what’s wrong with being chilly at work?

A reader writes:

I’ve been reading your blog and listening to your podcast for a while. There are a number of times you describe certain things as coming off as “chilly” in some of your answers. It clicked for me while reading your response to the letter writer who didn’t want to interact with small children brought into their office, since I’ve experienced the same thing in my office. I completely ignore it any time someone brings in their small children or grandchildren for a visit (fortunately I’ve never been pushed to interact with them).

It made me realize I have a chilly personality in general. I generally don’t talk about anything not related to work, and return the topic to work as quickly as possible when asked about something not work related. I don’t go out of my way to greet coworkers (I’ll return “good morning” but find it a pointless ritual). I opt out of most social events. I often wear over the ear headphones while I work (not noise cancelling, but I’ve let people believe that they are). The only coworkers I’d say I have warm relationships with are those I work closely with, or have in the past.

My question is what, if anything, is wrong with being chilly? It seems like a good, efficient way to get along. Necessary interactions occur, but those coworkers whose work doesn’t affect mine are unlikely to bother me with pointless BS. The way I see it is that I come to work to do work, not to socialize. I can fake it in social situations, but it takes time and energy I’d rather put towards getting work done.

Some background in case it’s relevant: I’m a man in my very late 20s (turning 30 in a few months). This job is my first professional job, and I’ve been here about 4.5 years. The field is accounting, for a large corporation, in a major metropolitan city in the Midwest. I do my job well, and I’ve always gotten good feedback on my work. I’m definitely more analytical than a people person (surprised?), and tend to be introverted.

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The show is 29 minutes long, and you can listen on . Or you can listen above.

Or, if you prefer, here’s the transcript.

{ 455 comments… read them below }

  1. a1*

    I find it interesting, that being direct and to the point WITH less “filler” or “chit chat” (even with general politeness (e.g. using “Please” and “Thank you”s) is seen is being “chilly” or “terse”, yet the answer to so many of the questions sent to AAM is to be more direct.

    Just an observation. And that applies here as well as a few other recent posts.

    1. a1*

      I’ll also add I don’t find directness, and work-focused conversations to be “chilly”. I am a relationship builder and yet I find this characterization to be off.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Did you listen to the caller (or read the letter, which I just posted above after realizing I hadn’t included it)? This is beyond just being direct and to the point.

      1. a1*

        I did. Yeah, sometimes he does say “Hello” or “Good Morning”, but if the interactions are usually cordial and polite when we work together, that’s fine.

        1. CC*

          He said he only returns “good mornings” then complained about the literal meaning of a polite greeting. It’s not that he’s just candid, it sounds like his behavior would read as rude to the majority of people.

          I’m sympathetic, I’m not great with people and often times talking is a chore. But humans are social animals and he really is disadvantaging himself in the ways Alison notes.

          1. a1*

            He told us why he doesn’t like the “good mornings”, it’s not something he tells his colleagues. He just returns the “Good morning”. I see nothing wrong with that.

            1. Parenthetically*

              That internal snotty response is DEFINITELY going to have an effect on how he interacts with his coworkers. He thinks something they do every day is stupid, pointless, and BS.

              1. Les G*

                My dude is making the same mistake I see a lot of guys who are proud of how “direct” or “straightforward” or “no bs” they are making. Namely, they assume their contempt for others does not come through loud and clear.

                But it does, oh, how it does.

                1. Legal Beagle*

                  Agreed. He sounded nice and reasonable in his call, but the attitude that anything people say that’s not about work is “BS” is arrogant and off-putting. No one is obligated to be an extroverted chatterbox (I’m certainly not one!), but you should have a baseline level of respect for your coworkers.

                2. Parenthetically*

                  @Legal Beagle, yes! When he said the part about “yes, coworker, I am aware that it is morning” or whatever, I had to pause the audio from sheer irritation. A) That isn’t what “good morning” means, and B) if you think that mental snark isn’t bleeding over into your interactions with your colleagues, you are only fooling yourself.

                3. NW Mossy*

                  In my experience, they do know that it comes through loud and clear. Their struggle seems to be confusion about why that contempt isn’t having the desired effect of making other people behave in the manner the contempt-giver thinks they should.

                4. RUKiddingMe*

                  Agreed. He is so much better then everyone else…so above they the mere peasants chugging along like cogs in the machine. He is enlightened and direct!

              2. Turtle Candle*

                Yes. Almost nobody is as good at hiding their internal disdain or snark or irritation or boredom as they think they are, so “I’m just thinking it, I’m not saying it”–well, they may very well be aware anyway. I had a coworker who I got to know quite well and he was shocked when I told him, gently, that even though he never said “I don’t have time for this BS” out loud, we all knew he was thinking it, and yeah, it impacted how he was treated (in his case, he was never going to get the promotion he wanted because they didn’t want that attitude in a manager).

              3. thankful for AAM.*

                I find at work that people read internal snark from me when I am not really thinking anything like that. And it matters how they see things even if they are seeing something I am not feeling (or not aware that I am feeling?).

                1. Ellex*

                  I’ve gotten that as well – people attributing an attitude of superiority/snark to me that is not the attitude I’m thinking or feeling. But that seems to come from only a few people, and the issue has usually extended beyond just their impression of what I think/feel – i.e., they tend to have problems with multiple people or have trouble maintaining a professional relationship with people they personally dislike. I agree that it matters how people perceive you, but there’s a limit to what you can do about that.

                  In one unfortunately memorable situation, a person who claimed I had an attitude also started badmouthing another coworker who had recently suffered a personal tragedy. They were eventually asked to either apologize for their behavior or resign. They chose to resign, and the remainder of the employees in our very small office went out of their way to make it clear to me that the they did not share that coworker’s opinion of me.

                  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that morale seemed to improve considerably after that coworker left.

              4. aebhel*

                Yep. I’m a pretty antisocial person myself, and I’m not fond of small talk, and trust me, people can tell if you have a contemptuous internal monologue going on at every sign of polite small talk. It’s social lubrication. Nobody says ‘good morning’ because they think you haven’t noticed that it’s morning. It’s just a low-effort of saying ‘you’re a human, I’m a human, we’re sharing the same space in a non-hostile manner.’

                (My younger brother is a lot like this, and it’s really tiresome even though I am also a cerebral introvert who hates small talk. Lacking minimal social skills doesn’t make you superior to everyone else!)

          2. RUKiddingMe*

            Yeah he came off sounding kinda like a jerk to me. “Good morning” is a pretty standard greeting and to be sarcastic about the other person being “observant” about it being morning…really dude? Yanno?

            1. boop the first*

              “Good morning” is even best case scenario greeting to boot! He could be getting a ton of “how are you”s instead, which seems more common and a whole lot more awkward.

      2. Clisby Williams*

        I listened to/read both, including: “I generally don’t talk about anything not related to work, and return the topic to work as quickly as possible when asked about something not work related. I don’t go out of my way to greet coworkers (I’ll return “good morning” but find it a pointless ritual). I opt out of most social events. I often wear over the ear headphones while I work (not noise cancelling, but I’ve let people believe that they are). The only coworkers I’d say I have warm relationships with are those I work closely with, or have in the past.”

        That all sounds perfectly normal to me. (It’s also perfectly normal to have warm relationships with a much wider range of colleagues.)

        I’ve worked with a number of people like the LW, and a lot of them were among the best colleagues I’ve ever had. I did tend to form warm relationships at work, but I didn’t mistake “warm” for competent, or dependable, or helpful, or likely to have my back. The “chilly” person who would dispassionately look over my code and say, “This is where you’re going wrong, you need to try this” was worth about 1000 of “warm” people who weren’t just getting to the point.

        1. Spiky*

          He sounds like my dream colleague. If you don’t want to chat, that’s fine by me. I’m not going to think less of you unless you’re being openly rude to me. I’m not going to help you out if I can just because you don’t say hello to me when we’re both getting coffee.

        2. caryatis*

          Agreed. With “warm” people, you have to wade through a field of BS to get to the point (if they ever get there). I have two “warm” colleagues that I actively avoid talking to, because every conversation ends up lasting 30 minutes-plus, because they spend SO MUCH TIME being nicey-nice and getting to know me instead of focusing on the damn work.

          1. Amber Rose*

            Just because those people exist at the extreme end of the scale doesn’t mean all warm people are that way. Warmth is more than just chatter, it’s also non-verbal communication like smiling, relaxed body language, etc. I hardly ever talk to anyone but I haven’t been called icy in many, many years.

            1. LeahS*

              Yeah, I actually think Alison on the podcast is a really good example of this. She is direct and to the point but she is very warm and friendly. You can hear the smile in her voice when she talks to people.

          2. Jennifer*

            Disagree. You are describing someone who is overly chatty and downright annoying, not someone that’s “warm.”

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              Agreed. Chatty and warm are not the same thing. They can (and sometimes do) go hand in hand, but TBH most chatty people I’ve encountered are not what I would describe as “warm” particularly…just talkative and outgoing, maybe extroverted. A genuinely warm, empathic person IME tends to not chew one’s ear off going on and on about inane BS.

          3. Parenthetically*

            Talkative, time-wasting, and unprofessional, like your colleagues, /= warmth, though! You can absolutely be brief, direct, task-oriented, and still warm.

            I had a colleague who would nicey-nice small-talk you to DEATH, waste tons of your work time (never her own, surprise surprise), but was one of the iciest people I have ever met. She’d be going on about the weather and whatever other conventional pleasantries with the deadest eyes and frostiest tone.

            This is about communicating a mindset of goodwill WHILE being a competent worker, not abandoning all professional norms to ignore work in favor of hours of small-talk.

        3. The Big Chill*

          Chilly is fine with me! Cosy is exhausting, draining and frustrating. I get so drained by performative warmth, I can’t do my actual job as well as I want to.

        4. rogue axolotl*

          I think this LW is operating on “long-haul flight” mode at work–headphones on, eyes on reading material, trying to avoid getting trapped in an endless round of boring conversations. I get that impulse, but I think there is room to establish good professional boundaries that enable you to get your work done without freezing everyone out.

        5. aebhel*

          I’m actually generally with you, but I think that LW is severely underestimating how much his internal snark is likely to bleed over into his interactions with people. I also generally wear headphones while working, and don’t seek out small talk or social interaction, and am not what anyone would describe as ‘warm’, but ‘Ah yes, very observant, coworker, it is indeed morning’ is a level of contempt that goes beyond ‘I don’t really like or see the point of small talk’. And even if that contempt is internal, people can usually tell.

        6. Observer*

          I’ve worked with a LOT of very direct people and I’ve gotten along with all of them. This guy is just a jerk, it sounds like.

          The snark about noticing that it’s morning is deliberate misunderstanding what people are saying. No one is comment on the fact that it’s morning. And there is nothing in the way most people say it (or that the greeting is given) that should lead one to believe that that’s what people mean. Thus, preening yourself on how much cleverer you are than those STUPID people who need to point out that it’s morning comes of as really disrespectful, at best.

      3. Observer*

        By the way, the letter seems to be missing a couple of lines that are in the voicemail. I think they are probably important. eg I don’t see his internal monologue about “how observant” people are to notice that it’s morning.

    3. Essie*

      I think you’re conflating two different things.

      1. Telling people about an issue rather than expecting them to telepathically know about it or decode hints (the ‘be more direct’ thing)

      2. How warmly you treat colleagues. Not sides of the same coin at all.

    4. LGC*

      I think they’re two different things, though!

      You need to be clear and direct with expectations and requests – say, if Fergus forgets to rinse the conditioner out of the llamas’ fur and now you have a herd of grody llamas, he needs to know that that’s not acceptable and going forward he needs to give the llamas a rinse after 10-15 minutes.

      But you also should try to treat your coworkers as people overall, I think. As a man, Caller 1 won’t be as penalized for his aloofness as a woman would (which I think is totally unfair), but there are still knock-on effects. (As an example, the letter from today about the manager whose reports constantly interrupt her – part of the problem is that the owner is unapproachable, in my opinion. And I can’t help but think that the owner is missing out on a fair amount of information because of that, and is DEFINITELY not cultivating the best relationship with his second in command.)

      1. a1*

        I guess I don’t see how returning “good mornings”, and not going out to happy hours equates to “not treating your coworkers like people”.

        1. Amber Rose*

          Well, the first one anyway. If I say something to you and you completely ignore it, you’re treating me like I am actually nothing. That’s not just rude, it’s crap. Social lubricant is a thing because we all need to get along, even if it feels annoying or pointless, and if you want to live comfortably in society you need to deal. (General you, not you specifically.)

          Not going to happy hours is whatever.

          I actually almost never say good morning to anyone, and I rarely say anything before I leave, but I’ll at least say something back if someone talks to me.

          1. BevvyLouYou*

            Right. If it’s okay to not return a good morning, does that mean the person would prefer no one greeted each other? That’s far from normal.

        2. LGC*

          I actually wasn’t focused on the happy hour thing (in my opinion, that shouldn’t ever be a “required” thing although often it is). It sounded like the caller was put off by even exchanging pleasantries to me (when he talks about having to say “good morning” to his coworkers), which was my main focus.

        3. Observer*

          The problem is not avoiding happy hours.

          The issue is acting as though basic social niceties like >horrors!< actually GREETING someone when you happen on them is a major imposition.

    5. Weegie*

      I draw a distinction between ‘being chilly’ and ‘being reserved’. To me, the former is someone who either won’t answer when spoken to, or gives one-word answers and generally gives off an ‘I don’t even want to be in the same room as you’ vibe. Someone who is reserved might not have a lot to say for themselves, and might not initiate conversation, but they will engage, and might just take a little longer to develop relationships at work or elsewhere. The first caller on the podcast said he did have some ‘warm’ relationships with people he worked directly with, so I’d put him in the latter category, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Trying to survive as an introvert in the workplace does use up an awful lot of energy, and it can be draining!

      1. Acuminata*

        I actually consider myself extroverted, but still prefer not to socialize much with my coworkers! I have friends who I’ve chosen, and I don’t tend to have a lot of overlapping interests with many “safe” topics (I don’t like cats or kids or potlucks; I don’t really watch movies…). I’m polite and engaging when coworkers initiate but do come off as less socially involved and would really, really love a workplace full of people who were, yknow, nice, but didn’t want to get to know me.

        A bit of chit-chat can kill time when there’s nothing to do, and I fully acknowledge that doing a bit of socializing to get on your coworkers friendly list is sometimes worth it to be strategic. But nothing in the world could make me to go a work dinner.

        So it’s not just an introvert issue! Socializing is rewarding – when it’s with people I want to be socializing with, have things in common with, and we don’t have a network of hierarchies among us to consider. LOL

        1. TaterPudge*

          But how do you really know you don’t have anything in common with them unless you actually talk to your coworkers and get to know them? You mention cats/potlucks/kids. Are you really reducing your coworkers to just that? Maybe that’s what they discuss because they are safe/generally agreeable topics. But will you really ever know if there’s more there unless you actually talk to them?
          Not saying everyone has to be bffs with their coworkers. Just seems like so many people automatically write coworkers off without actually getting to know them.
          I can’t imagine spending as much time as I do at work and not knowing/sharing at least some personal details about our lives.

  2. Nora*

    I’m a little disappointed this question wasn’t written by someone annoyed that their office is constantly 80 degrees F all winter, because: same :-)

      1. Nita*

        Haha yes! I used to work in an office where the boss was too cheap to pay for enough heating. I was wearing gloves indoors some days. In hindsight, I can’t believe I put up with that!

    1. Allison*

      I too thought this would be about office temps! I’ll tell you what’s wrong with being cold at work, it’s hard to get anything done when your body is trying to fold itself up to keep warm and you’re hunched over trying to type with t-rex arms.

    2. Celeste*

      Same! I thought it was some hot-blooded person complaining about turning up the heat to satisfy people like me with frozen fingers.

    3. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

      Same here; I work from home and am stingy with the heat so it was 66 in my home office and I was starting to get a bit cold.

    4. Clisby Williams*

      That actually was my thought! I’ve never figured out why so many workplaces (and public places like libraries, schools, courthouses) set the temps too hot in the winter and too cold in the summer. In the winter, people are wearing warm clothing. Set that thermostat to 65-68, for pete’s sake. In the summer, they’re wearing shorts and T-shirts. Set it to 78-80. Save some money at the same time.

    5. Robot With Human Hair*

      Same here! Although I was on the other end of it because I brought a brand new space heater to my desk today.

    6. Ellex*

      I thought it might be from one of my perpetually “too hot” coworkers – specifically the one who keeps turning the thermostat down to 40F!

  3. Er...*

    When I read the title on my podcast app this morning, definitely thought it was going to be about thermostat wars in offices. Nothing to add, I just laughed out loud when I realized.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Same here. I’ve lived through some epic skirmishes, was wondering how Alison would advise the OP

    2. Murphy*

      Haha, I thought that when I read it at first, but I figured out that probably isn’t what they meant. (I am very cold in my office now, however.)

        1. Snark*

          The heat in my office is set to about that, and the breakers are set to “beaker of nitroglycerine balanced precariously on the saddle of a camel.” So you stay warm until someone turns on a desk lamp, and then BCHKT.

        2. EasyCheesy*

          My workplace is set to HYPERthermia. It’s 15 degrees outside and I have my window cracked about three inches and it’s still 71 in my office.

  4. Murphy*

    I’ve been accused of being “chilly” before because I’m not particularly outgoing. At one job I had for a short time, my team was all co-located except for my office, which was on the other side of the building. When I had a question, I would walk over there to my boss and ask it, and then go back to my office. (Of course I would say good morning, etc. if it was the first time I’d been down.) But I was perplexed that I was apparently also expected to chit chat when I came down there…like when I came down there with a question, it was because I was in the middle of something, and I wanted to get back to it. If my office had been with everyone else’s, I would have been happy to engage in more conversation, but under the circumstances, I wasn’t sure what they wanted from me.

    1. Mouse Princess*

      This took me so long to learn how to do without seeming disingenuous. In my first job in college, I realized quickly that I’d have to ask the staff to see their kids’ prom pictures, soccer goal video, etc, if I wanted them to like me. Even though I was good at my job and friendly, the chit chat was what they really needed to like me.

      1. dovahkiin*

        Learning to chat about other people’s kids (especially if you are young and childless and maybe don’t actually find kids all that interesting) is such a good work relationship lesson to learn in those first jobs!

        1. Lana Kane*

          I’m a working parent, and for what it’s worth, here’s my take: even outside of work, I’m going to notice anyone who takes the time to ask about something/someone I care a lot about. When someone asks me about my son, it puts a smile on my face and will usually lead to me feeling a bit warmer towards that person. Even with people I don’t fully get along with, asking about him can have a positive impact. Same goes for people who ask after my cats, or my husband, or my mom’s recent visit, or a special project they know I’m working hard on. It’s a form of human connection. I wouldn’t wield it cynically, but knowing this about myself has helped me take the time to ask people about the things that are special to them, and it helps forge relationships.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              Around my house it’s been more like “the Saints were robbed” all week. But I digress…

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Yep. It’s a way of showing we care about people, when we take a minute to remember the things/beings they care about. If someone remembers to ask me about my dog, I notice that in a heartbeat.

    2. Argh!*

      When I moved from the Midwest to the East Coast, I was called “cold” and I was really hurt by that. I developed a more East Coast / Southern type persona that is my work persona for everything outside of the niceties, and I suppressed my hemming and hawing and weasel words when discussing business. Now I’m back in the Midwest and people are annoyed by my friendliness and I’m called abrasive.

      … so I seek out East Coasties. I don’t want to go back to being Midwestern. Midwesterners suck!

      1. TaterPudge*

        Not sure where in the midwest you were, but I’ve met very few “chilly” or “cold midwesterners. It’s usually a descriptor I’ve seen used for East Coasters. So I guess East Coasters suck?

        1. Close Bracket*

          Depends where on the East Coast. They mentioned Southern, which is very different from Mid-Atlantic or New England.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Each region is definitely culturally different. SC is a lot “warmer” than NH…though I really see it as New England is just more reserved because when you know people they are perfectly “warm” IME. Someone living in SC and moving to say Chicago might think Midwesterners suck by comparison.

          2. Argh!*

            I have spent time with people from NYC to DC & many people from the Carolinas who moved to those areas.

            Midwesterners can’t handle it if you “interrupt” but it takes them forever to get to the point, and people in authority (where I work) drone on and on, and they expect absolute deference to their authority.

            People (women, especially) can’t take “yes” for an answer. They’re sure you’re lying to spare their feelings (just as they would), so they ask the same question ten times, each time giving you a different “out” in case you want to say no with some cover, before finally being convinced you meant what you said the first time.

            … and then when you see each other in the hall they look straight ahead and won’t acknowledge you? I’ve had the same boss for over five years and I don’t know where she grew up. That would never happen on the East Coast. It’s like every day is opposite Tuesday – be sociable when talking about work and anti-social when you’re not. Crazy!

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              “Midwesterners can’t handle it if you “interrupt” but it takes them forever to get to the point..”

              — O…M…G! The first time I encountered this was in Minneapolis. I was trying to pay for a purchase. Thirty minutes later…I knew everything about her aunt’s surgery, her third cousin’s second ex-husband’s nephew’s step-mom, the boil on her butt…etc., etc., etc. Seriously, just take my money. Let me buy the crappy pink souvenir coffee cup to take back to my niece who loves everything pink ok? I will pay double if you just shut up already.

              Granted I could have just left, but then there’s the “don’t be unnecessarily rude” thing and since I understood it was just cultural rather than intentionally trying to annoy me…

              I did learn to wait until the mall had been open a couple/few hours though. That way I wasn’t the only one in the shop(s) and therefore the focus of all of that…exuberance.

              and people in authority (where I work) drone on and on, and they expect absolute deference to their authority.

              — This happens in a lot of places I think.
              Either fortunately or unfortunately, depending on perspective, my parents taught me to notaccept all authority unquestioningly, to not be deferential just because Mr./Ms. X is ABC job position.
              I would say their question authority thing was because they were basically hippies, or maybe beatniks…they were kinda on the cusp age-wise…more beatnik I think…anyway…but one of my biggest “never trust the man without checking stuff yourself” people was my former suffragette (for real), 70 years older than me great-grandmother, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

            2. Ella beebee*

              I think we can’t really make generalizations either way here. I live/work on the East Coast and have definitely had an experience like the one you say “would never happen on the east coast,” at more than one job. I had the opposite experience in the Midwest. I think a lot of these things are found all over.

        2. wendelenn*

          Iowa? They can be cold as a falling thermometer in December if you ask about the weather in July!

      2. Hola!*

        I went to an urban college in a major East Coast city. Most of the Midwestern students I knew transferred back home pretty quickly. Couldn’t hack it.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          For a lot of people it’s very hard to adjust to cultural norms that they aren’t accustomed to…even inside of one country, a big country to be sure, but still one country.

          I’m a California girl born and raised (I live in Seattle now…definitely a best coast kinda person), but I’ve lived in the majority of the states and several different countries. Being young (college age, away from home the first time…) and moving somewhere like NYC or Boston can be the definition of “culture shock for some people.

          The short lived bad-ex from Baltimore lived with me outside of Boston for a while. He could not hack it. He felt they were cold and aloof. I thought they were warm and engaging. Of course I went into it with an attitude of embracing the culture/fitting in and he was like “our team is red hot your team ain’t diddly squat” minded, and it showed, so there’s that.

      3. Ella beebee*

        That’s interesting because I had the exact opposite experience. I’m from the east coast and went to school in the Midwest, and I found midwesterners to be 100 times friendlier than people on the east coast. It was a bit of a shock when I moved back.

        Also, your comment that midwesterners suck was very unnessessary.

  5. Elle*

    I read AAM daily, but I missed the recent letter mentioned by the first guy on the podcast (about not wanting to interact with coworkers’ small children at work). Can anyone point me in the right direction? I found a letter from 2016 but the LW from that letter liked it when kids came into the office, just felt awkward around them, so I thought it might be a different post. Thanks!

  6. Roscoe*

    I didn’t listen to the podcast, so if I’m repeating, sorry. There is nothing “wrong” with it, per se, but you also get a certain reputation at work. If I have to work on a project with someone, and I have my choice of 2 capable people, I’m going to choose the one that I can have an actual conversation with, not one who gives terse, on word answers (even if those answers do convey the information needed). If I have to spend extended time with someone, I want to be able to relax around them a bit.

    Also, the line between “chilly” and “anti-social” is pretty thin, in my opinion.

    I get it, I come to work to do my job, then leave. But if you are spending a third of your life with people, I do think its a bit odd to not want to be social in the least.

    1. Blerpborp*

      Yeah, that’s ultimately all that’s wrong with being chilly- it’s not friendly and most people like someone within the polite realm of shallow friendliness at work. Nobody likes the opposite of being all up in everyone’s personal business but there is a professional middle ground norm of bland friendliness that is likely to serve most people well. That’s not natural to lots of people but little we do as part of work (or even just being part of a society) isn’t natural but still expected.

    2. 61683*

      There is nothing inherently “wrong” with disliking socializing, but don’t be surprised if you don’t end up “top-of-mind” when it comes time to hand out promotions.

    3. Not your pal*

      And I find it odd to want to be social. *shrugs*

      Work is work. I have a social life outside of work. I don’t need it at work too. It’s exhausting! Maybe some people don’t have actual friends outside of work so they need to get all their emotional pats at work? That’s how it feels, anyway.

      1. Ceiswyn*

        Nope, 100% wrong. It is not about being ‘friends’ with work colleagues. It’s about applying enough social lubricant to have a good working relationship.

        I don’t want to be social at work, and I don’t want to get ’emotional pats’. However I do want my colleagues to think well of me and be willing to help me out in a pinch. Which they won’t do if they think I’m arrogant and condescending (which is how your ’emotional pats’ comment comes across).

        1. District Cat*

          This. The “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar” adage is so, so true, especially in a professional context. If you have to ask someone for a favor, or ask them to change something they’re doing (or not doing) — especially when so much work interaction is over email, without personal tone — you’re so much more likely to get your desired result if their mental picture of you is cordial rather than cold or officious.

    4. Epsilon Delta*

      So true. I had a coworker at Old Job who totally could’ve written this letter! Almost never joined in casual conversation or went to lunch with the team, but was polite and very good at his job. Whenever I needed something from his team I would ask all the other people on the team first, then ask him as a last resort. (Of course, some people would argue that is a feature not a bug.)

  7. Oxford Comma*

    You say good morning to someone as a greeting. It’s a wish that your day will go well. It’s like saying thank you or asking someone how are you. It’s one of the many many social lubricants we have that help people get along.

    Alison’s points are really well taken.

    I don’t need to be your friend. I don’t need to know you outside of work. But if you’re “chilly,” don’t expect me to do anything beyond the essentials for you. Also, depending on how chilly you are, it’s possible that I’m going to find you odd and not in a cool, interesting way. The caller sounds like he fakes it so probably doesn’t need to worry about this, but that’s the risk.

    1. MeMeMe*

      YES, this exactly.

      In my workplace, the “chilly” (i.e., terse and abrupt to the point of rudeness in all venues, modes of communication, and with all people) are bypassed and worked around as much as possible, because it’s very difficult to work with someone on a project when you can’t have an easy conversation with them.

      You don’t have to be touchy-feely, emotionally intimate, “let’s spend 20 minutes talking about our personal lives before getting to work” — just f*cking be able to have a conversation beyond monosyllables and closed-off answers that require me to ask you 17 follow-up questions to pull the information out of you I need to do my job.

      Me: “Would it be possible for you to run me a report that compares Variables X, Y, and Z across time”?
      Them: “No.”
      [17 emails later, it’s revealed that Variable Y is the problem, but using Variable Y2 would work. I’ve had Variable Y2 at hand this entire time. IF ONLY THEY HAD TOLD ME, “No, because of Variable Y, but if you have Y2 at hand, I could use that instead,” IN THE FIRST EMAIL.]

      When every exchange with them is like this….to hell with them, I’ll run all the reports myself from now on, never mind that that’s their job duty and not mine.

      Forget anyone picking them to serve on a committee, represent our department at organization-wide events, collaborate with on special projects, etc. Their careers suffer because of their poor communication skills.

      And the real problem is that their manager won’t talk to them about it, but instead tells whoever goes to her to complain about these people to be more patient with them because working here is the only socialization they get. Ridiculous. We’re not a special needs school, we’re a business; it’s not our responsibility (or place) to teach them basic workplace social skills.

      1. Coder von Frankenstein*

        That’s different, though. That is them failing to do their jobs properly. Proactive communication is part of the job, almost any job. It has nothing to do with attitude or social conventions.

        If somebody is merely chilly, not responding to “good morning” and the like, but they do their job well, communicate well about work matters, and I can trust them to take care of things? That is a valuable coworker right there. I would hope that I could be professional enough to treat them as such even if I dislike them personally.

        1. Clisby Williams*

          I agree. To me, “chilly” doesn’t mean a person speaks in monosyllables, or won’t engage in a constructive conversation about something at work. It just means they aren’t sociable. They aren’t your buddies. They keep to themselves, and (gasp!) focus on their work.

          The type of person MeMeMe describes is way different.

    2. Argh!*

      “Odd” often translates to having Aspergers. Now that I’ve learned about that, I realize some of the “chilly” and “odd” coworkers I’ve had in the past were probably on the spectrum.

      1. Cacwgrl*

        I’d be careful with that generalization though. I’m fairly chilly I think but definitely not on the spectrum. If you say good morning, I’ll reply, but I don’t walk down the hall saying good morning literally every two steps at each cubicle door. I hate drug out conversations so please be quick about what you want to say, or get to the point. I have no problems digging in to an issue and talking through information but I don’t feel the need to talk just to fill silence. We have several people in the department that will outright hibernate for a lack of a better word, in their space and I’m not going to go out of my way to make things more awkward for them. All of that said, nearly every bit of my job away from my desk is public facing. I can turn it on if I have to. I can greet and charm with the best of them and I’ll do it all day if needed, but it is EXHAUSTING. I did it for 8 hours the other day and needed a few minutes at my desk after. I was downright chilly to anyone that stopped by then. One, I need to focus on the issues that need attention and they aren’t my coworkers and two, I am mentally tapped after being on all day. Leave my chilly @$$ alone please!

  8. Celaena Sardothien*

    I’m another who’s been accused of being chilly. I don’t skip my way towards my colleague’s children so I can coo over them with googley eyes. I just…don’t want to. I don’t have kids, don’t want them, and I don’t get the hype.

    Also, one of my coworkers will walk over to my desk every single morning and say, “I hope you have a happy Monday.” Cue the exact same thing for Tuesday, Wednesday, etc. It. drives. me. bonkers. I always stay polite and wish her well too, but it is so grating to me. She has literally done this every day for years.

    1. Lana Kane*

      It’s not about cooing. I’d never expect a coworker to coo about my kid. But I’d notice if he didn’t get a hello, when an adult visitor would have. I wouldn’t be mad, but yeah, I’d notice.

        1. Holly*

          An actual infant? Probably not, no (although would be very strange to ignore that a person is holding a baby). Kids generally? They’re people too. No one will strap you down and make you be pleasant to another person, but it’s your choice not to be, and it does impact your professional life as well as your social life.

        2. I will kill people with this cricket bat*

          It’s no about whether or not you care, it’s about whether or not other people care. We live in a social environment and there are certain rituals we perform to maintain a civil society (and working relationships). Saying hi to human beings (which, yes, as much as you may not like them, kids are) is part of the social contract. It’s like waving when someone lets you in in traffic. You don’t have to, but you’re kinda an asshole if you don’t.

          1. Cacwgrl*

            Well and I don’t have to stop my flow of traffic to let you in from a side street but if I do, you better wave. After two days of doing this while trying to access my worksite and NOT receiving the wave, I have decided my resolution to be kinder was crap and I’m not letting people in. I can’t stop anyone else, but sorry peeps, two of you ruined it for the rest of us. You take the “shortcut” to avoid waiting is the line like we did, you can wait until all of us have gone by, or at least me. Exceptions are school buses. I’ll always let them in.

            1. Well, Actually*

              So your resolution to be kinder was really about getting acknowledged for performing kindness? Says it all, really.

      1. Jennifer*

        People are REALLY rude sometimes about kids and babies coming into the office. I feel the same way about that as I do about people who won’t say good morning. Again, it’s a few seconds.

        1. Clisby Williams*

          What are you expecting of people when kids and babies come into the office? Obviously, it’s rude if someone says, “Hey, get out of here!” to a toddler, but we’re talking about work. It’s not rude to ignore the kids.

          1. aebhel*

            It’s exactly as rude to ignore a child as it is to ignore an adult visitor. I think it’s weird that my coworker’s spouse drops by for dinner with her like twice a week, but I don’t blank him if he greets me just because I’m at work and have no desire to socialize with him. That would be rude. It takes literally 2 seconds to act like a civil adult.

            There’s a long distance between making an effort get up from your desk to coo over babies, and totally blanking people, and people in this thread seem to be conflating the two. Maybe you don’t like small children, but it’s still shitty to ignore someone to their face, even if they are three.

        2. Celaena Sardothien*

          That’s just the thing, it’s not “a few seconds.” At least not in my office. Last time we had kids in the office, one of my bosses brought in his two young sons and newborn baby girl. They sat in the lobby area, and all of the admin staff came out of the their offices, stood around, and took turns saying how beautiful the baby was. They were easily out there for 30 minutes doing that.

          The other thing is an office is not a place for children. Like it or lump it, it’s just not. If I wanted that, I would have applied at a daycare.

          1. I will kill people with this cricket bat*

            But how did it impact you that they were out there cooing over a baby. Did anyone force you to hold the baby? Did anyone shove a dirty diaper at you and ask you to throw it out? Did you politely ignore it and carry on with your work? If it’s not impacting you, you can say a simple hi and move on. Let other people enjoy things. Even kids (some people do actually enjoy them and like having people bring new babies to the office).

          2. aebhel*

            People who stand around for half an hour cooing over a new baby generally *enjoy* doing that. If it’s an expectation and people get mad if you don’t, that’s inappropriate, but it sounds like you’re getting annoyed that other people enjoy it, which is weird.

    2. fposte*

      But we all literally do the same thing every day for years. If you have pets, do you get annoyed that they rub your legs the same way they did yesterday? Why does the communication have to be original to be meaningful? Would you really like it better if you got an original poem from her every day anyway?

      I think basically you’re overfocusing on the content of the words. A lot of speech is not there for its manifest meaning. English classes really were about life, not just Steinbeck :-).

        1. fposte*

          So is the originality thing not really the point? I’m genuinely curious to figure out where that factors in. Is it because the repetition makes it so evident that this isn’t about transmitting information?

          1. Coder von Frankenstein*

            If it were me, it would be the “walking over to my desk” part. Normally, that signals “I am making an effort to initiate conversation, and I require more than a rote reply.” It’s a weirdly aggressive move in the context of a simple morning greeting.

            Merely saying “I hope you have a good Monday” as I walk by would be different; a little odd because that is not a standard greeting, but not objectionable.

          2. An Unkindness of Ravens*

            For me, it would be that it clearly isn’t genuine or purposeful, it’s just a little subroutine in her head that she has to go through to feel like a nice person or whatever.

            It feels like I’m just there to let her do the thing at, it’s not about me at all. And that’s not actually warm or caring, but it looks like it so she gets the shiny gold stars for it. And I get to feel used. Which is a great way to feel about your coworkers.

            I get this a lot from the people who like to be seen as warm and fluffy. It’s performative. It’s manipulative. And it sucks.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              So generally, you think people are using you?
              Maybe she is trying to show you that people aren’t using you and people do think of you as an actual person.

          3. Celaena Sardothien*

            I care about people talking to me. Or, rather, not talking to me.

            I’m not a morning person, and I’m already in a daze. Also, I’m an introvert and I don’t like being ambushed before I’ve even had a chance to get my computer going and start my day.

            All that said, I don’t mind waving or saying a quick hello to someone. What drives me nuts about this particular coworker is she says the exact same thing, every day, and has done so for years. What is even the point anymore? It’s just a mindless routine now, and that drives me nuts. I would like it best if she left me alone, but if she has to speak she could change it up a little. Even just rotating “good morning” with “how are ya?” with “What’s up with you today?” would be better. When you know exactly what someone is going to say before they say it, it gets really dumb.

            And no, I don’t do the same thing every day for years. Some things are the same, yeah. I go to the same job and go home to the same house. But I have different tasks at work every day, I eat different meals, I do different exercises on different days, etc. But saying we’re a bunch of robots is not accurate, I don’t think.

  9. Jennifer*

    What is it with people being mad that they have to say ‘good morning?’ I’ve read this here multiple times and don’t get it. I’m fine if you don’t say it or if you do.

    Nothing wrong with being professional and direct but sometimes people hide behind those words when they are called out on being just plain rude. I’m not super outgoing at work either. I don’t think that should be a requirement. But basic politeness and courtesy are parts of living in the world.

    1. Spiky*

      Those of us who detest saying “Good morning” as a social ritual do not understand why it’s necessary. I get that if I don’t say it, I’m going to be perceived as aloof or rude or whatever, but I just don’t understand why other people need it so much. “I acknowledge you, fellow human” just sounds, I dunno, desperate to me. Like do you really need to acknowledge me when we’re just both getting coffee at the same time? It’s like getting on an elevator with someone who just has to start yaking about the weather because they can’t handle silence. Let’s just all be quiet.

      1. Thursday Next*

        But not understanding why it’s necessary doesn’t change the fact that it is necessary. There are social customs that are observed regardless of whether we understand each one.

        For example, when I lived in Japan, I learned to hand things to people with both hands. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know the reasons for this convention.

        If it’s helpful, think of it as “social lubricant,” the small things that keep the wheel turning.

          1. Sick of Social Niceties*

            We do get that. We just find it frustrating, irritating and pointless. And sometimes we need to say so, because doing it everyday builds that frustration up inside us. The venting is necessary for us. Think of it as me releasing the frustration online so I don’t actually tell you where the eff to go when you greet me next time.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              If that’s not hyperbole and you really do want to tell people to F off when they greet you, something else is going on. That’s not typical “I don’t understand the point of these rituals” stuff.

            2. Snark*

              If you find basic social pleasantries so frustrating you eventually want to tell people to F off when they greet you, you are the problem, not the niceties.

              1. Eliza*

                “You are the problem” isn’t really actionable advice, though. Even if we’re the problem, we still have to live with ourselves somehow. I have a neurological condition that makes it difficult for me to produce speech: just getting out a “Good morning” can be physically and mentally exhausting on a bad day. I know that I can come across as standoffish because engaging in conversation with people is painful to me in ways that I can’t change and have difficulty hiding, but there’s not much I can do about that. I’ve worked around it by deliberately seeking out a job that’s 100% remote work and involves no face-to-face interaction, but that’s not an option for everybody, and it’s certainly limited my career prospects.

                1. Jennifer*

                  If you actually can’t say good morning due to a medical condition, I think that’s a bit different from what we’re talking about. I was referring to people who are perfectly capable of saying it but choose not to.

                2. Holly*

                  Eliza, I hope you can see the difference between your situation and one where someone who is so frustrated by social niceties they want to tell everyone who greets them to eff off. And your example involves you determining that a remote position would be a better fit for you in that instance – that is you taking an action. Someone who cannot deal with another person greeting them good morning also needs to take action by either similarly doing report work or seeing a mental health professional to understand where that feeling is coming from and work on resolving it.

                3. Snark*

                  No disrespect or dismissal of the reality of your condition, but you’re an edge case. I think you need to take it on faith that when people make generalized comments, they don’t necessarily include edge cases.

                4. Eliza*

                  Honestly, I don’t think there’s all that much difference when it comes down to it. I’m sure there’s a correlation between those who have more difficulty with social interaction for whatever reason and those who find it frustrating; I’ve certainly been frustrated and angry over it plenty of times. Also, a lifetime of seeing how differences in brain structure affect people’s behaviour has led me to a pretty heavy degree of skepticism about the whole concept of free will and choice; ultimately, I believe that our personalities and actions are determined by physical processes occurring in our brains, and I’ve never quite been able to understand where choice fits into that picture.

                  Of course, that applies just as much to the people we’re interacting with as it does to us, so in the end what happens will happen and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. All I can do is feel sad that there are people who get the short end of the stick because of it.

                5. Jennifer*

                  @Eliza Very few people in any of these examples referenced a medical condition that completely prevented them from saying hello or good morning.

                6. Eliza*

                  My point is that I don’t really see a fundamental difference between “not saying hello because of a speech disorder” and “not saying hello because you don’t want to”. Either way, it’s happening because of the way someone’s brain is wired; we’ve just collectively decided that some brain functions are more blameworthy than others.

                  But that’s just my perspective from living with the specific ways in which my own brain makes it more difficult for me to function in society. Clearly other people have their own experiences and feel differently, and I’m probably not contributing anything useful to the conversation at this point so I’ll just shut up now.

                7. Observer*

                  Well actually it is. Because what that means is that you need to change “your” attitude and / or figure out what “YOUR” issue is and do some work. And for the cases that you’ve looked at this and know that you’ve hit the limits of what you can do about it, you self select the jobs you take. It’s much like any condition someone might have.

                  As an analog – if you are coughing your head off, you need to know if the problem is the air in your building, in which case the building is the problem and someone needs to fix that, or the problem is you and you need to see a doctor and go from there.

            3. AvonLady Barksdale*

              There are things we have to do every day that irritate most of us. Commuting. Waiting in line for something. Talking to people before coffee. Yet we do them, because we exist in the world, and in the world there are other people. In my neighborhood, when you’re walking down the street in the morning and you pass someone, even a stranger, you say, “Good morning.” Or you wave. And then… you keep going. It is two seconds, no one is demanding your time. They are requesting your acknowledgement of their existence, because we live in the world and in the world there are other people. I say “hello” and “good morning” BECAUSE I don’t want anyone in my business, wondering what the eff is wrong with that rude woman.

              The vitriol just sounds like a lot of energy spent on something that will be in the past in less than a second.

              1. Jennifer*

                “The vitriol just sounds like a lot of energy spent on something that will be in the past in less than a second.” Amen. There are soooooooooooooo many actually horrible things happening in the world right now.

              2. Decima Dewey*

                One manager seemed to think that she was encouraging me to be “less shy” (read: less introverted) by making me come to her desk and greet her each morning. What I learned was that if I came to her desk and greeted her each morning, she’d leave me alone for awhile. Another thought that, as long as I said ‘good morning” to her each day, things between us were fine.

              3. GreyjoyGardens*

                Frankly, it also sounds like the thoughts of someone who would use “sheeple” un-ironically. I don’t waaaant to engage in petty social rituals! They’re not authentic, they’re not ME! And it makes me roll my eyes. Everyone, at some point, has to do something tedious and quotidian that they really don’t want to do, but most of us suck it up and do it anyway because Them’s The Breaks.

              4. Not So NewReader*

                Vitriol. Makes you want to run right out the door to go to work, right? It reads like a lot of anger perhaps hatred.
                I have to go back to what my first boss said. “No one will ever tell you. But part of what you are being compensated for is your willingness to get along with others.”

                Getting along with others goes into most jobs. Worse yet, getting along with others goes into quality of life. I had a family member who could not get people to come to the house to repair things. I understood why- with all the worrying, second guessing, micromanaging, perfectionism and so on, people became overwhelmed and left. Family member had to let go of her house because she could not maintain it. No one would help her. She burned through a lot of people.

            4. Parenthetically*

              Lol literally WTF hahaha, someone says, “Hey Bob,” and your instinctive reaction is to respond with, “Get f**ked”?

              That attitude is going to take you far.

        1. Japananon*

          Plus Japan loves its greetings! Greetings open the doors to communication! It’s easier to talk to someone who has acknowledged your presence, which means it’s easier to get work done and make acquaintances.

          When I moved here I thought it was silly and excessive–why do I have to greet someone I just saw?–but then I worked somewhere where nobody greeted people, and that company had major issues with collaboration, information flow, cliquishness, and morale overall.

      2. Doodle*

        Yes, you do need to acknowledge others when you’re just getting coffee. Human beings do require social interaction, and in most offices (American work culture), such acknowledgements are non optional social convention. There’s nothing desperate about it. It’s a convention.

        1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

          Yes–regardless of your motivation, silence is just as communicative as a greeting, just in a bad way.

          The absence of “good morning” isn’t actually saying nothing, it’s saying “I am not bothering to offer two ritual words, either because I actively dislike you or just don’t feel you’re worth the effort.”

          1. Spiky*

            See, to me, the absence of good morning says “I’m deep in my own thoughts and assume you are as well and would find an interruption annoying just as I would.”

            1. fposte*

              I think it’s situational, and it’s up to all of us to understand the workplace and regional cultures we’re in. With people you see regularly, an absence of greeting won’t be the sole data point, but I’m always so deep in my own thoughts that I can’t acknowledge other people, greet their children, or wish them well, it’s pretty fair for others to find me too self-focused for their tastes.

          2. NW Mossy*

            And even if you don’t want to verbalize a “good morning,” a small wave accompanied by slightly upturned mouth corners gets the same acknowledgement-of-fellow-human concept across. It can be a good middle-ground strategy that avoids the risk of appearing entirely unfeeling but also doesn’t invite more conversation if you’re not down for that at the moment.

          3. rear mech*

            What about eye contact + smile + nod? Would y’all consider that as friendly as a brief greeting, or something in between ignoring someone and having an exchange of verbal greetings. It’s what I default to when I don’t really feel like talking for whatever reason

      3. Parenthetically*

        Every culture and society from time immemorial has these, though, so if you feel this strongly about them, you have to at least recognize that you’re an outlier rather than operating on the assumption that everyone who participates in them is needy or desperate or can’t handle silence. Are greetings necessary to human survival? Well, no, but given their ubiquity they’ve at least been deemed beneficial to human co-existence. “Good morning” is a positive wish for people you greet. It’s literally shorthand for “I hope you have a good morning.” It’s not, as the caller says, an announcement that you’re aware that it is morning. It prefaces your interactions with an acknowledgement of the other person as a human, not just a stuff-I-need vending machine, which benefits you in the short and long term, because on the whole, people are more likely to work well with people they have positive, warm interactions with.

        1. Scribbles*

          I can understand saying “Good morning” to someone you know/work with and people you don’t know but suddenly have a need to interact with, but I don’t understand when people you don’t know and who you’re not interacting with want to exchange “Good morning’s” too.

          I’ve had total strangers give me a loud, cheerful “Good morning” in the bathroom, at the kitchen sink, passing in the hallway, etc. To me it’s jarring to have an unfamiliar voice/face speak to me, and then I’m left wondering if I’m supposed to know who they are.

          1. Parenthetically*

            Different strokes. Some people are gregarious, some people are chatty. Some people are taught that it’s rude to fail to acknowledge someone when you’re passing them alone. Hell, it used to be considered rude for a man not to greet every lady in an elevator as he got on AND off. Stuff like that is what conventional small-talk scripts are for. If I get a “good morning” from a stranger, I reply with “morning” if I think of it in time (I’m pretty far in my own head most of the time so that’s not always the case) but I can usually muster a smile.

            1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

              The elevator thing still happens in hotel elevators… Strangest phenomenon in the world… hotel elevators. More times than not strangers (men and women) greet each other when getting on and off.

              It’s honestly kind of pleasant.

          2. Kummelwick*

            My humble attempt at translation: “We’re not personally acquainted, but I’m affable enough to offer in-group bonhomie to you simply by virtue of our shared circumstances at this moment, stranger!”

              1. rear mech*

                When I first moved from a rural area to a city in Texas, I felt jumpy and was confused by all the random people who offered eye contact, smiles, nods, and short greetings just because we were passing each other on the sidewalk. Part of the reason it felt odd was because I hadn’t noticed it during brief visits as a kid. But of course, gaggles of teen girls, or teens who are accompanied by parents, are not included in these rituals the way a (young, clueless) adult me was.

          3. Not So NewReader*

            If you are supposed to know them and you forgot, so what?
            I have done a lot of public facing jobs. I have forgotten at least half the people I have met.
            If a person says more than good morning and indicates they remember you, it’s fine to ask them to refresh your memory of how you know them. Then you says something about people out of context or people not dressed in their work clothes or whatever.

        2. Double A*

          Social cooperation is essential to human survival, and niceties are one of the tools we use to build and reinforce that cooperation. They’re arbitrary (hence why the vary from culture to culture), but they’re a way for humans to communicate “I wish you well and not I’ll,” which was a sentiment that had more dire importance in more violent times.

        3. Dragoning*

          And, y’know, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a meaningless exchange–one of my coworkers a few months back said “good morning” to me the morning after we had both been in the office past midnight. It was 8 am, and we were both back there. So I smiled, sighed a little, and said, “Well, it’s certainly morning, anyway,” and he laughed, and it was fine.

          It’s a bonding ritual.

      4. Jennifer*

        This conversation reminds me of a discussion on a private Facebook group for introverts that I once frequented. A guy said that he went through the checkout line at Target and the cashier said, “Hi, how are you? Did you find everything you need?” And he responded, “I’m only here because I can’t figure out how to ring up produce at the self check out. We don’t know or like each other. We don’t have to have a conversation.”

        He expected all of us to commiserate about how annoying it is to have to deal with small talk as an introvert and was taken aback when we all told him how rude that was. He said two sentences when all he had to say was, “Fine, yes, thanks.” Being rude takes up a lot more time and energy than just being polite most of the time. And being an introvert doesn’t excuse you from having basic social skills.

        The point of it is to create a society where at least some people try to be kind to one another and show that they care. That’s the kind of socieity where I would prefer to live.

            1. nonegiven*

              I probably would have told him the method to ring up produce at self check, for next time, since that’s what he needed. Customer service.

        1. WellRed*

          That poor cashier! Hopefully, they could see that was on him and not that and use it as dinner table fodder about the asshole who went through their line that day.

          1. Dragoning*

            As a former cashier, I would have been mortified into silence and tried not to die of embarrassment. Also, if there was anyone in line behind him who overheard that, they were almost certainly comforting the poor cashier after that, no matter their reaction.

          2. Jennifer*

            We pointed out that the cashier could have been an introvert as well. I know from working retail that you are required to greet every customer that comes through the line, whether you feel like it or not. She may not have wanted to talk to him either but you do what you have to do at work sometimes.

            1. Dragoning*

              Getting basically yelled at by rando customer just for doing a part of your job you don’t even like? Awful feeling.

              1. Jennifer*

                Yes, the worst. I wish everyone had to work a service job for at least six months. They will understand how important politeness really is in our society.

            2. Oxford Comma*

              Oh boy. That poor cashier.

              Don’t they have shoppers in some of these chains whose job it is to evaluate their experience? I seem to recall that there are scripts the cashiers have to stick to.

            3. Observer*

              What makes it even worse is that what she said was not even ONLY filler! She actually asked a question that store managers (at least the good ones) want an answer to. She asked if the customer found everything they need- if they get lots of “no” they know they need to do something about stock, either in terms of how much they stock or what they stock, or they need to do better advertising about what they DO carry.

        2. fposte*

          That is hilarious, and I’m so glad the group made it clear that introvert doesn’t mean unskilled jackass.

          1. Jennifer*

            It got to be such a recurring theme there that’s why I ended up leaving. So many people thinking introversion justified rudeness.

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, I got really tired of the “I’m an introvert, pander to me” boom of a few years ago; it pulled a lot of unpleasant people out of the woodwork.

              1. Turtle Candle*

                Yeah, at first I was like “this is a cool discussion to be having!” about the introvert boom, but I’ve seen it far too often be used as a shield for elitism (I’m so much smarter, more thoughtful, and more productive than those stupid extroverted chatterboxes parroting BS stock phrases all day) or straight-up misanthropy (I’m an introvert, so that means that I can’t be expected to interact with people in even minimal ways, and if you make me, I’ll be a jerk about it). As an introvert who loves my extrovert friends and colleagues and understands that their needs are important too–and who genuinely likes people, most of the time–it makes me wince at identifying myself as one. (And I suspect they’re a small minority of introverts, but a loud small minority, ironically.)

        3. Spiky*

          Yes, well that was rude. Saying nothing to the cashier after she addressed him would also be rude.

          But if the cashier started silently ringing the items up, I wouldn’t consider that guy rude for not saying “Hello” or “Good afternoon” to her. Happens all the time at my local grocery store. Often the only words exchanged are, “21.50” from the cashier and “Thanks” from me when they hand me my receipt. I don’t think they’re rude and I’d hope they don’t think me rude either. There’s just honestly no need for any communication or acknowledgement in that situation. And that’s how I feel about saying “Good morning” to someone who’s getting coffee in the breakroom the same time as well. There’s just no need for communication or acknowledgement.

          1. Jennifer*

            I wouldn’t think that was rude either. I would think it was rude if she didn’t respond to my hello or failed to say thank you at the end of the transaction.

          2. Jennifer*

            I guess what I am getting at is I don’t think it’s rude to not say good morning while you’re getting coffee, but if people at my office thought that it was, I’d change my behavior without that much complaint because it’s not really a big deal.

            I may not feel like saying good morning but if someone says it to me, ignoring them is rude because I think it’s pointless is rude. It’s not all about me.

            1. Spiky*

              Yes, I agree. If someone greets me, I do my best to greet them back in some form, as long as they’re not drive-bying me in a hallway at 60 mph while I’m taking a drink of coffee (in that situation, you’re likely to get some kind of sputter and spill as I attempt to respond to you). I think it’s dumb and unecessary, but I will still do it.

              I just think we’re allowed to think it’s dumb and unecessary. There are people in this thread who seem to be saying that even thinking these conventions are dumb is being rude because it’ll come out in your attitude. Does the same apply to someone saying, “Oh, he’s so cute!” about a baby they actually think is ugly as sin?

              1. Parenthetically*

                I mean, there are reasonable people in this thread who are rolling their eyes HERE so they can buck up at work, and that’s… I mean that’s fine, I still think it’s worth trying to get fully over it because it’s going to keep happening literally forever unless you become a hermit, but if being annoyed in a conversation like this enables you to be LESS judgy of your coworkers IRL, super. But there are people who are apparently getting internally ragey and mentally calling colleagues stupid, annoying, ridiculous, desperate, needy, etc. in their heads with every one of these interactions and that’s sh!tty, not just because it comes out in your attitude toward other people but because it’s a poisonous, unhealthy way to be, to cultivate and cherish that kind of negativity. Especially if you’re simultaneously branding yourself as “just a very direct person” or whatever.

                1. GreyjoyGardens*

                  Thank you – you just put your finger on something I was trying to articulate: “cultivate and cherish that kind of negativity.” The original LW and some others in the replies seem to be doing this, and that’s no way to live, IMO. It’s like hugging a cactus instead of a teddy bear or a cat or dog.

                2. Not So NewReader*

                  Well said.
                  Yep. We have to get along with others.
                  Try laying in a hospital bed with that attitude. Watch what happens next.
                  This is why some people in nursing homes have no visitors and staff stands around saying,”Oh it’s so sad no one visits Bob.”

        4. Polka Dot Bird*

          If that’s how he starts a conversation, no wonder he doesn’t see why people engage in conversations. He must have so many terrible social interactions while the other person wishes for a swift escape.

        5. aebhel*

          Ugh, I haaate people like that. Trust me, the cashier doesn’t give a damn about you, either; they’re being polite and they don’t deserve to get used as an emotional dumping ground for every grouchy introvert who can’t be bothered to learn basic social skills.

          /speaking as a grouchy introvert who’s spent a lot of time in customer service.

        6. boop the first*

          Takes up more time for the cashier too! Way back when I was briefly a cashier, management made us ask for $1 donations for charity and people would say yes, or no. And then some people would go on a long rant about why they aren’t donating and tell me their entire history of being generous when the truth is: we don’t care. Just say no.

      5. Argh!*

        It’s not desperate. It’s social and it’s cultural. If you have Aspergers or some other diagnosis, you will never truly understand it, in the way that you wouldn’t understand other “rules” of society. Otherwise, just get into the habit and you’ll forget about the time when it seemed odd to you. It’s like looking both ways before you cross the street.

      6. rogue axolotl*

        If it helps, I like to think of it as part of reaffirming the social contract–just one of those ways to remind ourselves that we have agreed to participate in a mostly peaceful form of co-existence and you can leave your desk for a cup of coffee without worrying that Karen from accounting might smash your computer and poop in your potted plant.

      7. Frustrated 1*

        Uh, no Spiky, let’s not. What an unpleasant world it would be if everybody was like you. Actually, it’s already unpleasant, but it would be worse. What I don’t understand is people who are so resistant to little social niceties that cost them nothing.

    2. caryatis*

      I do say “good morning/hello,” but I get where OP is coming from. When I’m focusing on work (or getting lunch, or going to the bathroom, or whatever) it really jolts me out of my routine to have to suddenly engage socially with someone. You have to figure out what they’re saying, how to appropriately respond, when you’re allowed to leave and get back to your business. It’s a small burden, but a real one for those of us to whom social interactions with strangers are not fun or natural.

      So–if you see a coworker in the bathroom, please just ignore them! They didn’t come there to socialize.

      1. Spiky*

        Same, 98% of the time, I’m deep inside my own head, so when I pass someone in the hallway and they spring a “Hello!” on me, I have to pull myself out of my head, process what they just said, find the word “Hello” and say it back. By the time I get to step 3, they’re already passed me and now it’s awkward.

        1. Oxford Comma*

          But presumably you’re aware enough that you’re not walking into a person. All you need to do is make brief eye contact, maybe give a minute nod of acknowledgement and a slight smile. That’s it. You’re done.

          1. Cold Comfort*

            Not consciously aware, though. As the comment you replied to says, I’m in my head. I’m NOT aware of you in any meaningful way – my subconscious may note your presence in order to avoid walking into you, but I’m not conscious of that. I’m thinking about something else entirely.

            this is NOT an easy, automatic thing. It takes effort, it’s difficult, it’s stressful and it is anxiety-inducing for some of us. I’m happy for you that you don’t find it so, but PLEASE stop denying what people are telling you about how this stuff is for us. We’re not making this up!

            1. Parenthetically*

              It absolutely is not easy or automatic for a lot of people, particularly in 2019 when a lot of the cultural scripts for small talk that we used to share no longer apply. It’s a skill that some people find easier, and some people find more difficult. But I think Alison is right to point out that it has some concrete benefits, so it’s worth developing that skill.

            2. Snark*

              “It takes effort, it’s difficult, it’s stressful and it is anxiety-inducing for some of us.”

              So it was, and occasionally still is, but after applying some conscious effort and technique, generally not particularly, for me. And so, with the application of some conscious effort and technique, it might not necessarily be for you.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                It’s in these smaller situations we grow skills to face the harder situations in life. What if tomorrow a person with this thinking was told they needed major surgery. That is also difficult, stressful and anxiety-inducing. What skills do we have to draw on when we face these situations?It is good to understand stress/anxiety and gain coping tools to work through it.
                Left unchecked it can be a quality of life issue.

            3. Oxford Comma*

              I know it’s hard for many people. I acknowledge that. But it’s still a workplace norm. I have things I struggle with too, lots of them, but I still try to work at them.

              I’m relistening to the podcast and the caller does not seem to be saying he has an anxiety issue, just that he doesn’t get the utility of being not-chilly. Maybe I’ve misheard, though?

            4. Jennifer*

              I don’t judge people who don’t initiate a ‘hello’ or ‘good morning’ for that reason. I do think it’s rude if someone says those things to you and you don’t acknowledge it at all.

              1. Julia*

                Yeah, it makes me anxious when I greet someone at work and they don’t greet me back. Do they hate me? What did I do?
                Who should win in this scenario? The “greeting makes me anxious” or the “not greeting makes me anxious” people?

            5. Holly*

              Living in society takes effort, is difficult, is stressful, and anxiety-inducing. Being pleasant and warm *does* take work. But it’s to our society’s benefit and our personal benefit.

              1. Parenthetically*

                So all the people in this thread saying, “This is currently very difficult and unnatural for me” or “This used to be very difficult for me but here are some steps I took to overcome it” are… abnormal? What a helpful comment.

                1. Holly*

                  You’re not being fair to Frustrated 1, who was not replying to someone saying “here are some steps I take to overcome this.” This thread is full of commenters saying “it’s really anxiety inducing for me to say hello to someone and I’m NOT doing anything about it, people should understand it.” I wouldn’t say that is someone not being “normal” but surely it’s indicative of someone with anxiety levels that should be getting some sort of assistance if they aren’t already.

      2. Mrs Mary Smiling*

        Yuck: talking to a coworker in the bathroom is weird. It is not the same as saying “Hello” to someone when you pass in the hallway. I like hanging out and shooting the breeze with coworkers while the water boils for coffee, but I don’t talk about anything in the bathroom, social or work-related.

        1. Acuminata*

          I completely agree. I have a coworker who will try to have full conversations in the bathroom – even after I’ve entered a stall!!

      3. Jennifer*

        That’s why I don’t hold it against someone if they don’t say hello or good morning. Sometimes I’m lost in thought also. But the level of irritation around just saying two little words is downright bizarre.

        1. Snark*

          As someone who, distracted, once said, “Oh, hey, whassup” to a full-bird Air Force colonel, I sympathize with this and don’t hold it against someone if they occasionally miss my hello or whatever. But. If it’s so routine that you get known for it, you’re doing it wrong.

          1. SarahKay*

            Aarggh! As someone who walks everywhere, in an urban area, people who don’t use their turn signals make me see red. I would give them points on their driving licences if I ruled the country.
            Here I am, trying to cross a side road, there’s a car approaching at a speed that means they may want to turn, but they’re not indicating that they’re going to turn. Are they not going to turn, or are they just not bothering to indicate? Either way, I have to wait, because I don’t fancy being run over if I guess wrong.
            And not using your indicators can not, in any way, be excused by being an introvert!

    3. Lynne879*

      Saying “Good morning” is just another way of saying “Hello,” I don’t get why some people hate having to polite & spinning it as “I like to be efficient & direct, so saying ‘good morning’ is a waste of time.”

      1. LD'S Mom*

        I agree. It’s basic courtesy and politeness that requires minimal effort. I was raised to always be kind and courteous and it’s an ingrained habit for me to greet someone when I see them in the morning. I don’t expect anything beyond a simple response in return.

        1. Argh!*

          True. Nobody who gets rebuffed will think “Wow, you hard-working valuable coworker. I’m so sorry I interrupted your busy busy day.”

          1. GreyjoyGardens*

            Exactly. I’m thinking more along the lines of something ending in “-hole” or “-hat.”

      2. MattKnifeNinja*

        I asked my cousin who has Aspergers about this. HE LOATHES this social interaction.

        His view point, as long as he gets his work done correctly and efficiently, that is all he should be required to worry about. Saying Hello, how are you, good morning means very very little to him.

        If his/coworkers venn diagrams of life would never ever over lap, why should he invest energy to say Hi? Ask about your kids he doesn’t care about? In his mind, it’s a whole bunch of energy wasted on worker drones.

        His perfect job would be minimal talking except if it’s specifically work related, do the job to the best of his ability, then go home.

        I fit in between Birthday planning/Happy hour Biff and my cousin. I can play the social game in spades. I’m really really private, and would prefer my coworkers know as little about me as possible. I can talk to just about anyone and about anything, but I don’t disclose much about me.

        My cousin said, he thought work was to go do something and get paid for it, and not make his coworkers feel good, or perk up their self esteem.

        I feel like an total hypocrite asking about someone’s kid or how their weekend was, because a good 95% of the time I don’t care.

        And when people ask me, I figure they are only doing it because the social play nice pitch fork is in their back.

        1. Jennifer*

          If someone has Asperger’s, I wouldn’t expect many social niceties from them. The rest of these people are just plain rude.

          1. Dragoning*

            I know many, many people with autism and Asperger’s who are very warm and friendly and capable of understanding that people like saying “Hello.”

            1. Aleta*

              I’m autistic, and I’m plenty warm and friendly even when I don’t care! *Sir Patrick Stewart gif* ACTING.

              I do get the “I’m super frustrated by this meaningless thing even though by virtue of being meaningless it’s not important enough for me to get frustrated over” feeling, though. I just wish more people would how irrational it was to get worked up over! For me it’s Self Worth – I fundamentally don’t care if I have any or not. Thinking about the concept at all gives me that deep frustration in my chest. Part of it’s holdovers from when I was a kid and not caring was seen as Secret Code for insecurity, with all the very intense and exhausting pressure to Affirm That You Are Full Of Worth!!! that came with it, but a big part of it is me just being unreasonably upset that people care about things that I don’t. Like, I don’t conduct myself like an insecure person, so no one’s pressuring me to form an opinion on my self worth anymore, so any frustration is firmly My Problem and I try to remove myself from any sort of conversation going that way so it doesn’t leak out.

          2. Argh!*

            People with Aspergers can get into the habit of making social niceties part of their work rules. There all kinds of things all of us have to do at some point during the day that are because of someone else’s need. If someone knows they have Aspergers and are willing to work on that aspect of life, it’s not a huge burden. If you’re getting a cup of coffee or washing your hands in the restroom, not acknowledging someone you know is just not a big enough deal to get bent out of shape over.

            1. LQ*

              Yes! Work rules. I have a giant list of work rules. This is is behavior I need to exhibit (not how I need to feel, but what I need to do) in order to be successful at work. That list of work rules includes things like smiling at people. Saying hello. Talking about the weather. Saying good morning to the annoying coworker who literally makes a lap of the building saying good morning to people.

              Do I get a ton of pleasure out of it? No. Can I do it? Yes. Is it easier if it is here is a behavior rule:
              When person turns up the corners of the mouth and says “hello”, then respond by turning up corners of mouth and saying “hello”. End rule.
              Just do a few dozen of those and you have most situations covered.

              It’s not impossible. It’s just managing behaviors. It’s not about feelings. It’s not about doing the impossible. It’s about having a framework of rules within which you accomplish the goals you need to in order to feed yourself/be successful at work/whatever drives you.

          3. Thursday Next*

            I teach my son scripts: when someone says X, you say Y. Most of us had to memorize scripts at some point anyway (“when someone says thank you, you say you’re welcome”); it’s just easier for neurotypical people to extrapolate from their known scripts, whereas my son for example needs to memorize scripts for several contingencies.

        2. fposte*

          And the answer is 1) “Because people don’t all operate the same way, and you can never assume that what’s optimal for you is what’s optimal for everybody” and 2) because words aren’t just for literal communication. Maybe one day we’ll all have signal lights to flash instead, but in the mean time, these are the established forms for human traffic; don’t spend time worrying about the underlying meaning of a flashing green.

          1. CorruptedbyCoffee*

            As a somewhat chilly person who expends a ton of time and energy faking social niceties with mediocre success, I would LOVE signal lights! Even better if I could set them to automatically answer “I’m good, and you?”

        3. I will kill people with this cricket bat*

          His view point, as long as he gets his work done correctly and efficiently, that is all he should be required to worry about.

          I appreciate that his world is different, but honestly, as a manager, it’s actually not enough to just get your work done and ignore the rest. I will 100% be basing your overall performance whether or not you cause tension in the office and/or are considered rude and chilly to your colleagues. And I will 100% call you out on that behaviour because what you produce is more than just your work product, it’s also your contribution to the team as a whole and social niceties are part of contributing to a good environment.

            1. I will kill people with this cricket bat*

              For sure. I have one staff member now who’s thisclose to performance management because they’re rude and a jerk. Brilliant and an excellent worker, but a jerk.

            2. Lissa*

              Yeah, while it might be nice if there was an office culture that everyone would most prefer, and that it could be advertised with the job description so Mary could find a job where nobody said good morning and they just got their work done, and Thomas could find one where pleasantries happened but no discussions about personal life, and Sarah could find one where everyone knew everyone’s business … right now it’s good to have a default to go to IMO. Not foolproof but you’re unlikely to run into trouble if you use basic pleasantries and occasionally acknowledge people in the lunchroom.

          1. Argh!*

            A lot of evaluation instruments rate people on their “soft skills,” which puts some people at a disadvantage. There are probably some jobs where it might be considered a “reasonable” accommodation to leave that out of the evaluation, but that would be the exception that proves the rule.

    4. DAMitsDevon*

      Yeah, I’m pretty reserved, so I’m not often the first one to say good morning, especially if I’m already at my desk and starting on work. However, it really does not take long to say it, so even if someone doesn’t think saying good morning is necessary, I also don’t get why they seem to get so annoyed by engaging in an interaction that takes all of 5 seconds?

      I could see being annoyed if saying good morning leads to someone talking about non-work related things for like 10 minutes every day when you have to get work done, but I feel like that’s also a separate issue.

    5. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      I’m with you on this. There are lot of things that annoy me when I interact with people, but I still do it and don’t complain.

      I get it, there are days I want to hide under my desk all day and not talk to anyone. But that’s just not an option unless I found myself a job that requires zero human interaction. Unless one has that kind of job they can’t be surprised when there are other people to interact with.

    6. MeMeMe*

      Right?! Social rituals are simply part-and-parcel of living in a society. We benefit from living in a society in absolutely innumerable ways, the least we can do is contribute the smallest of social niceties (“good morning” is 3 syllables, ffs — if you can breathe and move your mouth, you can say “good morning”) to make the wheels run more smoothly.

      1. Argh!*

        …and you have to breathe anyway, so might as well pair the occasional breath with a word or two.

  10. Gertrude*

    Because the pointless social rituals allow other people to feel a connection to you, and this will help you when you need to work with those people. Being able to be pleasantly sociable and engage in a bit of chit chat, showing interest in others as people, and so forth are, for many jobs, important skills. You don’t have to be the life of the party, but some of these skills really are important.

    Like you, I am analytical and very introverted. At one of my first jobs, when I would pop into my supervisor’s office in the morning and start right in on a work question, she would respond, “Good morning, Gertrude! Did you have a good weekend? I did!” People who don’t know me from way back when think I;m friendly, warm, and personable (although kind of intense) — a lot of it is learned behavior.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      Happened to me with two separate colleagues (those are the ones i remember, probably has happened more). In both cases, I went right in to work stuff because I didn’t want to take up their time with chit chat. It didn’t occur to me that they were okay with taking a few minutes to connect on a more personal “how was your weekend” level first.

      I still don’t initiate small talk very often unless it’s 100% clear that it helps the situation, but I absolutely respond to it in kind when someone leads the way. I’m not opposed to it, just that it is learned behavior but picking up on the cues can still be pretty challenging. I wish it were more common to handle work stuff first and THEN do some small talk, I’d be really comfortable with that because (in my head) the small talk is optional but the work stuff isn’t.

    2. Susie Q*


      I am very introverted and analytical. I would skip all small talk if I could. However the realities of working in the USA require a certain degree of social niceties. Just like any other professional skill, I’ve developed my social skills to the point where people don’t realize I am an introvert. It can be annoying and I want to lament about how the extroverts get everything but this is the way the world currently works and I doubt it will changing anytime soon. So I practice my social niceties and consider it part of my job.

      1. Jennifer*

        Even if everyone in the world was an introvert, I would still be sad if people took that to mean they never had to say hello or good morning to someone again.

        1. Turtle Candle*

          I’m an introvert and I’d miss the “Hey, good morning” or “How was your weekend?” stuff too. It makes me feel like I have been recognized as a human, not a cog. (And that’s really all it means. How-are-you / Fine-thanks-and-you?” and similar phrases are idiomatic, and have been for a long time.)

        2. Lissa*

          To be honest the “introvert=I hate all small talk” is a fairly new concept, the definition of it has changed a lot. I blame memes.

      2. Frustrated 1*

        I’m an introvert and I don’t mind talking to others at work. I recharge by being alone. That’s what introvert really means. What a lot of people are describing is shyness. I’m not shy.

    3. One legged stray cat*

      Yeah. Social skills are important work skills and will effect your work in ways you wouldn’t expect.

      We had some rather pointless monthly meetings meant to pump up enthusiasm for work that brought people from different departments together. Most of my team skipped them since they seemed like such a waste of time, but I continued to go. The meetings allowed me to meet and converse with people that did not directly affect my job. I am naturally very introverted.

      A bit into it, I discovered I was having a lot easier time with my work then my coworkers. Other departments were willing to help me with my deadlines more since they knew I respected what they did, I knew alternative people to get answers from when the main people were out on vacation, I knew what hours or days of the month were easier to get answers back from people, I understood my work better with the context of what other people were doing with it, I had a heads up about future business acquisitions or slow months in the job, people were more willing to listen to my opinions of how to improve work for my office, it could go on and on. My coworkers would be having to spend days trying to figure out certain work problems before they would ask me and I could very quickly get answers from the people I built a relationship with in the meetings.

    4. Argh!*

      I wasn’t that extreme, but I had to learn the social “rules” too. … then I wound up in a chilly workplace! They do at least say “hello” — mostly.

    5. SarahTheEntwife*

      Strong agree! As an introvert and possibly-autistic person, I *love* the fact that there are rote social scripts that help people feel basically kindly toward other people they have to interact with every day. If I’m feeling overwhelmed or tired or stressed, I can just set the “good morning” script to go off whenever I see a coworker and I don’t have to worry about “real” interaction and figuring out the boundaries of what it’s appropriate to talk about at work. Sometimes this backfires and I say good morning at 3pm or accidentally tell the bus driver that I love him when getting off the bus, but usually this then serves the same social-lubricant purpose by being amusingly random.

      1. aebhel*

        This! This is also why it frustrates me when people go all ‘well he (it’s always a he) probably has autism’ when someone is rude in this particular manner. Social scripts are SCRIPTS. I can learn them. I don’t have to perform naturalistic social interaction in real time! “Good morning, how are you?”/”Good, thanks, how are you?” is SO MUCH EASIER.

  11. Pam Beesly*

    I am one of the people who is trained to think they’re never supposed to complain about a co-worker to their manager. Like the caller, I work with a slacker (or two). I’m pretty sure my manager is aware of it; she’s definitely aware of the issues this one co-worker has caused in other departments when she doesn’t do her job. There is hardly ever any turn-over in my department and people are never fired; they either retire or have to leave for medical reasons. Is there a point in complaining to my manager when she already knows the co-worker isn’t great at her job? I’ve been keeping my head down and focusing on my work, even though it’s getting more and more stressful to correct this co-worker’s mistakes. Any suggestions?

    1. WellRed*

      It’s been said time and again, focus on the impact the slacker has on your work and present it to your manager that way. “I have to spend about 2.5 hours a day correcting Ophelia’s funeral dirges, which means I don’t have time to practice my own. How would you like to handle that? (Or prioritize or whatever).” Another option: can you stop correcting her mistakes? I realize this depends on the nature of your jobs and how they interact.

      1. She's One Crazy Diamond*

        This. I had a problem coworker. Lots of people complained about her personality and management brushed them off. One day, I went in for a 1:1, and mentioned that “nothing against Jane, but when she does X and Y, it creates more work for me than I can do. How should I proceed?” and she was let go a month later.

    2. Argh!*

      Can you suggest swapping some duties? If there’s one thing in particular that you have to fix a lot, perhaps you can just take it over in exchange for something that your coworker can get right on the first try.

  12. Gertrude*

    Oops. Additionally, just because you do not work with someone now does not mean you won’t work with them in the future, or that they don’t know someone who works some place you want to work (new job or promotion, for instance). You just don;t know who people know, and so it is to your advantage to engage in social rituals — they aren’t in fact pointless. People do talk about others — how do you want to be seen?

    What you probably want to aim for is, “Oh, OP is great at his job — kind of reserved, but a good guy.” As opposed to, “Oh, OP is great at his job, but he seems really cold…kind of off-putting!”

    1. jay*

      Came here to say the same. You can be chilly all you want, but don’t expect people to be as likely to recommend you for jobs or sing your praises. Not to mention that even people who are shite at their jobs will have a bit more leeway on their performance if they are personable and act like they give a crap about the people they spend 40+ hours a week with.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Right, that’s what I talk about in the answer: you can be this way, but you will miss out on a ton of professional benefits if you are. So you’ve just got to be clear on the trade-off’s you’re making, which include everything from job recommendations to important insider info that would help you at work.

        1. Snark*

          If I had been chilly and distant with my clients at my last job, I sincerely doubt they’d have given enough of a crap about my impending layoff to roll out the full court press to convince my current bosses to hire me here and become one of their peers. I also would not be able to count on help doing archaeological surveys and map figures on demand. This is not a hypothetical, “perhaps in the distant future, your good karma will result in your being reincarnated in an auspicious form” kind of consideration, it could save one’s bacon next week.

          1. fposte*

            There was a separated-at-birth twin study done years ago on two women the researcher dubbed the “Giggle Twins,” because they laughed so readily at everything (and generally had sunny demeanors). This pointed to a genetic basis for this kind of temperament, and the researcher noted that while other characteristics may have a clearer evolutionary advantage, there’s an underappreciated one to this kind of personality–other people really want to keep people like that around, so they get additional protection and caring from the group.

            I’m not going to be a Giggle Twin any time soon, bu I thought that was an interesting way of pinning down to its most basic what advantage being companionable can bring.

    2. Parenthetically*

      Your last paragraph is great. “Kind of reserved but a good guy” is absolutely fine as a goal. You don’t have to go full Kennedy, just take a few steps toward not internally reviling your coworkers for participating in that stupid smalltalk BS.

    3. Jack Be Nimble*

      Right, you can be reserved, but you don’t want to come across as contemptuous. Some of my favorite coworkers are the quiet ones who don’t spend much time chit-chatting. All of my least favorite coworkers are the ones who treat others with contempt.

    4. Parcae*

      Yes, this. Social interaction didn’t come naturally to me, but I had to learn it to function at work (and, honestly, to maintain friendships.) My life has gotten much, much better since I mastered the basic social rituals! People respond better to my requests, recommend me for projects, and bring me food I like. I’m reserved, not misanthropic, so I get a lot of value out of making people like me. But even if you don’t care about being liked, it’ll help your career if you see basic human interaction as one of your job duties.

  13. Janie*

    When you are kind and friendly with people, they will go above and beyond to help you when you need it. Should it be that way? Maybe not, maybe we should all do our jobs to the best of our abilities no matter what. But we don’t live in the world as it SHOULD be, we live in the world as it IS, and in the world as it is a little bit of warmth at work tends to make the work easier.

    1. Clisby Williams*

      Maybe, but in my experience, “when you have shown you will help other people, they will go above and beyond to help you.” Being kind and friendly are nice, but not necessarily helpful at all.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I want to urge you to listen to the answer on the show, because I talk about very real benefits that you will miss out on that you might not be factoring in.

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        I disagree; I think they absolutely are helpful. For example, in my first job out of college I was the assistant receptionist, the absolute most junior person in the building and not in a position to be particularly helpful to anyone beyond completing the very basic tasks fundamental to my role. I didn’t have any special skills or knowledge beyond what I needed to do my extremely low-ranking job; nobody in that office was coming to me for help or input on anything beyond maybe “we need more milk” or “what time is the board room free?”. I had pretty much nothing to offer these people, professionally speaking.

        However, I was always friendly and polite and would chat to people if they wanted to chat and engage in various social niceties like asking about their day or their weekend of whatever, and as a result ended up on really good, friendly terms with some of the most senior people in the building. I have no doubt whatsoever that it’s because of that that I ended up having my contract extended and offered more opportunities to do different types of work and getting a good reference when I left – it definitely wasn’t my work, because I was kind of a shitty receptionist.

        Basically, “when you have shown you will help other people, they will go above and beyond to help you” kind of assumes that you are already in the advantageous position of being able to offer valuable help in a professional context. When you’re just starting out, sometimes you don’t have that and being kind and friendly is what you have to work with.

      3. doreen*

        Here’s the thing, though – if you’re chilly you may never get the opportunity to show that you will help other people. If I need help, I’m not going to ask the person who completely ignores children that their coworkers bring to the office, who never says “hello” first and who seems to find returning my greeting to be a burden. I simply won’t feel comfortable asking them for help – and I’m probably going to be annoyed if they ask me for help or a favor. I’ll do my job, but if someone can’t say “good morning” to me, that’s all they get. If policy allows me five days to act on their request, I’m not going to act on it immediately just because they ask.

  14. Snark*

    There are a number of words for people who generally find that social interaction is a net drain on their energy level and need time to recharge after a lot of social interaction. The most common of those words is “extrovert.” “Chilly” can also be a word for those people, but in my experience not actually that often.

    There are several words for people who choose to regard social pleasantries as exhaustingly pointless tasks to be avoided, who strenuously avoid discussions that are not strictly necessary, who decline to greet people, and who view routine workplace interactions as “pointless BS.” Introvert can be one of them. So could “chilly.” I think more common might be “asshole.”

    Guest, be careful you’re not so effortfully minding your “efficiency” and “energy” by avoiding being pleasant or minimally social that people start using “asshole.”

    1. Aurion*

      Amen. Warmth exists on a different axis than competence and I’m not sure why some commentators (and the original guest) are conflating the two. It’s not a binary between “warm and incompetent” and “cool/terse but competent”; one can be both warm and competent! Or terse and incompetent!

      My office demeanor is “friendly with a touch of wiseass” so it’s not like social pleasantries necessitates cooing after kids (I don’t) or become the office mom (definitely not), but being polite, saying hello and thank you, and basic social pleasantries and congeniality has netted me a lot of professional benefits even when I’m not personally interested in what they did this past weekend. Social niceties are not pointless. Treating other people like people and not like robots really shouldn’t be optional–and I’m an task-focused introvert who finds socializing exhausting.

      Some things just have to be done. I hate cleaning the bathroom but that doesn’t mean the bathroom will clean itself, y’know?

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Yes, this is what I was trying to figure out how to say but you nailed it. I’m not chatty with general coworkers and rarely initiate small talk, but I am approachable and always willing to be helpful. I have a strong reputation of being easy to work with and highly competent, but no one in their right mind would nominate me to run the Morale Boosters club or any social-adjacent activity. (FWIW I’m in the ambivert category.)

        I guess I don’t see social niceties as a burden, just an obligation and honestly, a skill. It’s one thing to say it’s a skill you don’t have or have trouble developing. It’s another to say you don’t value the skill and resent the obligation. The latter comes across in body language pretty clearly (the entire point of the “cut direct” or “cold shoulder”).

        1. Aurion*

          At work I have a senior person in the same department (if I were a teapot analyst, he’s a senior teapot analyst). Our workloads are siloed and we rarely interact. He is polite but very reserved/distant. We are both good at our jobs, but how colleagues interact with us is markedly different.

          Soft skills matter. Maybe those who opt out of all social obligations and pleasantries are fine with the cost of that, and that’s their choice to make. But no one should think they don’t matter, because they do.

        2. Snark*

          Same here. It’s a skill. You learn it. You can even get rather good at doing it without it being an actual drain. It’s a coping mechanism, like how I cope with anxiety or irritability or any of the other occasionally situationally counterproductive facets of my personality.

        3. Perse's Mom*

          “…no one in their right mind would nominate me to run the Morale Boosters club or any social-adjacent activity.”

          This is what I would have thought but I’ve been nominated twice now at work to be a mentor for new hires and encouraged to move into a leadership role. I am decidedly an introvert who simply knows how to put on a professional helpful work-face.

      2. Lissa*

        I blame the media! Kinda joking but not entirely – the trope of the extremely competent but rude dude is everywhere, and it’s often very much shown as a positive thing – other people just have to learn to handle him because he’s so smart! In reality this person makes others feel shitty about themselves and while he might get away with a lot in certain industries it’s still not an overall plus. Also, there’s no reason someone can’t be pleasant and competent or an incompetent jerk!

    2. gecko*

      Right. Also, a rare non-political use for a political meme, but I keep thinking of the HuffPo headline “I Don’t Know How To Explain To You That You Should Care About Other People”. You know “why should I do low-effort things that make other people feel a baseline of valued and good?”

      It’s an interesting discussion to have legitimately! It’s just mystifying!

      1. Spiky*

        I guess I just don’t see saying “Hello” to my coworker as showing I care about them. It’s just a ritual. Showing that I care about my coworkers is bringing in doughnuts or helping them out of a jam or posting a funny meme on Slack that I know will make them laugh.

        1. Spiky*

          To add to that – having a legitimate conversation is also a way to show I care. You posted in Slack that you got a new puppy? If I run into you in the kitchen tomorrow, I will probably ask you how everything is going with the new puppy. But just saying a low-energy “Good morning” and getting a low-energy “Good morning” in return is meaningless and that’s why I find it tiring and dumb to initiate.

          1. gecko*

            Just a ritual” simply doesn’t compute for me! Language & culture has purpose. Saying hello or good morning is an acknowledgment, it’s an opening to a conversation if one of the parties wants it, and its absence is a deviation from a norm. Acknowledging someone is one of many tiny social actions you can take to make a tiny social connection that builds into a sense of community. The absence of a ritual is communication in and of itself which is why we call failing to say “please” rude. Let’s say “saying hello” may not show your coworkers you care very much, but not saying hello may really show your coworkers that you don’t care.

            It’s lovely that you have warm connections with some of the people you see day to day.

          2. Celaena Sardothien*

            I totally agree with you, Spiky. Unfortunately, most people around here don’t seem to get it. Yes, saying “good morning” or “hello” is dumb, dull, and pointless.

            And the thing about “acknowledgment” is total BS to me. Like…I don’t need to be acknowledged by other people. I know I’m a person and I exist.

            Another thing is I don’t want to form a connection with every single person I see. If I do, my energy reserves would be depleted before lunch. So, I purposely try to avoid that so I can stay sane.

            I don’t think these people quite understand how introverts work. No, they are not just “rude.” Their nervous system is wired differently, and they have to operate differently for their own health. There are a million social niceties and customs that you could point out, and trying to follow them does nothing but drive introverts into meltdown mode. It’s pure torture.

            And I’m going to carry on not saying hello and be just fine.

            1. Aurion*

              Many of us advocating for social pleasantries are card-carrying introverts and have been so all our lives. I am one myself. And I still don’t think introverts get an opt-out for some very basic human interaction.

              1. Dragoning*

                Agreed. Just because something is effort doesn’t mean I get to avoid it and hurt other people in the process. And consider–just because it wouldn’t hurt your feelings doesn’t mean it wouldn’t hurt someone else, which is what this whole thing is about.

                “I have to operate differently for my own health” in the case of introvert/extrovert divisions is…wildly out of proportion.

            2. Parenthetically*


              The AAM readership skews strongly towards introverts. I’m willing to wager that the majority of people saying, “Hey, it’s rude to ignore colleagues, everyone can tell when you’re inwardly rolling your eyes at them, and it benefits you to develop skill in social niceties” ARE THEMSELVES introverts.

              1. Snark*

                I’m an introvert who’s hearing impaired! Not only does it drain me, but it’s an additional neurological effort to figure out what the hell they’re saying from behind me and down the hall – and I still argue in favor of cultivating the abiltiy to do social niceties in a way that doesn’t communicate exasperation or naked contempt.

            3. Snark*

              I am an introvert, a strong one, and most of what you just posted frankly strikes me as overthinking and overjustification. You are not “forming a connection” by saying hello or adhering to – not a million – a very few basic social niceties and customs. Doing so should not send even a strong introvert into meltdown mode. And while there are different patterns of brain activity at work, this is a personality tendency, not an iron law graven into the very fabric of your soul.

              I feel like “Quiet” and a lot of internet articles and so on have push a very hardcore, inflexible definition of introversion, and encouraged a self-image of introverts as tender, quiet souls with a strictly rationed allowance of daily energy, beleaguered by hordes of chatterbox introverts at every turn determined to drain that energy away. The most of riculous of them compared it to sexual orientation or a disability. And I keep seeing introverts, here and elsewhere, talking about introversion that way to double down on behaviors that are at best kind of out of step and at worst rude and borderline misanthropic.

              Fellow introverts: I am here to tell you that your tendency to be drained by social interaction rather than be recharged by it does not excuse you from having conversations with your boss, interacting in a collegial and friendly fashion with your coworkers and clients, acting in a fashion that doesn’t put you at odds with your office culture, or the obligation to be polite to extroverts even if you think they’re chattering heads.

              1. Parenthetically*

                “Quiet” made me want to pull my hair out. I am an introvert. I enjoy small talk. I am NOT quiet. I even like chatting with strangers. I am not better than extroverts!

                1. Perse's Mom*

                  I am a very strong introvert and I too can strike up a conversation with the lady behind me at the grocery store check-out! Or the coworker I’ve never officially met who’s also clearly disappointed in the vending machine selection. Or the mailman.

                  Introversion =/= No Human Contact Ever.
                  Introversion =/= A Built-In Excuse To Be Rude.

              2. Lissa*

                Yeah, a lot of people really latched onto the Introvert thing and wield it in some strange ones, including a sense of superiority and not believing that anyone who doesn’t feel the same way as them about everything of course has to be one of them terrible extrovert people ;) But really, it wouldn’t be OK for someone to ask intrusive questions about their coworker’s love lives, talk too loudly, interrupt etc. and then shrug it off with “While I’m an extrovert so…” I know people really love categorizing themselves and the internet has made it even moreso, but these labels are just descriptors of behaviour, not immutable binary characteristics like height. When I was young I’d have absolutely been a super introvert – in my late teens, early 20s I went hard in the extroverted direction, and now I’m pretty solidly in the middle.

                Also for all the introverts are rare and delicate memes/articles, considering how common it is for people to describe themselves as someone who “everyone would see as extroverted but really a huge introvert” I’m kinda wondering if anyone actually self-identifies as an extrovert! Maybe they just aren’t online…

            4. EventPlannerGal*

              Many, many people commenting here who are taking the opposite position to you have said they identify as introverts. The belief that rituals such as saying “good morning” are “pure torture”, will drive you into “meltdown mode”, “dumb, dull and pointless”, “total BS” etcetera is not a universal introvert thing – that’s your experience, and it’s a very extreme one at that.

            5. PB*

              I’m as introverted as they come, and still say “good morning.” As an introvert, I recharge with time alone, and social contact drains me. Saying “hello” isn’t social contact. It doesn’t take anything from me to do so. It builds up social good will. People don’t want to work with you if you ignore them. I can’t quite believe you can not say hello to people and be “just fine.”

              1. Old Biddy*

                Me too! If I can follow a script or reply with minimal effort, it’s no big deal. If it’s a clerk doing their job, it’s no big deal. If it’s someone chit chatting about the weather for a few minutes, NBD. etc etc.
                If it’s someone deciding to give me the third degree about what I’ve been up to in the three days since I saw them last, when I am hangry and they are ignoring the fact that I am trying to shut them down by saying ‘fine’, ‘the usual’ etc, that’s when it starts to get annoying. Fortunately I’ve only met a few people like this in my life, and I don’t have to work with any of them.

            6. I will kill people with this cricket bat*

              And I’m going to carry on not saying hello and be just fine.
              Maybe… maybe not. As i noted on another post, I’m thisclose to putting a strong worker on a performance management agreement because of their chilly, rude, lack of social niceties attitude (people have complained – and while the performance management goes beyond saying hello into their “directness” it does factor in). When I do annual performance reviews of my staff their work product is only part of the evaluation. How you contribute to the team and overall environment matter and you will be judge on it. And I say this as an introvert.

              On another note, I find it really offensive to say that introvert means rude. It 100% does not and leads to a lot of really harmful stereotypes about introversion that can make it legitimately hard to function in our world.

              1. PB*

                I find it really offensive to say that introvert means rude. It 100% does not and leads to a lot of really harmful stereotypes about introversion that can make it legitimately hard to function in our world.

                Agreed. I’m very introverted, and crave time alone, but this surprises most people, as I’m warm and polite. I’ve been described as a “people person” by people who know me well. Being introverted is not an excuse for being rude.

                1. Parenthetically*

                  Yep, lots of people are surprised to find out I’m an introvert because I’m not shy or quiet. But introversion literally means one thing and that’s needing alone time to recharge. It has nothing to do with the ridiculous characteristics people are ascribing to introversion these days.

                2. Frustrated 1*

                  It sure isn’t. Don’t blame your unpleasantness and being a dick on introversion. Some of us introverts are not like that at all.

            7. bonkerballs*

              You may be just fine, but people will think you’re rude. I mean, you’re being rude right now. People are telling you something they find important and you’re dismissing it as bullshit – literally calling it bullshit.

              And add me as one more introvert saying there’s nothing that connects being introverted to being rude. All introversion means is you spend energy in social situations rather than gain it. I also spend energy when I work, when I exercise, when I sing, when I cook, when I create something. Doesn’t mean I’m going to half ass any of those things.

              1. aebhel*

                Yeah. “This is important to me.”/”Well, actually, it’s useless bullshit.” is the literal DEFINITION OF RUDENESS.

                1. Celaena Sardothien*

                  If y’all want to continue on with social niceties and acting the way other people expect you to, than that’s fine. Do whatever feels right to you.

                  I act the way I want to act. Maybe that’s partially introversion, but it’s probably mostly just me. Some people may call me rude or cold or whatever, it doesn’t matter. I’m not here to be a people pleaser.

                  And some of you have said it may affect me professionally. It doesn’t. There are a few chatterboxes here, but they’re the minority. Most people are cool and reserved. We understand that we’re here to do work, not waste 30 minutes chatting about something we don’t care about anyway. Plus, all my performance reviews have been great.

                  And yes, I typically say good morning or some other greeting to people. I don’t object to that. What I do object is other people telling me I have to do this or say that to be considered an acceptable member of society. I simply don’t care.

                  And also, for those saying I must be alone all the time, no. I’m married and I have friends. My husband is like me and does not conform because someone orders him to. Either people get me or they don’t. And if they don’t, it’s fine with me. It doesn’t hurt my feelings. (What’s all this about hurt feelings anyway? Do you really get “hurt” when a stranger does not say hello to you? If so, that’s not a stranger problem, that’s an insecurity problem).

                2. aebhel*

                  Well, I mean, you get to be rude to people you don’t care about if that’s how you want to act, but you don’t get to claim that you’re not actually being rude because that’s ‘just how you are’ and everyone else is just… idk, a mindless conformist for observing minimal social niceties?

                  I’m in a field rife with introverts and nearly everyone I work with is extremely reserved and unsocial. None of them speak to other people the way you have in this thread.

                3. Celaena Sardothien*

                  And your point?

                  Like I said, if people think I’m rude, that’s fine.

                  Anyone who wants to keep going on about how “this is expected” or it’s a “convention” or “social rules,” then yeah, you’re all following a bunch of arbitrary, pointless rules because someone else said you were supposed to. You can argue that it’s for this good reason or that good reason, but so what. Doesn’t change the facts.

                4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Celaena Sardothien, no one here is telling you that you can’t do that. The point is that there can be serious professional repercussions, like I talked about on the show. If you’re fine with that, then so be it and carry on. But this is a blog about work and so of course people will focus on what the consequences will often be at work.

            8. Jennifer*

              I’m an introvert. I understand how introversion works just fine. Introversion is no excuse for rudeness. I’m tired of it being used in that way.

            9. Frustrated 1*

              You sound like a gem. I’m an introvert and social niceties are find. You are shy and anti-social. I hope you never need anybody. I wish people would stop with this wrong definition of introvert.

          3. biobotb*

            Huh. I would find it really odd if someone who couldn’t be arsed to say good morning to me suddenly started in about my puppy. I’d feel like it was insincere and they were buttering me up for something. Can’t say hi but now you’re pretending to care about me? Hmm…

          4. Jasnah*

            I’m genuinely baffled by this–are you objecting to the idea of social niceties, or to “Good morning” itself?

            Greetings are just icebreakers so that you can start a legitimate conversation.
            Coworker A: “Good morning”
            Spiky: “Good morning, saw you got a new puppy?”
            Or are you picturing that they greet you and you respond with stony silence? Or that you jump right in with “I heard you got a puppy” (I guess you could but that’s a little abrupt)? Or that neither of you speak at all until 3pm?

            What if while you are talking, another coworker walks in? Do you just ignore them because you have nothing of real meaning to say to them? Or do you greet them, thereby inviting them to your conversation and spreading goodwill to your coworkers?

            I guess I’m just confused why you’re rejecting low-effort, basic social niceties that even children and non-native speakers can use, in favor of high-effort social niceties? You don’t need to pick one and either way you’re just opening bridges to interaction so why shut one down?

            1. Spiky*

              I guess I’m just not much a “greeter”. I do tend to just launch into conversations if I have something to say. I might preface it with, “Hey, Coworker A…” but that would be it. I also wouldn’t “greet” a third person walking into that conversation, but I wouldn’t ignore them if they joined it.

        2. Snark*

          And if you are bringing in donuts or posting a funny meme, that’s an acceptable substitute! It’s about demonstrating some degree of ongoing personal connection in a way that’s at least not obviously transactional or resentful.

        3. Asenath*

          But rituals have meaning and purpose! That’s practically the definition of a ritual. Saying “Hello” or “Good Morning” at the very least means that you acknowledge the existence of the other person, and, depending on your work sub-culture, may be like a sign saying “I’m part of your group and you’re part of mine”.

          I’m speaking as someone who was shy, and in spite of having been taught as a child the usual social niceties, really hated to be the one to speak up and say “Hello”, particularly to someone I didn’t know, or didn’t know well. But I learned that carrying out these little courtesies does seem to make life go more smoothly, and I think it’s because they signal that I care about the other person – not by giving them doughnuts, but by extending to them a recognition that they’re human and I care about them enough to be polite to them.

        4. EventPlannerGal*

          Right, but the things is that those things are both more demanding than simply saying “good morning” and also presume a pre-existing level of closeness with that group of people – you already know what things they will find funny or the snacks that they like or what help they’ll need. Those are people who you already have an existing relationship with.

          One of the things about rituals like “good morning” or “how are you” is that they help you to maintain a friendly relationship with people who you *aren’t* close with, and that can be important at work – you never know who you might end up working with or needing something from. I can’t bring in snacks for everybody in the building or know everyone’s sense of humour, but I can at least say hi and be friendly! And hopefully if I do end up needing help from someone in a completely different team, at least they’ll have some kind of positive impression of me rather than just thinking “oh, it’s that person who always ignores me in the lift”.

          1. Spiky*

            Yeah, I guess that’s where working in a smaller office comes into play. I do kind of know everyone’s sense of humor, and I can bring in enough goodies that everyone gets something.

            1. EventPlannerGal*

              Right, exactly! So in your case, small stuff like “good morning” probably isn’t as important for maintaining those relationships because you’re already reasonably close. I work in an office of around 80 people (which isn’t even that big) and while I know everybody’s name and job, there’s at least 15-20 of those people that I really do not know much more than that about. For them, “good morning” is probably the closest interaction they’ve ever had with me.

    3. Arya Snark*

      I’m an introvert who generally does not want to make friends at work. That said, I can be pleasant enough, participate in a brief acknowledgement of the presence of offspring even though I don’t like kids so much, say good morning, etc. I did work with a a guy who sounds similar to LW1 – he (I don’t even remember his name 5 years out) never spoke to anyone, never even bothered to reply to one invite for a non-required meeting/happy hour/holiday party (there were many in our small BU) and never said much to anyone. I was even standing right next to him in line at a restaurant once and he seemingly refused to acknowledge my presence or fake a smile let alone utter a weak “Hello co-worker, fancy seeing you here!”

      Yeah, that guy was an asshole. Don’t be an asshole.

  15. Amber Rose*

    Warmth is more than just small talk. It’s your tone of voice and body language. You can take whole classes on this kind of thing. There’s a way of broadcasting warmth and welcome without even saying much, if anything. So, so much of human communication is non-verbal. I have troubles with my throat, so sometimes all I can manage on short notice is a smile and a wave, but that’s enough.

  16. jay*

    If I have worked with someone considered chilly, and they apply for a job where I happen to be asked my thoughts on the person – I will 9 times out of 10 not recommend them at all, unless it’s a highly technical back office or remote role. Almost no one wants to hire someone who can’t build relationships with those around them, and part of building relationships is camaraderie and giving a crap about other people, that includes small talk, pleasantries, and a general attitude of wanting to be a part of a team. You might not like it, but don’t expect that people will sing your praises without it.

    1. WellRed*

      Yes, it makes for a very long day to sit next to someone who thinks even a “good morning” is pointless. Of course, someone that never stops blathering on about things is equally tiresome.

      1. manondessources*

        Exactly- most full time employees spend 7-9 hours per day with their coworkers. It’s not unreasonable to want to build cordial relationships with people you spend so much time with and to expect a degree of warmth others.

  17. Parenthetically*

    Social niceties are like anything else, in that they are, for many people, a skill that requires practice to develop. They’re also like anything else, in that people who aren’t naturally great at them can give into the temptation to think they are stupid.

    I suck at budgeting. That doesn’t mean I try to get out of it by saying it’s stupid and pointless and irritating, because it’s only going to hurt ME if I don’t get better at it.

    1. Anonym*

      Ooh, this is wise. I think we can all find things we dislike that we find excuses to dismiss or devalue.

    2. Snark*

      Weekly activity reports. Moving my little magnet to “In” on the in-out board in the morning. Swiping the purchase card for the four invoices a certain vendor sends me every. goddamn. month. And yet, I choose not to grind my teeth about those tasks.

    3. XoX*

      They’re also like anything else in that those who enjoy them over-estimate their value and insist that everyone has to do them.

  18. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    It’s social lubricant to those who require friction to be kept to a minimum.

    It’s often why accounting clashes with the other departments. It’s also why I’m not suited for large accounting setups. I’m all about procedures and math but the chill factor flips my switch to “Okay, ef you too” and you suddenly aren’t getting any favors because why should I be bothered with you unless it’s absolutely necessary.

  19. Nameless wonder*

    Ah, the task-focused and the relationship-focused people still don’t get each other then.

    1. fposte*

      Some of them don’t. I’m a task-focused person, as are quite a few of my colleagues, and we work just fine with most relationship-oriented people.

      1. Aurion*

        Yeah, I think most of the people can meet in the middle, it’s not two extremes where ne’er the twain shall meet.

        1. NW Mossy*

          I think it’s also possible to toggle back and forth, too! Earlier in my career I was much more task-oriented because the nature of the individual contributor work I did lent itself to that. Now that I’ve been managing people for a few years, relationships are much more on the front burner. I’m not sure ambivert is quite the right term, but it’s fairly near.

    2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      No, you can be a task person and still not be cold to fellow humans. Just like relationship people still manage to get stuff done.

      Maybe if we stopped hiding behind labels we’d all be a lot better off.

    3. TL -*

      As someone who is pretty good at building relationships at work, it’s surprising how often I’ve managed to get a task-focused person to bump up my project/go the extra mile when I ask, because I’ve put in the effort to have pleasant interactions with them. It helps that I’m pretty goal driven and do good work, but you’d be surprised on how wide a range of people that extra bit of pleasantness really makes a difference for.

    4. Nameless Wondee*

      I think those of you who replied to this comment are fine, but most of the comments when I posted this seemed to be people not understanding each other. I’m relationship focused and struggle with task focused people sometimes but I try and remember it’s not personal and use it as a reminder that Sometimes I’m Too Relationship Focused.

  20. RussianInTexas*

    Would I prefer never see/hear colleagues children and not know anything about their lives? Yes. Absolutely. I just simply don’t care. I have zero interest in their kids, family life, what they saw on TV last night, whatever. I had couple people I got close to at my last job (I was there for 15 years), and we are still meeting for lunch every other week. This job? Meh. It does help there is no happy hours culture or social events here, the turn over is high, and social expectations are low.
    I greet people though, because otherwise you are “weird”. Also, I am polite. And I can feint interest if necessary, especially if the higher-ups are involved.
    I’ve noticed people don’t actually care if you are “really” interested in them as long as you are reasonably polite.

    1. RussianInTexas*

      Oh, and I can absolutely do this with my customers, as I am in a customer support role now. Chipper, polite, happy. Although I hate them all, LOL.

    2. Sparkly Librarian*

      Yes. I hate the good morning/did you have a nice weekend rituals. I do them anyway. And I am consistently recognized for outstanding customer service. But the small talk is performative.

    3. Vector*

      Yup. I’ve got REALLY good at faking this stuff. I do not give the tiniest of shi*ts about these people and would not bother to acknowledge their existence if I didn’t have to, but since I do, they’ll never know. I can smile and say good morning and ask about their kids, and they’ll never know what I’m really thinking. I won a godd*amm AWARD for being warm and kind at work! (It was HILARIOUS!)

      If the boss wants to pay me to pretend to like people instead of doing the work, that’s their problem. I treat it like a work task: Say good morning to three people? Check. Ask someone how their (pet/family member/sports team) is doing? Check. etc.

  21. Scribbles*

    I’m a shy introvert but do my best to be polite in my interactions at work (and after I interact with someone more than a couple times/days then I find it easier to be warm and friendly and chatty with them).

    Whenever I start new jobs there’s always a few people I don’t interact with much that make a point to tell me I “need to talk more!” or that I’m “too quiet!” whenever they see me. How should I respond to that? It seems like they’re accusing me of or scolding me for being chilly and unfriendly. I don’t want to be seen as chilly or unfriendly, but I also don’t feel comfortable going out of my way to visit people I don’t need to interact with just for the sake of making small talk when I have work to do (and they they presumably have work too).

    1. Parenthetically*

      I think you can have a few canned responses. “Oh, I’m just not much of a talker…” “Yep, I’m pretty quiet generally…” “I speak up when I need to…” “Don’t worry, you’ll hear from me when it’s important…” with segues into work related topic. If it makes you feel better, I have found most of those kinds of remarks come from a place of kindness — people value what you have to say when they hear it, and want to hear more, or they mistake your shyness for insecurity and want you to be more vocal about what you’re good at. Recasting it in that light can help with coming up with a response in the moment. You could even say, “That’s very kind! I’m not much of a talker but you’ll hear from me about Spout Report stuff starting next month for sure!”

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Smile slightly at them and say you’ll be sure to speak up when you’ve got something to say!

      This is different because some people are gross about their demands…they’re probably the same people who say “you need to smile more!” and other nonsense.

      I’m quiet by nature because I’m observing my kingdom. Like a cat. I’ll tell you when I want attention, you don’t make my rules!!

    3. Amber Rose*

      I’ve been getting that my whole life. It’s exhausting, because being quiet is not the same as being chilly. I’ve learned how to make small talk, but as you say, just going off during work hours to chat with someone is awkward.

      I think as long as you don’t come across as timid/quiet when you do talk, make an effort to smile at people and look into how to project confidence through body language, that kind of thing will die off eventually. It more or less works for me.

    4. Mujj*

      I used to get the “you’re so quiet!” comments all the time. I’ve become less shy over the years (thought still solidly an introvert), so I don’t get them as much at work. I think people who are very extroverted or loud can feel uncomfortable around quiet people and that’s why the point it out. It only serves to make me more uncomfortable and even quieter, which in turn seems to egg them on. I had one coworker who was very loud and emotional in the office and she was clearly agitated by my withdrawal from her energy. Obviously not all extroverts are like this… It’s a pretty specific personality type who acts this way.

      I’m not “chilly” in the office, but I do find the expectation that we socialize outside of work at happy hours completely exhausting. I guess I rebel against forced fun in general.

      1. gecko*

        I think it’s a valuable social skill to notice when someone isn’t included and then draw that person into the conversation or interaction. It’s unfortunately just a leveled-up social skill, that some don’t have, to notice when someone doesn’t actually want to join in.

        1. fposte*

          Though looking for outliers and drawing them in is actually a really good tactic for people who are feeling uncomfortable themselves, too. Giving yourself a job and some agency can make you feel a lot more in control.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          The key is noticing and then drawing them in without simply saying “well well well aren’t you quiet? Speak more!”

          It’s a matter of including them. I’ve gotten much better at starting conversations but younger me needed someone to initiate. I’ll happily speak with you if you drop by my office and say “Any weekend plans in the mix for you?” but I’m not usually going to pipe up with “my weekend plans, let me tell you about them!!!”.

          I find people just simply stink at drawing people into conversions, so the blurt out the annoying comments about how quiet you are.

          My favorite are the ones who try to get you to give them permission to blabber on about themselves instead.

          If I ask how your day is or weekend plans, I care enough to hear anything you want to share. Otherwise I don’t ask. Unlike the days a person asks me how I am…so they can use it as a launching pad for “well I’m miserable and need to vent!” or “I’m so excited let me tell you all about my life!”.

          Communication and different personalities navigating through the world with their own style is such a maze needless to say.

    5. Dragoning*

      As long as they’re smiling/teasing/joking when they say it and don’t seem angry with you, I wouldn’t worry. They’re basically just saying they’d like to socialize more with you, which is not a bad thing from coworkers.

  22. Recovering Adjunct*

    Wow, if I hadn’t heard the LW’s voice in question one, I would have assumed it was one of my coworkers. The gentleman I work with would describe himself as “efficient”, “direct” and will quickly tell anyone who tries to engage with him on anything that isn’t 100% directly related to his work that he’s an introvert who just doesn’t do “small talk”.

    I’m an introvert and 90% of the people in our office would probably classify themselves as introverts. And 90% of the people in our office cannot stand working with this guy because he’s rude. Allison hit the nail on the head when she described how the LW will be hurting himself if he keeps this behavior up. At this point, the gentleman in my office is left alone as much as possible and when he has needs something, he is super “direct” (aka rude) about what he needs and he makes a lot of mistakes that he can’t even know are mistakes because he doesn’t see the point of connecting with his coworkers in a meaningful way beyond his work.

    Just this morning, he called me out in a company-wide Slack channel about a mistake I made… only it wasn’t me, it was a coworker with the same first name and she didn’t make a mistake, the process for what he needed changed in the new year.

    Because he tunes out automatically from people he believes are wasting his time, he misses out on information and he misses out on what people outside of his little bubble do, making it so he makes himself look foolish and jerky all the time. He doesn’t get put on special projects or invited to meet key clients and he won’t advance in the company because he’s exhausting to work with. He’s missing essential soft skills and makes it clear to everyone around that he will not work on them because he thinks they are unnecessary.

    LW, I hope you start working on these soft skills because there are plenty of people in the working world who are introverted, efficient and direct but use soft skills to make themselves even more efficient and who maintaining positive relationships with coworkers isn’t altruism or time wasting but professionalism.

    1. Fuddy Dudd*

      Yeah, that’s a really good way of articulating it. He’s isolating himself into what he deems to be his necessary “bubble”. The problem with someone that does this is not only are they usually wrong at determining all of what’s “necessary” for themselves, but you just miss out on little helpful things that will really go a long way.

      Soft skills are vitally important to have in life. You don’t need to be extremely outgoing, bubbly, extroverted, etc to have them. And being “direct” also is not directly correlated with competence. It’s so odd to me that some people see it that way.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      When he uses “in an introvert, don’t speak to meeeeee!”, I’m triggered to respond with “you keep using that word but I don’t think you know what it even means.”

      I’m introverted AF. I’m exhausted after being with my best friend or my parents, whom I love and adore, we never even argue. I’ll recharge at home, I don’t need to be left in silence for 24hrs a day ffs!!!

  23. velocisarah*

    Case study on chilly-ness (apologies – can’t listen to the podcast yet!): I worked in the exact same position as a colleague, started around the same time, and we both had Communications roles in a large organization. I didn’t see him work with his clients in the beginning, but he was constantly coming up against road blocks and frustrated with the people he worked with, while I found people very accommodating once I got to know them. At first I thought he was just stuck with bad files, but *every* file was a mountain for him, and while my work could be tough, the people involved were always team players.

    Other issues of that office aside, he was so non-friendly that he was taken as brusque and rude by clients and senior management, and in our industry that matters a lot, given we can be the face of the organization. Meanwhile I was meeting with clients, chatting before and after, and generally saying hello to them, smiling when they came by, making small talk about their side business or pets or what have you, instead of avoiding them or putting headphones in when they came by, as he was want to do.

    He just gave off a distant, too cool vibe, like any time you approached him you were wasting his time. In the end of our 1 year contracts, our manager wanted to keep me and fire him because between two equally skilled people (being 100% honest, he could produce more work than I could!), he wanted to keep the person he could also talk to and feel comfortable around, and trust to have do the same to others.

    I don’t mean to say he was a bad person or only his chilly disposition made him fire-able, and our industry is a bit unique because people skills are part of the job requirements, but I do think it’s an interesting case where two people of the same job title, skill set, education, and drive had different results because, primarily, of our degree of social-ness to others.

    (also – hi! First comment on this blog ever! Side note that I’m now in a non-Comms job and really enjoying it too, and finding my Comms knowledge helping me even though I’m in a technical role now!)

    1. Midwest Writer*

      I’m glad you brought this up! I, too, work in an industry where strong people skills are a particularly useful asset — hard to get people to open up for good interviews if you can’t ask good questions and truly be interested in their answers. I see the comments from people who truly don’t want to do small talk and I wonder about them, because in a newsroom, there is nothing more that most people enjoy than talking and talking and talking. About everything and anything. And as a reporter, those social lubricants are vital some days to getting through to the people I need to interview. Sure, I could call a number and dive into difficult questions. But the responses are way better if we talk about the weather, their kids, college football (there’s one that I have ZERO interest in, but my husband loved a particular Big 10 team that our county attorney had attended and that attorney and I bonded over discussing football one season and he was always much nicer to me thereafter), etc.

  24. Zin*

    This is fascinating to me.

    Not returning a “Good Morning” wouldn’t even register with me. I agree though that the internal snark and eye rolling likely comes through more than OP thinks it does.

    I know that sometimes people compliment me on doing what is, in essence, my job (i.e. getting something in under the wire on tight contracts, taking on a case that others have declined and making it work etc) and I’m always at a loss. It seems exhausting and pointless to keep saying “Thanks!” to every (in my opinion) unneeded compliment but reading these comments it’s clear that’s probably what I need to do.

    To be clear, I DO NOT think my co-workers saying that or being kind like that is “BS” or a waste of time. It’s just… not needed. I’m doing my job.

    But like someone pointed out above, humans are social animals and that matters.

  25. KR*

    Ugh the last letter with the paternal boss was making my shoulders go up around my head. I don’t want a boss or coworker to be paternal to me and I will be so happy for OP when she’s away from this guy

  26. carolyn*

    The “chilly” issue reminds me of an idea I heard in a commencement speech (this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikAb-NYkseI). To succeed you just have to be on time, be friendly, and do good work. But 2 out of 3 is fine; if you’re on time and friendly, the work doesn’t have to be as good and so on. In the OP’s case, they’re on time (assuming there) and do good work, they don’t have to be crazy friendly.
    This might be over-simplifying, and I’m sure it can be debated if a philosophy like that will only get you so far, but I wouldn’t stress. And that you are concerned at all about this could be an indication that you’re not as cold as you think.

    1. carolyn*

      I did the thing where I commented before I listened, and now I think my comment was oversimplifying. I basically agree with Allison here.

  27. RUKiddingMe*

    I get being an introvert and just wanting to do one’s job without the social BS. Buuuttt…everything Alison says. Like it or not, no one is an island. I know that’s a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason.

    One can in fact hole up inside their house and not interact with the world at large for the most part: WFH, food delivery, Amazon (or the like) delivery of almost everything else, etc. but for the most part even the most introverted among us (raises hand) will at some point have a need to be among other humans even if it’s only for a couple of minutes in order to buy a cup of coffee and a … I was gonna say “newspaper,” but go ahead and fill in whatever has taken their place.

    ::Brushes off anthropology degree::

    Humans have evolved to be social animals, some more so than others, but nevertheless for a whole bunch of reasons I could, but won’t (you’re welcome) elucidate no matter how independent we are, we are still dependent to certain degrees on others of our species ergo evolving as social animals.

    That said…I want to put a star next to the comment about saying “good morning.” First it’s a basic social thing, it means nothing more than “how are you” means.

    Social lubricant, which is necessary because we are humans and not robots. OP your interpretation “…yes it is in fact morning how very observant you are…” sounds kinda jerky.

    Your local Introverted misanthrope

    1. Spiky*

      I find those social lubricant things to be robotic. They are rarely genuine. If I’m going to interact with someone, I want genuine interactions, and not follow some social script that says, “Okay, I said this, so now you respond with that.”

      1. Midwest writer*

        Maybe I’m the outlier here, but I genuinely do hope you are having a good morning. I care about how you are when you ask. Even if I don’t know you.

      2. Snark*

        If you’re the type to reply to “good morning” with an internal “…yes it is in fact morning how very observant you are…” you are also probably not the sort of person who particularly gives a good goddamn about being warm and friendly in a genuine interaction either.

        1. Spiky*

          Well, I don’t have that internal reaction and never said I did. That reaction is quite snarky and concerns me a little. My internal reaction is more of, “Can’t we all just enjoy the silence together?”

          1. Snark*

            No, I meant to contrast what you were saying with the podcast guest’s attitude. There’s a difference between striving to genuinely connect with people as long as you have to lubricate the social gears, and belittling the entire concept.

          2. Dragoning*

            Well, I’m a quiet introvert with a whole lot going on in hir mind most of the time, so–I enjoy quiet. If I’m stuck with someone for an extended period of time, I expect and demand it.

            My mother likes to interrupt this if I’m with her, because she can’t seem to stand more than a minute or so of quiet. This drives me batty.

            And yet, I’d prefer people say good morning to me before we go back to our own thing.

            1. Dragoning*

              I kind of read it as “I am happy for your presence.” Even if in the case of my coworkers, they’re happy I’m here to do my job. But hey!

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                Even if in the case of my coworkers, they’re happy I’m here to do my job.”

                You gotta take what you get… :))

            2. RUKiddingMe*

              Pretty much this. I prefer little interaction to be honest. However as I outlined in my above dissertation, we do have a need (contrary to OP’s assertions otherwise) to at least some social connection.

              “Good morning” actually puts me in a good (ish) mood to say. It’s like saying “hey I acknowledge you fellow human.” Of course I will keep walking/get back to what I was doing because I don’t want to encourage much if any chit-chat, but I still feel good saying it. “How are you/good/and you…” I don’t want a run down of someone’s issues per se, but I do care that my —fellow human— is ok(ish).

              Sometimes someone is ok(ish) but they give a brief (please!!!) summary of stuff and I hear something that maybe I can help with/point them towards resources, etc., so that feels good too.

              Most of the time…quiet please, no need for running commentary, but basic social greetings, etc… Really not a whole lot to ask IMO.

          3. CaliCali*

            And not that you’re actually asking this, but…no! Sometimes the silence can be deafening. I’d occasionally like to break it up with a friendly greeting.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              Agreed. I don’t want to socialize per se. I actually hate pointless small talk for the most part. I do recognize basic social lubricant stuff though and while I don’t want to have a pointless conversation for hours on end while trying to get work done, I would go nuts with total silence.

      3. Spiky*

        That being said, I will do the social lubricant things, but it’s mostly because I don’t want people to think negatively of me. But that makes me more frustrated because it feels like I’m putting on a costume to make people like me, and that feeds back into the genuine thing I posted about above.

        1. Jasnah*

          This is literally what everyone is saying, though?

          Very few people in this world are thinking, “If only everyone would convert all social conversation to recitations of greetings by rote, and small talk about the weather.”

          The vast majority of people are thinking, “If only I could get in and out of the kitchen silently, but if I don’t say hi to Delilah it’s going to be awkward later when I need her help.”
          “Traffic sucks. People suck. Ohcrapit’sDelilah I better rearrange my face so she doesn’t think I meant her.”
          “…Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Ida–ohcrapit’sDelilah my brain isn’t ready, stall for time with greetings and jokes about Mondays!”
          “Oh look, it’s Delilah. Her hair looks lovely today, I wonder if that’s a new color, let’s ask.”

      4. Asenath*

        It used to bother me that they were automatic and meaningless and not genuine. I came to realize that there’s an important place in human interactions for words that, whatever their literal meaning, signal “I see and acknowledge you as a human being I’m willing to deal with”. It adds to the variety of ways in which I can communicate with others – and honestly, enables be to deal successfully with people I do not know well enough to be “genuine” with, in situations in which it would be difficult or inappropriate for me to give all the genuine details of my life. And a formal greeting as a preamble to a day’s work is as genuine as, say, a heartfelt speech about my personal worries.

        1. Parenthetically*

          Yeah, this is a really great point. You have to build trust over time. You can’t just jump straight into deep, genuine, meaningful connections with people — what reason does anyone have to do that? The “I acknowledge you, fellow human”-type interactions lay a foundation of goodwill for those future deeper interactions (and even when they never progress to that point, as the vast majority do not, you can’t know that from the start and you’re still putting out goodwill and expecting it in return, which is healthier for you as a person).

          1. Dragoning*

            If, at an interview or something, someone shook my hand and then asked “So, do you have any pets?” instead of “Hi, welcome, good morning,” I would be…confused, to say the least.

      5. Coder von Frankenstein*

        Who said anything about interacting? This is a way of soothing social instincts and anxieties built into us by millions of years of evolution. The point is to accomplish that *without* having to really interact.

        I do the smile and nod thing, “good morning” when “good morninged.” It’s simple and it takes near-zero effort. If every one of those had to be a Meaningful Interaction, I’d never come to work again.

        1. I think therefore*

          But for me, it doesn’t sooth anything! It is an interaction, it requires me to perform a certain role and fulfil certain expectations, and that create social anxiety and stress and makes me feel less connected and comfortable with you because now I have this panic reaction to get through.

      6. Kummelwick*

        Rote interactions are a low-stakes signal to see if someone is open to friendly discourse, which establishes trust for slightly more personalized exchanges. But if someone senses that a person bristles at small talk, they’ll never escalate to ‘genuine interaction,’ because the hurt of being rebuffed is a much greater risk, and a negative response to a benign greeting is a clear signal that further social investment is not welcome.

        1. Spiky*

          Yeah, I get this. I like interactions where we just jump into a “real” conversation off the bat. For instance, my friends introduced me to their friends by saying, “Spiky also listens to that murder podcast,” and one of the new friends responded, “OMG, you’re a murderino??” And we immediately started talking about the most recent episodes, how live shows work, etc, etc. From there we talked about many other things, but I can’t tell you anything you’d learn about a person from small talk. It was perfect. We talked about interesting things and not boring things.

          I tend towards not having a lot of friends because I prefer a few really good friends over a lot of casual acquaintances. Perhaps that’s why I dislike small talk, who knows. If I have to go through the small talk routine with someone, it takes like three to four meetings for me to feel comfortable revealing my real self to them. If we launch into real conversation on the first meeting, like the above example, I can feel comfortable with a person right away.

          1. Aurion*

            I’m the same way as you, but that kind of lead-in requires having a wingman or prior knowledge that you have X interest in common. If you don’t have that premonition of commonality, or even if you just don’t have any commonality, you still have to get along and work with your colleagues. That’s where small talk shine and why pleasantry is important. It’ll never be written down as a job requirement, but “be pleasant, approachable, and have friendly relationships with your colleagues” is an understood requirement in every job I can think of.

          2. RUKiddingMe*

            “…it takes like three to four meetings for me to feel comfortable revealing my real self to them.

            You know that’s pretty par for the course for everyone right? Most people don’t just jump into having meaningful conversations right off the bat and it takes most people several interactions before they start to build those…bonds (I guess?).

            I know that sounds snarky and I apologize because it’s not intended that way. I just can’t really think of a better way to say it.

            Of course here we’re talking about work. There’s no real need for the most part to have stuff in common or deep meaningful connections, or even shallow ones with coworkers…just basic courtesy and the standard, default social niceties.

            1. Dragoning*

              Not everyone wants to be or even safely can be “their real selves” at work. Most obviously, LGBTQIAP+ people often like to stick to safer topics than their hobbies and real lives. “Oh what’s your favorite show?” and it’s something about a gay couple…not everyone wants to share that at work.

          3. Jasnah*

            What if you don’t have a mutual friend? How do you find out what you have in common with someone without slowly testing the waters across several meetings, with small talk and greetings and making sure the person isn’t a total weirdo who responds to attempts at friendship with rude silence?

          4. aebhel*

            Everybody is like that. The number of people who can jump into a deep, meaningful, interesting conversation with a total stranger is very, very low and includes almost no introverts. I’m not going to start an enthusiastic conversation with someone who greets pleasantries with blank silence, because that response doesn’t make me think ‘oh, they only like real genuine interactions’, it makes me think ‘they are not interested in me and may in fact actively dislike me, I’m not wasting any emotional energy on getting to know them’.

            …I mean, I’m a lot like you, but you have to get that this mode of interaction requires another person to do the social lubrication for you. It’s not that the social lubrication isn’t happening, it’s that you’re not the one doing it. It requires someone else to put in the effort to make friends and introduce two people with common interests.

      7. The New Wanderer*

        The content-free social script is entirely because the majority of people do not have the time or energy to invest in truly genuine interactions with every individual they come across but still have to acknowledge their association with other individuals. Social scripts make society possible, they have intrinsic value, and people are not less authentic or genuine for using them.

        Just be glad we as a species evolved past physical grooming and extensive sniffing of hindparts in our social interactions!

      8. RUKiddingMe*

        If we stipulate that they are mostly robotic, I think we likewise need to stipulate that —yeah they might be robotic but they are probably integral in keeping us from killing each other. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      9. biobotb*

        Do you really hope people have bad mornings then? How is wishing someone good morning not genuine, unless you really want them to have a negative morning?

        1. acs*

          Becasue they don’t actually care either way, they’re just saying it because it’s the ritual greeting you say. They probably haven’t even actually thought about the words, they jsut come out of their mouths on autopilot. If you break the routine and don’t give one of the expected replies, they get so confused and befuddled. They weren’t genuinely interacting, they were just following a rote program in their head.

          It’s not genuine communication, it’s all performance.

            1. Spiky*

              I mean, truly, if we could replace “Good morning” with “I acknowledge you, fellow human!” it would feel more genuine to me because that’s what the words actually mean.

        2. nonegiven*

          Good morning is a wish? I thought it was more of a report. I’m having a good morning rather than you have a good morning.

      10. rear mech*

        Yeah, but refusing to engage with someone you’re acquainted with is another way to say “fuck you.” There’s not time for a deeper interaction every time you go get coffee, so you go with a quick greeting

        1. aebhel*

          Yeah, the number of people on here arguing that the cut direct isn’t the social equivalent of nuking it from orbit is… really strange to me.

      11. Celaena Sardothien*

        Agree, Spiky. The robotic nature annoys me. I’m okay with genuine, sincere interaction.

        If someone asks how I am, I want to tell the truth. I want to say I’m great because…,or I’m crappy because….
        But society demands that I just answer with “fine” and move on. It’s so disingenuous that I hate it.

        If you think about it, there’s an expected answer for everything. If someone asks how you are, you say fine. If someone says have a good day, you say you too. If someone says good morning, you say good morning.

        It’s not that I loathe all interaction (although I do want to be left alone sometimes) but more that I want honestly and realness. I want to be able to tell someone how I really feel, and I want them to do the same to me. I want a real conversation, not a script. But if you deviate from the script and actually answer honestly, well that’s considered “weird.”

  28. RUKiddingMe*

    Email. Don’t talk to him if you can avoid it. Change your phone number.

    The paternalistic thing: Alison is spot on here. Even if he was your actual father, he wouldn’t have the right to try to pressure you about this decision. If he *does* say anything about it being “in your best interest” or the like etc., recognize it for the gendered bullshit that it is and walk away as fast as you can.

  29. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I actually had a question about the “slacker coworker”. LW mentioned that Jane was new to their team and I’m wondering *how* new and if that plays into her not being as helpful with the current time crunch. If she’s just learning, it’s possible that the manager has her focusing on other things until this particular project slows down and she can be properly trained.

  30. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I would be interested in knowing how self described chilly folks describe their interview styles. How they find their job searches go with their demeanor?

    We just tossed a person from candidacy because they had a chilly disposition. We’re looking for a person who’s approachable and warm. Along with the skills to do the duties involved most certainly but it’s a position that is client facing and has reports.

    How do I know he’s reserved to the point of chilly? A few times throughout the interview but noticeably at the end where I parted ways and he got the standard tour of the facility, I ended with “This is where I leave you to finish up, it was great meeting you, thank you!” and extended my hand with the required eye contact, he shook it but didn’t say anything or soften his locked in SRS gaze, the norm is to say “thank you” or some kind of salutation or at least smile with a nod to acknowledge the exit.

    We literally looked at each other in our post interview and confirmed the steel vibes. This is not a place we need loud boisterous outgoing personalities but you have to say “good morning” and “good night” when you pass someone for the first or last time if you’re exiting. No need to seek me out to do so but many pass my doorway with a smile, nod, beepbopping along on their way to wherever they are headed.

    And that’s assuming folks want to move along or upwards, sometimes if you get in, you are happy to stay. But it feels like a lot of people may find themselves job searching one day and boom, doors aren’t flying open and you think “but why?!”

    1. Jamieson*

      I haven’t found it to be an issue. I’m definitely quiet, reserved and probably what most people think of as chilly. But I am good at what I do, I have an exceptional skill set and excellent experience, my resume and references are outstanding, and I’ve never had any problems getting a job that’s a significant step up when I am ready to job search. People hire me because I am damn good at what I do, and they need me to help them get better. My reputation is no doubt something like “ice queen who kicks ass and gets results” and that seems to work for the people who hire me.

      I’d self-select out of working for you, though, so that wouldn’t be an issue.

  31. CaliCali*

    Hi, I’m an extrovert! When I’m not busy at one of the five parties I’m attending this week or terrorizing my introvert friends with conversation, I work with a whole bunch of introverts. This has been the case most of my career. And honestly, I notice no difference between Is and Es in terms of being friendly and warm with social niceties. But it isn’t just about being polite, but understanding that developing effective relationships is part of career success, and relationships have to start somewhere. Often, you don’t connect with people over work product, because while it’s collaborative, it’s not inherently social. But when you work with a friendly, warm attitude, connecting with people on the human level, people _like working with you_ and as a result, you can achieve so much more. People are more prone to help with inquiries, gather info you need, give important feedback (if people know how you work, they know more about how to effectively relay critique), work with you to meet a deadline in a pinch, etc. I’m not saying you have to be an office social butterfly, but no one who maintains cordial, professional, but warm relationships has suffered for it. On the other hand, a chilly and aloof demeanor has many detrimental effects — no one is prone to help out with the things I’ve listed above if they feel slighted, and both you and your coworkers are worse for it. Just be nice, even fake it — work isn’t where you must live your truest self, after all. It costs you very little to be the tiniest bit kind.

    1. Parenthetically*

      When I’m not busy at one of the five parties I’m attending this week or terrorizing my introvert friends with conversation

      *laughs uproariously and then stares very intently at a few commenters*

  32. Coffee Cup*

    I must say I am a bit baffled by saying good morning being described as a pointless ritual that states the obvious. I mean, yes? It is a social ritual? In society? It is just a very strange statement.

  33. half full glass*

    I’m in awe of how much work you do and how tightly you must have to manage your time, Alison! How many weeks in advance do you record your podcasts to stay on such a regular schedule?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      We’re always supposed to be 4-5 weeks ahead, which is smart of them to require but was awfully grueling to set up in the beginning! But my goal for 2019 is to do less work :)

  34. AmethystMoon*

    I’m naturally introverted (INTJ), but make it a point to make friends with at least other introverts at work who I have things in common with. I also do Toastmasters, which while does not make a person extroverted, helps with the networking thing.

  35. Turtle Candle*

    One thing that might help is to frame this as a practical question. Social niceties and a mild degree of warmth (not endless chatter, not extroversion, not being hyper-bubbly, but a mild degree of warmth) gain you significant advantages in the workplace; thus, being chilly disadvantages you, though not to a degree that it prevents you from working (i.e., except in very specific roles and circumstances, you won’t get fired for it). This is unlikely to change, and is common across pretty much all cultures to a greater or lesser degree. It doesn’t matter whether you or I or anyone else thinks it should confer those benefits, or whether this is fair; it’s the reality of the situation, and that’s not likely to change.

    So that being the case, we all have a choice. We can put in the extra effort to follow social niceties and get the benefits, or we can not, and not. Both are valid choices, depending on exactly how much one objects to the niceties. But it’s simply not feasible to say “I want the advantages but don’t want to do the thing that confers the advantages.” We all do some things that we think are boring, irritating, and pointless because we like the advantages they get us–and we all have some things that we won’t do because they’re too annoying and it’s not worth it for the advantage. But it’s a choice, and as with all choices, has consequences.

    Full disclosure: I am a gregarious introvert (yes, we exist). When I was younger, I was very, very awkward, had a hard time with small talk, and tended to not do it because I was uncomfortable feeling awkward and clumsy with it. But roundabout the end of college I realized that this was not going to do me any favors and I taught myself small talk (deliberately). And it was awkward and clunky and irritating… at first. But with practice it became easier, then natural, then finally something I actually enjoyed doing. And yes, it gets me advantages, too, which is why I bothered to learn.

  36. Astrea*

    It can be hard to know when we’re coming off as chilly
    A former boss once scolded me for being asocial because I didn’t take much time to converse with colleagues and left one’s last-day-of-work lunch party before the rest had finished hanging out and chatting. I was *starved* for social interactions, both on and off the job, but had thought I shouldn’t be ‘wasting’ the time of overworked people in a very understaffed office, including myself. (I also had severe depression and was trying to get through each day without any colleagues noticing when I was on the verge of crying)

    But once the behavior is pointed out, we can choose wisely or unwisely in how we respond.

  37. Richierich*

    Op are you on the autism spectrum? Because looking so literally deep into “good morning” makes me thinnk so. Also you said that being social took “time and energy”.

    1. Penny Plain*

      You have a very strange notion of autism. Please reconsider this urge to armchair diagnose people. There are plenty of us who are not autistic who agree with the OP. Your biases do not mean someone else has a particular diagnosis!

  38. Confused*

    I have a coworker who is “chilly” (no greetings, no polite conversations, terse emails) unless the conversation is 100% about her and her life. Guess what? Literally everyone avoids talking to her and working with her unless absolutely unavoidable. People will jump through dozens of backchannels to not talk to her. It is not hard to say good morning, smile at people, and write polite emails. It does not take more time out of your day. If you act like a sociopath at work, don’t be surprised when no one wants to work with you.

  39. Confused*

    I think many of you don’t know the difference between an introvert and an asshole. I work with plenty of introverts and they’re all warm, friendly people who return greetings, have conversations, and are generally lovely and pleasant people to spend time with. They may not come to every work event, but they are lovely people when we have to work together. Stop using being an introvert as an excuse for being rude and acting like a jerk. Introverts are human beings and can behave in a society. Half of all people are probably introverts. Doesn’t make half of all people asocial jerks who cannot return a good morning.

    1. agnes*

      I totally agree with you. One of the people on my team is a strong introvert. She is polite, friendly, and helpful. She is upfront about needing to be alone and needing time to think about and digest things. She is a real asset to our team.

      On the other hand, we have someone else in our organization who uses “introvert” as an excuse to be rude.

  40. PromotionalKittenBasket*

    This discussion is fascinating to me.

    I have both extroverted and introverted qualities, and I require both social and alone time in pretty equal measure to be emotionally heathy, so I can hang with people on either end of the intro-extro spectrum. That said, my job is basically being a professional extrovert (events and culture, non-working space programming) and I could not get things done without building warm relationships with my colleagues. And because I make it my mission to be friends with everyone, to the point where colleagues in other departments come to me for advice or introductions. I’m great at my job, but it’s a lot easier (and from what I’ve seen, everyone’s job is easier) with a solid social bond.

  41. Oaktree*

    As a librarian who really cares about the field and understands that it’s a competitive one, I think you should fire Doofus and hire someone who’s qualified to be a librarian or library assistant/technician and cares about that mission. Why would waste your organization’s resources, and keep more deserving employees out?

    1. Youth Services Librarian*

      Also MY library’s circulation stats have been going up *smug face* and I highly doubt that anyone will actually get their loans forgiven through PSLF, or very few, so he’s counting on something that’s probably non-existent anyways.

  42. Oaktree*

    Oh, also, regarding “chilliness”. There’s a certain amount that men can get away with interpersonally that women can’t, and that white people can get away with that people of colour can’t. I’m not saying that Chilly Guy should check his privilege, per se, but it’s worth considering that his relative success despite his perceived rudeness is a function of privilege. And frankly, though he says he doesn’t intend to be rude, if people perceive him that way anyway and he makes no effort to change because he thinks it’s beneath him, what’s the material difference in the end?

  43. Checkert*

    Isn’t it also possible that the new employee hasn’t been given anything to do because there is such a time crunch and no one has time to read them in on the intricacies? I myself am a new employee on a contract that ends in a month (with an option year starting in March) and while I’ve done what I can to help the team, it’s really just proofing and editing deliverables and not enough to fill all the hours of the day. It’s unfeasible to try to jump into anything right now and definitely for someone to try to teach me enough about what has happened for me to take anything on by myself. I was disappointed Allison didn’t catch the bitter tone in your letter that the “newbie is a slacker when we’re all so busy” but I would encourage you to look from the other side of the glass. Being new in a crunch time is trying to hop onto a moving bullet train.

  44. Taylor Swift*

    Because you exist in a society with other human beings and niceties are part of the glue that holds society together. Get over yourself and be nice to your colleagues.

  45. boop the first*

    I’m pretty “chilly”. I get burned out SO EASILY, and to be honest, sometimes I think I’m literally incapable of having a real “connection” with other people. I like to ghost at parties to avoid long goodbyes. I don’t think anyone would notice if I was gone.

    That said, “Good morning” is SO EASY! I like it because you can respond with literally anything you want. Unlike “How are you”, which is an open-ended question, and I struggle to decide whether to say something meaningful, or outright lie to their face and say “great, thanks”. And you always want to finish with “… and you?”, which is just returning the awkwardness back to the sender and so both parties come out of the interaction feeling artificial and mechanic.

    “Hello” and “Good morning” are pretty much perfect.

  46. Seeking Second Childhood*

    “Hi… a friendly sound that humans make.” -Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

    Acknowledging someone else’s presence isn’t a meaningless ritual. On a level some of us just might not recognize it’s one of those prehistoric “monkey button” things — someone who acknowledges me isn’t a threat to me.

  47. SouthernGuy*

    Many of my coworkers just put their Thank You’s in their signature, which is automatically entered when they open their email.

    If you have outlook, you could also use Quick Steps to create a template with greetings at the beginning and end of the email.

    At least you wouldn’t have to worry about typing it out yourself.

  48. Mm*

    Idk, I work in a laboratory and most of my coworkers are like OP. I think in some fields this type of personality is more common and thus more acceptable. I don’t think of my quieter coworkers as rude. I just assume they don’t want to chitchat about my dog or whatever. Which is fine by me!

  49. Noah*

    I was disappointed this letter wasn’t about being physically cold, which seems like a huge problem everywhere I work.

  50. Jt*

    Thanks for asking and posting a response to “what’s wrong with being chilly at work?” I totally relate to the OP on this one. When I first started the job, my director called me into her office and asked me if everything was ok and if I liked it here because I was so quiet! I wear ear buds that are not plugged in to anything because I can’t stand the chit-chatter. It bugs me that I see co-worker s standing around chatting when I’ve been working for hours straight getting something done and makes me wonder if I’m picking up someone else’s slack as they are chatting away.

    Op, I think you are fine as long as work performance is good. Personally, I never had an issue with my managers being quiet but being a good worker. It also helps that you work in accounting so you probably work with more introverts who probably feel the same as you. I work in finance and most people in the field understand the introvert’s mindset.

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