those wink at you as a greeting…

      1. Dinnah*

        Oh dear… *avoiding* and *those who wink at you* … Typing and eating xmas cookies isn’t working well for my spelling and grammar skills…

    15. OP #3*

      Brazilian here!
      I’ve actually been through a very similar situation at my place of work with a specific colleague who called me out (not directly, though, because apparently this is a work place where we never directly address anything – not complaining hehe) on not saying good morning to her when I walked in everyday.
      I’m just the WORST morning person and I usually am not fully functioning until after I settle down and start working so it didn’t even cross my mind this would be an issue. Like, we clock in at 7am, sometimes is not even a full day outside so I arrive half sleep.
      The thing is that only one person in a room with like 10 people minded, which made me realize this was important to HER. Even if she was passive agressive about it, like Alison said I didn’t think it was a hill worth dying on, and it didn’t seem like an effort at all to oblige and try to be more cheerful in the mornings.
      Not saying that OP isn’t doing that, which to me seems like they are actually making an effort, but that if this is SO important to their colleague to the point where they stare and they make comments about it, I would just give in and initiate the convo everyday. Eventually it will fall into a routine where you don’t even notice your lips moving anymore.

      1. Karen from Finance*

        Hi there! I’m a neighbouring country to Brazil.

        How do people greet each other there usually? Here the usual way to greet would be with a kiss on the cheek (not really a kiss though, more like placing a cheek against the other) in most situations, handshake in very very formal settings, waves in informal settings or when people are far away or busy. Dudes with their friends will sometimes do the weird handshake/hug they also do in other places.

        My impression from the few Brazillians that I’ve worked with is that they also are generally more calid than people in Europe/USA. The first time that I met this one Brazillian coworker she HUGGED me, which I felt awkward about because I don’t like hugs from strangers, but everyone told me that’s a cultural thing. But I feel like this is not neessarily the case and this is a steretype.

    16. nodramalama*

      I agree. I’m Australian and I would always say good morning or hi or at least acknowledge the existence of at least my desk mates if not other coworkers. It doesn’t seem as if it would be that much of an annoyance?

      1. valentine*

        In OP1’s shoes, I might only have the energy for raised eyebrows. Why does she have to coddle her colleague?

        1. MK*

          Why does anyone ever have to do anything to facilitate daily human interaction?

          The OP doesn’t have to “coddle” her co-worker, but by the same token the co-worker doesn’t have to hide her displeasure at being given the cut direct.

        2. Nodramalama*

          I mean I think the other person is going overboard and should just say hi themselves if they’re bothered, but I’m not sure I would consider basic pleasantries to be ‘coddling’

    17. Mookie*

      Culture comes into it, but there are also intra- and inter-cultural considerations, plus weird amounts of empathy and second-guessing.

      My regional breeding says Be Effusive, Loud, and Fast-Talking (so as not to waste people’s time) while also Open to a Longer Discussion About What a Good Morning It Is While We Hide Our Growing Mutual Irritation At All The Shit We Have to Talk Just to Fucking Start Work, but my colleagues come from all over the world, many are nauseated and made impatient by the artificial sunniness of these obsequious native customs, and some find it rude to socialize or even acknowledge one another’s presence until a shift begins and we become co-workers again. A smile and a chin up-style nod evens out the difference in my case and feels gender-neutral, as well. If they’re not looking at me or actively avoiding doing so, they miss it (probably for the better) or are presented with an opportunity to pretend that they have, and if they are actually looking, their existence has now been formally acknowledged and we can move on.

      I prefer an interrogative ‘r’aight?’ myself, but I’m not going to insist on it.

    18. Rebecca*

      I arrive at work in the middle of everyone, as in some people arrive at 7 AM, I come in with the 7:30 group, and still others arrive at 8 AM. When I walk through the offices to my office, I usually say “good morning” and smile, if people reply, they do, if they don’t, they don’t, more often than not, I’ll get a “hey Beck, did you see Jane’s Facebook post about X” or “OMG is it really raining again?” when they see me dripping by soaking wet, that type of thing. Some days, no comments, but almost everyone responds in some way, whether it’s just a small grunting sound or by using words, depending on how busy they are.

      I don’t expect those arriving after me to pop in and say good morning, I’ll catch up with them later, or not, no expectations.

      My take is that it’s weird to expect someone to constantly interact every single morning, and then call them out when they don’t. My concern is this needy coworker may somehow make things difficult for the OP based on this one thing.

    19. Clay on my apron*

      Ditto. I’d find it rude if someone did this. And I know my colleagues would too.

      I’m not very chatty at work, usually, but calling out “morning all” when I walk into the office is hardly a big ask.

      If OP is finding that a simple greeting is turning into an unwanted conversation, that’s different issue.

      I’m not in the US either.

    20. Crivens! (Formerly Katniss)*

      Yeah but if the co-worker is so hurt by a lack of greeting, she can be the one to initiate. The OP describes her as refusing to say hello until the OP does. She’s just being childish at that point.

    21. InfoSec SemiPro*

      There was a point where I was The Extrovert on a team of introverts. I was also one of the few people who got in early and shared an office with another early arriver.

      I swear he just put in his calendar the 5 minutes of chatter it took to get SemiPro settled in the morning. Added it to his daily tasks, put a note in for what inane topic he’d bring up and took it for the team. I needed to say good morning to someone, ask how someone was doing, and generally interact with a human before I could really get pointed at my day, and then I was fine with the generally non social interacting team. He was patient and pleasant about it and I’m still really appreciative. I don’t need chit chat all day, and I kept morning greeting brief because I’m extroverted, not clueless, but it would have been really miserable for me to not have a social transition mark at the beginning of my workday…and he was it.

      The team has grown now, so I can wave a good morning to a collection of people and generally get something back from a few of them and that works too.

      The coworker described is being weird with insisting morning greetings have to go in a certain order. If I got hard stared at because I happened to be doing something instead of saying good morning I’d get really uncomfortable about it too. And I’m a good morning kind of person. Its just not that big a deal (until you’re the only two people in the office every morning and then you have to work something out.)

    22. Yeah, no*

      Okay I thought I was the only one thinking this! I agree it’s weird that the coworker would ask OP about it, but I find it really rude to walk in and not acknowledge the one other person you share a general space with.

      Aaaaand I’m Canadian as well

    23. Ele4phant*

      I’m American and I would find it odd to regularly walk past a coworker without saying good morning, or catching their eye and giving them a smile and a nod if they’re on the phone or something.

      I understand the OP works in a public facing roll, but come on, it doesn’t take that much out of you to acknowledge the presence of another human being. Just smile, say a quick good morning, and keep on walking.

      Now if the coworker is up from here desk when the OP comes in and she expects her to come and seek her out to say good morning, that’s unreasonable.

    24. Cat Fan*

      Yeah, if you are entering a room it just seems normal to acknowledge another person’s presence by saying a simple hey or mornin’. I am not sure why it the co-worker doesn’t do the same to the person entering. I never thought there were rules about who says it first. Saying that you refuse to greet others because you are focused on having to deal with the public for the rest of the day sounds equally strange to me. I think I would say it as the person entering just out of habit.

    25. Zillah*

      I’m a New Yorker, so I’m not prone to being especially friendly in general, but I also think it’s a little rude to not say good morning at the beginning of the day (though I think anyone can really initiate it).

    26. Karen from Finance*

      I’m Latin American, but I’ve had the problem OP described, as in I was the one walking in without greeting people. The difference is that they didn’t confront me about it, they asked my friend if I had any problem and she told them I’m just reserved. My friend told me about it, I realized I was inadvertently offending people, and starting greeting everyone when I arrive.

      Since then I’ve realized that there is precisely a cultural norm, at least in my country, that the arriving party is the one who should do the greeting (I think it’s because the people who are already at work may not notice someone coming in if they’re concentrating).

    27. Kanarthi*

      Yeah, I am joining the pile insisting that it is a cultural thing. My first internship in former East Germany, I eventually figured out that this was the cultural expectation: when you come in you should go around and say good morning to all your coworkers who had previously arrived. I found out after 2 weeks that the secretary (whose office was around 3 minutes away from mine) was upset that I didn’t come and greet her every morning!

      I really wouldn’t recommend a strategy like those upthread are suggesting, where OP1 asks why her coworker doesn’t greet her first. Most people who have this expectation don’t see it as a symmetric situation: the second person arriving should always great the first. I would just get really good at brief cheery “Hello!”s that don’t invite further conversation.

    28. TootsNYC*

      OP#1: I do think it’s basically polite to greet someone.
      I also SO VERY MUCH understand your annoyance; like Alison, I think this woman is annoying.

      But you also don’t want a lot of drama with here.

      Here’s my suggestion:

      Never, ever, say “good morning” to her.

      Instead, say “morning.”
      Let it be your own personal rebellion–she never gets “good”; she only gets “morning.”

      And develop a singsong pattern for her and only her. Like, “MOR-ning.” Something that feels a tiny bit fakey to you.

      And use that with her. And only her.
      It might feel better, inside, where you find her annoying. But it’ll look fine to other people.

        1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

          Eh, if it’s only for yourself then it’s not passive-aggressive. I have little codes for myself; a simple “bye” is fine, but if I say “see you tomorrow” then I’m usually thinking to myself “I have to see you tomorrow, I don’t have any choice about it.” But nobody else is going to register that.

        2. TootsNYC*

          “Passive aggressive” doesn’t mean “snarky” or “rude” or “petty” or “being rude yet maintaining plausible deniability.”

          And, passive aggressive is not always bad. Sometimes it’s a legitimate coping strategy.

    29. Jennifer Thneed*

      I just realized that I’ve worked in 2 very different environments and they affect my morning-greeting behavior very differently. It seems to come down to whether I can see people’s faces as I pass them. So: cube environment where the cube walls are 6 feet high? Don’t greet people unless they’re literally in your line of sight and making eye contact. Maybe not even your direct neighbor, but probably the person across the aisle from you. (Unless the neighbor is someone you work with directly, and I’ve been in plenty of environments where they are not.) But: shortie cube walls or open environment? Say hi to people as you see their eyeballs. Someone hard at work won’t get a greeting but anyone who’s head is up so we can make eye contact will. The greeting might be a nod across the room, but it happens. And sometimes it’s a cheery, “Good morning everyone!” and 3 or 4 people will reply in kind.

      I think that everyone who’s talking about how it is at their workplace should be explicit about the physical setup, because I think it’s affecting how this works.

    30. Anon This Time*

      I also came here to say it might be cultural, and to maybe suck it up. My story: A friend of mine (white woman) once worked in an office in the Southern U.S., and it took her a few months to realize, but some of her colleagues (mainly African American women) got the impression that she was rude because she didn’t take time to personally greet each person in the office in the morning. She’d either just head to her desk or a quick, “Hi” in passing. Around the same time, she also noticed in her neighborhood that there was a strong expectation for similar meaningful greetings when you passed one another on the street. (No looking down at your shoes and avoiding.) Once she realized that, she made the decision to invest the time in the morning hellos. It wasn’t her norm, but if it showed her colleagues she respected them, it was worth doing. Or, I suppose, she could have had a conversation with them about why it wasn’t her thing, as Allison suggests. But it seemed easier to just stop and chat for 2 minutes every morning.

      And I don’t know if it was just cultural for that office or neighborhood or larger – I can’t make sweeping generalizations. But it certainly raised my awareness that what I think is the norm could be perceived differently by others, and to just consider whether what the other person is seeking is really ridiculous or not.

  11. Engineer Girl*

    #1 – Could you just say “Hey Sansa” breezily and keep on going with getting settled at your desk? Don’t stop moving. That shows you are too busy to talk. But she’s been acknowledged.

    1. Micromanagered*

      This is what I do with my boss who REALLY wants to start a conversation (usually about her) every day the minute I walk in. I say a brightly-toned “Mornin’!” and then become a moving target for at least 5 minutes. Take off my coat, fill up my water cup, put my lunch in the fridge, oh! I really have to pee…

    2. Kes*

      Or if you’re not awake enough to talk, just wave. That’s still an acknowledgement and greeting without having to start conversing

  12. Not A Manager*

    LW1 – I think this lady gets under your skin in general. It’s always annoying to feel that someone is bullying us with social expectations, but maybe the path of least resistance would be to stop, look her dead in the eye, and say “Good MORNING, Sansa,” every day.

  13. Talley*

    #5-“Oh, we just realized we have some very intrusive neighbors, so we’re movingg elsewhere!”

    1. CastIrony*

      Ha! That’s so mean, but so true. You remind me of this ad where a couple moves into a new neighborhood next door to a man who owns way too many wind chimes.

  14. Bowserkitty*

    OP4 – I feel like I get winked at all the time in Japan now from my coworkers and boss. On my boss’s end it may be a tic(?) but otherwise it just seems so normal here. It was really offputting at first because I still see it as flirtatious if it isn’t done by a close friend or family member.

    No real advice aside from the general weird feeling you get, I get that too…

    1. Hannah*

      I would finding winking so strange and I think the second time someone did it, I’d say something similar to what Alison suggested. I would not make a huge deal but I would definitely say something. It is obnoxious as Elaine tells George in Seinfeld.

  15. CastIrony*

    OP #1, now that’s just rude, and that’s from someone who was taught (culture thing) to greet everyone when entering somewhere like a workplace or some other social situation! That being said, it sometimes takes me a moment to warm up because I’m deep in thought or not that awake just yet (Give me a second.)

    Have you tried looking immersed in your phone or something?

  16. Erika22*

    I’m also not a “good morning” person (at least not every day), and I have a similar coworker! I say “morning” a couple times a week, but I know if I start with a greeting, I get one back plus a “how are you? How was your evening? Do anything fun? It’s cold today! What did you bring for lunch?” And it’s all of THIS that I really just can’t do when I first get in. I like to jump right in to my work and I’m just not a talkative person first thing in the morning. To me it’s way less rude to skip saying good morning than to say it and then force the conversation to die by giving short uninviting answers to her questions. (When I say things like “oh I can’t chat, I have an urgent email” or the like, I get questions about who and what, or she goes “oh, okay…..” in a tone that is clearly wounded.) I suck it up once a week just so she doesn’t think I’m a terrible person, but I wish I could just magically teleport to my desk and bypass hers so I wouldn’t have to engage.

  17. Ms Cappuccino*

    1# Being from a country where greeting people is very important, I can understand why someone could feel offended if you don’t greet them when you arrive. I wonder where offended coworker is from. Sometimes issues arise from cultural differences. I used to kiss my coworkers and handshake my boss every morning.
    Now living in the UK, things are different and I don’t get offended when someone seems too busy to even say good morning.
    I wouldn’t ask my coworkers why they haven’t say good morning to me. You coworker should let it go but I understand why it may feel weird to some people.
    Can you make the effort to say good morning to her and if she starts being chatty just tell her you are too busy to talk?

  18. Trouble*

    #1 – Yes if you walk passed her you should say morning and keep walking if you don’t want to talk further.

    It’s the expectation that if she walks passed you SHE shouldn’t be the one to say morning I don’t understand. If I walk passed people I say hi/morning. If you walk passed me I’d expect it to go the other way.

    If you sit in a communal space and people walk passed you all day, it would be exhausting and you’d never get any work done if you had some responsibility to look up and greet every. Last. One. Of. Them.

    I’m socially anxious myself, so if people look engrossed in their work or another convo I will just walk by with a smile if they make eye contact. If you looked engrossed in your work I wouldn’t greet you but I also wouldn’t be offended if you didn’t greet me back. If you looked up at my passing I’d say good morning/hi. I would expect that if I was the one already seated and working, that the coworker entering the room and doing the walking passed should say the greeting as they’re the one who’s new to the scene, not me.

    I can only assume she is much longer serving than you and she thinks a greeting is some kind of subservience she’s due as the ‘senior’ person. It’s bizarre and I’d be like another in the ‘I was about to ask you the same question’ camp when she’s bizarrely in your face about why you didn’t say good morning.

  19. Cody's Dad*

    #5. I bought a house once and because of a dispute between the seller and neighbors there was no for sale sign in the yard. Yes, it was a little unusual but the neighbors had no idea for the longest time the house was being sold as there were also no open houses, which isn’t always the most effective way to sell anyways especially since most buyers look online on first. Talk to your Realtor when you decide to sell. Good luck!

    1. AnotherAlison*

      We had a for sale sign, but we never had a sold sign, which could also be helpful for the OP. It will allow her to resign, tie up the loose ends at her job, and be on the road before the nosy coworker knows they’ve sold.

    2. Lemon Bars*

      We had a terrible realtor during a housing shortage, he was never on time and never got things done. So I took and sent out the pictures of our house and posted it as a pre-sale before it gets listed to market on facebook and we got an offer and set up the closing with a closing firm, before our realtor got the sign in the yard or posted our house on the realtor site. My husbands cousin (lawyer) got us our realtors commission back since they didnt handle the sale or the closing.

    3. triplehiccup*

      If your house is as nice as it sounds, this might be a great way to go. No harm in trying it for a set period of time anyway!

  20. The Ghost of Peig Sayers*

    #1- Ehhhhhh, I think it’s a bit odd that your co-worker actually said something about it, but in my workplace (I’m in Ireland FWIW) it would be considered a bit…unnecessarily cold, maybe, not to greet someone or at least visibly acknowledge someone in the morning (vague half-smile in their direction FTW!). Like it doesn’t mean you need to have a full-on conversation, but yeah, if I had a co-worker who had your approach to greeting people in the morning it would definitely raise a few eyebrows among my co-workers (also tbh it makes it fairly obvious you don’t like her very much, and even if you don’t I think it never hurts to have plausible deniability there).

    #3- It’s fine as long as they’re not on the phone making personal calls all day, although depends on your workplace norms I think

    #4- OP if you have the patience for the conversation please bring it up before he winks at the wrong person!

  21. Daisy Avalin*

    LW1, I kind of agree that not participating in a greeting in the morning is a little rude. However, I completely fail to see how and why the greeting should always be provided by you! If the coworker wants to say ‘Good Morning’, surely all she needs to do is say it? If she is so determined to have this social nicety from you that she is making a big thing of staring at you when you walk in each morning, then it is on her to notice you coming in and say ‘Morning’ as you reach your desk.

    1. Lynn Whitehat*

      I used to drop off my kids at daycare at about 7:30. I was not yet fully awake, and typically had a lot on my mind. Sometimes I would fail to greet other parents doing drop-offs, and they would turn it into a Thing. “Good MORNING!” Very pointedly. It made me hate drop-offs. I mean, I was technically in the wrong, etiquette-wise, but making a big deal about taking another adult to Manners School seems more wrong.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        Miss Manners says it’s rude to correct people who are not your minor children. Ever. For anything. Hope this helps?

  22. Jo*

    #1 – Say good morning when you come in, and don’t let yourself get drawn into conversations. If you aren’t offering interesting bits or asking questions, she’ll get bored. It’s really not worth agonizing over this, and saying a few polite words that help grease the social wheels isn’t going to kill you. It’s simply normal office behaviour.

    Besides, you don’t want to be known company-wide as “the new one who can’t open her mouth in the morning to be polite”, because I guarantee that’s how she’ll refer to you if it carries on or you make a fuss about this.

    1. Jo*

      Also, if you’ve failed to greet her a few times, she’s probably now waiting for you to make the first step on purpose in order to see whether you’ll refuse a greeting again. So anything you do now to force her into greeting you first is just going to reinforce her impression of you.

    2. MattKnifeNinja*

      My cousin, who is on the Autism spectrum, has had this brought up as one of the reasons he was let go from THREE different jobs.

      He’s not a morning person. His view point is he’s there to work not socialize. He doesn’t get small talk. He didn’t particularly like his coworkers. Isn’t it more efficient to by pass niceties, and get to the task at hand? WHY DO PEOPLE CARE?


      You won’t get fired if the work culture dictates “we greet each other.”. But it puts nothing in the good will bank.

      My cousin is good at his job. Doing the task at hand was never the issue. It’s the lack of soft skills, and zip in the good will bank that let him get downsized from three jobs.

      OP, I get where you are coming from. Some just want to roll into work, and do their job. Social niceties are a PITA, especially when you aren’t feeling it.

      My cousin has real issue with phrase “Good morning”. It’s rage inducing to him, especially at work. He worked with his therapist that saying, “Hi!”, was enough to pass the office friendly test, and most people won’t start a conversation.

      When my cousin tried explained why, “Good morning” was not high on his list of things to do (Getting ready for the day/getting his head into work mode), all three different bosses said no one is too busy or important that saying, “Hi” is that big of a burden. That was their culture.

      Throw this person a Hi! and a smile while you walk by. Should you have to do it? No. You can wish she DIAF while you do it. This will be less aggravating than having “needs to work on soft skills” showing up on a performance review. The cleaning crew and the maintenance people complained about my cousin’s lack of “being friendly”, which was on a performance review. You never know who will fire up a complaint.

      Good luck. A quick “Hi” should back off the nonsense.

  23. Legalchef*

    Re #3, of course people can use their ofice phones for some amount of personal things. As for you answering the calls, I think it depends how many calls it is a day.

    Also, I’m surprised there is no caller ID, since I thought most office phones had that these days (though i could be wrong). If there is caller ID that at least shows the name/number, then perhaps just don’t answer when it’s clearly not work-related.

    1. OP #3*

      Great point!!!

      There is caller ID, but I didn’t know how to explain it in English when I typed out my question. You know how you can pull a call from another extension by pressing a specific button on the phone? That’s how we take each other’s calls, we pull them (idk if this expression makes sense as it does in my language, but alas) and by the position of our desks I don’t have visual access to her caller ID. I would very much LOVE to let it ring endless if I knew it wasn’t work-related, but I worry it would drive other people insane to have her phone ringing when I’m really the only one qualified (attribution-wise) to pick up her calls. This has happened before with another colleague’s extension number and people lost their cool pretty fast (and it WAS a work-related phone call).

      1. Asenath*

        Pick up a call. I have that system, although only for two phone lines, mine and a co-worker’s. The system we have now allows me to see incoming callers on the other line, but the previous system we had didn’t – I knew a call was coming in on the other line, I could press a button and answer it from my desk, but I couldn’t see the caller ID. In our site, too, a LOT of people have private or generic caller IDs, so even when I can see it, I don’t always know if it’s a work call, or a call from the co-worker’s brother who is also at work and on the same phone system, but who wants to talk about family matters.

        1. Cat wrangler*

          I’ve worked in offices where phones aren’t allowed to ring on even if the desk occupier was standing there chatting, or otherwise visibly not working, *someone* had to grab the call. We weren’t even supposed to ring out externally on a hands free call as the ringing tone made it sound as though it was an incoming ignored call…. if you work in this sort of culture then ignoring co-worker’s phones isn’t so easy even if you know it’s a personal call or they are on a personal call.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I used to work in a place with a similar system. Our standard was to transfer callers-who-aren’t-customers directly to the other perdon’s voicemail. If you’ve got that ability, it skips YOU taking messages at least.

      2. Antilles*

        I would very much LOVE to let it ring endless if I knew it wasn’t work-related, but I worry it would drive other people insane to have her phone ringing when I’m really the only one qualified (attribution-wise) to pick up her calls.
        It absolutely would drive people crazy. Almost as importantly, they *won’t* know that it’s a personal call, so they’ll start wondering why you’re not doing your job by intentionally ignoring the phone.

      3. Snow Drift*

        That makes sense. Transferred calls in my office usually either show the ID of the line they’ve been transferred from (if it’s done by hand) or something generic like “outside line” (if the number was set to automatically forward).

      4. LurkieLoo*

        I wonder if it might be possible with your phone system to have her calls specifically roll over if they aren’t answered vs you picking them up? In our system, it’s part of the “forward” function and can be set per user. I do this all the time if I happen to be working in another office or if I am expecting a call and need to be away from my desk. When they are forwarded, it shows the caller ID as well as showing that it’s originating from my extension.

        I know all phone systems are different, but this might be a good compromise if you can figure out how it works on your system. Ours also allows a “send to voicemail” option and an ignore option. Both of which make the ringing stop.

  24. RNtyougladIdidntsaybanana*

    OP#5 – I’d be so tempted to tell her “We just don’t love the neighborhood.”

  25. Jo*

    LW #1 Just gave me flashbacks to a place I used to work where the receptionist complained to my boss that I didn’t say hello as I walked in every morning. Thing is, I did say hello more often than I didn’t, but if she looked busy or had someone at her desk, I wouldn’t. Because that seemed polite to me. But she felt slighted enough to complain to my boss, and my boss felt this was worth bringing up in a performance review! That was the most unpleasant, cliquey workplace I ever had the misfortune of working at.

    1. Xarcady*

      She complained to your boss? That seems a little overboard to me.

      I say good morning to our receptionist and sometimes we chat a little, bit if she’s talking to someone else or otherwise busy, I will just wave or nod or even do nothing but get out of the way if she’s dealing with a large group of clients on a visit.

      Are you really expected to sing out good morning loudly under all circumstances? I could see that leading to other people complaining that you interrupted them while they were in conversation with the receptionist.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        Saying good morning as you keep walking past the desk will not actually interrupt a conversation, although it might distract someone in that conversation. I try to at least catch the receptionist’s eye and smile as I pass. (But then, I’m talking about the person at the desk in the building lobby, with 20 floors of office above them. They get treated like furniture waaay too often. I haven’t much worked in places with office-level receptionists.)

  26. Jennifer Juniper*

    OP1: What would she do if you greeted her with a big smile and, “Good morning! Happy Monday!” I bet she wouldn’t want a repeat performance!

    1. Madge*

      The crossing guard at my daughter’s school greets everyone with an alliteration: Marvelous Monday, Teriffic Tuesday, etc.

  27. EBStarr*

    OP1 – I am always mildly confused by the idea that some offices have an expectation to greet everyone in the morning. I work in a huge open office so it would be hard to calibrate — if you greeted everyone in the morning, are you supposed to greet the people you’ve never met who you know by sight because they work two desks over? What about the people who don’t even sit in your area but who you have to walk by to get to your desk? I mean luckily I’m in tech so the culture is heavily geared towards efficiency (people are more likely to get annoyed with you if you DO interrupt them with an unnecessary greeting when they’re in the zone) and I don’t have to actually figure this out.

    That said, when someone is already looking at you I guess it makes sense to greet them — probably people just don’t do that in a huge open office because they would never have a chance to look at their screen if they looked up whenever someone walked by? So maybe OP is being a bit weird there… But the coworker sounds grating and very demanding.

    1. Papyrus*

      I work in an office full of cubicles, and when I come in everyone is already busy working, so stopping by every cubicle to say good morning would be time-consuming and disruptive. Plus, I’m not a morning person and don’t say hello in general, and I don’t expect it either, and could care less if I never get a hello, so it baffles me a little that this means SO much to so many people. However, if the OP sits right next to someone, and there’s no cubicle wall up, and the coworker is looking directly at you, expectantly, then it would be a little weird to not at least say hi. If anything, just let the baby have her bottle.

  28. Nonny*

    #2– I worked in a job with rotating coverage-based positions, and someone running 5 minutes late to relieve me for my 15-minute morning break always felt like eternity. Because there was a shared ‘track’ of positions, it was easy enough to just tack those 5 minutes onto the end of my break, even though it inevitably meant the entire schedule getting set back for the whole day. But they’re returning to work in a different department, so presumably they can’t do that– if Jane eats up 5 minutes of their break or their meeting or their whatever time by being late, it’s probably not easy for them to get it back.

    1. Jennifer Juniper*

      Depending on the workplace, Jane may actually be keeping people from eating or using the bathroom. Some offices are very strict about not doing anything but work except for assigned break and lunchtimes. If someone misses her break, she may be forced to cross her legs for two hours until her next break. If that’s the case, no wonder everyone’s mad at her!

      1. Nonny*

        Exactly! And if you’re counting down the minutes until Jane comes at 2 to relieve you so you can go to the bathroom, 5 minutes can feel like forever! Especially because, as others have said, they have no way of knowing it’s really only going to be 5.

        1. Been There, Done That*

          That’s the thing. So many if’s and maybe’s here when we just don’t know from the letter. In our office, if the receptionist has to step away for break or whatever, there’s no formal coverage. If the phone rings in the back, somebody answers it. If a visitor rings the bell, someone lets them in and offers to help them.

  29. Jennifer Juniper*

    Ew. Winking comes off as creepy, especially from a man to a woman. OP4, please do the intern a favor and let him know today. Otherwise, he could someday find himself on the other end of a harassment complaint.

  30. foolofgrace*

    OP #3: Would it help if you stopped taking long detailed messages, and instead just say “I’ll tell her you called”? You could tell the caller (mom, brother) that you can’t take a detailed message because your phones are ringing off the hook, but that you’ll tell her they called? At least this would shorten the time of irritation.

    1. OP #3*

      I’m thinking I’ll have to resort to this very soon. I’ve always felt somewhat obligated to get her messages and all that because she’s my closest friend at the office and we get along really well, which is also the reason why I’ve found it so difficult to “confront” her about this issue at all. Thank you, though, seeing someone else say it’s okay to just stick to the “who” of the call helps to ease the sense of obligation.

      1. valentine*

        If talking to her hurts your relationship, the relationship isn’t as you thought. There’s a letter here or on CA about friends cat-sitting for each other, where one person thought it fine to cancel because the other surely had a backup and the other was intensely upset because she views the agreement as a solemn vow. Talk to your friend and get on the same page. Even a random coworker shouldn’t want their personal life to be a burden for you.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        If she’s a friend, that seems like it should make it easier. “Hey, the other day, I was taking a message from your mom when my phone started ringing, and I needed to answer it but I didn’t want to be abrupt with your mom. It would make things a lot easier if she could call you on your cell phone.”

      3. Observer*

        Allison Yeah, there is no need to confront her about this. Just take the name of the caller and let her know who called.

      4. Jennifer Thneed*

        You know, people get messages wrong. Speaking and hearing are inherently inefficient; that’s why our spoken language has so much redundancy. So you could try that: “I’ve gotten a couple of garbled messages myself recently, so I’ve decided to not risk garbling your messages. Instead, I’ll just tell you who called and when, and maybe a topic if they tell me that, but I won’t try to write down any details.” (If nothing else, there are privacy issues. Maybe you don’t *want* to know all those details about her life!)

  31. Susie Q*

    IMHO, I don’t care if you say good morning to me or not. There are way more important things in my life to worry about.

    1. sunshyne84*

      Same….I’m probably the rude one in the office lol It seems like OP doesn’t really work with this person they just happen to sit next to each other so its extra weird that she’s so adamant about being spoken to. If they were teammates then yea I’d suck it up and speak more often.

  32. Jane*

    #1 – I had a coworker like this. We sit across the aisle from each other in a cube farm. My day starts between 6-6:30. She’d come in any time between 7 – 9:30 and always chirp “Good Morning Jane!” If I didn’t respond back to her because I was busy doing work or didn’t otherwise see/hear her, she would stand at my cubicle staring at me until I verbally acknowledged her presence and if I didn’t do it “in time,” then she would complain to everyone. It stressed me out to no end.

      1. Colette*

        Really? You know the coworker?

        There is no one universal “how to be nice” guide, and people can legitimately disagree about what is important. I’d argue that interrupting someone’s work and complaining because someone didn’t stop her work to greet you are not nice behaviours.

        1. Argh!*

          If the person has made a point about this, then yes, it’s fair to say that they are apparently stressed out about it.

          1. Colette*

            People complain about lots of things they aren’t actually stressed about (or, if they are, it’s because they decided it was a personal snub and then were stressed because they felt disrespected.)

          2. Jennifer Thneed*

            Looks to me more like they want attention. If they don’t get Jane’s attention, then they make up for it by getting a lot of other people’s attention.

      2. MLB*

        Give me a break! The other person is the one being rude. If someone did that to me, I’d make sure to have headphones in at the times she usually came in so I wouldn’t hear her and she could stand there staring at me until the cows come home. You’re at work, and your job is not to socialize. If I’m engrossed in my work, I don’t want to be interrupted.

        1. Argh!*

          No, the other person is indicating her needs. She has the same right to having her basic social needs met as any other worker does. The LW was not “engrossed” in work in this scenario, but just arriving and merely engrossed in thought. Failure to say hello to someone is considered rude to more people than you might imagine, and basic social niceties are a part of most workplaces in most parts of the working world.

          1. Scion*

            Since when do someone’s “basic social needs” (a phrase which I’ve literally never heard before) become more important than getting work done (you know, the thing that the company is paying you to do).

            Your desire to be spoken to by someone is not so important that everyone should be forced to talk to you.

          2. Indie*

            I don’t think needs get met that way. If I insist on hellos as some sort of non flexible rule, I am never going to get a sincere one ever again. When we have needs that we want other people to meet for us, it usually makes sense to prime the pump yourself and to make sure youre not imposing or expecting people to remember your preferences (Some good ways would be saying it first yourself, building an office friendship with someone like minded etc)

          3. Parenthetically*

            Look, I’m all over this thread advocating for the OP to just freaking say good morning already, but Coworker is being seriously terrible. Staring at someone and waiting for them to say hi is weird and Coworker needs to knock it off. The easiest way for OP to get them to knock it off, IMO, is to say a pre-emptive, “Hey Jane” when she walks in, but let’s not pretend that what Coworker is doing isn’t super rude and completely outside social norms.

    1. WellRed*

      If you can hear or see someone greet you, it is rude not to respond. I do not, however, like how your coworker handled this, which was passive aggressive.

      1. Alianora*

        I agree. Not responding because you didn’t hear? Nothing wrong with that. Because you heard but you’re busy doing work? That’s pretty rude, unless your work is something like brain surgery that requires intense concentration.

    2. Archaeopteryx*

      Passive-aggressive Good Mornings are the worst. I once had a job where I started at 7 and a coworker started at 10. If I was helping a customer when she came in, and the first thing I said to her was work-related, I’d get a sarcastic sotto voce “Good MORNING.” If I greeted her with something like “Hey, how are you?” or “How’s it going?” or “How was your weekend?” I’d get the same- apparently nothing but the magic words “Good morning” we’re good enough. This, of course, made me slightly allergic to the feeling of saying good morning to her, so I continued cheerfully greeting her with “Hi”, etc. She had some other issues (massive story-topper) but the good morning thing I’ve somewhat carried with me; I rarely use those exact words to greet someone!

        1. Ktelzbeth*

          If it were related to a currently ongoing customer service issue that I could help with, as in Archaeopteryx’ scenario, I would be fine. The customer comes first.

        2. Archaeopteryx*

          If it was friendly, I’d feel great. The idea that no preliminary social interaction except the exact words “good morning” (not Hi, not How’s it going, etc) will suffice is a bonkers expectation and other people shouldn’t have to enable it.

        3. Friday*

          I expect to be hit with work-related comments…. as I am at work, after all. Nobody at my work parades around saying good morning – we do quick “Hi’ greetings as necessary and then get on with the show.

    3. Indie*

      Similar story: My boyfriend used to work in a place where a coworker from another department used to walk round giving out random hellos at their busiest time (though it was ‘before the day starts’ for her) and he never had any idea who she was talking to. One day he failed to respond to her and she was so needy for acknowledgement that she SHOOK his chair and repeated the hello with attitude while he was on the phone.

  33. admin504*

    #1 As someone who works in a mid-size southern city, it is a BIG DEAL part of the culture to greet the folks you work with (have had to mediate several conversations between leads and assistants). I would pay attention to the norms of your area/office

  34. Tim C.*

    #1 – I can relate to this. My job is a very detail oriented discipline involving deadlines and prep-work. I would arrive early and begin work, trying to concentrate on the task at hand. Then each and every person coming into the department would expect “Good Morning, Jane, Bill, Sam, etc…” All 23 of them. I had to add an extra 30 minutes to my morning to accommodate the greetings as there were complaints. My attitude is this is a cross us introverts have to bear. Make the necessary adjustments to get along and consider it the price of working where you are.

    1. Ele4phant*

      Your morning greetings took half an hour of your morning? That seems like hyperbole. If you’re saying good morning, that should only take a few seconds per person.

      Even if you have a more extended exchange – how was your weekend, etc etc, that should only take about 30 seconds per person, no where near half an hour.

      Perhaps there was a culture where people jaw on forever, but there are things you can do to preempt more extended conversation – looking up briefly, pulling one earbud out and continuing to type while you say hello generally seems to communicate – I don’t want to talk right now but I will be polite pretty effectively.

      1. Scion*

        A 1 minute conversation still seems pretty quick.

        1 minute * 23 people + ~5 minutes of walking time = 28 minutes.

  35. Argh!*


    If you are an introvert and your coworker is an extrovert, both of you need to accommodate the needs of the other. These things can be either cultural or personal, but whichever, it’s not a huge burden to be nice to people you see every day. In my experience, the person who is arriving to a room is generally the one to say hello first, but I never really thought about it before today. Coworkers are not irrelevant to a job, no matter what the actual job duties. You spend 40 hours a week at work and should feel comfortable and welcome.

    1. Cat Fan*

      I think I would just make it a habit to say good morning when entering without even looking around to see who’s there to hear it. That way you’re covered. It doesn’t have to be enthusiastic or include eye contact, just say it as if you are just quietly announcing that you have arrived.

    2. Scion*

      Wanting to talk to somebody else is a *desire* – not a need. You don’t get to force someone to talk to you if they don’t want to.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        And if the coworker values good mornings, she should initiate them. There’s no rule that says one person or the other must extend the greeting.

  36. cmwh735*

    Cosign on the advice to tell your real estate agent her name, and also have a larger discussion with your agent about how they answer the question of “why are they moving”. We (legitimately) looked at a home for sale that was owned by my sister-in-law’s coworker, and the agent told us they were moving because the coworker got a new job. Additional trouble here because we knew the agent was lying; they were moving because they didn’t like the school system. There’s about 100 other excuses she could’ve used, but it felt so unprofessional and reflected poorly on both the coworker and her agent.

    1. zaracat*

      I don’t understand what about this is “unprofessional” or reflects poorly on the coworker or agent, or why you would assume that the agent was “lying”. The agent may simply have been passing on the information they were given by the seller, who is entitled to give whatever reason they want, or none at all.

      The bottom line is that buyers have a right to know about the *property*, but they have no particular right to information of any sort about the sellers.

    2. Susie Q*

      You know in the US, realtors can’t comment on the quality of the local schools because it violates fair housing laws. So obviously the realtor couldn’t share the exact reason.

  37. Mack*

    #5 – when we bought our house there was no for sale sign simply because the sellers did not want one in the yard. There were still online postings, the realtor was marketing it to buyers and other realtors, and the house did get sold. Especially if you live in a desirable area/have a good property your realtor may be able to get it sold without putting up a sign and alerting nosy coworker.

    1. irene adler*

      Just what I was going to suggest. There’s no requirement that a house for sale have a sign posted. And, one can put the lock box in a location where it is not visible from the street. Hence, no outward signs that the house is up for sale.

    2. zaracat*

      In particularly high-demand areas agents often have potential buyers already on their books. I know that in the suburb where I live (which is in a very popular secondary school catchment area), a lot of sales take place without the property ever being publicly advertised.

  38. MuseumChick*

    OP 1: Start saying “Greetings fellow worker! I acknowledge your presence with the rising sun! May the day be long and prosperous for all.”

    OP 2: This could be an issue. I have a Not Great co-worker who is always just a few minuets late to stuff and it can really throw us off. Because we don’t ever know exactly how late he will be or if it will be rare occasion where he is on time. This means we often end up doing things that should be his job because they are time sensitive, think things like open the front doors for a business on time. It’s incredibly irritating and if I had the power I would fire him. This also leads to frustration with his manager who refuses to address the issue.

    OP 5: When your co-worker asks a weird question like I would try to confused approach. With a puzzled look on your face “Um, that’s a really odd thing to ask a co-worker.” Or with an upbeat tone “Oh, I don’t discuss private matters at work.” Repeat as needed.

    1. Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins*

      That suggestion for OP 1 reminds me of how I talk to my dogs when they start milling around looking for dinner: “I acknowledge you! You are acknowledged! Now please leave me alone because it’s not time for dinner yet.”

  39. Cat Fan*

    Letter #2, also keep in mind people may be waiting to use the bathroom or go to lunch. It really isn’t fair to delay people. If Jane is doing this every day or weekly, I can understand why others would be upset about it.

  40. Frozen Hot Chocolate*

    #2 – “she is conscientious about her job and her time and is not abusing the coverage offered by the others” OP you dont say how new you are but you are describing yourself as new and with you not understanding that this is an real issue I think you dont really know Jane just what you have observed in your short time there. Also most likely if you have noticed Jane is late from lunch and breaks 3-5 minutes being new then you are also wrong that the other admins are not just now noticing it they are just now voicing it where you can hear it.

    I really think it is tone deaf of you to not consider the imposition this is causing. Your admin has a job to do and is not doing it on time, that is an issue even if it is 3-5 minutes. If its happening enough for everyone to notice especially the new tone deaf boss its not a one off kind of thing, your admin .

  41. agnes*

    #2 Five minutes is a long time in a front facing position. Especially if the other employees are on time.

  42. Falling Diphthong*

    If everyone else observes coverage times to the minute, then Jane might need to be more precise about it herself.

    This is key. If it’s just a few minutes–but Jane is the only one who ever makes anyone wait those few minutes–then it’s a problem. Like yesterday’s no-email-checking person–sure, people can remember that most of the team checks email and you don’t and so anytime they need your input out of hours they have to call you, and it just takes a couple of minutes! But it’s an extra step they aren’t called on to do for anyone else in your position, and not arising from a clear outside limitation. If it’s “Jane is just that special, she doesn’t have to meet the basic standards everyone else in her position does” then everyone else in her position, or otherwise adjusting to cover for her gaps in coverage, is going to resent her.

    1. Observer*

      I pretty much agreed with people that asking staff to take that extra step for the person who “doesn’t do” email or phones whatever is an imposition. But this is potentially a lot worse. This has the potential to be far more than just an extra step.

  43. Falling Diphthong*

    #4: In an ideal world, the first time it happened you would have realized what it was and said “There’s something in your eye. Do you need a tissue?”

    Most of us don’t think on our feet that fast, and we sensibly hope that the weird thing is a one-off and will go away on its own. When that doesn’t work, it makes sense to speak up. In this case, you’re a more seasoned colleague pointing out to the intern that that thing he thinks is office appropriate isn’t–you should have standing to do that, as much as if he always greeted you with “Margaret–electric staplers rule!”

  44. Guacamole Bob*

    Does the kind of greeting-related drama that OP1 and a number of the commenters have experienced happen in highly functional offices? It feels like such a petty thing for people to be so hung up on, and that if colleagues are generally well-meaning and have good working relationships it won’t escalate to that point.

    I share an office, and usually greet my officemate when he arrives in the morning (typically well over an hour after I do) and say something like “see you tomorrow” or “have a good evening” when I’m heading out for the day (well before his day ends). He sometimes doesn’t return the greeting, and often doesn’t initiate the greeting – he’s often got headphones in, or is a little zoned out, or in the afternoon he’s focused on his work and doesn’t quite hear me.

    We have never discussed this and I can’t imagine we ever will, even if his natural way of being seems a little unfriendly some mornings and even if he feels I’m bothering him when I greet him despite his headphones. We otherwise get along well as officemates, we’re both adults, we both like our jobs and do interesting work in a relatively functional department with good coworkers. This is such a tiny thing, and so driven by personality and personal preference, that it’s easy to shrug off different people’s styles and habits.

    So what’s going on with OP1’s coworker that she’s so hung up on this? And OP1, why is this something that feels worth digging in your heels on?

    1. KillItWithFire*

      I find it depends on what I am doing, and how much social interaction I want. My co-worker gets in about 2 hours after I do, and I am not interested in his chatter at all because I’m usually in the middle of something by then. He’s nice enough, but stopping whatever I’m doing to exchange inanities is just not my thing.

    2. MLB*

      I have encountered plenty of people at work who take everything personally. Work is not a social event, but plenty of people treat it as one. If I’m engrossed in my work, I may not hear someone say hello. But it’s not a personal attack, and I shouldn’t have to apologize for not responding.

      Based on the letter, I’m guessing that OP doesn’t want to say anything because it will invite co-worker to start a conversation, while OP just wants to sit down and do some work. Being in a customer facing environment, I can totally understand that the last thing you do when you go back to a desk is have more conversation. I think OP needs to have an actual conversation with her co-worker about it, explain her feelings and move on. Co-worker may get her feelings hurt, but as long as she’s not mean or rude, it’s not OP’s responsibility to navigate co-workers feelings.

  45. Grey*

    If it’s just “we don’t like waiting a couple of extra minutes,” that’s one thing — but if it’s impacting people’s work, that matters and you’d need to tell Jane she needs to be on time.

    I have to disagree. Jane doesn’t get to decide how important my time is. Even if I planned to spend that 5 minutes at my own desk reading AAM or playing solitaire, it’s my call. Jane is deciding that her own free time is more important than whatever I had planned to do, and I’d still be rightfully annoyed.

    Tell Jane she needs to be on time regardless of how Bob or whoever was going to spend that extra five minutes.

    1. MLB*

      This. It doesn’t matter what Jane is keeping others from doing. If she’s meant to cover the desk at specific time, she needs to be there ready to go at that specific time. In fact, she should be there a few minutes early in case the other person needs to communicate anything to her.

    2. Colette*

      This depends on a lot of things, including what happens when she’s not there. (Is someone at the desk 100% of the time or do they go back to their desk when she’s supposed to be back? Are they on time when they’re on the desk? Is what she’s doing more important to the business than being on time (e.g. she’s on break, but she’s running to the store to buy office supplies/toilet paper on her way)?

      1. Observer*

        Well, it’s clearly not that she’s late because she’s running errands for the office. The OP is pretty clear that it’s just Jane being a bit late from her break.

    3. Observer*

      The question is not what you planned to do with that 5 minutes, but whether you get to do it. For instance, if you were planning to read AAM and you still get to do that 5 minutes later, it’s less of an issue. But if it means that you don’t get to do that, because your break is going to end the same time regardless of when it started that’s a big deal, and it does essentially affect their work.

  46. Wulfgar*

    In my old job, we used the office phones to make personal appointments/calls. I worked in a literal cave, an old limestone mine turned into office space. No signal, and we couldn’t walk the mile to the entrance every time we wanted to make a call.

    I know that’s a rare situation. Just wanted to add a different perspective.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I had little to no reception in my old warehouse office. Some buildings are just as bad as caves! But omg I wanna work in a cave.

  47. Allison*

    I used to work in a cube outside this one woman’s office (not her assistant or anything, but we did work for the same department) and when I’d come into work in the morning she’d say (from inside her office) “Good moooooorning . . .” in this weird, ominous, sing-song, coaxing sort of way, as if to say “come on now young lady, this is how you should be greeting me!” It felt really judgmental and passive aggressive, and I low-key hated it. I understand that morning greetings are important to some people, and I get the arguments for saying “good morning” to everyone you see (and whose line of sight you may enter) first thing in the morning, but this is so NOT how you deal with someone falling short of that expectation. Reminds me of when I was put on a PIP, and one of the requirements was that I say a full “good morning” instead of just “morning.”

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Now, THAT is ridiculous. Personally, I believe that if you enter a small-ish room in which someone else is already present (like a shared office), you should say a quick “Good morning” or “Morning” or “Hey.” But you and this woman sat in different spaces! You didn’t make eye contact when you entered! And “young lady”? No.

    2. CM*

      I’ve been struggling to figure out why I find the “say good morning to me” coworker annoying, and this response helped me.

      I think the issue for me is that it’s normal for humans to have different ideas of what’s polite — it depends on lots of different factors. And, if you come to realize that your idea of what’s polite is different from someone else’s, I don’t think the right way to handle it is to presume that your idea is right and chide them for not doing whatever it is you think they’re “supposed” to do.

      I don’t know exactly what the right response is — which is why I’m not a mediator, I guess — but it seems to me that it would start with saying, “It really bothers me when you don’t say hello to me in the morning, because [whatever the reason is]” and then having more of a conversation about what need hearing “good morning” is actually filling. Rather than taking for granted that her way is obviously polite and the other way’s obviously rude.

  48. Time to get that arranged marriage my parents want*

    #2 – LW, speaking as someone who has worked reception before, it’s really annoying when the person who’s supposed to take over from you is a few minutes late. It’s the same idea as someone working in retail and waiting past their shift for their coworker to show up.

  49. Observer*

    #2 I want to highlight something that Allison didn’t mention explicitly in her answer. Of course Allison is correct in that you need to explore further to make sure that this is not a bigger problem than you realize – the desk cannot be left uncovered, so it’s a real possibility that it’s a genuine problem that you are missing. On the other hand, it’s also possible that the other department is ganging up on her for a less legitimate reason. If that’s the case, you have an obligation to your staff to protect her from that. You can’t allow your staff to be bullied – not by customers and not by other departments.

  50. mcr-red*

    #1 – I have limited functioning until I have my coffee, and I don’t have my coffee until I sit down at my desk. I think you can tell I am NOT a morning person, so in general, I don’t want to talk for a while. I will respond if you talk to me, but do not under any circumstances, expect me to start any kind of conversation until I feel more human. Your coworker would just have to sit and spin if it was me. Again MEAN mcr-red in the morning.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I get that– and sometimes I don’t do well first thing in the morning myself– but simply saying “good morning” isn’t automatically a conversation. In fact, initiating the greeting puts you more in control. I would find it weirdly impolite if my co-worker came into our shared office without even a quick acknowledgement, no matter how caffeinated he or she was.

      1. mcr-red*

        I just don’t get why OP#1 HAS to say it. Say it back to her co-worker if she says it, sure, that’s basic polite interaction. But walking into the room and immediately greeting her, no, I don’t see why she has to. And my office all acts the same way. As I said below, one of my coworkers walked in hours ago and still has not spoken to a single person in the room.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Because in OP #1’s office, that’s either what’s done or because this tiny concession (and seriously, it’s tiny) will make her work life more pleasant for herself.

          We don’t exist in bubbles. In shared spaces, it’s generally considered the norm to acknowledge other people’s presence in those spaces, with a few exceptions. And not every space is the same. In NYC, on the train for example, you acknowledge other people’s presence by carving out your own physical space and trying not to get into theirs, and you don’t go out of your way to make eye contact. In my mid-sized Southern city, you acknowledge other people’s presence with a quick “morning” as you pass on the street while walking your dog.

          An office is not out in public, the way a retail store is. Your co-workers are people with whom you share your space regularly. If a quick “morning” will make the space more pleasant, it’s very worth it to just suck it up and say “morning”.

          I went to Bermuda by myself a few years ago. I took the bus everywhere. In Bermuda, I noticed that people entered the bus and usually said, “Good morning, everyone” or “Good afternoon, everyone.” I was a New Yorker and I found that unusual. I was also traveling alone for a reason and just wanted to enjoy the scenery and my book. But I did it– the greeting– in Bermuda, because I was sharing their space. It took about two seconds and was over.

          1. Scion*

            I agree with your main point of adjusting to social norms.

            However, not making eye contact with someone on the subway is not “acknowledging other people’s presence.” It’s the opposite, you’re intentionally ignoring them. Still, this fits with the whole “know the culture” thing.

            1. AvonLady Barksdale*

              My point is that you are respecting people’s presence in the same space. Yes, you are ignoring them, but that is part of the respect. To me, it’s the same over-arching principle– sometimes, the acknowledgement is a greeting, sometimes the acknowledgement is, “I am on the train, I need to keep to myself and try not to bother my fellow passenger.”

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I think very few people are taking it “personally”. We think it’s impolite. I wouldn’t spend time crying and wondering why my co-worker didn’t greet me, and I wouldn’t consider it a personal affront. If one wants to go out in the world and have a pleasant experience (as in, one with as few bumps as possible), one has to engage in some minor social niceties sometimes.

    2. Alfonzo Mango*

      That’s not an excuse. You’re not allowed to be crabby and rude just because you’re not a morning person. Have your coffee at home if it’s so important.

      1. Observer*


        We generally expect more from children – you’re an adult. Part of being a functioning adult is managing basic social interactions reasonably politely regardless of your mood or your coffee intake. And, while work is not your “social life”, and situation where you have to deal with people has a level of social interaction that needs to be managed.

      2. mcr-red*

        Ok, I will be the first to admit I’m crabby in the morning. But I will answer you in a not-cranky tone if you say something to me, which I believe is basic polite interaction, and is what I said above. I’m just not going to breeze in and be like, “Good morning, people! Isn’t it a fine day this morning? How was your evening?” SO not happening.

        P.S. One of my coworkers walked in after I got here. It’s been hours. She still has not said a single word to anyone. I don’t consider her rude. She’s not much of a talker.

      3. Colette*

        I mean, you’re absolutely allowed to feel crabby if you’re not a morning person (or you stubbed your toe, or you dropped your lunch on the floor, or any other reason you want). You’re not allowed to take that crabbiness out on the people surrounding you.

        But I don’t think “must greet your coworkers” is a universal requirement. It’s fine if you do, and it’s fine if you don’t.

        I wonder how many people who see it as a requirement work in places where everyone arrives and leaves at the same time. In my experience (in environments where everyone sets their own schedule), it’s a thing some people do and others don’t.

        1. mcr-red*

          Again, I WILL say good morning if someone says it first, and I won’t be a b!tch about it because I’m still sleepy and cranky. “Good morning, mcr-red!” “Morning, Co-worker.” I’m just never going to walk into my area (we all work in a tiny space) and initiate a greeting/conversation. Later on, once my morning routine of coffee, check/respond work emails, check work in-box is done, I’m more likely to initiate conversation. “So Co-worker, did you watch Cool Show last night?”

          However, after this topic, I watched my immediate co-workers, including my boss, and they are all pretty similar. Our office environment is apparently get to your desk, fire up the computer, putter around for a while, and then acknowledge each other’s existence. My one coworker who I mentioned earlier that came in after me? Still hasn’t said a word to anyone in the office (though has waited on clients.)

      4. Susie Q*

        Or maybe you should think outside of your paradigm and realize that saying good morning to every single one of your co-workers is a waste of time. Not everyone thinks like you or wishes to engage like you.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          But no one here is advocating that! I think you’re misjudging the scenario here. This is not, “You must walk around to every. single. co-worker. and greet him or her, and be enthusiastic!” Not even close. This is walking into a small space that one shares with another person and saying a very brief greeting if the other person is already in that shared space. That’s all. Most of us think it’s a bit odd to take a tour around the office (though apparently it’s required in some cultures).

  51. MLB*

    #1 – based on the fact that you said co-worker is very chatty, I’m guessing you don’t greet her because she will take that opportunity to make it social hour. I think you need to have a conversation with her, explain how you feel and move on. As long as you’re not mean about it, it’s not on you to navigate co-worker’s feelings.
    #2 – yes it’s a big deal that Jane is a few minutes late when covering the desk. You need to speak to her. Honestly if she’s meant to cover the desk at 2, she needs to be there at 1:55. It doesn’t matter what she’s keeping the others from doing. The snarky emails from them is the wrong way to handle it, but that’s a separate issue.
    #3 – using an office land line for personal calls is not a big deal, as long as it’s not keeping you (or your co-worker) from doing your job. At one of my previous jobs, mine and my boss’s lines would ring to each other if we didn’t pick up. His wife called him often. A simple “I’ll tell him you called” was all I had to do. Unless you’re taking 20 messages a day, I think you’re overreacting.

  52. Observer*

    #5 I’d say don’t lie, because you don’t need the stress of keeping the correct story in mind. That doesn’t mean you owe her any information. Start limiting how much information you give her, so she has less to compare to any answers you give later, and then come up with a line that is true as far as it goes, but doesn’t give her the information you want to keep private.

    An important thing to keep in mind here is that just because someone asks you a question, that doesn’t automatically obligate you to provide an answer. You have no obligation to share your plans (or lack thereof) for the house, your job, your vacation, etc.

    Also, see if you can list the house without putting a sign on the property itself.

    1. Polymer Phil*

      An undercover cop will usually answer questions truthfully if doing so won’t blow his cover. It’s too easy to lose track of who heard what if you tangle yourself up in a web of lies.

      Others have suggested listing the house on the online MLS without a yard sign; I think this is a better bet than coming up with a cover story that could invite further gossip and speculation. Depending on your husband’s field, the nosy coworker might be able to Google something like “Professor Jones will be moving from Iowa State to Cornell in the fall of 2019” if you give her a reason to start digging.

  53. Ashie*

    #1 I’m also an intorverted not-a-morning person. I’m a big fan of Acknowledge But Don’t Engage. Raised eyebrows, chip tip, say “hey how’s it goin” with a small smile and keep on walking. That way they know you’ve seen them and are not being unfriendly but you are not available for a chat.

    1. TooTiredToThink*

      Yeah; I’ve always had to explain to people – please wait until I’ve sat down to talk to me (usually to tell me something is broken). I need just that 1-2 minutes of following my schedule and to get over my commute so that I can focus and not feel like chaos incarnate. Then I can be human and pleasant and deal with the days problems.

  54. Smarty Boots*

    OP #1: so, you’re deliberately not saying good morning because….your co-worker wants you to say good morning? Really, it’s not going to kill you to say good morning which, you know, is pretty standard polite behavior. And deliberately not saying it is kind of childish.

    I disagree with AAM’s take on this — while your colleague *is* being a pill (she can say good morning too!), you’re not off the hook on this one. Be polite and say good morning. Sincerely. Nicely.

    1. Observer*

      I agree with everything but “sincerely”. It’s ok if you don’t “feel” it. Just say it and say it politely.

    2. Parenthetically*

      Yep this, with Observer’s addendum. Co-irker is being a butt, but mumbling, “Mornin’ Bob,” without stopping whatever you’re already doing, is just not that hard.

    3. Susie Q*

      Um or you can stop expecting people to behave exactly how you want them to behave. I think it’s pretty rude to force YOUR social expectations on others.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Oh for crying out loud. This has nothing to do with dictating behavior to people and everything to do with the fact that we live in a society, and saying “good morning” is a very bare minimum of effort we can expend that is going to result in way better relationships with coworkers.

        OP’s coworker is being bizarre and passive-aggressive, and if the coworker were writing in, I suspect a whole lot of us would tell them to can it and leave OP alone. But OP is the one who’s writing in, and I think they can say “good morning” like a freaking adult who recognizes the value in acknowledging other people with the smallest imaginable gesture of goodwill, rather than making “refusal to greet weird colleague” the hill they want to die on as a very new employee.

        This happens every time we have a letter about social niceties — we get a few people commenting in an absolute fury over how demanding people are and how, actually, people who INSIST on greeting others are the REAL rude ones. Like, okay, pal. Keep on feeling that way if you want to, but most people are just out here living in a socially interconnected world and see it as advantageous to smooth those interactions with a few simple, rote acknowledgements of the existence of others.

        1. Scion*

          Except that the OP is not “refusing to greet weird colleague.” She explicitly says that she sometimes does (when it feels natural) and sometimes doesn’t (when it feels unnatural).

          1. Parenthetically*

            Right, but I’m saying this isn’t the place to plant a flag — there’s no point in making it about refusing to do something on principle, when it’s not difficult to just say good morning.

            Again, if Coworker were writing in, I think she’d catch a lot of crap for being demanding and rude, but I genuinely believe the best way forward for OP is just to pre-empt the passive-aggression and say good morning every time, and NOT turn it into something bigger.

        2. Susie Q*

          I think it’s because the majority of people are extroverts who are used to getting their social needs met. Whereas the minority of introverts are constantly tired of trying to adapt and thrive in an environment that makes their lives more difficult.

          Also there are plenty of people who realize that a co-worker not saying good morning is hardly a personal affront nor something to lose sleep over.

          1. Parenthetically*

            Look, I 100% agree that this coworker is a demanding assbag. But she’s not writing in. If she were, I would tell her what you’ve been telling everyone, which is that it’s rude to demand that people speak to you in a certain way or else.

            Also, literally no one is saying a missed “good morning” is something to be affronted or “lose sleep” over. No one. What we ARE saying is that rote social greetings are really simple ways to make work relationships operate more smoothly, so why not make that tiny amount of effort when there’s such a good ROI?

            I am an introvert, and you know what I personally am more tired of than adapting to a world of extroverts? People (especially introverts) assuming that all introverts are socially awkward curmudgeons who just find it far too difficult to interact with others, or that introverts are superior to extroverts because we don’t need those silly little things like greetings. Literally the only thing introversion means is that you need alone time to function well. It doesn’t = shy, grumpy, incapable of small-talk, quiet, socially awkward, sensitive, or anything else.

            1. Susie Q*

              I am fairly skilled social introvert. I’m in technical sales, I have to in order to make sales. I’m not presenting this as a social curmudgeon. I’m saying this as someone who has limited social capital to spend all day. I’m not going to waste on my coworkers who don’t care when I can use it on my customers who require a lot more. Fortunately, I’m lucky that my co-workers don’t give two cents about any of us saying hello or good morning. We talk when we need or want to.

              If OP’s co-worker is so concerned about the good morning, they could just initiate it.

              1. Parenthetically*

                Absolutely, completely agree with your last sentence. But again, coworker isn’t the one getting advice here and there’s no point in continuing to harp on the rudeness of their behavior when they’re not reading.

                Seriously: what else can OP do besides suck it up and make the effort to say hi? Just getting annoyed on principle and digging their heels in is going to accomplish nothing and possibly make things worse. Trying to get coworker to change seems like an exercise in futility when you’re dealing with someone who thinks staring a colleague down is a normal thing to do. The lowest-effort thing to do is just to pre-emptively say good morning while installing the ol’ headphones and getting to work.

              2. mcr-red*

                Susie Q, I know exactly what you mean about limited social capital! I’m a bizarre introvert – I want people around but I don’t necessarily want to talk to them. I guess I want the quiet, but being alone freaks me out. I have a couple of anxiety disorders, so it likely has something to do with that – when I have to interact, I have to mentally psych myself up for it. And I have always surrounded myself with LOUD super extrovert people to almost act as a buffer for me.

          2. a1*

            I think it’s because the majority of people are extroverts…

            This is just not true. I’ll link the article in a reply, but here’s an excerpt from Psychology Today.

            …” In other words, Jung believed that introverts and extroverts are minorities.

            Research supports this idea, increasingly pointing to the existence of ambiverts — people with balanced, nuanced personalities composed of both introverted and extroverted traits.

            In a Wall Street Journal interview, psychologist Adam Grant estimated that ambiverts make up between half and two-thirds of the population. …

            1. a1*

              Here’s another article that addresses where the prevalent “wisdom” that introverts are a minority came from. Relevant excerpt:

              … It is based on an old estimate from the early 1960’s by Isabel Myers of the Myers-Briggs organization. It was just a personal guess with no real statistical data behind it.

              She estimated that 25% of the population of the United States were introverts and 75% Extroverts.

              This off the cuff guess has grown a life of it’s own. It’s spread exponentially with the growth of the Internet. That favorite hang out of introverts. Unfortunately the Internet increases the spread of misleading information as much as it does for valuable knowledge.

              The actual ratio based on the first official random sample by the Myers-Briggs organization in 1998 showed Introverts 50.7% and Extroverts 49.3% of the USA. …

              Article link –

          3. Alianora*

            Meh. I’m an introvert and I still like to say good morning to my coworkers. It doesn’t make my life more difficult at all. Do I get upset when someone walks past me without saying it? No, but I do tend to feel warmer towards the people who do say it.

  55. Smarty Boots*

    Eh, if your co-worker starts in on a big chat after you say good morning, say something like, I’m sooo sorry — I’m super busy right now! or…I have to get ready for my 10 am meeting! (or, whatever).
    It is just not that hard to be polite. It’s not. I’m a super introvert, I like to get in early so that I don’t have to chat on my way in, an awesome day at work is one where people are too busy to stop by and I can work in quiet for hours and hours…but on the days I’m not early, it does not kill me to sprinkle cheerful good mornings as I walk to my office. Or to say good morning to folks who walk past my office.

    I get that OP’s co-worker is passively aggressively escalating this, but why is OP participating in the war? Why is the OP getting all worked up about such a ridiculously small thing? Give peace a chance. Say good morning.

  56. Not Today Satan*

    #3–Also, keep in mind if your office phone line is recorded. If the line in question isn’t used for customer service ever, you’re probably okay, but some places do randomly select calls and listen for quality assurance purposes (omg, I just sounded like a bot…).

    1. TooOldForThisNonsense*

      Some offices don’t allow mobile phones at desks *because* they can’t be recorded or monitored. Tbis helps the company control (or control with plausible deniability) sensitive information. This won’t prevent all leakage of sensitive information, of course, but it is a necessary minimum! (Cf the LIBOR rigging scandal)

  57. neeko*

    OP2: As someone who used to share phone duties with others, it really is a deal. Maybe not a huge deal but it’s really frustrating when someone is consistently late for it. And imagine if everyone is late? Then no one is answering the phone. It’s pretty much the only office job when you actually have to be on time (as opposed to people with jobs that bosses are being stickler’s about tardiness just because). Perhaps the method that they told her was less than ideal but if being on time is an important part of her job, she needs to be in on time.

  58. C Average*

    The “good morning” colleague reminds me of my mom’s stepdad who used to begin every visit with “where’s my hug?” It always put my teenage back waaaaay up. (I should note that he was not in any way a perv, just a friendly and affectionate and probably lonely old man. And I was a brat. But still.)

    If there’s any way you can make peace with the fact that greeting your colleague is a really easy way to drastically improve the first part of the day for a fellow human being at almost no cost to you, please do it.

    If not, take to arriving with your headphones on and breeze past her every day with a “hey” and a head-nod, no eye contact. This will count as a greeting but not invite further engagement.

    1. LeighTX*

      I literally backed up in my chair reading your first sentence. That would have put my back up too, and possibly my elbows as well. :/

  59. Kathenus*

    OP#1 – I haven’t read through all the comments yet, but am I the only one would would be tempted to make a ‘hello calendar’ for her, designating which one of them has the responsibility of saying hello each morning?

    Unfortunately, I wouldn’t really do that, but I would really, really want to.

  60. TooTiredToThink*

    #2 – I’ve been that front desk relief. And yes; those few minutes can feel like a lifetime because I had my own job and responsibilities to adhere to as well. And I couldn’t take my lunches or breaks until after the front desk person returned. I would try to always be at the front desk several minutes before the person would leave for lunch. But it wasn’t uncommon for the front desk person to come back several minutes late – which meant I was late to lunch. It felt to me like a complete disrespect of my time. And breaks? She would consistently be gone for an *hour* after telling me that she would be gone for a few minutes. Management thought I was nitpicking but they didn’t realize they were part of the problem because they’d be talking to her for some of that time. And I would be told “That’s her only time away from the desk!”. Um, excuse me. That’s her job. If I had been away from my desk for an hour it would be noticed.

    So what others have said; please hear out the relief workers. At least there’s multiple of them so they aren’t nearly as impacted, and yes it could be group-think exaggerating the problem; but it really could be a problem.

    (And by the way; I actually liked the front desk person, but that didn’t mean I didn’t have legitimate frustrations).

    1. Anonymouse for this*

      Yes – same here. It shows a total lack of respect for the other person’s time. It doesn’t matter if its 5 or 10 mins Jane doesn’t get to decide her time is more valuable than mine. I was new to a department and started covering for someone and they’d regularly come back 10-15 mins late and couldn’t understand what the problem was when I told them they needed to be on time. The final time they did it they were 20 mins late and they didn’t pick up when I rang to find out where they were. A mutual friend rang them and they picked up immediately – cue me grabbing the phone (not my finest moment) and telling them to get back to the office as I was now late for a senior level meeting I was supposed to be taking minutes for.

  61. Gobsmacked*

    #4 – less a comment than my own crazy winking story. A few years back, there was an accident in front of our corporate office, involving one of our corporate owned vehicles. Even though there was no reason at all for her to do so, the c-suite EA ran outside, across the immense lawn, and inserted herself into the aftermath. She had no risk management or safety function, she just thought she should be there as a representative of the company, even though she had no authority or expertise with which to do so. So after my company got sued for the accident, it was my job to sit in on her deposition. I’m sitting there at the table with defense and plaintiff counsel, and she’s across the table from all of us. Every time plaintiff counsel would ask her a question, she’d answer, then turn ever so slightly towards me and wink at me, like she and I were sharing some kind of secret. In full view of both attorneys, and on VIDEOTAPE. I barely knew this woman at all, I hadn’t really spoken with her before this except to let her know when and where to show up, but she was making it seem like she and I had conspired about her testimony before hand. Years later, I’m still amazed by it.

  62. Detective Amy Santiago*

    When I was going through onboarding for my new job, we learned about the 10/5 rule.

    At 10 feet away from someone, you smile/acknowledge them. At 5 feet away, you say hello/good morning/whatever.

  63. Labradoodle Daddy*

    I think some people here are being unneccesarily harsh on OP1. She’s not saying she NEVER wants to say good morning, she’s saying that she thinks it’s obnoxious when a coworker makes a big stink about it. Sometimes you’re just distracted or in a mood or whatever…. that’s fine. If you miss a day that’s fine, and it is obnoxious to treat an adult like a child like OP’s coworker is doing.

    1. Observer*

      Well, they are both being obnoxious. If CW were writing in, I’d totally agree with all the commenters who would be telling her to stop making a fuss. On the other hand the “I don’t FEEL IT, so how can you expect me to say it” makes me nuts.

      Part of being a functioning adult is doing and saying things that you don’t”feel”. It’s not a lie to say “good morning” or “hello”. These greetings are not a declaration of deep feeling. They are simply a polite acknowledgement of the other person’s being. It doesn’t “feel natural” to acknowledge the other human you are passing on the way to your desk? Maybe insisting on expressing that is not the best choice of battle to pick.

      1. Labradoodle Daddy*

        I mean… on the flip side, who cares if someone isn’t in the mood to say “good morning” every once in a while? It’s such a non-issue……

  64. Wendy Darling*

    #4 As a winker, I REALLY never associated the flirty/smarmy aspect to it. Perhaps I am/was naive about it but never once did I associate that behaviour with THAT context! I sure do wish someone would have told me that in the past as I’ve had a feedback about my flirty behaviour but never WHAT SPECIFICALLY it was that was considered flirty. I really just thought I was being friendly. UGH! I’m feeling some retro-embarassment. Confrontation can be difficult and awkward but so helpful for EVERYONE involved if can be said in a kind manner. So glad you shared your perspective on this, Alison. I truly NEVER KNEW. I loved the suggestion of commenting if something was in the winker’s eye. Unobtrusive, easy to save face. I’d caution to say, have a follow up when they so “No, I was just winking at you.” It’s important to say that it’s uncomfortable for you and how you see it. Otherwise, people like me, we just won’t get it. Be direct but kind.

    1. Washi*

      So what does winking mean to you? Is it just waving or smiling? I’ve always associated winking with flirting or “we have a fun secret” and I am fascinated that there are other types of winking!

    2. Anony McAnonFace*

      I’ve just got back into customer service and I have discovered I am a winker! Oh god now I’m worried about it but it’s like a tic I can’t stop myself doing. It’s 100% a conspiratorial tone, and I do it to everyone of all ages :/

    3. Anon Anon Anon*

      I think it depends a lot on how it’s done. There is definitely such a thing as a friendly wink. So don’t panic about it – most people can probably tell what you mean. But I agree with everyone else that it’s probably best not to do it at work so as to avoid confusion.

  65. Three Flowers*

    OP4, I (woman, mid-30s, working with very young men) would also be creeped out. Can you find out whether he does this to other people (especially men)? If not, I think you can safely assume it’s not a tic.

    I would warn him once, definitely saying it comes across as inappropriate, and if it continues and you think your supervisor would be sympathetic, I’d go to them and say the point might need reinforcing from someone who doesn’t present as a young, relatively junior (in the workplace hierarchy) woman. Flirtation in the workplace escalates. I’m surprised Alison didn’t mention that it’s totally valid for you to worry about escalation towards harassment.

    If the lab is a boys club, unfortunately it’s another story…

    1. anonymous lab rat*

      “Lab boys club” is redundant. Academics are like “rah, rah, women in science, yay” in public, but “We all know Professor So-and-So is a creep, but we look the other way because he brings in a lot of funding” in private.

      1. Three Flowers*

        Yes, absolutely. I’m an academic who thanks the sweet and fluffy lord I’m not in the sciences/a lab environment. OP mentions that the intern’s supervisor is a woman (I think), so the degree of boys’-clubbiness might be less? But I also think lab mentality is why she needs to address this firmly and go to the supervisor sooner than she might in other environments…this bro needs to learn *now* that the behavior isn’t cute and unequivocally won’t be tolerated. Hopefully OP’s work environment is not such that she as a woman complainant would be labeled “issue-y” rather than the intern being disciplined.

  66. Orange You Glad*

    I am getting a lot of anxiety reading these comments regarding office greetings and am thankful I don’t have to work with most the commenters.

    In the real world, some people are the type to greet everyone, and some are not. As long as no one is being intentionally rude, no one should have any problems. We’re all here to work, not to socialize.

    I personally am not a very open person. I’m also not a morning person. When I come into the office in the morning, I just want to get to my desk, unload my stuff, grab a coffee, and ease into my day. Once I’m settled and starting my work, I can then turn to a coworker and greet them before launching into work talk. When passing someone in the hallway, I try to make eye contact and smile, but I don’t expect nor want any further interaction – I’m just trying to get to the bathroom.

    I also work in an open office where everyone works on different schedules so the idea of someone walking around and greeting everyone when the arrive/leave just sounds disruptive.

    1. Parenthetically*

      “We’re all here to work, not to socialize.”

      You don’t have to be an open person, a morning person, or any other kind of person to see value in the kind of social lubricants (like smiling/eye contact, and yes, simple greetings) that keep our work relationships effective and running smoothly. I don’t see anyone suggesting that “walking around and greeting everyone” should be the norm, just that a quick “Mornin’ Bob” when someone comes into your space is a tiny investment with a big payoff in goodwill.

      1. Susie Q*

        Or you can get over your expectations of other people and be accepting that some people are different.

        I don’t understand how people take things this silly so personally.

        1. Parenthetically*

          Okay. What I don’t understand is why people would make “NOT SAYING GOOD MORNING, YOU CAN’T MAKE ME” a hill to die on, when you get such good results by saying literally two words to a coworker that comes in the door.

          But by all means, keep doing things on principle that at least a sizable percentage of your coworkers experience as rudeness. That’ll definitely show them. I’ll keep expending a bare minimum of effort to maintain my positive relationships with people.

    2. DeskBuds*

      >We’re all here to work, not to socialize.

      That’s… just only partially true. There’s a reason why the men’s beach weekend thread got people up in arms. There are serious benefits to socializing well at work, in terms of networking and good will. And just everyone getting along! Socializing is a part of existing in the same space with other people, and in that regard a minimal amount of skill in it is important to have at work.

    3. Observer*

      No one is suggesting going around greeting each person. It sounds exhausting, to be honest. And launching into conversations as your getting to your desk isn’t necessary, either.

      But “hello”, “good morning” or similar greetings are just basic acknowledgements and it just boggles my mind that people think that you have to “be in the mood” or that it has to “feel natural” to make those acknowledgements. Sure, we’re at work to work not to socialize. But, work is an inherently social enterprise and acknowledging the humanity of the people we work with should not be that big of a deal.

      No openness required.

  67. Utoh!*

    OP 5, when nosy coworker notices you are selling your house, you can just respond with “Yes.” Just like no is a full sentence, so is Yes. You don’t need to go into any details, people buy/sell houses every day, she does not need to know why you are selling yours.

    1. Lucille2*

      Sure, but which is going to serve OP better?
      CW: “Why? Don’t you loooove our neighborhood?”
      OP: *shrugs and walks away
      OP: “Yes, but we need a little extra space…my MIL will be moving in with us eventually.”

    2. Parenthetically*

      There’s literally no purpose to this, though. What’s more likely to satisfy the nosy coworker: “Yes” and then weird silence? Or “Yep, just looking for something a bit more convenient for my husband’s work!” or “Yeah, I tell ya, I’ve had it up to *here* with not having dedicated guest space around the holidays.”

      I don’t care about the principle of the thing, I care about what’s going to work.

  68. Oxford Comma*

    OP#3: I have been required to provide a work number as a point of contact for personal matters (e.g. the student loan people, my doctor’s). They always call my personal cell first, but they always want that other number. And once in a while, they’ve called it.

    I think as long as people aren’t abusing the work #, the occasional call here and there is nothing. At least that’s how it’s always been in most of the places I’ve worked. I did work somewhere toxic and they were insane about not permitting lengthy personal calls, but they were fine with the occasional short call (e.g. calling the doctor for an appointment was ok. Chatting with your spouse for 10 minutes was not).

  69. Anonymouseee*

    I lived in Bermuda for a year quite a while ago and it was a culture shock after London. You had to take the time to greet people and would be considered rude if you did not. My boss only flew in once a month and really didn’t get it and had a 5 mins stand off with a bank teller who kept asking him “how are you today” after he didn’t respond in kind and just kept asking her to process some paperwork.

  70. Jackie*

    1. I worked with a co-worker who never acknowledged my greeting in the morning. She totally ignored me. I eventually gave up with my morning greetings.

    1. Scion*

      This is not what the OP is doing, though.

      From letter: I have no issue with responding to a general “good morning”

  71. Anon16*

    #1 – I kind of agree saying “hi” is a fairly low effort thing. Most people probably do it without even thinking about it. Coworker is being weird, OP is being a little rigid. It’s pretty low effort fix. It’s a bigger issue if they’re trying to initiate conversation in the morning, it sounds like that could be the reasoning, but if it’s just a quick “hello”, that’s pretty low effort.

    “I recently started a new job about six weeks ago”

    Given that it’s a new job, just do it. This isn’t the hill to die on.

  72. Scarlet*

    Re #1, I think it’s a bit of a reach to take this scenario and apply it to having to greet everyone in an open plan office, as a few folks here are doing. The LW is talking about the person whose desk is right next to theirs – that’s one specific person, potentially just seconds, and with that kind of proximity, it does seem a little strange to not say “hi”. The “very chatty person” part throughout the day would bother me far more as a time-wasting thing than doing some basic mutual-existence-acknowledging on arrival, no matter whose – like, is this really the hill you want to die on?

    I’m unclear from the letter whether “greeting” involves a basic good-morning exchange or something more involved (from the LW’s “start the conversation” comment), and there is a difference between the former and the latter for sure. If what they always want is a lengthy chatty chat on arrival all about what they did last night, that’s certainly worth talking about, but if it’s really just a “hi/hi; how are you/fine, how are you?; oh, fine” set of basic conversational turns then it’s hard to think anyone’s so busy that they can’t spare the few seconds that typically takes.

    1. Colette*

      I’m in a cube farm. There are 8 people with desks next to me, and I pass another 6 on the way to my desk. I also work with another 2 hallways of people.

      If the OP and the coworker are the only 2 people around, saying hello is not an onerous burden, but a lot depends on the office setup and the relationship. And honestly, someone who is offended because I don’t say hi is going to be offended by something else.

  73. LilySparrow*

    #5 is a perfect opportunity for one of those boring non-answers.

    “Eh, we’re looking at some different neighborhoods.”

    Perfectly true, you’re just leaving out the fact that they are in a different city.

    And for additional follow-up questions, “Nothing’s really set yet.”

    You don’t have to actually answer nosy questions at all. At any point, you can just smile and shrug. Nosy people are like trolls and raccoons – they will eventually give up and move on if you just don’t feed them.

  74. Alienor*

    The greeting angst makes me so grateful for the coworker who shares my cube. We sit back to back and pretty much never interact unless one of us has a question (we’re on different teams, but sometimes work on parts of the same project), so sometimes an entire week passes where we both come and go and never say a word to each other. We get along fine and occasionally have a short social chat–we’re just both quiet people and have an understanding that most of the time, we do our own thing and that’s okay. My former boss was generally horrible, but did make at least one good decision by putting the two of us together!

    1. Susie Q*


      My co-workers and I do our thing. We say hello and catch up when we want. Sometimes that’s once a day, sometimes that once a week.

  75. HummingBirb*

    OP 1, I don’t know if it’s your coworker’s case, but I was taught that the person who is entering a room is the one supposed to greet the people who are already there, and not the other way around. Greetings are a highly cultural part of communication, and to me it would definitely sound rude if I was working, someone came in and passed by me to work by my side, and ignored me. If that’s the case, I think it could easily be solved by saying an airy “Morning!” in passing, without starting a conversation.

    1. CC*

      Yes, I read this as OP #1 is entering the room and the coworker is there, therefore she’s the one who is supposed to greet the coworker. I’ve never thought about this norm but in my experience it works this way 99% of the time.

  76. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    Regarding OP#1: The one thing I know for sure is that it’s rude for one person to call another person rude, and the tremendous irony of that is always lost on the indignant offended.

  77. Lucille2*

    #1 – I find it strange that your coworker is calling you out on rude behavior, but at the same time, would it be so bad to say hi to her in the morning? Even just a friendly nod or wave would suffice. I’m curious why this is something worth digging in your heels over.

    #2 – Anytime I’ve worked in a job that required coverage for interacting with the public, being punctual was ESSENTIAL. Being late in that kind of position often impacts other colleagues who have to cover in your absence. I once got a flat tire on the way to work in my job as a receptionist which meant the phone would continue going to an automated answering system during business hours. That kind of thing is no big deal for a one-off, but can be pretty annoying if someone is consistently 5 minutes late.

  78. occula*

    I’m late to this, but my college roommate was winking at me in conversation, and I didn’t know how to react. Finally one day I winked back. She was startled. “Did you just wink at me?” “Yes, you wink at me all the time, so I winked back.”

    Turns out she was unconsciously adjusting her glasses on her face, like, pushing them up a little with her cheek instead of bothering to touch them, and it looked like a wink!

  79. Mellow*

    #1: I have the same issue with a co-worker. If I don’t greet her first, we don’t exchange greetings. If I don’t acknowledge her first, neither of us is acknowledged. If I don’t [do whatever first], neither does she.

    Then she pouts that Mellow’s being mean again. I guess our communication is solely my responsibility.

    Retirement can’t come soon enough, and it’s still years away.

Comments are closed.