can I ask my boss to stop bringing in alcohol, coworker aggressively greets everyone who walks by, and more

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

1. Can I ask my boss to stop bringing in alcohol?

I work in a very small (under 10 people total, with myself and three to four others in the office on a day-to-day basis) tech start-up, and I’ve been here about a month. The manager has, on multiple occasions, brought beer and wine into the office during working hours and invited everyone to partake. The smell of alcohol is a trigger for my panic attacks, and it’s hard for me to focus on my work when the room smells like alcohol. Would it be unprofessional for me to request that the alcohol stay outside the office? I don’t want to come across like a stick in the mud, especially since I’m the only one in the office who doesn’t drink.

There are only two rooms in our office, connected by a large door which is almost always open (such that it’s functionally one large room). My manager’s desk is in one room; all of my coworkers and I sit in an open floor plan in the other room. The manager usually leaves the drinks and cups on an empty desk in our room, so that people can take their drink back to their desk to continue working. I’m worried that even if the bottles were stored in the manager’s room, the cups people bring back to their desks would still make our room smell like beer and wine.

Ah, start-ups.

If the size you mentioned is the full company, then unfortunately the Americans with Disabilities Act isn’t in play here (it kicks in at 15 employees). But you could try, “I have a strong physical reaction to the smell of alcohol, and I’m finding the smell gives me symptoms and makes it hard for me to focus on my work when the room smells like alcohol. I hate to ask to change an office tradition, but since it’s giving me a physical reaction, are there alternatives? Maybe a happy hour after work for people who’d enjoy a drink?” (Panic attacks do manifest in physical reactions, so I think this is a reasonable framing, and it allows you to stay vague, which you’re entitled to do.)

2. Coworker aggressively greets everyone who walks by

I have an issue at work I have no idea how to deal with. There is a person who sits directly in front of the door to our office, who aggressively, cheerfully greets every single person who walks in. I say aggressively because even though people avert their eyes and try to hurry by, this person always say good morning and asks a question — “How are you? How was your commute?” — that demands an answer. This is always followed by something like “Have a terrific Tuesday!” or “Have a wonderful Wednesday!” I’m not the only one it drives crazy. I would like to be able to get to my desk first thing in the morning without having a positive affirmation lobbed at me. And there is no way to avoid passing this person’s desk.

And it’s not just first thing in the morning. I have to pass them to get to the kitchen, the bathroom, other people’s offices … and I’m forced to answer a question every time. I don’t know how they get any work done! And this person is vaguely smarmy to being with, so there’s just … an ick factor.

This really isn’t anything I can take to a manager without sounding like a petty curmedgeon. And maybe I am! What are your thoughts, and do you have any suggestions on how to deal with this?

I’d try to let this go. Having to have brief interactions like this is just part of working in an office with other people. Even when they’re vaguely smarmy.

It’s not that I don’t get what you’re annoyed by — when you’re in your own head, maybe thinking about a work project or so forth, it can feel jarring to have to discuss your commute Every. Damn. Morning. But a cheerful greeting isn’t really out of place at work.

I think you’re better off realizing that (a) regardless of this person’s words, they are basically just saying “hello, I greet you, fellow human” and (b) you can used a short, canned response most of the time. Default to “good morning, how are you?” or “hello, nice to see you” each time — in this context it works even in response to questions like “how was your commute?” because in this context “how was your commute?” sounds like it’s a proxy for “hello, I am greeting you warmly.” Have a default warm response that you reply with, and try not to give it any more space in your brain than that.

3. My coworker works super long hours

I’m on a small team and I have one coworker who semi-regularly works insane hours (7 am to midnight or all day during the weekend). We have the same title but focus on different parts of the business so our work doesn’t overlap at all.

I’ve jokingly told them that they work too much but they say they have to get it done. I’m not sure where that expectation is coming from — if they are not being up-front with our manager about how long things take them, or if they want to show that they produce a crazy amount, or poor time management.

I know this is selfish but I’m worried at our next review cycle my manager is going to tell me I’m not producing as much as my coworker (my manager has a habit of comparing team members).

Is there anything I can or should do here? I’m not the manager and my coworker one or twice made a comment about working late/weekends and our manager sort of told them to not to that but not with any seriousness. I don’t want to overstep but I also don’t want to be punished for not working 24/7.

It’s not selfish to be concerned that your coworker is creating an unrealistic standard by which you’ll be judged. It’s quite reasonable, actually! If you had a manager who assessed people based on the results they get, this would be less concerning … but it sounds like that’s not the case, so of course this is alarming you.

I don’t think you can ask your coworker to work less — but you can talk to your manager about the situation and name your concern.

You could say something like, “I’ve noticed Jane regularly works hours like 7 am to midnight, or will work all weekend. I’m not sure what’s going on there — if her workload is that high or she manages her time in an unusual way. But I want to make sure there’s no expectation that anyone else do anything similar, and that you don’t have any concerns about my own hours or productivity.”

4. I missed my shot at a raise because of performance problems — can I ask for one now?

I’ve been at my current job for just over a year, and it is great. I started strong on day one, I have excellent rapport with my manager and with my colleagues, and I hear positive feedback all the time about my work and my presence.

Annual reviews happened earlier this year, when I had been here just over eight months — they try to have everyone in the company go through them around the same time. In the couple of months preceding, my performance had backslid a bit due to some personal problems, to the degree that I received a “needs improvement” evaluation rather than the “exceeds expectations” I had been anticipating. My manager had, up until just before, been giving me glowing praise, until she started going through the preparation process and realized that things were not as good as they had seemed. However, we had an incredibly productive discussion and I came out of the meeting with a concrete, detailed plan for improvement which we developed together.

I took serious strides immediately, getting back to the high level of output I originally had and surpassing it, and in the following four months or so, I’ve maintained steadily. I’d never had a performance review before because of career instability, and it was actually a really great experience that helped me grow professionally, as much as I had been nervous. My manager recently said she has never seen anyone respond so well to negative feedback, and she has heard the same from senior management.

Do I have to wait another eight months to request a raise? If not, do you have any advice for how I should go about it? I had planned to try to get 7.5% at my regular annual review, maybe even ask for 10%, but when the criticism caught me off guard, I completely abandoned the idea. With the way they’ve talked about my work both before and after, I would be confident, but I’m concerned that the budget wouldn’t allow for it now, that it may come across as inappropriate, or that the backsliding — even though I’ve proven my consistency since then — made me miss my chance. I just don’t want to leave this money on the table, especially when the next opportunity is far away and I’m pretty sure it is deserved.

Yeah, unfortunately you do need to wait. Four months after getting a “needs improvement” evaluation and your manager having to help you come up with an improvement plan is just too soon to ask for a raise, even though you’re now performing well. Your manager is likely to want to see you sustain that improvement over a longer period of time, and maybe worry that you missed the seriousness of the message if you’re asking for a raise so soon afterwards.

If you weren’t relatively new and had a lengthly record of good performance before this, it’s possible the calculation could be different — that it would be really clear that that few months of problems was truly an aberration. But you hadn’t been there long when it happened, and not a ton of time has passed since. You don’t necessarily need to wait a full year to raise it again, but I’d wait until it’s been at least 10 sustained months of uninterrupted good performance.

(Also, 10% is high! That doesn’t mean you can’t get it, but the average annual raise is around 3%. If you can, it would be worth trying to find out what kinds of raises your company usually gives so that you can calibrate accordingly.)

5. How to list similar jobs on your resume

I’m updating my resume to apply for a leadership workshop, and I’m hoping you have some insight on how to craft your resume when your current higher-level job (assistant director) has fewer responsibilities than the job you had before (lower level manager).

I was in the lower management position for 4ish years and knew that I was being asked to do a lot (other duties as assigned was used liberally), but I was new in the profession and wanted to build a strong resume. That workload truly wasn’t sustainable though, especially for the salary. I moved to a new job in the same profession but a new workplace last fall. Higher salary, more freedom, similar but overall less responsibility.

I think it looks bad that I’m not responsible for as much as I was in the other job. Almost like I’ve taken a step backward, even though it was a step up the management ladder. Should I significantly trim down the previous job’s section to make it less obvious? And since my current responsibilities significantly overlap my old ones, is it okay to use the same phrases for each in the resume?

Don’t repeat the same wording under each one. The fact that you’re worried about that makes me think that you’re primarily listing responsibilities rather than accomplishments, which you shouldn’t be doing in the first place. Focus on the specific outcomes you achieved in each job, and doing that should hopefully eliminate much of the overlap.

I wouldn’t cut out impressive stuff from the earlier job just so it doesn’t outshine the later job, but do look critically at each line you have and make sure it’s truly strengthening your candidacy and not just reciting activities you did. (In most cases, that will give you plenty to cut.)

Also, the difference in length for each isn’t inherently a problem. Often a higher-level job is about big-picture results, and that can take fewer words to describe.

{ 797 comments… read them below }

  1. Snorlax

    Letter 5 says “I moved to a new job in the same profession but a new workplace last fall“ so I don’t think there’s any way to group those two jobs together on the resume. They are jobs from different companies.

    I wouldn’t downplay your accomplishments at the lower level job, and agree with Alison that you should focus more on accomplishments than job duties, which will reduce the repetitiveness.

  2. Maria Lopez

    #2- Don’t engage verbally. Just give the co-worker a warm smile and nod your head in acknowledgement of their greeting.

    1. Zona the Great

      Yeah I’d do a simple, “oh hey good morning” and keep it moving. If she pushes the question on the commute or anything else just give a bored shrug and say, “nothing to report” while still walking away.

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt

        I would hit them with a question/statement first. As you are walking in say “Hey, (chatty) how’s it going?” and – and this is key – do.not.slow.down. Walk by with the striding confidence of someone with a clipboard who has somewhere important to be. That way they can manage out a ‘good’ but not elaborate before you are gone, and you don’t have to waste any more mental energy on them. Say the exact same thing every time you walk by. They want an interaction? Make it on your terms.

        1. Lance

          I admit, I feel like this would cost me more energy than just expecting some sort of greeting/question, giving a short but friendly response as needed, and moving on. I’m alright (enough) with giving short responses, but kicking things off (and, I feel, implicitly inviting even more of their interactions, even if I’m just walking by) isn’t something I, for one, would be able to manage/have any desire to do.

          1. Lance

            That is, to be more clear and make this less about myself: wouldn’t something like this just invite more out of the chatty co-worker? I’m sure there must be at least some times where nothing happens, and acting like a completely broken record and just not giving them a chance to speak when you’re starting off speaking to them feels a bit… rude?

            1. Lily Rowan

              I don’t know if this is a regional culture thing or what (I’m in the northeast US), but I definitely use “How’s it going” as a replacement for “hi” when I pass people in the hall. I don’t wait for or expect a response at all!

              1. Alex the Alchemist

                I think it is a regional thing. I’m from the southeast US and had only heard it as an opening to an actual conversation until I moved northeast, which was a bit of a switch, but as an introvert, I don’t particularly mind.

                1. valentine

                  wouldn’t something like this just invite more out of the chatty co-worker?
                  It’s fine if they talk to your swiftly departing back.

              2. stack it up

                I can vouch for this being a thing in the mid-midwest and the north midwest as well. It’s a bit more of a switch – contextually, sometimes people do like a reply, but enough people use it in place of “hi” that it’s not rude to reply in kind: “Hi, how are you” “Hey, howsit” is a regular exchange for me.

                1. Bee

                  I really love how the Irish handle this: “Howya.” It carries the same connotations – hello, fellow human, I hope things are well with you – without actually asking a question, and it just FEELS friendly!

              3. londonedit

                UK here, and some variation of ‘Hey, how’s it going’ is absolutely another way of just saying ‘Hello’ as you pass someone in a corridor; it doesn’t require an actual conversation. None of these ‘social lubricant’ phrases require an actual response here (in fact the joke about British people is that their worst nightmare would be someone responding to ‘How are you’ with an actual description of how they are…). ‘Hello! Good weekend?’ ‘Yes thanks, you?’ ‘Yes, thanks!’ or ‘Hey, how’s things?’ ‘Oh, fine thanks!’ are perfectly complete interactions in themselves.

                1. Happy Lurker

                  I worked with a woman who did exactly that! It took exactly one week or three interactions with her to realize that she did NOT understand that no one cared how she was doing. She then became the running joke in the office. Don’t ask her how she was doing because 30 minutes later you knew exactly how she was doing – in minute detail!
                  She was absolutely exhausting and every one ran when they saw her coming.

              4. Upstater-ish

                Yup I live in the Northeast that and “How ya doing” are the default. When I walk through the store I work at I say “how are you” to customers they reply “great, and you” as we pass each other. It’s just a pleasantry.

                1. Blunt Bunny

                  Yep same in the North West it is “Hi y’all right.” While both walking in opposite directions. It sounds like the OP is at BEC mode as I don’t really pay much attention to how people as it the response is the same until I sit down- Morning, Hi, Hey

              5. boo bot

                Yes, I think it’s a regional thing to some extent, but basically, at least in the northeast US, there’s (a) a grab-bag of acceptable greeting-phrases that mean “I see you and acknowledge you, fellow human,” and (b) an understanding that, on the fly, two people probably aren’t going to grab matching greetings out of the bag. Depending on where you are, even the language is optional. So, exchanges like,

                “How are you?”/”Morning!”
                “Morning!”/”What’s up?”
                “What’s up?”/ “Hey, how’s the commute?”
                “Hey, how’s the commute?”/”Happy Tuesday!”

                … are all equally acceptable. Alison’s advice to have a default response is perfect: pick whatever greeting-phrase rolls most easily off your tongue, say it warmly and with good cheer, and don’t stop walking.

              6. Glitsy Gus

                I do think there are regional differences, but there’s a version of that everywhere. I’m in California and, “What’s up, Chatty?” or more often even just “S’up, Chatty!” Can very easily fill that void and as long as you keep moving it’s pretty clear it is intended as a general welcome and not an actual question.

            2. Adminx2

              If it were anything but the most banal of social surface greeting rituals…sure. But it isn’t. It’s a ritual. If they really want to get up from their desk to follow me to get the workplace scrubbed clean version of my weekend activities, they can work for it. But then that would be passing up saying hello to everyone else.

              A brief smile, nod, and “good morning.” is all you ever need, every day. I get some people really are chipper in the morning but if THEY haven’t figured out we all have our preferences and routines and have to make adjustments socially at work to find a happy medium, then that’s just how they have to learn.

              1. londonedit

                Absolutely. Where I work, when you come into your part of the office in the morning (a largish room of a sprawling building – ours has four banks of desks with about 12 people total in the room) you extend a general ‘Morning!’ to the room, and people will respond with ‘Morning’/’Hey’/’Hello’ etc. Nothing else needed. Sometimes if it’s a Monday or the tennis was amazing the previous evening or someone’s back in the office after a holiday, there might follow a bit more interaction along the lines of ‘Good weekends?’ or ‘Oh, how was France?’ but again, that doesn’t necessarily need anything as a response apart from ‘Yes, thanks!’ or ‘Oh it was lovely, so warm!’ Of course, sometimes we do get into more detailed conversations, but those are different from the general ‘social lubricant’ stuff that happens as a greeting.

      2. Samwise

        I’d say you can spend marginally more time on the initial coming into the office greeting — you don’t need to stop, but smile, nod your head, be polite. It can also be effective to rush in, say “Oh hi, Chatty, OMG traffic was terrible, I’m already behind” while zooming past Chatty’s desk, and then, when you’re a few steps past, look over your shoulder and say “have a great day!”

        Later in the day: a quick head nod and a “hey” are sufficient. Especially if you’re moving briskly toward the toilet!

        End of day, walk past briskly and say “Bye Chatty see ya tomorrow” or “Bye Chatty, have a good evening”

        Yes, the Chattys of the world drive me bonkers. But it’s easy enough to acknowledge them quickly, and doing so greases the social wheels — and you may need Chatty’s help at some point, and will be more likely to get it if you’re reasonably pleasant than if you just ignore Chatty or make frowny faces or sound exasperated when interacting with Chatty.

        (I thank my manager over twenty years ago for teaching me this. It has made my work life much much easier.)

        1. Sara without an H

          Excellent point. People remember social snubs, and they’re much more likely to try to help you if they like you.

        2. Snark

          Especially when greasing the social wheels requires what is ultimately almost no energy or thought. It’s just automatic brain-tape at some point. “Morning Karen, I-25 was awful as usual, have a good one,” and off you go. At some point, that doesn’t even activate a frontal lobe.

      3. Amethystmoon

        I wouldn’t even bother with the “good.” Just say “mornin’.” If I haven’t had any coffee yet, I’m not going to be remotely chatty. I’m sure many people are the same way.

        1. female peter gibbons

          of course. i had a coworker like this who said GOOD MORNING in the loudest possible tone. i often just nodded or smiled in response. then one day she confronted me about my “bad moods”. I said I never really was in a bad mood at work, I’m just not energetic first thing in the morning. (For me it *IS* the first thing in the morning. I roll out of bed and walk to work). So after that she seemed to understand more.

          1. female peter gibbons

            There’s also people I’ve been sitting next to for 10 years! We don’t feel the need to say Good morning to each other every.single.day and thank god for it! And yet I feel like we are very close, as coworkers. This woman was new and was trying to impose her own thing.

    2. Klo

      I think that’s very rude – a smile doesn’t mean you can ignore someone.

      LW, just say good morning and keep walking! It shouldn’t take up much time at all.

      1. Engineer Girl

        It’s not rude. The person has been acknowledged. They are not owed a conversation every time they walk by.

        It’s rude to demand interaction from others when they are clearly going to another destination.

        1. Klo

          It’s just polite pleasantries in the work place; surely it’s not that annoying to be slightly sociable with your coworkers?

          1. Engineer Girl

            A smile and a nod is sociable.

            This person is asking for a conversation every time someone passes their desk!

            1. RUKiddingMe

              Yeah. If it was just once on arrival I could handle a “how was your commute…?” “fine thanks…” ::keep walking:: But every.damn.time? Nope.

              1. EPLawyer

                This is why I disagree with Alison’s advice. If it were just in the morning, yes you acknowledge the fellow human and move along. but apparently this person does this to everyone who walks by — every time. You don’t need t acknowledge fellow humans that much.

                I would frame it as a disruption. Because not only is this person disrupting you every time you walk by, but having to hear it when they talk to everyone else would be distracting. It would be so hard to concentrate because I would hear this litany of greeting All. Day. Long.

                1. The Other Dawn

                  I agree. I’m normally on the side of saying “good morning/good night” and chit chatting every once in awhile, though I’m not a social butterfly by any means–I just like to be nice to the people I have to see for 40+ hours a week. In this case, though, this is way too much. It’s fine for the coworker to greet people and ask a question the first time they see them walk by, but doing that every single time for every person all day long is just way too much disruption. Beyond the first greeting, OP should just smile and say “hey” as they pass by. If the coworker asks a question, just keep moving. No need to answer.

                2. Michaela Westen

                  I agree too. Chatty isn’t being friendly, s/he’s demanding attention. From everyone s/he sees, every time.
                  It would be interesting to see how s/he reacts to the suggestion that colleagues acknowledge and keep walking. Would s/he escalate attempts to get attention?
                  A good, supportive coworker allows people to pass or be in their presence without interrupting what they’re doing. Chatty is not being a good supportive coworker.

                3. RUKiddingMe

                  Yeah this is what I’m thinking.

                  I could even be ok with not seeing her for several hours and then: “going to lunch?” “Yep, see you in a while.” With a “hi” “hi” after I got back (walking the entire time of course), but *this* much…? All the nope.

                4. wb

                  Agreed, though I think the level of disruption this represents likely varies wildly by industry/office. I’ve been in offices where people routinely posted up at each others’ desks for chat sessions a couple times a day and I’ve been in offices where even pausing to say anything more than ‘hello’ would be seen as an imposition.
                  In this situation, if headphones are acceptable in the office, I’d start wearing them whenever walking past Chatty. With headphones in, a big smile and a little wave should be more than enough interaction to not be rude to Chatty, and all easily doable w/out slowing down.

            2. Emily K

              Agreed. This is honestly half of why women hate cat callers. Even when what they’re saying isn’t vulgar, it’s frustrating to be interrupted repeatedly when you’re just trying to get somewhere. It quickly becomes a death by 1000 papercuts thing – the one interruption wouldn’t be so bad, it’s when you’re interrupted every 20 feet by a different person, or the same person interrupts you in the same place on the street every time you walk past it. Obviously it’s not exactly the same and the response required is different because they’re a coworker, but plenty of women have changed their walking route or worn headphones when they weren’t really listening to them to combat this kind of unwelcome intrusion. It’s the cumulative effect that matters, and makes it different than trying to analyze it as you would a one-time or even only occasional occurrence. OP says this happens multiple times a day! I think a warm smile and a nod or wave is a perfectly polite and reasonable response.

              1. Vicky Austin

                YES!!! Thank you for articulating this so well! No one is entitled to another person’s time when they are clearly on their way somewhere else! I don’t get why some people have such a hard time understanding this.

                1. henrietta

                  Corollary: Not every question needs to be answered, nor every questioner satisfied. You will be amazed how learning this frees you!

                2. I hate coming up with usernames

                  The lengths you guys are stretching to here is something. Someone says hi and asks how you are. You say something like, “Fine, thanks. Have a good day!”

                  This is not cat calling or entitlement. It’s just being a human being in normal society. If you don’t want to be greeted in the morning, maybe look for a work from home job before insisting that anyone who dares to ask how you are doing is rudely making demands upon your time.

                3. Michaela Westen

                  “I don’t get why some people have such a hard time understanding this.”
                  Their need for attention is more important than the other person’s needs.

                4. RabbitRabbit

                  @I hate coming up with usernames – But it’s NOT just in the morning or on the way out the door. It’s every single time the writer passes by that coworker’s desk, whether it’s for a bathroom trip or grabbing something off the copier or whatever.

              2. Paulina

                Yes, this. Especially since it’s also happening when the OP is going to someone else’s office. It’s extremely presumptuous to interrupt someone for a chat, however quick the questioner may think it is, when the person interrupted is going to talk to someone else.

                Smile and nod, do not engage.

              3. Snark

                To conflate this with catcalling is a little extreme. Ultimately, I agree that a warm smile and nod, maybe a brief greeting, is okay, but this lacks the gendered and aggressive aspects of catcalling.

                1. New Jack Karyn

                  I think they’re not equating it as such, but pointing out the similarities in having one’s thought process interrupted for something that benefits the other party, not me.

                2. Avasarala

                  Then equate it to panhandling or asking for signatures for a petition or selling lemonade. It’s ridiculous to compare excessive greetings among coworkers in the workplace to gendered, aggressive street harassment of strangers.

            3. Snark

              I mean, somewhat, but it sounds more like 30 seconds of small talk, which in a lot of places is the absolute minimum not to be regarded as a totally socially awkward and offensive weirdo.

          2. Lissa

            I think the disconnect is that for some people, a smile and a nod WOULD be polite pleasantries and being slightly sociable with your coworkers. I would never support ignoring the person or being icy, but smile-and-nod doesn’t seem rude to me. I’d personally add a “morning!” in there some of the time myself but it doesn’t change the “feel” of it all that much the way I’m imagining it.

            1. RUKiddingMe

              “Morning!” Aaannnddd keep walking. Or even “fine/good. thanks! have a good morning! etc.” Keep walking. The key is short, not inviting additional conversation, and keep walking. Always keep walking.

          3. JessaB

            Some people when they first arrive to work are busy in their heads figuring out what to do that day, or maybe just wanting to get in, get their stuff put up and get a drink from the break room before starting. It’s not just one greeting, I’d have less of an issue if it was only once, but if this person is doing it every single time someone passes their desk, I’d start to get annoyed too. The person is not paying attention to clear signals, looking away, hurrying by, etc. That the person in question is not looking to be talked to. It’d be rude to push by them every single time, but there’s a point at which it’s tiring, and some people just not only don’t have the spoons, but someone else added forks to the spoon theory as in “stick a fork in me I’m done,” and some people are at forks.

            1. Wendy Wash

              I agree. It’s too much interaction straight up in the morning on a daily basis. I would also find it annoying.

            2. Emily K

              Yeah, the last time I worked in an office, my path into my office took me right past two desks right outside my office. I always said, “hey,” or “good morning,” to them on my way in rather than blowing past them with no acknowledgment. Similarly if I got in before either of them, they’d usually give a quick, “good morning,” if my office door was open. We worked in that seating configuration for years and although I’m sure it could have happened, I can’t really remember a single time any of us asked the other a question as part of that morning greeting. We all treated it as a perfunctory pleasantry that we exchanged because we had a warm collegial relationship, not an actual opportunity to have a conversation. And we also did talk off and on throughout the day, especially around lunch when one person might comment on an article they were reading and share with the other two. That just never really happened that I can recall while any of us were in motion.

          4. Kate H

            I want to comment on this as someone with social anxiety: This would be a huge impact on my morale at work. A simple “Good morning” is fine, but having to respond to a question every single time I passed this person’s desk, which sounds like multiple times a day, would cause me a lot of stress. I’d probably start consolidating my passes, waiting until I need to go to the kitchen before going to the bathroom, for instance.

            This isn’t polite pleasantries first thing in the morning. If I’m reading this letter right, it’s talking to every person every time they pass by their desk. I feel like that’s being overlooked.

            1. Samwise

              You don’t have to respond to questions. Do your greeting *as you walk by* and don’t stop walking.

              Same thing with the greetings later in the day, only make the response shorter — a quick “Hey!” or even a little wave as you briskly go past.

              1. Anne Elliot

                Agreed. The OP says that every question “demands” an answer, but they don’t really. There’s a difference between acknowledging a person’s existence and investing time in a conversation. It’s a bit weird that this person wants their existence acknowledged every time you walk by, but that acknowledgement can be short, breezy, and offered without breaking stride. And I do think the acknowledgment should be provided, both to avoid seeming rude and because this is not a hill worth dying on. Examples:

                “Good morning, OP!”
                “Good morning, Ken!”
                “How was your commute???”
                “No issues today!” (said while briskly walking away)

                “Hi, OP!”
                “Hi, Ken!”
                “On your way to the copier???”
                (No answer needed, keep going)

                “It’s the OP again!”
                “Yep!” (keep walking)

                etc. etc. The key is to be cheerful and to keep walking.

                1. Tallulah in the Sky

                  I agree that you don’t have to enter in a whole conversation with the coworker, you can be brief and power through. The thing is : should you have to ? OP describes colleagues diverting their gaze, hurrying passed coworker’s desk,… I don’t see an option for OP to do something about it (without being really rude themselves), but it’s a bit sad that the response to someone’s quite extreme attitude to talk to people at every opportunity is “Welp, you can’t be rude, so just bear with it for as long as you work there”. And even sadder to pass it of as OK and normal, OP shouldn’t even be bothered by it.

                2. Anne Elliot

                  I totally get what you’re saying, but I’m not sure “should you have to” is a particularly fruitful way of thinking. There’s a lot of stuff we do on a daily basis to grease the social skids, and to me thinking “I shouldn’t have to do this” makes it much more likely you will resent the effort you have to make and lose perspective on the more important question, which is: Is this an issue that is important enough in my life that I am going to draw a line and go to war over it?

                  This one just isn’t that important. (Or shouldn’t be.) Should you have to be unfailingly nice to a person who is annoying you, intentionally or not? Nope. You shouldn’t have to. But here we are, and there he sits, and so to me the more realistic question is how to address the problem in front of us, not whether the problem should exist or not.

          5. Fiberpunk

            This person sounds intrusive and rather demanding. No one else at their company acts like this.It’s just inappropriate and yes, I would be annoyed and try to avoid them if at all possible.

      2. mark132

        It may depend on where you live. In parts of the south or Midwest etc. Not answering verbally is going to come off as rude. I can’t speak directly to other places.

        1. Suisse is strange

          Definitely agree on the destination (slash cultural background). I grew up in upstate New York and am definitely used to a smile and nod being absolutely normal and 100% acceptable. Then I moved to Switzerland, where verbal responses are expected. But then I learned that, at least in France, saying bonjour twice is also rude. So then I was just totally awkward when seeing someone for the second time (e.g. passing a colleague in the hallway a few times a day), when in the U.S. I probably just would have said hello and not thought about it.

        2. Lynn Marie

          I think a smile is perfectly fine. But if you feel you must respond verbally, just say Hi, good morning, or how are you. Just because someone asks you a question doesn’t mean you have to answer it.

        3. Ms. Guacamole

          Hey, let’s not totally bash on the Midwest. I live in the Chicago region of the Midwest (but not actually in Chicago). People are friendly but I’m not much of a people-person. A smile and a nod are definitely acceptable responses in my area.

      3. valentine

        a smile doesn’t mean you can ignore someone.
        A smile is a perfectly fine response. If the words don’t matter, let’s not have them. I’d go with raised eyebrows or a nod in the morning and nothing the rest of the day. She’s speaking to everyone every time they walk by. The morning assault is too much. The total package is insufferable.

        1. Mannheim Steamroller

          Even a simple wave would work. Maybe pretend to talk on your phone to someone while waving to Aggressive Greeter.

          1. MusicWithRocksInIt

            Oh – or maybe wear headphones if they are allowed at work. That way if you see them talking you can just wave at tap the headphones in a ‘I’m saying hi but also listening to music got to get to my desk bye’ way without any words.

          2. VictorianCowgirl

            YES this is what I was going to comment with. Phone to ear, wave to Chatty. Headphones when heading past their desk to the bathroom, etc or even phone to ear again. When you have the energy, one polite chat on YOUR terms.

            This would exhaust me to encounter this kind of forced interaction beyond the simple and polite wave or “morning” that is more standard with professionals.

            1. LJay

              This all sounds a lot more tiring than saying, “Fine, thanks” and moving on with your life.

        2. mamma mia

          “Assault”….really? I genuinely can’t tell if you’re kidding or not. Some of the comments here are crazy to me. The dude is saying hi and asking innocuous questions; these interactions probably take up a total of 30 seconds a day. How on earth do people consider this that big of a deal? Smile and either answer or continue walking. Being slightly sociable at work isn’t going to kill you.

          OP, If you’re not into it, say, “Excuse me, coworker, but I feel like you are aggressive when greeting me. Please no longer speak to me as I pass you by as I have far more important things to think about on my way to the bathroom” And if that feels rude to you, maybe you should really have a think as to whether your anger is proportionate to the coworker’s behavior.

          1. Risha

            The thing is, it may feel rude to say (and to be clear, I’m in no way recommend saying it), but it’s also the truth. The coworker is being oddly aggressive*** and she does have better things to worry about on her way somewhere else then validating his existence or whatever else he’s looking for in forcing these interactions.

            A genuinely polite but friendly person with appropriate social skills would give everyone a mild greeting in the morning as they walk by, accept whatever degree of response is given in return, and then continue to socially interact with people as they end up in the same space at various points of the day.

            The sort of drive-by interruption being described by the OP is usually either someone who needs validation to such a degree that they are willing to force it, or someone with poor enough social skills that it accidentally appears that way (probably because they were told at some point that friendliness with coworkers = a greeting and chitchat, and they don’t realize that there are boundaries around that. As someone whose social skills are almost entirely learned the hard way and by rote, I can understand how that can happen.).

            ***Disclaimer: the actual degree of aggression that this would be varies by culture.

            1. mamma mia

              There is nothing “aggressive” in this coworker asking how your commute was, or other innocent questions, unless they are physically hovering over you and preventing you from being able to walk away. He is not “forcing” her into these interactions when she could very easily say, “No time to chat, let’s catch up later” or something else to sidestep him.

              And even if this coworker is looking for someone to “validate his existence”, maybe getting your existence validated by your coworker isn’t the worst possible thing in the world. People want to feel like people at work, not mindless robots. Or at least, that’s what I thought before reading some of these comments haha.

              1. JM60

                Greeting your coworkers isn’t aggressive per se. Doing it every **** time someone passes by, to the point where people avert their gaze to avoid interacting with you, is aggressive.

              2. Fiberpunk

                I would feel like this guy created stress for me every single day with his neediness and demands that I interact with him EVERY TIME time I passed his cube. That’s really not defensible. Why should he be able to impose this weird level of interaction on everyone else?

                1. mamma mia

                  These don’t even sound like real questions that the coworker is asking so a response of “All good, thanks. See ya later!” would be fine. I personally don’t see how saying that kind of interaction “creates stress” but I’m clearly in the minority here and respect the fact that minor socializing is too much for some people. The coworker sounds annoying, not “needy” and not “demanding.”

                2. JM60

                  @mamma mia

                  It’s not that briefly greeting someone is stressful; it’s that something annoying that’s done repeatedly, consistently, an be frequently becomes stressful. The OP says that people are trying to avert their gaze to avoid interacting, which likely means that the coworker is the source of stress that people are wanting to avoid.

              3. Risha

                What JM60 said, basically? It IS aggressive to continually put yourself forward at someone who is trying to disengage. If this was a stranger on the street, the next day all your friends would be telling you that you should have walked to the nearest police station, just to be safe. If this was an 80s soap opera, it would be step two before the big hair-pulling throwdown between romantic rivals.

                Now, note that I didn’t say that this coworker was necessarily doing it on purpose, or doing anything threatening, deliberately or otherwise, and he’s neither a stranger nor a rival. That doesn’t make it not aggressive!

                1. Peacock

                  A coworker who you see everyday and presumably know by name is not remotely comparable to a stranger on the street! And 80s soap operas are fiction. This comment section is absolutely bonkers today, I don’t understand how some of you hold down jobs when you’re so offended by people saying hi and terrified that someone will know you’re – GASP – going to the bathroom.

                2. JM60

                  @Peacock

                  “A coworker who you see everyday and presumably know by name is not remotely comparable to a stranger on the street!”

                  Which arguably makes the co-worker’s behavior worse! They’re doing it to the same people over and over, even though those same people have tried avoiding their initiatives to greet them every **** time they walk by.

                  ” I don’t understand how some of you hold down jobs when you’re so offended”

                  That’s a massive strawman, as it’s not about being offended. It’s more about excessively frequent, unwanted, and unnecessary interaction to the point where you could argue that it could be a form of light harassment. If you think that’s way over the over the top, consider that their coworkers have tried to avoid this *forced* interaction.

                3. Peacock

                  @JM60

                  Right, got it – greeting a coworker that you know and see everyday is WORSE than harassing a stranger on the street. Yeah, makes total sense. I’ll remember to only greet my coworkers once and then pointedly ignore them for the rest of my working life because that’s clearly the polite thing to do and not completely and utterly nonsensical. Jesus fucking Christ.

                4. mamma mia

                  …are you seriously arguing that a stranger asking, “hi, how was your commute” is somehow worse behavior than a coworker doing it?! Because if so, we’re operating on very different understandings of reality lol.

                  You’re saying that people are trying to avoid the initiatives. The example OP provided as them doing that is “avoiding eye contact” and “hurrying by quickly.” Yes, many people would pick up on these signals but it’s clearly not working. Nowhere there is “using words and asking him to stop”. It’s not “light harassment” just because the coworker isn’t a damn mind reader.

                5. JM60

                  @mamma mia

                  “…are you seriously arguing that a stranger asking, “hi, how was your commute” is somehow worse behavior than a coworker doing it?!”

                  If you’re talking to me, no. I’m not saying that. I am saying you can make a case for the reverse.

                  “You’re saying that people are trying to avoid the initiatives. The example OP provided as them doing that is “avoiding eye contact” and “hurrying by quickly.” Yes, many people would pick up on these signals but it’s clearly not working. Nowhere there is “using words and asking him to stop”.”

                  That’s probably because they’re afraid it will come across as rude, and many in this comment section say it is rude.

                  “It’s not “light harassment” just because the coworker isn’t a damn mind reader.”

                  Even assuming that they haven’t noticed their coworkers trying to avoid their obnoxious greetings, their behavior may be lightly harassing nonetheless because it’s excessively frequent, unwanted, and unnecessary. Even for behavior that would widely be considered harassment, people sometimes engage in it before they know it’s unwanted or that others consider it harassment. (Also note that not all harassment is equal. I specifically say “light harassment” because most behaviors people tend to think of as harassment is a big deal. This issue isn’t big enough to get their boss involved, but it may be big enough for the OP to ask them to stop, even if doing so would make the OP appear to be rude.)

                6. JM60

                  @mamma mia

                  Regarding your “a damn mind reader” comment, the OP said:

                  “And it’s not just first thing in the morning. I have to pass them to get to the kitchen, the bathroom, other people’s offices … and I’m forced to answer a question every time.”

                  You don’t have to be “a damn mind reader” to know that most people don’t want to be greeted every single time they either go to the kitchen, bathroom, or other people’s offices! That could easily be ~15 times a day, ~75 times a week, and ~3,000 times a year.

                7. JM60

                  @Peacock

                  “I’ll remember to only greet my coworkers once and then pointedly ignore them for the rest of my working life because”

                  Because that’s the only alternative to annoying someone whenever they walk by you ~15 times a day for 5 days a week. Your strawmen are ridiculous.

                8. Risha

                  @Peacock – I did not say that a stranger is the same thing as a coworker. I actually EXPLICITLY said that it’s not! I’m saying the behavior is objectively the same, and stripped of the “friendly coworker” context you would consider it an aggressive action. We make allowances for people we know, and this is actually somewhat reasonable because we probably have a better grasp of their intentions. That doesn’t make the behavior appropriate.

                9. mamma mia

                  Risha, the reason your comparisons were out of whack is because the entire issue seems to be that the OP and the coworker have differing expectations of what it means to be polite in the office. It IS a relationship question, not a behavior question so by “stripping the (very vital) context”, you created an entirely different scenario. You basically said, “If this situation were completely different, it would be bad!” Which is very obvious and not helpful in illustrating your point.

                  And JM60, no, you cannot possibly “make a case” that it is worse for a coworker to ask about your commute than it is for a stranger to ask that. Similarly, I could not “make a case” that the moon is actually made of cheese. If you’re going to make those kinds of wild claims, you could at least have the conviction to stand firm in your beliefs, as opposed to hiding behind this “arguably” and “make a case” stuff. There’s no point in arguing with someone who uses that kind of evasive rhetoric.

                10. JM60

                  @mamma mia

                  “It IS a relationship question, not a behavior question so by “stripping the (very vital) context”, you created an entirely different scenario.”

                  It most certainly is a behavior question though. Sure, context of the relationship can change how you judge the behavior. However, the relationship between the OP and their “friendly” coworker consists of the coworker lobbing unwanted greeting every **** time they pass by, and the coworker either not reciprocating, or doing the minimum to not be perceived as rude. That part of the relationship should make this repeated behavior less acceptable, not more.

                  “And JM60, no, you cannot possibly “make a case” that it is worse for a coworker to ask about your commute than it is for a stranger to ask that.”

                  If a stranger greets me for the first time, they don’t know if I’m the type of person who wants to be greeted over and over. So if the OP’s coworker started working in my office, this behavior of greeting me every time we pass would initially be forgivable, since she may not initially know that I find it a little annoying. However, if she’s been doing it for some time, and I’ve been either avoiding reciprocating (OP says “people avert their eyes and try to hurry by”) or responding with the minimum (“good”, then hurry by), then she should know that I’m not the type of person who wants to be greeted every time I pass her. And picking up on this doesn’t require being a mind reader.

                11. LJay

                  No, nobody is telling people to go to the police station because a stranger on the street said, “How’s it going this morning?” or similar.

            2. VictorianCowgirl

              This is an excellently worded reply to such an angry comment. We are allowed to have our own preferences for interactions without being forced to satisfy others’.

              1. mamma mia

                Literally nothing about my comment was angry. I was just taking issue with the overdramatic language used to describe him. He is annoying; he is not “aggressive” and he is not “assaulting” OP.

              2. Avasarala

                That could go for the coworker too. He’s allowed to prefer more frequent, warm interactions without being forced to satisfy OP’s.

                1. JM60

                  That’s not the same thing though. An introvert giving into their preference of passively not initiating interaction imposes nothing on others. The coworker giving into their preference of actively initiating interaction imposes upon others.

          2. Princess PIP

            Your hypothetical response is deliberately full of hyperbole and an inappropriately emotional and defensive strawman.

            1. mamma mia

              Yes, I admit it. I deliberately used hyperbole (although not very much because the OP herself referred to the coworker as aggressive) to illustrate how silly it would be to complain about this. I guess I’ll go bow my head in shame now.

      4. Impy

        I think it’s rude to aggressively greet people who are avoiding eye contact and pretty obviously don’t want to talk to you. Alison’s advice is correct because this is work but the person is still being obnoxious imo.

              1. Snark

                Maybe so, but my feeling is that making this all about some neurotic need for attention is missing the point. Different people have different social needs. We all have to compromise in different ways at different times around that.

                1. Michaela Westen

                  Someone who takes this approach to people – the message is “you will stop what you’re doing and chat with me because I want you to and I don’t care how important what you’re doing is, or whether you want me to leave you alone” – is being selfish and demanding. I don’t know if it’s technically a pathology, but it is not friendliness.

                2. Snark

                  You sure can interpret it as selfish and demanding. I find it’s generally easier to give people the benefit of more doubt than that.

                3. fposte

                  Right. This is a chocolate and vanilla thing, not a one person is in the DSM and one person is normal thing.

                4. Parenthetically

                  Totally agree. No need to turn it into “Chatty is socially needy and deserves scorn.” It’s probably just a habit, and likely based in the idea that it’s rude not to acknowledge people. (Which is why I think it’d be fine to casually drop an “I don’t want you to feel like you have to greet me every single time I walk past! Please, just keep on with your work and don’t let me walking to refill my coffee compel you to break your concentration” kind of comment one day. It’s low key and puts it on Chatty’s radar that it’s noticeable that they’re making some remark every single time.)

                5. LJay

                  This.

                  I think a lot of people don’t realize that working in an office with people (just like living with people) is about compromise. And also deciding what hills you want to die on.

                  Like I’m fairly introverted. Would I choose to greet or engage in interaction with somebody every time I passed by them? Absolutely not.

                  Are they wrong or aggressive or showing a pathological need for attention by greeting me every time I walk by? No. They’re clearly more extroverted than me. But that’s not wrong or bad. Maybe they’re bored at their job. Maybe they find that by engaging in these conversations they are better at their job because they build better relationships with people or hear sooner about issues that need to be fixed or whatever.

                  Anyway, for me, personally, is not talking to this person the hill I want to die on? No. Calling him out or making a big deal about it is probably going to cause more issues for me than just saying, “Great, thanks” when he asks how my commute is each day. It takes two seconds. If I passed multiple times a day (like more than 3) I might later resort to just not hearing him/avoiding eye contact like I do to the mall kiosk sales people at some point.

                  But I’d rather save my capital for things I really don’t want to compromise on like if someone starts blasting music that makes me unable to concentrate or something.

                  But dealing with people is going to include people eating things that don’t smell appetizing to you, making noises that distract you sometimes, having different organization methods than you, etc. And you’re going to do the same to them. And there’s going to need to be a give and take. And you have to realize that when you expect the other person to “give” that that’s going to have some sort of trade-off – either you’re going to need to “give” somewhere else, or there’s going to be social consequences like them not liking you.

                6. LJay

                  @Michaela Westen

                  You could easily argue that someone who won’t take a second out of their day to say “hi” to a coworker because they feel that whatever they are doing is more important than kindly acknowledging another human being they share space with is being selfish and inconsiderate and unfriendly.

                  (Note, I don’t believe that. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. But you’re showing one side as objectively right and one side as objectively wrong as viewed through your own lens and it’s just not an objective truth.)

      5. fhqwhgads

        I’d argue if you made eye contact and smiled, you did not ignore them? That’s interaction right there. Nonverbal, but it’s still acknowledgement.

      6. epi

        You really cannot know that from what is in the letter. As others have pointed out, the level of response that is considered polite varies a lot by geography and culture. So does the inappropriateness of the coworker’s interruptions; in some cultures they would be totally normal.

        I think it’s worth noting that this OP says their coworker creeps them out, and they reference a “smarmy” “ick factor” with this person too that is apparently separate from just the volume of interactions. Of course it is a big deal to constantly be forced to interact with someone who makes you uncomfortable, and it’s pretty insensitive to act like the problem is all about the time it would take to just accept those interactions and pretend they are welcome. This coworker does not outrank the OP as a human being, there is no reason all interactions should be the coworker’s way or the highway regardless of how anyone else feels about it.

        If I were the OP I’d do some thinking about where the “ick factor” is coming from. Even though the coworker stops everyone, is there something about their demeanor that makes the OP feel singled out– either as an individual or as a member of a group? Have they seen or experienced the coworker do this when they definitely knew or should have known the behavior was unwelcome? Sometimes, trying to be polite, people can overdo it and leave someone with the impression that a tolerated behavior is actually welcome and enjoyable. On the other hand, if the coworker literally has demanded acknowledgement from people walking by, or kept going after someone did try to set boundaries around this, it’s hard to see how continuing to be polite would help the situation.

        1. nonegiven

          I don’t think OP feels singled out, since other people in the office are signalling the same annoyance around Chatty.

          I wonder if Chatty has enough actual work to do or if they need their desk moved so they won’t feel compelled to talk so much to passersby.

        2. LJay

          Where does the OP say that the person creeps them out?

          I see they said that there was an ick factor, but I figured that that just meant that they felt the attention was smarmy and insincere like a stereotypical used-car salesman, not that they were creepy.

          If they feel creeped out by them I think it changes things in the letter significantly.

      7. Rusty Shackelford

        a smile doesn’t mean you can ignore someone.

        Giving someone a smile and nod, as the person you’re responding to suggested, is pretty much the definition of NOT ignoring them.

      8. Archaeopteryx

        A smile and nod is not ignoring someone, and a greeting is not a conversational summons. The coworker shouldn’t be stopping people for more than a good morning.

      1. VictorianCowgirl

        This would be an excellent experiment and I would really dig it if someone said that to me in the office, especially one of the less chatty folks; it sends a humorous and gentle message as well.

    3. Clarissa

      I hate people that give hearty greetings at every opportunity. But if they stopped my feelings might be hurt. I’ve just thought of what I’m going to do in the future. Blow them a kiss or wink.

    4. TPS Cover Sheet

      Well, being from a no-small-talk culture, I have a good excuse for a remedy. A question is asked only because it is to be answered. So hearing a TMI rant over my train journey and my piles that morning might curb their interests further on the week… while a dozen people sneak in behind my back.

      A smile, how about a Vulcan eyebrow raise?

      1. Traffic_Spiral

        Taking one for the team – noble. Personally, when I had one of these morning people, I just told him “look, I don’t talk in the mornings – don’t take it personally.” Then, we chat during lunch breaks or in the afternoon.

        1. Julia

          I have someone at work who tells people that if he ignores them, it’s not to be rude or out of dislike, he’s just in the zone, meaning deep in thought. It works, and these days, depending on his facial expression, I don’t approach him unless he approaches me first.

      2. Mannheim Steamroller

        The Vulcan eyebrow raise would certainly be better than the Vulcan nerve pinch.

    5. Ellen

      At one time, a total war kind of arose over this where I work, bad enough that other departments were hearing about it. Line cooks vs prep workers, as I recall. I worked, at the time, as a cashier in the cafe (we are a hospital, so this is a lot more people than you may think). When I transferred to food prep, I kept my customer service face on- everyone, EVERYONE got a cheerful and loud enough to be heard good morning (or afternoon), and I resolved not to GAF if anyone ever responded. And, just like that, the war was over. It might not be an issue to just smile back- ask the person. “Sometimes, I’m in a time crunch; I appreciate you asking, but I hope your cool if I just nod? ” might resolve the whole thing.

    6. MCMonkeyBean

      I would probably respond verbally, but I wouldn’t answer the question. While this person clearly expects a real answer, in most places in the US a question in a greeting is just a formality and not a genuine question so I would probably try to train them to understand that. If they say “good morning, how was your commute?” I’d probably respond with something like “hey, how’s it going” or just repeat their “good morning” and keep walking. If they try to stop and engage for a longer conversation you can say something like “Sorry I’ve actually really got to get to my desk.” Be polite but refuse to engage further and after a while they will hopefully stop expecting anything more.

      This is basically what I have done with the very friendly security guard in my office building. He seems very nice, but he’s so chipper and he’s presumably been there for a while and interacted with lots of people–while on my end he is the first human I have interacted with all day and I’m really just not up for the kind of exchange he seems to be looking for yet.

    7. stack it up

      This is in part dependent on work culture but even if nothing is playing I visibly keep in one or both earbuds until I get my desk so I can get out a quick “hey howya” without breaking stride and no one expects otherwise. I also bike to work and carry my bike to my cubicle which gives me a big pass since people assume I want to get to where I’m going to offload it, but the earbuds thing has worked without a bike too.

      Basically just be purposefully doing something/going somewhere! If you’re clearly in the middle of something (even just finishing up a podcast or whatever) people will take a more brisk greeting.

    8. Dana HB

      #2 – A simple and cheerful “good, thanks!” works every time while rushing on by.

    9. Ralph the Wonder Llama

      Am I the only one wondering how the living hell the serial greeter gets any work done? Having to respond to someone every time I passed their desk would drive me crazy. I’d also be resentful, not just for the Interruptions but also because I can see the serial greeter’s behavior as a form of control. And am I the only one who might reply to “how was the commute” in excruciating, lengthy detail without pausing, ditto for every other question.

        1. Avasarala

          This feels like assigning malicious intention. There is no evidence that the coworker is demanding attention as a means to control his coworkers.

      1. LJay

        They might be in a position like a receptionist where they don’t have much to do other than waiting for people to come in or the phone to ring so as long as they’re not greeting visitors they have plenty of time to greet coworkers.

        It might be an office with only a few other people in it, so saying hi to everyone once when the come in, once at the end of the day, and then twice each the 4 other people in the office when they go to the bathroom/walk past to another office, etc isn’t actually taking up a lot of time.

        They might be in a position like sales where they feel like it’s worth it to cultivate a personal relationship with people who might turn into sales leads.

        They might be in a position like grounds maintenance where hearing things like, “Well I tripped in the big pothole in the parkinglot on the way in” or “ugh my office is hotter than normal and I feel like I need to run home to shower on my lunch because of it” is actually useful in their position, etc.

        Maybe they’ve got a lot of code that needs to compile. Who knows.

      2. Dee Double You

        Yep, I was. I would not like to be employing someone who didn’t seem to ever work without distraction. Yes, we all chat sometime, and we all work hard other times. Or we should.

    10. Sara without an H

      This issue keeps coming up (check the archives for examples). OP2, like many of the commenters on this thread, you are grossly overthinking the issue. The whole daily greetings thing is a ritual and the responses don’t require a lot of thought: “Fine, thanks, how was yours?” “How was your commute?” “No worse than usual. See you later!” Smile, but keep walking. Do not break stride.

      A couple of other things:
      1. OP2, I wonder if this would bother you as much if you didn’t already dislike this person for other reasons? I’m thinking of your description of her as “smarmy.” Everybody has personal quirks, but we overlook our own and those of people we like. Your personal feelings about Chatty Cathy may be affecting how you see this relatively minor interaction.

      2. Are you working in the South or Middle West? (And are you from someplace else?) This kind of conversation is an accepted social bonding ritual there. No, it does not make logical sense. Yes, you should play along if you want to have decent relationships with the locals.

      3. Your perception is that Chatty Cathy is generally disliked at your office. Is it possible that she’s the lone extrovert in an office full of introverts? If so, she may be just trying desperately to establish a relationship with somebody — anybody — to talk to. Being the lone extrovert in a pack of introverts can be as miserable as the opposite situation.

      But I agree with Alison — you should let this go. Complaining about this to your manager would not work in your favor. And being mean to Chatty Cathy until she quits talking to you will come back to bite you when you find you need her help.

      1. Snark

        Agreed with all of this. There’s just a certain amount of social interaction you need to do. Do the bare minimum, but do it.

      2. JM60

        This is a lot more than a “daily greetings thing.” They’re doing it every time someone passes by, meaning multiple times a day. That’s very annoying.

        1. Sara without an H

          JM60, you may be right, but I don’t think it really changes anything. Just be brief, bright, and gone.

          1. JM60

            It may change things if the OP is willing to come across as rude by asking the coworker to stop, and can think of the how to word such an unusual request. Although this would likely come across as rude, this wouldn’t actually be rude of the OP to do.

            1. Sara without an H

              Is OP willing to totally alienate Chatty Cathy? At what cost? What if she goes complaining to the manager about how nasty OP has been to her? Manager asks OP what’s going on and OP says, “She kept talking to me and I couldn’t take it any more.” How do you think that’s going to turn out for OP?

              JM60, with respect, I think you’re confusing being right with being effective.

              1. JM60

                “Is OP willing to totally alienate Chatty Cathy? At what cost?”

                Given how annoying this probably is, it may be worth it for the OP to pay a moderately high price. If the price is that the coworker becomes cold to them, then that’s a price I’d be more than happy to pay if I were in the OP’s position.

                “What if she goes complaining to the manager about how nasty OP has been to her?”

                If the OP says it in a pleasant tone and frames it as needing to maintain their concentration (someone else in here found a good way to phrase it, can’t find their comment ATM), that risk could be greatly mitigated. In the unlikely case that she does go to the OP’s manager, there’s a good chance that the manager is also annoyed by her excessive greetings.

                “I think you’re confusing being right with being effective.”

                I think directly asking the coworker to stop would likely make them stop. The main question is what are the other effects, and if the OP is willing to pay that price.

                1. Avasarala

                  I’m concerned that you’re willing to alienate a potential ally over too-frequent well-wishes. If I were a manager or anyone with influence in promotions, I would be concerned that someone who took that route is not ready to be put in charge of teams or cooperative projects. If you think it’s worth the impact on your career, that’s up to you… but I bet there are other areas of your life where things don’t work out for you and you can’t figure out why, all you did was alienate people who could have helped you and stepped on toes everywhere you went…

                2. JM60

                  “I’m concerned that you’re willing to alienate a potential ally over too-frequent well-wishes.”

                  “Too-frequent well-wishes” is putting it very lightly. The OP says the coworker does it every time they go to kitchen, every time they go to the bathroom, and often when they go to other people’s offices. That could easily be 15 times a day! If these were “well-wishes” for benevolent reasons, their disposition toward me would probably be favorable enough such that explaining to them how excessive their behavior is wouldn’t destroy the working relationship. That being said, I have a hard time imagining why someone would think it’s kind to greet someone that excessively.

                  “but I bet there are other areas of your life where things don’t work out for you and you can’t figure out why, all you did was alienate people who could have helped you and stepped on toes everywhere you went…”

                  Well, you’d bet wrong.

                  Besides, I’ve never alienated a coworker even though I would be willing to do so if I were in the OP’s shoes. What the OP’s coworker is doing is much more annoying than anything any of my coworkers have done to me in my ~12 year career.

        2. Oxford Comma

          Based on the number of posts we’ve had on this topic, I wonder if the Chatty co-worker was formerly introverted, got told to make an effort toward being friendly, and is overcompensating.

        3. Avasarala

          Let’s say the average/median chatty level is (1) greeting when you come into work, (2) chitchat around lunchtime (3) chitchat when you’re otherwise working together, otherwise mostly work-related talk or silence.

          We’ve seen from this comment section that some people think that is too much, and would prefer to reduce (1) to a nod or nothing, and otherwise limit social interaction.

          Isn’t it possible then that some people would see this as too little? Instead of turning the knob from 5 to 3, they’d rather turn it up to 7? And isn’t it possible that this is still within the general range of acceptable human behavior?

          1. Allonge

            I am certain there are people who want to turn that knob up.

            Greeting / addressing everyone every time they pass by their desk, and not at all paying attention to the results this yields is a bad way of making that happen. If I need more social interaction, it should be with people who also have some level of positive feeling toward that, not with everyone who dares to pass by my desk.

    11. That Girl From Quinn's House

      Be glad they’re not a dog, otherwise they’d be aggressively sniffing your bum.

    12. TootsNYC

      also, stop caring if this coworker gets mad because you don’t answer in the way they’re demanding. Smile, say the same phrase over and over (“nothing to report”) is nice, and keep moving.

      And let them be annoyed. They’ll get over it–that, or die mad.

    13. Hold that thought

      So, what I would do and have done, is find a simple tagline that suits you, and use it. The first one that came to mind is – and no matter what they say – simply put up an index finger, smile, and reply “Hold that thought!” as you zoom past. It’s quite possible the Greeter will be amused by this and consider it a shared joke.

    14. Jennifer Juniper

      I’d probably be best friends with #2’s coworker. I’ve been known to be relentlessly cheerful to the point of insanity. Think Unikitty after a double espresso.

  3. Jessen

    For #2, I’ve seen some of the captain awkward commentariat call this “completing the social circle.” It’s not a request for information so much as an indication of polite interest in other people. So anything that manages to communicate that you acknowledge and return the interest is an acceptable response.

    1. RUKiddingMe

      Yeah but how many times in one single day can one be expected to fo this dance with the same person?

      Once in the morning I can handle. I’d even be expecting more than a few people to fo the “morning..,” thing because thst’s pretty normsl.

      However this much social would just overload my introvert self. I can be social, but it becomes too much for me pretty fast. I run out of spoons to deal with it unless I pre-plan. Like I know it’s a party and I will stay X hours in order to be social then go home and crawl in bed with a cat and a book for two days.

      This much at work every day? Every.single.interaction? Aside from being an introvert I’m slightly misanthropic. This kind if crap would have me in my office, door locked, and me under the desk do no one could see I was in there.

      1. MK

        I am not an introvert and this would be pretty intorelable. The first time you see someone, yes, you should greet them, I don’t care if you are introverted, grumpy, reclusive, whatever, you should acknowledge your fellow humans. But after that no one should be expected to make small talk just because they happen to pass your desk.

      2. Samwise

        I’m an introvert and I;m known for my intense focus on…whatever…as I charge down the hallway. Greetings interrupt my thoughts. And yet, I don’t get upset when people greet/interrupt me as I charge down the hallway. Why? Because I’m not locked in my office, where it is reasonable to not be interrupted. I’m out of my cave, where I am likely to encounter other people, and thus I need to act at least minimally sociable because that’s what;s expected of human beings in social situations. It’s not up to my colleagues to have to worry that maybe they are interrupting someone’s thoughts when they’re out where the people are. It’s up to me to be polite and acknowledge them.

        And yes, I have a colleague who has something to say every single time I walk by her office. I know she’s going to say something. So I acknowledge her! Usually just a wave or a “Hey Betty Sue!” as I keep on walking. I don’t stop for a chat every time (although doing so every once in a while is smart).

      3. Snark

        I’m an introvert. Being an introvert is great. Being an introvert just means that, on balance, social interactions tend to be draining rather than energizing. Being an introvert isn’t a get out of jail free card for all social interaction, and it doesn’t mean that automatically exchanging social pleasantries – or being generally pleasant – is something you get to aggressively opt out of. And it certainly doesn’t serve as a justification for being a misanthrope, or doing something as weird as hiding under your desk.

        To an extent, there are people with whom social conventions dictate even us introverts suck it up, give them a warm (faked, if necessary) smile, say “‘Mornin’, Karen, you too,” and keep walking.

        1. Holly

          Thank you for this comment. Introvert/extrovert is a descriptor for one’s processes, not an exclusion from societal norms or workplace norms.

        2. EventPlannerGal

          Thank you. I feel like “introvert” is used around here like some sort of debilitating medical diagnosis or a Get Out Of Behaving Politely To Others Free card.

          1. Avasarala

            Agreed. It’s like people are taking it to the extreme of “I’m an introvert so I find your presence annoying.”

    2. Princess PIP

      Yup, I’d implement the CA tactic of being repetitive and boring: “Same as always!” while still walking.

  4. LGC

    I was going to ask a couple of questions, but then you answered them!

    Anyway, I totally think you’re allowed to bring that up, LW1 – but also, if you feel like asking for a bit less, ask your manager to keep it in the room that you don’t work in, and to close the door. (It sounds like that might actually prevent the smell from carrying over by itself.) Then again, this assumes it’s the smell of alcohol itself that provokes anxiety attacks, not the presence of alcohol around you (which the smell reminds you of).

    Hopefully, your boss is cool and respectful of you, and good luck!

    1. valentine

      ask your manager to keep it in the room that you don’t work in, and to close the door.
      Restricting the alcohol to their room defeats the purpose of setting it up in the employee room for them to enjoy while working, so I doubt they’ll go for it.

      Is alcohol breath also a problem?

      1. LGC

        I don’t know if it would be. I enjoy alcohol myself, but I can’t usually smell alcohol on someone unless I’m close to them. I AM able to smell open beverages, though!

        It would depend on LW1’s sensitivity, although I feel like if they were that sensitive they would have mentioned it in the letter.

      2. anon for this comment

        My husband has been in recovery for about 14 years now. I drink a couple of glasses of wine occasionally, but he doesn’t feel comfortable cuddling with me, and definitely not kissing me, until the odor (faint as it is) has dissipated. That generally takes until the next day. Breath mints don’t do the trick; it’s coming from my pores. He describes his reaction to the smell as being like vertigo, the way you feel when you’re standing at the top of a staircase and look at the empty space directly across from you and your stomach gives a little “woom.” So that’s what I imagine when OP describes her feelings.

        My husband just straight up wouldn’t be able to work in that environment. I hope the boss is understanding.

        1. LJay

          Presumably the OP won’t be as close to her coworkers as your husband would be to you while he’s cuddling or kissing you, though?

          Would he be able to sit across a table from you while eating a meal or stand next to you in line at a store after you drank?

          Though I guess I don’t really know why I’m asking since the OPs sensitivity matters here, not anyone elses. And having alcohol at work is one of those things where if it’s a problem for anyone it needs to stop (and it probably needs to stop even if it seems like nobody has a problem since health issues and religious issues with alcohol are both very common and not something people should feel obligated to disclose to not have to be around it at work.)

          I hope the boss is understanding as well.

    2. JanieH

      I wonder if some sort of cup with a lid would work? Or if it would be possible for you to move to a table in the room with your boss? Just brainstorming in case the other people at your company really enjoy this perk and push back on your request.

      1. RUKiddingMe

        Considering that Boss thinks everyone drinking while working is a-ok (seriously people this is not a 1960s ad agency k?) I don’t hold out a lot of hope this (any?) request is going to go over well. Not trying to be a downer. I want OP to say something. I just wouldn’t be holding my breath.

        1. Anastasia Beaverhousen

          Hah… I’ve definitely been in offices where day-drinking was A-OK! Even had a manager pass around jello shots while we were working at our desks. Office cultures can vary a LOT.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch

              Idk that jello shots are equal to actually taking shots at work.

              But it’s the same idea as a cocktail in the end and people can down a pour of bourbon just the same, it’s just in a different glass.

            2. Margaret

              Not the person you asked… but had the same experience working in a call centre for an online shipping service. Your package goes missing, you call X toll free number to track it down/have it reshipped priority/whatever.

              A few times throughout the year we’d day-drink with the boss’s approval. After the ‘reach by Christmas’ shipping cut off time, after the black friday and cyber monday rush. After a particularly hairy coupon code went out. There would always be a lull after the storm and the manager would always immediately get us buzzed.

              After a drink or two we’d come off the live customer lines and just do the back office work we could do in our sleep- copy pasting in answers to FAQs, following up problem tracking numbers to make sure re-shipments were still on track, a million other things like that. Anyone who’d been hit harder than they realized could go assemble cardboard boxes and fill them with packing peanuts, for the odd sample that needed to be sent out from our office instead of the warehouse. We’d close an hour early and head for happy hour together. It wasn’t great… but it wasn’t a totally disastrous way to handle a bunch of twenty somethings who’d just put up with hours and hours of emotional abuse and monotonous shipping troubleshooting. I’m weirdly nostalgic writing about it now.

              Maybe that’s the magic formula for when it feels appropriate. Young crowd, coming off an ugly hard slog, for a special occasion, when you can control the quality of work they have to produce once the drinking has started.

              1. Gazebo Slayer

                Oh man, the call center I worked in was the hardest-drinking of all the drinking workplaces I’ve had. There were whole fridges full of beer and wine and big kegerators on every floor…..

              2. Elephant in the room

                I worked at a microbrewery, bottling days always had beer-thirty. Fun job…

            3. curly sue

              One department I adjuncted in years ago served scotch and gin at faculty meetings. It was a small and very easy-going group, and meetings tended to go remarkably smoothly.

            4. Anastasia Beaverhousen

              California. Various industries. Lived there for a few years, worked with a temp agency, and pretty much every office I was assigned to that wasn’t a non-profit would sometimes have drinks during the work day. I didn’t find the jello shots at that office nearly as distracting as the nerf wars, actually…

          1. MCMonkeyBean

            I had an internship at a well-known “fun” investment company and the first meeting I sat in on was offered a jello shot, which I turned down as I was only 20 lol. I think that was not actually common but it was an interesting way to start!

            1. RUKiddingMe

              The only time I was ever offered anything other than coffee/water was at a “company picnic” at my first husband’s employer.

              Way back before Google owned *Mountain View he worked for a company there that did the bus service for Stanford campus.

              It was a beer branded with the company logo (they branded *everything* I probably still have a few pens) but I think was probably a Budweiser or something.

              I don’t drink so I turned it down, but yeah, -at- work…never happened. ‍♀️

              *Also many (many!) years before Google owned it, yours truly was born there. ‍♀️

          2. Gazebo Slayer

            So have I! They’ve been in tech, design, and pharmaceutical (yep) companies, if I recall correctly – I’ve done a huge amount of temp and contract work, so it’s hard to keep track of it all.

        2. Traffic_Spiral

          Yeah. Personally, I’m a “alcohol is an out-of-office drink” sort of person, but if the boss has decided that “get tiddly at work” is a perk, they’re not going to be interested in discontinuing said perk because one person’s issues.

        3. Lily Rowan

          Yeah, I was wondering if the OP asking to work from somewhere else might be more effective than trying to get the booze out of the office.

          1. rw

            Agreed. OP you are totally entitled to ask for the accommodation, but I fear that your workmates might not thank you for getting their perk rescinded.

            I work in a very booze heavy industry (Events / Festivals) so passing a few drinks around the office as a perk is a semi-regular occurrence (we often get it gifted to us or it’s left-overs or samples, but we also like to celebrate after the really big shows).

            It’s so much a part of the industry, that anyone pushing back in this way would be seen as very out of step with professional norms and it would raise eyebrows. Even the employers I have worked for who recognise the issue and have staff al-anon services at every work-site still have booze at every staff party. I doubt OP’s industry is as booze-soaked, but from what I hear tech start-ups are often of the same ‘work-hard-play-hard’ mentality, so do please consider how this will be received by your colleagues.

            Obviously, you should still ask for the accommodation, but perhaps coming up with some alternatives would help soften the blow?

            These social times aren’t so much about the drinks, as they are an acknowledgement by the higher-ups of hard work, and a signal that you can take it easier than usual for the rest of the day. Is there another treat/perk you can think of that would have the same sort of effect? Telling people, essentially, that they need to stay at work but can take their foot off the gas pedal a bit? Perhaps something like a dress-down Friday (though probably not that, in this particular case – I imagine dress code is already pretty relaxed there!)

            1. Roger

              LW1 here: My issue with the alcohol isn’t that it’s present–I think it’s weird, but not necessarily a deal-breaker. If it were in a happy-hour type context, where we were all relaxing with a drink, I’d have no problem having a soda and chatting with my coworkers as they drank. But that isn’t the case. We’re expected to keep working exactly as we were before alcohol was involved. I can manage my issues around the smell, but it takes up brain space and it makes me less efficient at doing my job. I’m comfortable with alcohol in a casual setting, but it’s hard for me to keep managing my workload while also devoting part of my mental capacity to using the coping skills I’ve learned in therapy.

          1. Snark

            I mean, this place sounds kind of aggressively drinky, which ain’t my story, but I have worked in places where it was considered normal and fine, and they were casual but not brotastic environments.

          2. Working Mom Having It All

            Honestly, everywhere I have worked (entertainment industry) that had alcohol in the workplace, it tended to be a “have one beer” type of thing, not a “get tipsy” kind of thing. And not everyone partook. And anyone drinking to excess would have been poor form and probably would have ruined the perk for everyone, going forward.

            I’m not sure what would have happened if one employee had the issue OP has, though I have worked for a company where one of the managers put the kibosh on Friday evening drinks because her kids came to the office after school. Which I think was grumbled at more because we are not a daycare center (and the optics there were not great), and less because we NEED our Beer O’Clock fix.

        4. Snark

          Drinking while working is also not categorically Not Okay, either. I do not. I can’t. But there’s plenty of Friday afternoon where I’d totally have a crispy one on my desk if I could, and plenty of workplaces where that’s accepted and acceptable.

        5. Ra94

          I interned at a company that has a Friday drinks cart. It’s just a cart of alcohol, soft drinks, and snacks that gets pushed around each floor at 4:30 pm every Friday; most people grab a drink, chat a bit, and then finish off their work, wine in hand. It’s super popular and it’s not about the booze so much as letting off steam a bit without having to commit to a post-work happy hour.

        6. Holly

          I used to work in a government agency law office where once in awhile there would be in-the-office happy hours. It’s used to uplift morale, it cheered everyone up and gave everyone a chance to socialize when the work is really draining. I wish alcohol wasn’t put on this pedestal of being necessary for “fun” or social interaction, but it’s not indicative of a 1960s out-of-touch office.

      2. Who, me? Not me.

        I really like this option! Even better would be company-branded wine tumblers (with lids!) or something.

    3. BethDH

      I wonder whether a tabletop fan (maybe an oscillating one?) would help keep the smell away? I have used one to minimize certain food smells that make me ill. If no one else in the office is sensitive to scents, OP could even use a mild scented oil on the fan to help even more. I brushed a tiny bit of peppermint oil on the cage of my fan and it really helps me but isn’t noticeable when I stand up or move away from my desk.

      1. Olive Hornby

        Yeah, I wondered about this, too. Or a scent diffuser? Normally I’m opposed to these in the office, but it would work here.

      2. DaffyDuck

        I really like this idea. I don’t think asking them to do away with the booze is gonna go over well, that is a huge company culture issue. Controlling OPs exposure to the fumes may be the best bet.

      3. Roger

        LW1 here: I really like this idea—I already carry an essential oil roller on me so that I can huff it and blow out my nose with the smell of oranges so that I can’t smell the alcohol. If talking to my boss doesn’t work, I’m going to invest in a desktop fan.

      4. LJay

        Or an air filter/purifier maybe? I have a desktop one and it seems like it might work for this purpose.

    4. Roger

      LW1 here: unfortunately, even the smell coming off an open beverage bothers me. Someone else suggested me asking to move into the other room, and that might work if my boss also agrees to move into the main work room (which he does sometimes), such that we have a “dry room” and an “alcohol room.”

      1. Jennifer Juniper

        Would having booze in cups with lids on them bother you? How about framing it as you’re concerned about the booze spilling on papers/computers at people’s desks? My old job didn’t allow water or juice unless they were in cups with lids.

  5. PollyQ

    #1 — I don’t know if this would work for your given responsibilities, but one option might be to have your boss pick one day a week he’s bringing in the booze (e.g., Friday), and let you work from home Fridays.

      1. Anastasia Beaverhousen

        That might work actually! If OP’s responsibilities can be accomplished remotely, at least. This sounds like a fairly casual office culture, so the boss might go for it, especially if you give Alison’s suggested ‘I have a sensitivity’ explanation.

    1. Blue

      I was thinking something similar – maybe OP could get the ok to leave the office when they break out the alcohol and complete the day/make up the time remotely.

    2. Software Engineer

      I don’t understand why people even feel a need to bring alcohol into a workplace. What good could possibly come out of buzzed or tipsy coworkers?

      1. hbc

        So, I generally wouldn’t recommend day-drinking at the office*, but I’m going to defend it a little bit. The goal isn’t buzzed or tipsy. You’re looking at a way to get slightly more relaxed (to take the edge off the way a massage might) or you’re looking to provide a fun perk that seems to directly interfere with work but indirectly provides a better work environment (like celebrating coworkers’ birthdays on the clock.)

        *I just realized I worked for a couple weeks in France where the lunch canteen had single-serve bottles of wine, of which I partook when I felt like it. No big deal.

        1. Alli525

          Agreed – I temped at a start-up ad agency during the 2010 World Cup and what was already a summer tradition of breaking out beers over Friday lunches quickly expanded into all-afternoon parties complete with vuvuzelas. I was relatively early in my career and was baffled by the unprofessionalism at first, then realized how much more pleasant I was after just one beer – start-up culture can be really demanding and employer-sponsored break time really mattered. This was even more so the case when I moved over into the financial sector.

      2. Kim, No Longer Esq.

        I tend to describe it as a shortcut to culture. It’s really hard to get several humans of disparate backgrounds, experiences, identities, and job descriptions to get to know one another, and to build the kind of interpersonal trust you need to build to have a strong, positive culture. Alcohol has it’s issues, but it’s *extremely* good for getting people to loosen up and share more with others.

      3. CmdrShepard4ever

        You are right having buzzed or tipsy coworkers is not usually good. But we will occasionally have a drink or two at the office around 4 pm to celebrate big work wins/achievements, personal milestones, or a rough work week. No one gets really buzzed or tipsy, but we will discuss work issues in a more relaxed manner, or just have a relaxed non-work related conversation.

      4. Working Mom Having It All

        In every office I’ve ever worked in that has had alcohol in the office, it’s been ONE beer or wine. Nobody has ever been tipsy, that I can tell. I would assume that if anyone ever drank to excess, the whole thing would be ruined.

        1. ...

          Totally! People do get buzzed at off site events. But drinking is 1 or I suppose 2 MAX and only ever in the last hour of work. Everyone I work with is under 30 and we handle it just fine! Doesn’t solve OP’s problem (sorry OP) but i think there’s a difference between getting don draper wasted at 11am and having a small drink to wind down the day.

      5. LJay

        Yeah, I guess maybe my view on it is because I’m in an industry and sector where it is categorically not okay in any form and regulated by law, but it just seems like a lot of potential issues that outweigh whatever upside there could be.

    3. Environmental Compliance

      Oh, I like this idea. More of a win-win for everyone!

      Only concern would be if the office dynamics would be such that then the OP would be more ostracized? It’s really office dependent, but I could see the boss going well, everyone, gotta wait for OP to not be here to have fuuuuuunnnnnn, you know?

      Personally, it’s a bit strange that the drinks are being passed around at work. I guess I’m in the wrong industry. (Which is a bit funny, given that I work at a place that manufactures alcohol.)

      1. Natalie

        If it’s that kind of workplace, it seems like the LW asking for them to stop bringing alcohol into the office period will go over much more poorly than asking to work from home on happy hour days.

      2. RoadsLady

        It is office dependent, and while a simple work-from-home day might easily resolve the matter, I can’t help but wonder if OP is the only non-drinker. Perhaps the only non-drinker with so severe a reaction, sure.

        But as a non-drinker myself, I would possibly ask if I could stay home, too, on Drink Day. Not out of revulsion, but merely a “ooh, that non-drinker got a work-from-home day based on alcohol, I want one, too”.

        Even if other non-drinkers quietly did their own thing, and what point would this at-work drinking become, if not exclusionary, weirdly cliquey?

        I’m just imagining this alcohol social while non-drinkers might be pressured to not take a break.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever

          I think this seems to be making the wrong assumption that in order to participate/have fun everyone need to be drinking. I think that this is a mistake the some drinkers and some non-drinkers make, this particular even involves drinking and the only way to have fun is to drink. I am a drinker, but I have attended several events with people who don’t drink or were not drinking at the time (for several reasons) and they were still able to have a fun time. Being a drinker I have also attended events with alcohol where I was not drinking and others were and I was still able to have fun.

          For OP it is a slightly different matter since they get panic attacks due to the smell, but simply giving people the option to have a drink is in no way exclusionary or cliquey. If everyone takes a break to have a drink and talk, a non-drinker can also participate in the social aspects of the situation.

          1. RoadsLady

            And that would be ideal. I just have seen situations where people can’t broach the drinker/non-drinker barrier, where in certain social groups taking a drink is the mannerly thing to do.

          2. Librarian of SHIELD

            As a non-drinker, I think it’s actually more uncomfortable for my coworkers if I’m hanging out with them while they’re drinking and I’m not. I’m not sure why that is, but over the course of a couple hours, I’ll get about half a dozen questions about it. “You’re having water? Why aren’t you drinking? Why don’t you just unwind with the rest of us?” I can unwind and have a good time without drinking, but having to explain 6 or 7 times that I don’t drink but that I don’t care if other people do is exhausting and not really team building. It’s why I generally opt out of those experiences if I can.

        2. VictorianCowgirl

          There are always the “drinkers” clique and the “non-drinkers” clique in every workplace and every other aspect of life, we all eventually accrete like mercury to either side. I wouldn’t like this “perk” at work since it hastens that separation, I am 12 years sober, and I view this as a type of immature stress management. It is really hard for me to see people use alcohol that way instead of finding a healthy outlet for stress, especially knowing it’s a regular thing, and especially after I did for so long and getting sober was brutal.

          I wouldn’t say anything in the workplace since that only tends to create enemies with drinkers, but I would be looking for another job if at all possible.

          1. Anna

            Believe it or not, social interaction is a healthy outlet for stress, but those social interactions vary and you’re not going to like each one. Having a drink or two is no more or less healthy than playing games together and non-competitive people not liking it. It’s not going to be the right way to facilitate social interaction for all people. Even though you don’t have a healthy relationship with alcohol and for those reasons made important changes for yourself, it doesn’t mean all relationships with alcohol are unhealthy.

            1. VictorianCowgirl

              Are you meaning to be condescending? Do you think I don’t know all this or that I intimated that I believe anything otherwise?

              1. Avasarala

                You stated “It is really hard for me to see people use alcohol that way instead of finding a healthy outlet for stress.” That makes it sound like you don’t think that people could possibly drink and socialize responsibly. Anna is pushing back on that.

    4. time for lunch

      This, like just about every other fix offered here, is probably worth a go, but it’s also possible that the unexpected, “because I just felt like it”, suprise treat aspect is part of what is read by those who enjoy this as fun.

      Kind of amazing to me how many people find this so unthinkable! I’ve worked in a lot of places but none where there could never ever be a beer on someone’s desk at some point for some reason, with varying levels of naughtiness or totally normalness depending on the place. But maybe it’s good that so many commenters feel that way, because LW1 will have lots of options when they start looking for another job in 3, 2, 1

      That is to say: honestly, if this has happened several times in one month, it’s the tip of the iceberg. Probably no one has said this here because it seems like a terrible thing to say, because it’s sad and dumb to imagine this to be the case, and possibly actionable and contrary to how a business ought to operate, but I’m gonna say it: LW1 might be happier in the long run working somewhere else. Time to keep an eye out for how much alcohol is part of the culture here, and maybe use responses to this to gauge it.

      1. VictorianCowgirl

        I agree so much with your last paragraph. What about recovering alcoholics in this workplace? To me it’s a juvenile thing to do.

      2. Roger

        LW1 here: I agree with everything you’ve said. The unexpected aspect of it is definitely part of it–my boss usually brings it in when we’re working on a tough project, as a “here’s some help getting through this” kind of thing.

        And this is definitely not a long-term job plan: I’m planning to apply to grad school in a few months, and hopefully will be out of the state at school by this time next year. This is just my gap year job, and I won’t be working in this industry in the future (thankfully).

        1. Nuss

          So honestly why do you think they should change what many workers see as a perk for someone who is planning to leave within a year? Whenever I had to take a ‘pay the bills’ job (as opposed to a career job) I accepted that there were going to be things I didn’t like, which was why they weren’t jobs I wanted long term; other people planned to stay in those jobs and had a job culture which wasn’t my place to change.

          1. Roger

            Part of it is because it’s such a small company–a typical day sees the two managers (the founders of the company), myself, and one or maybe two other people. Plus, the company has very high turnover, and I don’t think any of the employees (besides the managers) are planning to stay longer than a year, so it’s not like I’m the one temp in an office of regulars.

            The other part is that the alcohol makes it more difficult for me to do my job efficiently, and in such a small office, one person moving slowly can really make a difference. There’s thus an incentive for the company to listen to me when it comes to their bottom line, even if “be nice to your employees” isn’t part of their mission statement.

  6. 100hr a week Burnout

    For #3 I think it also depends on the industry. I work in finance and those types of hours are often expected, especially when something is live. In that case it might be that OP is missing the culture of that type of work (finance, big law, etc) if she/he is new to the company/industry. I’ve never worked a job where only 40 hours a week is expected but in that case her college might be from somewhere that longer hours are more normal and just hasn’t adjusted to the new office expectations

    1. TechWorker

      I think LW3 would probably have noticed/mentioned it in the letter if the majority of other people at their office were also doing crazy hours – so seems reasonable to assume their coworker is the exception.

      (80 hour weeks are not productive, I know some industries demand them but the research disagrees…)

      1. OP3

        Hi! OP3 here, I probably work about 50ish hours a week on average. There’s a weird range in my company in terms of hours but my coworker is definitely working way more than most.

        I am newish to the team I’m currently on but not to the company so it is possible that this is more of the team culture but they seem to work more than our manager as well so I’m not sure.

        1. Sam.

          If you’re relatively new to the team, that makes it easier to approach the boss with a straightforward, “I want to be sure I’m clear on expectations” conversation. Perfectly natural discussion to have for someone who’s not completely settled yet!

        2. Jules the 3rd

          OP3, are you Sally from this week’s open thread, working with Karen?

          Def talk to New Manager to check whether 80hr weeks are seen as normal, and good luck.

        3. TechServLib

          I’d talk to your manager, as it’s possible that the people on the upper end of that range aren’t necessarily good role models.
          At my old job, I noticed that some coworkers worked much longer hours than the rest of us so I asked my manager if my hours were a problem to see if I needed to step it up. It turned out she was actively trying to discourage working such long hours, largely due to the reasons listed here (not productive, leads to burnout, etc.). The people who persisted in working crazy hours and bragging about it were actually a source of irritation for her. She made it clear that she expected everyone’s work to take 40-50 hours and that if our work required more time than that we should come directly to her so that she could reassess and adjust the overall workload. The people who were working long hours were completely ignoring her policies, disrupting the department’s balance, and became something of a thorn in her side.

        4. TootsNYC

          given TechWorker’s comment about 80-hour weeks not being productive (especially as an ongoing thing), I think your worries about actual work output are unfounded. I bet she’s not actually getting more done than you.

          And perception is your only problem. I’ve worked in places where there’s actually a negative perception for someone working unnecessary extra hours.

          But I also had to defend my direct report when my boss (who really did the reviews) said something about him seeming to not be engaged. I had to lay out for her that his “leaving at 3 minutes past quitting time” was a “most days” kind of thing, and that he had planned to work on a holiday to meet a deadline, and on crunch days he would check that it was OK to leave, that I didn’t need him. And to say that I valued his discipline.

          So I’d worry more about your boss’s perception than any actually output, because I bet she’s not getting any more done than you. If there is a way to measure, it would be good to know, and I’d address it–but I wouldn’t -worry- about it, if that makes sense.

      2. Daisy

        The research also suggests that people who claim to be working those kinds of hours are often wrong (there’s a study that found that people claiming 75+ hour workweeks were overestimating by an average of 25 hours). It’s possible that OP’s colleague is misleading her colleagues and/or herself; she might be that kind of person who checks her work email a couple of times on a Saturday afternoon and then describes it as ‘working all day’.

        1. ellex42

          My own observations in this area is that people tend to claim they’ve worked, say, 3 extra hours (and are actually in the office, as well), but in actual fact, they’ve spent at least half that time, if not more, socializing. It takes them longer to get the same amount of work done as others because they spend so much of their time not actually working.

          1. TootsNYC

            Sometimes they have a sense of having not been particularly productive, and so they stay later to make up for it.

          2. CMart

            A sad pattern I have noticed across the few teams I’ve worked with: men – usually fathers of younger children – doing a lot of socializing during the day and then fielding a call from their wives around 5:15 “sorry honey, I still have a lot of work to do, I’ll be home late.”

            They weren’t wrong, they probably did have a lot of work left to do, because they rolled in at 9:45 with a mostly-finished Starbucks drink, spent 30 minutes shooting the sh*t with Bob in Procurement about Game of Thrones, took an hour and a half for lunch (which they got to eat hot and sitting down and in a single time frame), bantered with Greg about Game of Thrones because he wasn’t there for the Bob chat for another 20 minutes etc…

            The pattern was especially noticeable to me because I’m also a parent of young children and would chat with these guys about shared experiences. It makes me sad for their families, especially their partners.

        2. JustaTech

          I had a coworker who came into work every Saturday. There wasn’t any need for him to come in, and he wasn’t any more productive than anyone else (far from it), so my lab mates and I couldn’t figure out why he bothered. It wasn’t like the boss would drop by to see him working.

          Then he told us that if he went to work his wife would make him lunch, but if he didn’t go to work he had to feed himself (because his wife worked Saturdays), so he was essentially going into work because he didn’t want to make his own lunch.

            1. JustaTech

              Yeah, he was a very odd duck. If Twitter had been a thing when I worked with him, I totally would have made a “Stuff [Coworker] Says” account.
              “Drinking Sprite exercises my pancreas so I won’t get diabetes!” (From a guy with a PhD, in an HIV lab. Oy.)

          1. Working Mom Having It All

            See, this is why women need to not make their husbands lunch. Right here.

  7. Engineer Girl

    #2

    And it’s not just first thing in the morning. I have to pass them to get to the kitchen, the bathroom, other people’s offices … and I’m forced to answer a question every time.

    I’m sorry, but this is not normal office interaction. Once in the morning? Sure. But every time you go to the kitchen or toilet? No, no, no.

    I’d be tempted to face it head on. “Hey Jane, I notice that every time I pass you that you attempt to have a conversation with me. Can you tell me what’s going on?”

    You’ll probably get some soft answer like “just trying to be friendly”.

    At that point you need to say “I find that it really disrupts my work when I have to make conversation with you every time I pass your desk. From now on, I’ll just be acknowledging you in the morning and an lunchtime. Thanks!”

    They may respond that it is “rude” or some other thing. Then you respond “I’m sorry that you think that. But I’m not willing to have a conversation every time.”

    It’s not rude. You don’t owe everyone a conversation at all times. You don’t need to talk to someone every time you pass their desk. You’ve already acknowledged them in the morning and at non work times.

    1. Klo

      I wouldn’t say “I’ll just be acknowledging you in the morning and lunchtime”, that seems so hostile!

      To me this just sounds like light pleasantries, not full conversations… definitely not worth scolding her about!

      1. Engineer Girl

        It’s every time she goes to the toilet. It’s every time she goes to the kitchen. It’s every time she goes to talk to a coworker.

        1. BuildMeUp

          Yep! And in many company cultures OP would still be viewed as the rude one for telling them to stop, refusing to acknowledge them, etc.

          1. ...

            Because that is the definition of rude! Not everyone is a total misanthrope unwilling to have even the slightest interaction with people

            1. JessaB

              Yes but sometimes people don’t want to, and not being able to walk in, go to the break room, speak to someone else, pretty much do anything within reach of this coworker without being interrupted becomes a drain. There’s a point where the interaction becomes intrusive. Once a day, hello in the morning. maybe twice “bye” in the afternoon, but every, single, time. No.

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                I agree it’s annoying. But sometimes coworkers have annoying personalities and dealing with that is part of having a job. This does not rise to the level of unacceptable.

                1. JM60

                  I disagree that this doesn’t rise to the level of unacceptable. It’s like Chinese water torture ; small annoyances that happen a billion times, rather than a couple times a day, tend to have a cumulative effect. If the coworker was greeting the OP only a few times more than they should each day, then I would probably agree with you. But they seem to do it every time they pass by.

            2. Elizabeth West

              Well that seems really extreme.

              What is this person supposed to be doing? Is she even doing her own work, or spending her entire day chatting with people? I don’t think the OP is a misanthrope just because she doesn’t want to stop and have a full-on conversation with Chatty Cathy every. single. time. she walks by. I wouldn’t either.

              It reminds me of this from Family Guy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOLxQGLJouI

              1. ToS

                The parenting technique for The Family Guy situation is ignore it until it’s done in an acceptable manner, then give it Great Praise or encouragement.

                For this it would be response

                response

                1. ToS

                  argh, I used brackets, so it ate that part.

                  Quick greeting, no question = smile, eye contact and possible quick verbal response.

                  Elaborate social greeting with social question = smile and nod.

          2. Blue

            Yeah, I would probably take to giving only a one or two word response with a smile or just smiling in acknowledgement, and I’d never stop walking to speak to her – give an answer in passing only. I’d also try to minimize the number of times I go near her desk. Telling her to knock it off (as much as I’d love to in this situation) just carries too high a risk.

        2. valentine

          To me this just sounds like light pleasantries
          It’s unpleasant for OP2, so why does the coworker get to keep doing it?

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Some people find a simple “good morning” unpleasant too, but it’s still going to come across as rude to insist that it stop.

            I agree the coworker’s comments sound like overkill, but most people aren’t going to find them so outrageous that rudeness in return would be thought warranted.

            1. Engineer Girl

              Rudeness is definitely unwarranted.

              But I can guarantee that if a solution isn’t found someone at some point will explode with a rude outburst.

              Asking someone why they demand an interaction every time is simply information gathering. It also points out that it’s happening.

              1. ...

                Someone is guaranteed to have an outburst?? Because they had to say good morning or I’m good or alrighty then! I don’t think that means a terrible outburst is guaranteed

                1. JessaB

                  Especially if it’s 5 to 10 times a day and interrupts your train of thought, honestly, if I was really, really friendly with facilities management or whoever was in charge of seating, I swear I’d switch places with them so I didn’t have to walk past them every single time.

                2. RUKiddingMe

                  Yes, eventually someone will reach the end of their tether and explode on The Asker(TM) telling her to “STOP talking to me every single time you see me!” Or words to that effect.

                3. Anastasia Beaverhousen

                  This sounds over the top, though – and it sounds like it’s every time they pass by to visit the washroom, which is… awkward. I didn’t snap at him, but grew very resentful of, a coworker who liked to point out that he thought I took a lot of bathroom breaks. Let people pee in peace!

                4. Yorick

                  Maybe! I had a boss who’d ask me what I was up to WHILE I WAS OPENING THE DOOR TO THE RESTROOM. I wanted to scream at him so much.

                5. Delphine

                  I’m sure you can imagine how uncomfortable it might become if a person focuses their attention on you every. single. time you appear in their line of sight. And how strange it is to call out to someone every time you see them in a small office.

              2. LCL

                Simply information gathering? It’s passive aggressive as anything I’ve seen. As you clearly state, it also points out that it’s happening. If it’s that much of an issue being addressed by someone at work, own it. Tell them you don’t want to talk to them.

                1. Engineer Girl

                  It’s the first step of a conversation. When you get the answer you can then form an appropriate response.
                  I don’t want to assume the person is an attention hog just because they try to talk to me every.single.time I pass by them. Maybe they actually have a reason?

              3. Nuss

                Why would it be acceptable to be rude? There have been several suggestions here about how to respond politely with minimal effort, so why be aggressively rude to a co-worker?

                1. JM60

                  “Why would it be acceptable to be rude?”

                  It would come across as rude, but it wouldn’t actually be rude.

                  “There have been several suggestions here about how to respond politely with minimal effort, so why be aggressively rude to a co-worker?”

                  Having to respond at all every single time you pass by them can still be very annoying though (it sounds like the other coworkers all find it annoying too), so the purpose is to get coworker to stop.

                2. Nuss

                  “It would come across as rude, but it wouldn’t actually be rude.” If it comes across as rude, then it’s pretty much by definition rude.

                  The OP doesn’t say that everyone is annoyed, she says that ‘people’ try to avoid answering, so it could be a handful of others or several. The fact that the OP realizes she can’t take it to her manager without sounding like a curmudgeon makes me lean toward the idea that most of her co-workers aren’t expressing distaste about the exchange.

                  So yes, the OP could say something that would offend the co-worker, or she could choose to grow socially and come up with simple answers.

                  And I’m curious about this co-worker’s role–if they are sitting in front of the office are they are receptionist? Security? Because often people in those roles are encouraged to greet everyone.

                3. Nuss

                  Realized that it sounded snarky to say the OP could grow socially, and that wasn’t my intention, very poor wording on my part. Maybe just expand their professional face?

                4. JM60

                  @Nuss

                  “If it comes across as rude, then it’s pretty much by definition rude.”

                  Hard disagree. There are so questions where the (correct IMO) answer includes something along the lines of “This will seem rude to say, but it’s not because they’re being rude.” What the coworker is doing is rude, whether she realizes it or not (but I have a hard time see how someone could fail to realize that greeting the same person ~15 times a day isn’t rude).

                  “The OP doesn’t say that everyone is annoyed, she says that ‘people’ try to avoid answering, so it could be a handful of others or several.”

                  It’s pretty unlikely that the OP polled their coworkers on this, and most people probably wouldn’t announce their annoyance to other coworkers. That being said, since she’s doing it every time someone passes by her, the number of coworkers at least annoyed by it is likely to be near 100%.

                  “So yes, the OP could say something that would offend the co-worker, or she could choose to grow socially and come up with simple answers.”

                  The OP shouldn’t have to respond to ~15 greetings a day everyday from the same person. Sometimes growing socially means putting up with things you ideally shouldn’t need to. Other times, it includes deciding that something is a big enough deal to be willing to pay a certain price for something. In my ~12 years of working, I’ve had colleagues with the typical annoying quirks, but I’ve never had a colleague with behavior as annoying as what the OP is describing.

                5. Avasarala

                  “I’ve never had a colleague with behavior as annoying as what the OP is describing.”
                  Wow, then I guess you’ve been very lucky!

                  I’d probably find it mildly annoying to have to greet this person all the time. But if someone else responded with what was suggested above, it would severely damage my esteem of that person. They basically took a harmless, awkward quirk and turned it into social rejection. I would start to worry about what habits might be setting this person off and it would be hard to work with them.

                  Maybe instead of trying to set an arbitrary standard of acceptable levels of human interaction, we could all increase our tolerance for when people inevitably mismatch or guess wrong. It would be much more inclusive of people with different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, neurodivergence, and communication styles.

                6. JM60

                  @Avasarala

                  “They basically took a harmless, awkward quirk and turned it into social rejection.”

                  It’s not harmless when it’s *that* often, nor is asking them to tone it down total social rejection. The OP’s described it as “I have to pass them to get to the kitchen, the bathroom, other people’s offices … and I’m forced to answer a question every time.” That sounds like every time they leave their desk, unless the coworker is gone or they’re going to an office not by the coworker.

                  Are you familiar with Chinese water torture? Having a drop of water fall on your head is pretty harmless, but having many drops dripped on your head over, and over, and over again is a different story. Similarly, someone greeting a few too many times is a harmless. Someone greeting you every **** time you pass them by every day of every week because a cumulative annoyance (or so I imagine).

                  Plus, I’m not saying to completely socially reject her, only to point out that you’d rather her not do it *that* often. It may be difficult to do that without being a partial social rejection though.

                  “Maybe instead of trying to set an arbitrary standard of acceptable levels of human interaction, we could all increase our tolerance for when people inevitably mismatch or guess wrong. It would be much more inclusive of people with different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, neurodivergence, and communication styles.”

                  Oh, come on. I’m talking about toning down *behavior*. You can be accepting of *people* without having to endlessly put up with problematic *behavior*. And although the line at which it becomes excessive may be somewhat arbitrary, greeting someone every **** time they pass by your desk is well beyond that line.

        3. Lynn Whitehat

          I’m picturing Copier Guy from Saturday Night Live. “Dave! Big D! The Davester! Dave-a-too!”

      2. Diamond

        Yeah… surely it’s it’s not so hard to just say ‘hello, I’m fine’ as you keep moving?

        1. Margaret

          Seriously. I’m a hardcore introvert who focuses internally and deeply values my privacy, but I can still always summon up a pat answer when someone speaks to me. I don’t love it necessarily, but ‘answer people when they greet you in the morning’ is a pretty basic part of the social contract, and part of the element of my job performance that requires me to maintain good rapport with the people I work with.

          1. LJay

            This. I’m an introvert.

            Saying, “Great, thanks. You?” to someone asking how my commute was or how I’m doing this morning or how my lunch was or how my day’s going or whatever every day is not so much of an imposition that I need to go out of my way to avoid it or make it stop.

      3. Yorick

        I agree. This is annoying, sure, and you could find a way to politely not engage. But this isn’t something you should have a big talk with someone about, and you certainly can’t say, “I will speak to you exactly twice per day, and don’t speak to me outside of those times.”

    2. Airy

      She sounds like she might be one of those people who think “Because I’ve taken it upon myself to make conversation with you, although I didn’t need to and you didn’t ask me to, you owe it to me to make the same effort!” They can get pretty cross if other people won’t play the game, because in their minds those are the RULES.

    3. Observer

      Oh come on. Just use the same short canned reply.

      The reality is that these conversations are going to take up a lot more energy and are going to cause issues where something like “Good morning. Same commute as usual.” or “Glad I have my coffee” or “Chugging along!” or whatever the OP decides to deploy really doesn’t have to take much energy or time, especially if they say it as they keep moving.

      1. Engineer Girl

        I don’t need to acknowledge someone every time I head to the toilet.

        Once in the morning, sure! But it sounds like it is happing much more than this.

        What is it with people that demand conversations with others?

          1. Engineer Girl

            Alison, it’s the frequency of the interactions that make it egregious.

            It has to be happening at least 5 times a day.

            1. ...

              It’s egregious to say hi to someone 5 times in a day? I’m not sure that qualifies as egregious in my mind but clearly we very much disagree on this subject!

              1. Engineer Girl

                Yes, especially when it breaks my train of thought when I’m at work.
                Context switching in tech is a real issue.

                1. Anom-a-long-a-ding-dong

                  Eh- as a fellow women in tech (who happens to work with a pretty large tech company, so maybe it’s the large sample size) I don’t think this is necessarily a tech-related thing- it’s a more personality-based thing. My team and the surrounding people are all over the map when it comes to how much social interaction they tolerate/need/want.

                2. Jules the 3rd

                  You’re up and moving, your train of thought is already wavering. It’s not like they are coming to your desk to say hi.

                  In general, I love ya, but this greetings behavior is not a hill to die on. It’s easy to tuck Annoying Coworker into the corner of my head that’s keeping me from running into the walls / elevator doors, just pre-program a regular response.

                3. JM60

                  @Jules the 3rd

                  Just because you’re away from your desk doesn’t mean your train of thought is already wavering. I can easily have my train of thought locked on something, then get up and walk to the bathroom without breaking my train of thought. But if someone said something to me that requires a response as I head to the bathroom (which the coworker is doing), that may very well break my train of thought.

                4. Avasarala

                  Then maybe you should only take breaks when you can take a train of thought break?

                  Seriously, how many people need uninterrupted focus while they walk to the bathroom??

                5. Cherries on top

                  Not wanting to break your train of thought (generally) doesn’t excuse you from societal basics (just like being distracted isn’t a reason not to move out of the way of people exiting a train). An acknowledgement nod seams sufficient for passing by.

                6. JM60

                  @Avasarala

                  “Then maybe you should only take breaks when you can take a train of thought break?”

                  Sometimes people need to go to the bathroom now. Also, people sometimes find that getting up and walking helps them think more clearly (I believe research backs this up).

                  “Seriously, how many people need uninterrupted focus while they walk to the bathroom??”

                  Lots of people who frequently work on complex problems, such as engineers.

              2. Anastasia Beaverhousen

                I think part of what’s pinging this for people is that it’s not just saying hi – it’s asking the person questions. Small, polite questions, yes, but… I don’t want to engage in small talk when I’m hurrying to the bathroom, or grabbing a coffee and hurrying back to work. Not this often. On lunch breaks, or other times when I actually have a minute, sure – but not this often, not when I’m busy/preoccupied. I don’t think it’s something I’d feel the need to confront a coworker about, but I’d definitely find it irritating.

            2. Ask a Manager Post author

              I get that the frequency is annoying. It’s annoying. It’s still not an outrage. You have to be able to roll with people’s annoying quirks at work.

              1. RUKiddingMe

                Maybe Coworker needs to roll with the quirks of the majority that don’t want to engage 800 times a day?

                1. Lissa

                  Well, they can! If that coworker is offended that some people’s response to their constant pleasantries is a smile and nod and continuing to walk, or a “morning!” and continuing to walk, then they need to just deal with that. But I don’t think “rolling with the quirks of the majority” here means coworker has to stop saying good morning – just that they can’t be upset if others don’t want to stop to engage.

                2. Snark

                  Maybe, but she didn’t write in, and while I guess you could be a total asshole and give her what for, the entire point here is to preserve a working relationship, not nuke it from orbit. So.

              1. Short & Sweet

                This is exactly the situation that the syllable “Sup?”, maybe with a quick nod if you’re feeling generous, was created for.

                1. PB

                  Or interrupt the behavior with a breezy “Good morning” before she can say anything, and just keep moving.

          2. MysteryFan

            Thank you for holding firm on this Allison.. It is a bit annoying. It’s not an outrage. Coworkers need to find a quick, short answer and stop letting this take up any more of their emotional energy than necessary. Let it roll off…

            1. Shoes On My Cat

              This!! And just know that, eventually her lack of focus on her own work will bite her in the a**. Don’t let it mess your work or work reputation up. You are more valuable than her BS. Brief acknowledgement in the morning, then a cheerful “same old same old” as you saunter by to your destination the rest of the day. -Don’t rush past her! That’s energy and stress! Saunter and time your speech to take you out of earshot. You will be unrewarding. Polite-so she won’t have fuel to complain about your ‘rudeness’- and no information or interaction to feed the beast.

          3. Rusty Shackelford

            The person is greeting colleagues. It’s annoying, yes, but it’s really not an outrage.

            What’s the difference between “greeting” and “attempting to start a conversation?” Because to me, that’s where it crosses the line from not my thing but nothing to get worked up about to OMG DISRUPTIVE AND ANNOYING. I don’t want to ignore you, but I do want to be allowed to walk past your work station without having to engage in a conversation every time. And I would never try to get this person to stop, because there really is no way to do it without looking like the bad guy (as evidenced by the comments here), but I would suggest that everyone take a long hard look at yourself and see if you are that person. And then consider that if your goal is to make the workplace more pleasant, you might be having the exact opposite effect.

            1. Bostonian

              That’s a good point. If it’s just “how are you?” every time, then OP (or anyone else) can just say, “good, thanks” as they’re walking and NBD. But if it’s a often times question or a statement that doesn’t have a one-word answer, that’s a not insignificant imposition. If you go to the bathroom/breakroom/another colleague’s office 5 to 10 times in a workday, and you have to make a 2 to 3 minute detour at this person’s desk every time, that adds up!

            2. LJay

              Yeah, I’ve been interpreting it as greeting all along, because that’s what the examples in the post read as to me.

              But if it’s attempts to initiate conversation, that’s more time consuming.

              I think I would go the route of still treating them as greetings though.

              “Good morning, hows the commute?”

              “Great, thanks, you?”

              And keep walking whether she says good or wants to initiate a 20 minute conversation about the construction and her car troubles or whatever.

              If she wants to chase me down to continue the conversation that makes her look like the weird one, and is more of a clearly problematic behavior than greeting me from her desk.

      2. Emily K

        Not a serious suggestion, but I’m picturing people borrowing from Mark on Ugly Betty, the episode where he’s annoyed with her and every time she tries to talk to him he picks up the nearest office supply and pretends to be taking a call on it.

        Chatty Cathy: On your way to the kitchen? what’s for lunch today?

        LW: grabs stapler and holds it to ear while speeding by So sorry, I’ve got to take this!

    4. Ask a Manager Post author

      This is a really aggressive approach that’s going to seem like overkill to most people who witness it/hear about it.

      When you work with other people, you need to be able to deal with their annoying quirks without getting easily ruffled by them. In a situation like this, you say “good morning” or “how’s it going” and you keep moving. It doesn’t require a whole “can you tell me what’s going on with your conversation attempts” speech, and that’s going to really come across as hostile or unable to roll with something you should be able to roll with.

      1. Trek

        I flashed on a memo from the 1970’s Tiger Oil Company. If anyone ever wonders why we have HR it’s because of this owner.

        Memo, in part:
        Do not speak to me when you see me. If I want to to speak to you, I will do so. I want to save my throat. I don’t want to ruin it by saying hello to all of you sons-of-bitches.,

        (Signed)
        EDWARD MIKE DAVIS

      2. Michaela Westen

        Also Chatty is probably not aware she’s doing this, so asking her why could have all kinds of unexpected results. It would be interesting and entertaining, but not good for the workplace…

      3. AKchic

        The sarcastic rennie in me wants to say “anything worth killing is worth overkilling” and gesture to my spider graveyard.
        However, I agree that really, all the LW can do is smile (or grimace) and keep moving.

    5. ...

      You would come off absolutely socially clueless and downright rude! Saying good morning is THAT hard???

      1. Terry Single

        It would be interesting if the person was the boss’s kid. I bet they would not get the brush off as quickly as they do now.

        1. Office Killjoy

          Its rude. Lol. The point is even when you’re on your way to the loo, the mindless pleasantries can be responded to w canned answers that dont take you out of your reverie. Say good morning as you go to make a bagel at 4pm. Who cares?

          1. Office Killjoy

            I mean, obviously you do, but you and LW1 care TOO MUCH. And as an HR person, yelling at or insisting others dont greet you is just hostile. Lol you’d be the one the team was watching for poyentially creating a hostile work environment or lack of culture fit.

        2. Observer

          But that’s not how it’s going to come off. Anyone who did this is going to come off as rude, hostile and very full of themselves. Someone who repeatedly responds with a polite, collegial, canned answer is going to be fine – and if Chatty gets into a fit because the answer was not “good enough” for any reason, THEY are going to be the one who looks weird and problematic.

      2. RUKiddingMe

        I don’t know if you haven’t seen EG’s responses… She said it’s not saying “good morning” once that’s the problem. It’s the chatter every single time one passes her desk that is too much.

      3. Iron Chef Boyardee

        “Saying good morning is THAT hard???”

        If you have Asperger’s, yes it is. You have no idea how difficult it can be.

        1. Holly

          The person saying good morning constantly could also have something that is not neurotypical going on.

    6. Turquoisecow

      Yeah this is pretty rude. The person is saying hello. They’re making polite conversation with coworkers. Maybe they’re a bit aggressive or awkward in how they phrase it, but they don’t mean any harm (if they’re doing it to every coworker, it’s obviously not personal or intended to annoy OP specifically) and it’s not a work performance issue.

      I hate being sociable sometimes also, but if someone says “Good morning, how’s it going?” or some other pleasantry in the morning, I reply “Good morning,” or some other similar pleasantry back. And if I saw someone reply with a whole speech like the one you describe here, it would seem like that person was the awkward person who doesn’t get along with people, and I’d definitely side with the person initiating conversation, even if I’d previously thought they were awkward.

      Is it mildly annoying to make comments about the commute and small talk when you pass this person’s desk? Maybe. But giving them a lecture like this, especially when you’re not the supervisor, is uncalled for, isn’t going to win the OP any points, might make her look exceptionally mean, and also might make the greeter feel embarrassed or injured. If OP has to work with this person, or work with anyone in her office for that matter, as others will likely sympathize with the coworker, then it would make it harder for them to work together.

      It’s not worth it. Just say some canned message that acknowledges your coworker and move on.

      1. Engineer Girl

        Please reread the post. It isn’t the morning conversations.

        It’s the conversation when going to the toilet, the kitchen, the coworkers desk.

        1. AcademiaNut

          Yeah, this easily adds up to a short conversation with a coworker every half-hour or more! Fifteen ‘how was your day’ exchanges a day, five days a week. You don’t have to be an antisocial curmudgeon to find that intensely irritating, even it just involves saying “fine, thanks” to the same person 75 times a week. And that’s before you factor in hearing them do this for every other coworker in the area.

          I think I’d go with a nod and a small wave as I walked by, but not engage verbally except for the morning one.

          1. RUKiddingMe

            Also we aren’t even taking into account every *other* social interaction one has with *everyone else* in a given day.

            “Morning!” to everyone, plus additional social niceties because…life, and on top of that 15 interactions with just this *one* coworker.

            I’m exhausted just thinking about it. I need to lie down…

        2. Yorick

          At my last job, the department chair would interrupt people’s meetings (including with students) to say hello. Even when we’d already said hello 5 or 6 times already that day.

          If someone is really interrupting your work like that, I think you could say something about it. Otherwise, it’s super annoying but you have to just let it go.

        3. Turquoisecow

          The coworker isn’t trying to hurt OP’s feelings. Your response is trying to make the coworker feel bad. This is rude and over the top.

          1. JM60

            “Your response is trying to make the coworker feel bad.”

            I don’t think their response is trying to hurt the co-worker’s feelings; I think it’s trying to get the disruptive behavior to stop.

    7. AngryAngryAlice

      I always think of scripts like this that include phrasing like “can you tell me what’s going on?” as more appropriate for when someone has crossed boundaries that a LE has already laid out.

      *IF* LW employs a script here (and that’s a big if), I would recommend more of a “hey this is just a quirk of mine, but I find it hard to get back in the zone during the day if my thought process is broken” kind of thing. Because although this person sounds annoying and their conversational patterns sound tedious, I don’t think it makes much sense to act like they’re the ones being ridiculous if LW decides to bring it up.

      1. Alianora

        Agreed – personally, I would just stick to a quick hello whenever I passed them, but framing it as difficulty getting into the right mindset is much better than talking about “having to make conversation.” And “I won’t be acknowledging you” is definitely way too aggressive!

    8. Tallulah in the Sky

      The coworker’s attitude would also drive me insane… But I wouldn’t start a conversation with them about it. It would feel very rude and very awkward. Talking about it like that would bring the whole thing to another level.

      What I probably would do is acknowledge them in the morning, and just treat them as white noise the rest of the day. This is rude too, I know, but it stays on the same level of rudeness as their attitude, so I’m fine with that.

      1. LJay

        Yup. If it got to the point where I couldn’t deal with it, I would just be one of the people avoiding eye contact which other people in the office do without repercussion.

        If she asked what was up with that, “Sorry, I was focusing on a work thing and just kind of tuned everything out. I do that sometimes and it’s nothing personal.”

        If she yelled at me or demanded a response or chased me down then she becomes the problematic one and that’s a bigger issue to address and one others are more likely to take seriously than just, “He said ‘hi, how’s it going’ to me 5 times yesterday.”

    9. Rose

      It’s called answer while walking, smile while nodding, coming up with a script and giving rote answers, etc. It’s not that hard. People are annoying sometimes, that’s life.

      1. Mongrel

        It can just be frustrating having to be polite to someone who’s teetering on the edge between idiosyncratic and social dysfunction. It’s easy to dismiss when it’s someone else’s problem but can get infuriating when it happens day-after-day, week-after-week…

        Is there a possibility that there’s some other issues here? If they suffer Aspergers or Autism they may have been taught to that what they’re doing is the proper way to greet someone when they see them, a quick talk can put them right.

        1. Arts Akimbo

          I thought about that, too. This reminded me immediately of someone who has had social skills training, only they’re not fully appreciating context.

        2. Jules the 3rd

          LW, please do not speculate / act on speculation about whether your coworker is / is not neurotypical. That is intrusive.

          You don’t *have* to engage with them for any length of time, you can just nod / give a canned answer as you pass by. Cost, maybe 1 spoon of your attention, but that gets less as time goes on and makes it an automatic habit.

          1. Allonge

            I would say that prescribing how many spoons it costs / should cost to handle someone annoying is just as intrusive, and much less practical.

            Coworker is out of the norm – I have never known an office environment where the custom is to talk to everyone you see every time all the time, no matter how many times a day.

          2. Mongrel

            LW didn’t speculate, I did and only on the way to “Go speak to them and point out that they may be overdoing it”

    10. Rose Tyler

      There’s enough people in this thread saying that this suggestion is rude/unnecessarily aggressive that I think you should leave open the possibility that in fact it would come across that way in LW’s workplace and many others. Personally I’d give a genuinely friendly response once a day and the rest flash a quick smile and “hi Jane” and just keep motoring.

    11. Angelinha

      This is wayyyy aggressive, particularly the phrasing “you attempt to have a conversation with me” and “I’ll just be acknowledging you.” This comes across as so patronizing and is not something you can say at work!

      1. Manon

        And the “Can you tell me what’s going on?” in this context is just… not fitting. LW knows she’s just trying to be friendly. This script sounds like a manager coaching a struggling employee.

    12. MCMonkeyBean

      Before saying something that abrupt I would try just not answering the questions. OP says they are “forced” to answer but that is not really how it works. She can’t *make* you respond. I would try a couple of times to see what happens if you walk past the desk and she asks you something and you just kind of smile and nod and keep going. I would greet her politely in the morning and maybe say goodbye if you’re leaving, but just refuse to engage in any real conversation if you’re just passing by on your way to the bathroom. If that seems to upset her, then talk about it. But personally I would first try just setting different expectations for our interactions.

    13. DAMitsDevon

      Even if the OP doesn’t feel comfortable addressing this directly with their coworker, I feel like there might be ways to condition the chatty coworker to talk less? Like for instance if OP is going to the bathroom, they can just say, “Hey sorry, can’t chat, I really have to pee,” or “Running late for a meeting, got to go!” Even if it seems TMI, it may help the coworker realize that people really don’t have time to talk every time they walk by their desk.

    14. mamma mia

      I think people are being too hard on you, Engineer Girl; this is actually pretty good advice. Because if someone told me “I’ll only be acknowledging you in the morning and at lunchtime”, I would literally never speak to them again, unless it was for work purposes, and even then, I’d keep it brief, cold, and to the point, which sounds exactly what OP wants. OP, if you don’t care what anyone thinks of you (which some people don’t! I do but I’m not OP), I would recommend this strategy.

      1. CMart

        Ha. Agreed. You want Chatty to stop talking to you? Go ahead and strike a match to light the relationship on fire. Problem solved.

    15. TootsNYC

      I think the big convo isn’t cool, but I think I might start saying, “Just going to the potty” and nothing else. Or “Just passing by” or “just going to the kitchen” and completely ignore the question.

      Just keep it up, never feel guilty, never get sucked into any conversation about why you aren’t having conversation (always reply “I’m just going to the kitchen” in a puzzled tone).

      Hopefully this person will get used to it–“That’s just how she is.”
      (listen, if that phrase can work for the assholes of the world, we need to start making it work for us)

    16. Tiffany GK

      … what?? Where I work, if you pass someone in the hallway that you recognize, it’s polite to at least acknowledge them with a smile or “hey.” Every time. Even if I’ve already seen them 5 times before. I guess I don’t understand the kind of workplace you’re thinking of, where you’re just supposed to ignore your co-workers…?

      One thing I think OP might not realize is that sometimes these questions are just another way of saying hi, and not supposed to actually be a conversation starter. A lot of times, I’ll pass someone in the hall who will say: “hey, what’s going on?” and keep walking, because it’s just meant to be an acknowledgement of the other person.

      It sounds like these are pretty normal greetings, just maybe done by someone with a lot more energy/more upbeat than you are, which makes it annoying. Believe me, I know! Someone I work with is always ready to go at 8am, and I usually am kind of sluggish until 9. And it’s hard to deal with that before you’re in the mood. But I just acknowledge him and keep going.

      1. Engineer Girl

        This isn’t happening in a hallway, but in a desk and board area.
        Hallways are noisy. Desk and board areas are work areas. Different “rules” for different areas.

    17. EventPlannerGal

      “I find that it really disrupts my work when I have to make conversation with you every time I pass your desk. From now on, I’ll just be acknowledging you in the morning and an lunchtime.“

      This sounds like something generated by some kind of aggressively rude robot.

      I mean, if it bothers the OP to the point that she’s writing in to AAM then yes, certainly she could address it with the coworker upfront. But she simply cannot say it like this without totally destroying her working relationship with this person and also probably gaining a reputation as the office asshole of 2019. That is not how you talk to other people.

      1. Engineer Girl

        If that were the only incident, yes. But if OP is usually nice to people, helps them out, works hard, then it’s different.
        How about “I’m sorry, but I can’t stop to make conversation every time.”
        Since this is driving OP up the wall, I think some sort of conversation is needed.

  8. Pfft...

    Let me tell you the opposite of the friendly greeter who acknowledges your humanity:

    I have a boss who I have worked with at the same job for TWENTY YEARS. This person RUNS when employees come down the hall, will address every meeting with ___ arms folded leaning against the wall, eyes looking up NEVER making eye contact, and will NOT acknowledge your salutation when you see ___.

    I am 40 years old. I have been with the department half my life. You don’t have to like me, but I will be damned if you don’t acknowledge my presence, especially when I am trying to do what MOST humans do, which is saying a hello to a coworker when they come within your bubble.

    This person is making an effort to be kind. It takes so much more effort to be a jerk. And it sucks.

    Like the barista who makes your day the ten seconds you see them 3-5 times a week, enjoy the fact that someone is being nice to you for five seconds.

    1. Engineer Girl

      This is a black and white fallacy thinking. The assumption that one must either engage completely or not at all.
      The reasonable solution is to have limited interactions at appropriate times.

      1. Impy

        I agree. I used to work with someone like this and I had to walk past her to get to the kitchen or bathroom. I used to avoid making coffee on those days because interacting with her stressed me out so much. I recognise that thats probably a me problem but dismissing it as ‘friendly’ ignores the fact that the person is demanding attention ten times a day, mainly because she wasn’t busy. I was! And I didn’t have the time or bandwidth to chat multiple times in a work day.

    2. Tim Tam Girl

      Pfft…, that boss has been a jerk for 20 years and it sounds so unpleasant and gross. But that doesn’t mean that LW1’s co-worker is being ‘friendly’ or ‘nice’, they’re just at the other extreme: demanding the attention of every single person who passes your desk every single time is intrusive, rude and just as much of a manipulative power play in its way – they know that the social pressure to play along is real and they take advantage of it, consciously or unconsciously. It’s not at all the equivalent of a single daily interaction with a friendly barista at a coffee shop you choose to go into, it’s at LW1’s office and every. single. time. they walk by their co-worker’s desk all day, every day.

      LW1, you shouldn’t be expected to just suck this up in the name of politeness. A single daily greeting is one thing, but this is a whole other kettle of fish and I’m honestly a bit surprised that Alison didn’t make the distinction.

      1. MommyMD

        It is rude when it’s constant all day and is an invasion of privacy when someone has to use the restroom and wants to pass in peace.

          1. mamma mia

            Seriously. It is, absolutely not an invasion of privacy to speak to someone on their way to use the bathroom, unless the coworker is asking specifically about the bathroom. If the coworker asked, “Hey, number one or number two? When should I be expecting you back? Haha”, that is an invasion of privacy and could logically make someone uncomfortable. Simply talking to someone passing by is not an “invasion of privacy.” Some of these comments are really making me feel like I’m in the friggin twilight zone or something.

        1. RUKiddingMe

          Yes! I’d feel very uncomfortable someone talking to me as I was in my way to the restroom.

          Even if it’s not mentioned, I know they know where I’m going. Yes it’s normal human biology…blah, blah, blah… I still don’t like entertaining the idea that a coworker *might* think about me -going potty- even if I know realistically that’s just a ridiculous thought.

          1. Alianora

            I’m sorry that this makes you anxious, but I don’t think it’s rude of your coworkers to talk to you when you’re on your way to the bathroom.

            If it’s a long question and answer session like in the letter, that’s one thing, but saying hello? Nah.

          2. Anononon

            This seems like an extreme response. At my work, we have three single stall bathrooms in the suite, and there’s often one or two people waiting. It’s very common to engage in small talk (usually it’s about how annoying the wait is). (Also, there are regular multiple stall bathrooms immediately outside the suite in case someone definitely can’t wait.)

          3. Jamie

            How would they know you were on the way to the rest room as opposed to the copier, water cooler, or whatever?

            Talking to someone in a stall is beyond rude, imo, but walking to a place.

            I don’t love small talk, but if people greet me I smile and respond in kind – if busy a smile and quick wave. It’s really easy to do this without even breaking stride and with a demeanor that’s friendly but too busy to chat.

            I get that in this situation the excessiveness would be irritating, but it wouldn’t annoy me enough to risk hurting someone’s feelings over it. Or to have others wondering when they can and can’t greet me with pleasantries.

          4. mamma mia

            Unless your coworker is 5 years old, I very much doubt that they’d ever think about you “going potty.”

          5. Pescadero

            You can feel uncomfortable – that is about you… but calling it an “invasion of privacy” as though you’re somehow entitled to anonymity while walking to a public restroom in a public place is, well, on the fringe.

      2. staceyizme

        I don’t think that you have to pick up every conversational tennis ball that is lobbed your way. It’s perfectly fine to “walk on by” someone who habitually “ambushes” everyone who passes by for coffee, a bathroom break, or a trip to the copier. A wave, a nod, a small smile or nothing are all fine. You’re not ignoring someone when you decline to take on the work of managing their conversational tics. You do have to know your office. If you’re the outlier or you’re the subordinate, power dynamics should be factored in. But- a greeting and inquiry every time you come within range? That’s excessive and it’s not wrong to decline to participate. Presumably, one’s need for a little quiet between work tasks is as valid as another’s need for more interaction. Meeting somewhere in the middle is fine.

    3. RUKiddingMe

      Well if it’s your boss I doubt you can really demand she acknowledge you. I mean yeah that’s a jerk way to be but really you cant demand anyone acknowledge you…ever.

      In regards to the letter…once in the morning is fine…and no one is saying otherwise, but OP’s coworker is *demanding* attention multiple times a day, and that’s really not fine.

    4. Traffic_Spiral

      Huh. You know, so long as he wasn’t a jerk and didn’t fail to answer necessary work questions, I’d like this guy just fine.

    5. Close Bracket

      “I will be damned if you don’t acknowledge my presence”

      Or you could let it go and get your personal validation from someone else. I feel like you are the one putting forth effort to be the jerk in this situation. What takes more effort, forcing your way into somebody’s personal space to get an acknowledgement or doing nothing? It’s been 20 years. Let it go already.

  9. MsM

    LW2, what about “sorry, in a hurry, no time to chat,” or “check with me again after I’ve had my coffee”? That way, you’re acknowledging the greeting while still communicating you’re not really in a headspace to return it.

    1. CMart

      I think even just walking quickly is signal enough of “in a hurry”. Chatty greets with “oh hi LW! What’s for lunch?” and LW zooms by with a small wave “hey Chatty!” and then zips away is a perfectly office-acceptable interaction.

  10. BuildMeUp

    #2 – OP, I’m sorry, but I feel like there’s no polite way to say something about this to your coworker. Regardless of their motivations and the aggressive frequency, telling them, “I don’t want to exchange pleasantries with you” isn’t going to come off well.

    Would it help if you could take over the conversation? What if when you approach their desk you call out a greeting and say something bland and chit-chatty yourself? “Good morning! Lovely weather we’re having,” “Hello, just heading off to a meeting, see you later!” etc. Would that keep them from going through their standard greeting + question?

    The other alternative is turning into the White Rabbit and always being in too big of a hurry to chat…

    1. JSPA

      “Apparently my voice is one of several that carry, so I’m going to make an effort to greet you with a silent wave and a smile, to reduce others’ distraction.” For a while, go with the smile, wink, wave, and finger on lips. Taper back to smile and finger wiggle.

      Greeter may never have considered that extra greetings can be disruptive; this makes you the messenger (and co-offender) rather than the source of the complaint.

      If they say, “oh you’re so quiet, it can’t be you” or “what jerks to complain,” you have an opening to say, “I’m quiet because I learned how, for many people, a quietly friendly office is a happier, more functional office” and “nevertheless, if there’s a chance that it helps people concentrate, there’s literally no down- side to making the effort.” If it registers with them or catches on with others, GREAT! If not, you have avoided rudeness, are free to greet silently, and have done your part.

      1. JJ Bittenbinder

        I feel like this is way overcomplicating things, as are many of the comments about this letter today.

        You don’t have to actually answer their question, even if they’re allegedly demanding a conversation (and to that, I ask: how? Are they blocking your way until you give up details of your commute? Filing complaints with HR? What does this look like?). Just say, “Oh, hey” or smile or don’t smile or whatever and keep walking. This is way too much angst over a social interaction.

        1. fhqwhgads

          I think you’ve got a good point here. I can tell by the responses that most folks are assuming one certain sort of sequence from the interactions the OP described: where she FEELS obligated to answer the questions, but is just interpreting them too literally. That’s probably what’s going on. However, there are a bunch of shades of grey of what Chatty CoWorker is doing that would fit the letter’s description and be more intense in varying degrees. If OP is assuming because it’s a question rather than just a greeting it’s a demand for conversation, she can get out of it using the techniques described already. But if there’s more to it. If the coworker doesn’t take that for an answer and belabors or goes on or gets upset if you don’t pause and chat or whatever the case may be, then this doesn’t work. However, if the coworker does get that riled up (or whatever) then we have a different scenario that makes a different range of tactics more appropriate. Because if the Chatty One is making it a Big Deal, there’s more of a boundary thing and then the OP can push back a bit harder. The current concern though is with the one side we know for sure, OP should be mindful that she’s not the one to make it a Big Deal first.

        2. Academic Addie

          Yeah, the response to this one is weird. I live in the South, people are chatty, and often say “Hey, how are ya?” or similar. Most times, in fact, unless they’re on the phone. “Good, how are you” while still moving. Wave and smile while still walking. Unless there’s something really weird going on with this colleague, they’ll accept that.

        3. ian

          Yup, just smile, nod, and move on. If they get mad about that, that’s on them at that point.

        4. JSPA

          I’m answering the question of how to do it without risk of causing offense (even in an area where greetings normally demand greetings in return). I live partially in the midwest; it’s not nuts to worry that there are places where, if you don’t fulfill the expected pattern, someone will come find you later to make sure they have not done something to offend you (and worse, places where they won’t do that, but will say to others that they must have offended you, or you must be being snooty, as you’ve stopped greeting them. Even if you smile and finger-wiggle.)

        5. LJay

          This. I didn’t see anything about *the person* demanding an answer.

          And I did see that other people walk by and don’t make eye contact, presumably without repercussions.

          I saw that the OP feels that the questions demand an answer.

          If it’s just that the OP feels that not responding or not responding in-depth to the question is rude, then that’s on them to manage.

          If the person doing the greeting is chasing people down, blocking people’s paths, etc, then that’s a much more problematic behavior and one that it sounds like would be easier to get others in the office to take seriously as an issue.

    2. MsClaw

      I think the only way to deal with this guys is…..

      1. Limit the extend of your responses. You can smile and nod, give a thumbs up, wave, say something quick like ‘hey’ or ‘yo’ and keep moving. The asker may or may not ever get it, but you can do your best to limit the interaction and how much you’re contributing to disruption.

      2. Recognize that this guy isn’t doing anything ‘wrong’. No doubt — this is annoying AF, but saying anything to this guys about his behavior makes you the Bad Guy.

      To people saying this guys is super rude and to people saying the OP is over-reacting… this is just one of those things. People can be really different creatures and what seems like no big deal to one person is a huge deal to someone else. We just have to live with each other.

      I get where the OP is coming from. I hate this kind of thing. I had a coworker who would also hallo! me quite exuberantly every morning. It drove me bonkers. I do not need that first thing in the morning. I was also 1000% aware that if I said ‘knock it off’ or ‘good morning for who’ or ‘JFC can I just do my work and drink my coffee in peace’ or even ‘would you kindly stop yelling at me every morning’ that none of that would go over well. So instead I would think those things in my head, breeze by saying ‘hi’, and go directly to my desk. Since with this guy it’s multiple times a day, you just have to keep breezing by with a polite word or two.

  11. Blarg

    At least in the morning, can #2 come in wearing headphones? They don’t even have to be playing anything. Also, walking and reading on your phone. Anything that allows you to appear to be lost in thought/focused making you unable to interact with the greeter. It is one thing to say hello in the morning, but follow up questions, and repeating the routine throughout the day is a bit much. Is this person’s job to welcome people? Otherwise it seems like they need more to do with their time. If there are 10 people in your office, each walking by 3x minimum, and each interaction takes one minute that’s thirty minutes of their day every single day.

    1. Pomona Sprout

      RE: letter #2? am I the only person here wondering how this “greeter” gets ANY work done? She’s right by the door, everyone in the office walks past her to go anywhere (including the bathroom, kitchen, other people’s offices, etc.), and she tries to start a conversation with every one of them, every single time? I don’t know how many people work there, but even a handful could easily add up to 20 or more convos a day. And if there are as many as 10 people in this workplace, the frequency rises to the dozens! How does she have TIME for that?

      I know I’m not saying anything here that has practical value for the o.p. I just feel like I’ve read too many comments jumping all over the o.p. anld accusing them (directly or indirectly) of being anti-workplace friendliness, and it’s getting on my nerves. Doing the math, together with the op’s description of people averting their eyes and trying to hurry past this woman tells me that her behavior is excessive. Does she not have enough to do? Is she bored to tears by her job and trying to releve the monotony? If I was that woman’s manager, I’d seriously consider moving her to a different spot away from any major traffic patterns, in addition to evaluating both her workload and her productivity.

      Before anyone accuses ME of being anti-workplace friendliness, please let me draw your attention to the afore-mentioned math and the word “excessive.” We’re not talking a normal level of workplace friendliness here; we’re talking bananapants levels of it as well as bananapants amounts of time out of at least one person’s work day. The o.p. has the right to be bugged by this. It bugs the hell out of me just to read about it!

      1. Klo

        It doesn’t sound like multiple conversations to me at all, just multiple comments. To say “good morning how was the commute” with an answer of “it was fine/long/whatever” takes all of two seconds, so even to do that (or the day time equivalent) probably takes up very little time of her day. Some people are acting like she’s tying people down and interrogating her coworkers just for making a little bit of small talk!!

        1. Engineer Girl

          It’s a conversation if someone wants to talk and interact with you. Word counts are irrelevant.

          It means that you have to stop thinking about whatever WORK task is at hand to deal with the talker.

          It’s an interruption that breaks up the work flow. Multiple times.

          1. Ico

            Klo was responding to someone saying they didn’t see how the greeter had time for all the greeting. Word counts aren’t irrelevant to the amount of time a conversation takes.

          2. JSPA

            A canned greeting that does not require either party to process and consider the words being said by the other is not functionally a conversation, though. It’s a pair of monologues, and as such it takes for less than full bandwidth. It’s like getting work done while scratching or listening to music. Many people can. Some people can’t.

        2. RUKiddingMe

          Re-read the letter. OP says she comments to everyone every single time they pass her desk…bathroom, kitchen, others’ offices, etc. It is not just one greeting in the morning.

        3. Tallulah in the Sky

          Even a small-ish 15-20 person team, it is 15 people who go get coffee, water, go to the bathroom, go to a colleague’s desk… I get up from my desk about once an hour. At my workplace, it would mean the coworker could be potentially doing this every five minutes. This means they are getting distracted every five minutes. Distracted from their work. So even a 5 second interaction, when it happens so frequently, is bananas. And wasting time.

          No she’s not tying her colleagues down, but she is demanding their attention multiple times a day, for no reason at all. It’s annoying, and useless, and very few people would appreciate this. Just let your colleagues go to the bathroom in peace !

      2. RUKiddingMe

        “…with the op’s description of people averting their eyes and trying to hurry past this woman tells me that her behavior is excessive.”

        So much this. Let’s underscore that it’s not only OP that is worn out here. Her coworkers are likewise feeling exhausted by this and are actively avoiding eye contact and trying to hurry past her. This is not “normal friendly.” Ten million Elvis friends cant all be wrong!

      3. WellRed

        She may have a job that simply doesn’t give her a lot to do. We had an admin who was bored out of her mind and willing to help with anything. The role should have been part time, but politics and ego.

        1. anycat

          this – and if she is an admin it may be part of her job to be friendly and greet people (although they may be taking it to an extreme).

  12. chillininmyofficeyo

    #1, honestly, I’d think about whether this is the right company for you. It sounds like part of the culture/atmosphere, and probably is a perk your coworkers really enjoy about the place. Maybe see if you can work in a different office, or from home or something… but I wouldn’t be “that guy” who stops the whole office from partaking

    1. Ms.Vader

      Yes – this is important! You have to consider culture when determining fit. This doesn’t sound like the ideal place for the OP.

      OP, How do you handle going to restaurants or bars with friends? Are you not able to be anywhere near alcohol?

      1. Rose

        This was my question too. Genuinely curious if OP1 can’t go to restuarants, parties, BBQs, etc. There are so many places with alcohol. Sounds like it would be a constant battle.

        1. TootsNYC

          well, but restaurants and parties are optional. Work isn’t.

          Maybe she doesn’t go to those sorts of events–totally fine. She can avoid them, so if they trigger this anxiety, why not?

          Or maybe she gears herself up to cope, and because those aren’t everyday activities, and she knows in advance they’re happening, the strain of it isn’t as impactful.
          Maybe in other places, the other smells are strong enough to mask/balance out the effect.

          That sort of thing in her social life wasn’t included, because it’s completely not relevant.

          I think it’s uncool in the extreme to criticize her for having this problem.

          1. Rose

            I’m not criticizing as all, I was asking a question. I have a trigger that much less common and that’s tough enough, so I was curious how LW was handling this, which is answered below.

      2. Roger

        LW1 here (and I’m a man, btw):

        I can manage my responses to the smell of alcohol (thanks to a lot of therapy), but it takes up brain space to focus on using my coping mechanisms. I can do that during social events, but when I’m at work, I complete my tasks much more slowly because I’m multitasking. It’s much more stressful when I actually have responsibilities to take care of than if I’m just interacting socially with people.

        Plus, when I go to bars or parties, I do excuse myself occasionally to step outside and get some fresh air. I also am typically with my friends, who know about my anxiety and support me if I interrupt a game night to say “Hey, my anxiety’s running high, I’m gonna take a walk and I’ll be back in ten minutes.” I don’t know if my workplace would be as understanding.

        1. Rose

          That makes sense and congrats on the therapy and I’m glad it’s working in some situations. Also glad your friends are supportive. I think the work situation may not work out in your favor and I’m sorry for that.

        2. Ms.Vader

          Does a 10 minute break work for you every hour? To me, that would be a reasonable request on the one day where alcohol is present. Would you feel comfortable asking for that?

    2. Impy

      As a non drinker I actually completely agree with you – no point in trying to change an office’s culture. But it’s a bit sad when drinking at work is more important than individual comfort, and this is going to promote a *really* narrow culture.

      1. NewHerePleaseBeNice

        I don’t think ‘people who drink alcohol’ is REALLY narrow. I agree that it’s an odd quirk – usually in startups these days – to have alcohol present in the workplace at times other than the end of the day but (unless the US is wildly different to the UK) it’s not hugely out of cultural whack for alcohol to be a part of life.

        Kindly, I would ask LW to question whether this is the cultural fit for her.

        1. TechWorker

          I think it’s quite niche to have it in the same space that people are working (vs a break room/kitchen etc) – but I guess that’s more likely in a really small office.

          1. Anastasia Beaverhousen

            Depends on location. In California, it’s relatively common. (I encountered office-drinking at SEVERAL offices in California.) Sometimes relegated to the break room and end-of-day, but other times, the culture was that it was fine to bring a drink back to your desk and keep working.

              1. Arielle

                Yeah, I’m in Boston and my last job had a beer tap and a wine fridge in the office. Definitely not unusual for people to grab a drink and take it back to their desks towards the end of the day. My current office has a bar downstairs and people frequently have 4:30 meetings over a glass of wine. Sometimes we have happy hours on the floor as well. Totally not weird and no one’s getting wasted at their desks or forced to partake. (I both drive to work and am pregnant so I can say for sure that abstaining is totally accepted.)

                1. MassMatt

                  Interesting, I have worked in the Boston area for 30 years and no place had alcohol at work. There were sometimes after-work parties etc, and limited amounts of alcohol at work lunches. On special occasions at some workplaces some people came back from lunch clearly inebriated but they were outliers.

        2. Traffic_Spiral

          “I don’t think ‘people who drink alcohol’ is REALLY narrow.”

          And it’s not even “people who drink.” It’s “people who don’t mind having an open container of booze somewhere within the vicinity.” Lots of people don’t drink (or just don’t want to drink at work) but don’t have a problem if someone else does. I get that LW isn’t trying to be difficult on purpose, but every time a personal need goes beyond “I need to do it this way” to “all of you need to stop doing it that way,” it’s a pretty hard sell. Not impossible (fragrance-free offices, for instance) but difficult.

          1. EinJungerLudendorff

            OTOH, it’s a small startup where they work closely with everyone involved.
            If changing the culture is going to work anywhere, this situation would be your best bet.

        3. Impy

          Not so much ‘people who drink alcohol’; more people who do so at work. If you have a commute, kids, pets, medical conditions or religious prohibitions you won’t be drinking at work. I would have loved this perk when I was 24, house sharing and getting the train for example. As an older adult I have too many responsibilities to day drink in the office.

          1. Ra94

            I feel like it’s a little judgmental to imply that people who don’t mind having a drink at the office are less adult or have fewer responsibilities. Plenty of people with kids and pets can have a glass of wine at 4 pm and go about their day!

          2. Savannah

            I’m completely the opposite, at almost 40 with 3 kids, a husband, 2 dogs, a cat, a parrot and parents needing me more in life drinking at lunch with co-workers that are in the same boat as me is a cheap form of therapy. Also at 24 I was drinking to excess, and now I am a 2 drink at lunch max with a club sandwich then I have 4 hours to not have any alcohol in my system for the carpool lane. (which by the way is when I need tequila shots, but that is frowned upon)

            1. Impy

              Different strokes I guess! Alcohol just zonks me out – if I had two drinks at lunch I’d be asleep by 3 which is definitely a no no in most offices ;)

        4. Antilles

          to have alcohol present in the workplace at times other than the end of the day but (unless the US is wildly different to the UK) it’s not hugely out of cultural whack for alcohol to be a part of life.
          In my experience here in the US, it is very out of whack, at least to the extent OP is talking about.
          First off, when you get into mid-sized companies, it’s very common to have an explicit rule in the handbook that drinking at work is a fire-on-sight offense. And if there’s any sort of work-related accident, the very first thing you will be required to do is take a complete drug/alcohol screening.
          Secondly, even in companies which are looser than that, drinking at work during the day is typically a rare occasion thing, rather than “several times in a month” like OP is seeing – occasional parties here or there, maybe the Friday afternoon before a holiday, etc.
          Startups have their own culture around it, but once companies get past a certain size, the HR/liability/etc concerns usually put the kibosh on (regular) day drinking at work pretty quick.

          1. Smithy

            As mentioned by others – I think that different industries/sectors are going to fluctuate with alcohol. Even in the US.

            As soon as I started working for large nonprofits that had events teams – drinks in the office greatly changed. While mostly these would be end of the day work “congrats” moments – taking a glass back to your desk would be pretty normal. These happen easily once a month if not more frequently.

            While it would be considered strange to see someone casually crack open a beer at their desk for lunch – should someone decide to have a drink on a Friday afternoon while watching a World Cup match/ “working” – it wouldn’t be so out there provided it was a truly rare or special moment. The fact that we’re an office with an events team and therefore have alcohol in the office that is available for staff celebrations or even to take home (aka Events is cleaning out their closet – please take home bottles of the summer lime flavored IPA clearly no one wants), it changes a baseline dynamic.

    3. JSPA

      we don’t say this for other things that create what would be ADA issues in larger companies. Why is it okay to say it about alcohol???

      1. Traffic_Spiral

        Do you really think it would be different? “The boss loves to bake and brings in fresh cookies, cakes or pies regularly. The smell of freshly-baked pastry causes me panic attacks. Can I ask the boss to cancel cookie day?” Yeah, lots of offices don’t do cookie day, lots of people actually wouldn’t appreciate Office Cookie Day, and yes you *can* try and get cookie day cancelled, but if it’s really a thing at this office, maybe you should consider whether or not you’re a good fit.

        1. JSPA

          If someone had an allergy to a cookie ingredient, then yes, of course it would be honored, no? (The example sounds unlikely and goofy only because it ignores that comparatively few people have had really bad things happen to them against the background of the smell of cookies, compared to alcohol. Not because one person can’t have a serious enough reason to cancel some specific “nice thing.”)

          1. Traffic_Spiral

            They’re actually pretty similar. Both are unhealthy in large doses, both have people that love them, and others that think they’re horrible evil poison only consumed by bad people, both are sometimes but not usually provided in offices, and most people over 25 would rather not have them regularly provided in the office. Also, someone having panic attacks to the scent of them is pretty darn rare for both.

            Just because you happen to like cookies more than alcohol doesn’t make it less objectively goofy.

        2. LJay

          If they’re peanut butter cookies, and you have a peanut allergy, then deciding whether or not you’re a good fit because of this is discrimination.

          It’s a lot like all of the dog-office letters.

      2. Observer

        Well, this isn’t really an ADA issue. And the ADA doesn’t apply to small companies for a reason.

        If I were talking to the boss, I would point out that they are going to need make sure that they don’t create a culture where people feel pressured to partake or where excessive drinking happens. But from what the OP says that doesn’t seem to be the issue.

        1. Traffic_Spiral

          Or maybe be like” So booze is lovely, but do you know what people would *really* appreciate? Sandwiches. Everyone likes a free lunch. Maybe we could re-allocate the booze budget to lunch and some better teas and coffees?”

          That way you’re not taking anything away from people without giving them something in return.

      3. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain

        Even under ADA — if it were to apply — I don’t think asking all others in an office to abstain from alcohol so that the OP doesn’t smell it is a reasonable accommodation to be honest. Even if they serve it in a different room, unless it’s vodka, a lot of alcohol has a clinging odor on breath and body (sweat).

        If I had panic attacks whenever I see a handbag or hear a phone ring, I really can’t expect all other people to stop using handbags or telephones. That’s an issue that ultimately I need to change my behavior on and not demand others change theirs. So, OP can ask about sitting away from the group or working from home, using an air purifier or fan in her work space, having an aroma therapy type device that calms her and masks the scent… but I think, similar to the question about a coworker with OCD requiring everyone to line up male/female/male or be perfectly symmetrical with their jewelry… this is far beyond the intent of ADA.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          If the ADA were in play, it would absolutely be considered a reasonable accommodation in this context. The bar is pretty high for something to be considered unreasonable and is usually about cost.

          1. Observer

            I think it would depend on what the OP is actually asking for. The supervisor not bringing in alcohol? Not having open containers of alcohol in the office? Totally reasonable. No one being allowed to smell of alcohol? Not so realistic / reasonable.

            It’s the same with “scent free” offices. No perfume? Reasonable. No scent at all? Just not realistic.

            1. SometimesALurker

              It does sound like what the OP would be asking for is the supervisor not bringing in alcohol, and not having open containers of alcohol in the office. I agree that those are reasonable, since it’s pretty clearly not, like, an alcohol tasting and reviews company. How the ADA defines reasonable is another thing, but I defer to Alison on that and she says it would be considered reasonable.

              The bigger question, which we can’t solve here but is worth noting, is why it’s okay that the ADA doesn’t apply to small companies. Other types of anti-discrimination law don’t have that kind of clause.

              1. Observer

                Firstly, almost every law has a similar clause.

                Also, it does make sense that something like the ADA which requires more than just fairness should have these kinds of clauses. There is nothing about “don’t dismiss someone because of the color of their skin” which burdens a small organization more than a large one. On the other hand, “do extra things to help someone who is disabled” really could burden a small organization more than a larger one. Even relatively small things like a good chair.

                1. SometimesALurker

                  Huh, I wasn’t aware almost every law had a similar clause. Could you provide examples?

                  I do take issue with the framing that the ADA requires more than just fairness — that’s exactly what it’s intended to require.

                2. Ask a Manager Post author

                  Two big examples:

                  FMLA — kicks in at 50.

                  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (discrimination by sex, race, religion, etc.) – kicks in at 15

                3. Observer

                  Actually, no. It’s intended to require basic fairness (ie if the impairment is just totally irrelevant, you shouldn’t let that affect your decision), but it is ALSO intended to require additional assistance to people who are handicapped. The key here is the issue of *accommodation*. With the exception of religion, none of the actual anti-discrimination laws require accommodation – which makes sense. After all what about being ethnicity X etc. requires accommodation?

                  Even Title VII of the Civil Rights act, which does not require active accommodation, only applies to companies with 15 or more employees.

                  Here is what the EEOC says:

                  The laws cover all private employers, state and local government employers, and educational institutions that employ 15 or more individuals, except for ADEA which covers employers with 20 or more employees. These laws also cover private and public employment agencies, labor organizations, and joint labor management committees controlling apprenticeship and training

                  Link to follow.

                4. SometimesALurker

                  Thanks, that’s useful to know. (For some reason it isn’t letting me reply directly).

            2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain

              Observer hit what I was trying to say…”No one being allowed to smell of alcohol? Not so realistic / reasonable.” Whatever the manager does to reduce the availability of alcohol in the office probably isn’t going to eliminate the scent problem if the coworkers are committed to their afternoon beer run — they will still smell of alcohol on their person — and it would be unreasonable to do a sniff test on them or discipline the whole office (minus 1) for having a beer somewhere else.

              1. JSPA

                OP is not complaining that they’re drinking at lunch, and coming back with a residual scent on their breath, though.

                1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain

                  He’s complaining specifically about the smell of alcohol being a trigger. They’re still going to smell of alcohol. If he said the sight of alcohol was the trigger or the presence of it being a trigger, this would be a different discussion.

              2. Roger

                LW1 here: JSPA is right. My issue is specifically with open containers of alcohol being in the office because it makes the whole office smell. I’ve never had a problem with a coworker coming back from a lunch break smelling like alcohol–whether it’s because they don’t drink on their lunch break or whether I’m not close enough to them to smell it, I don’t know, and it’s not really any of my business anyway.

              3. LJay

                I mean, it could be reasonable to discipline the whole office for having a beer somewhere else (or at the very least going out and having a beer somewhere else and then coming back and not doing something to mitigate the smell on them).

                There are plenty of industries where point blank you can’t drink beer on your lunch break or you’re fired.

                If you went and smoked weed in a legal state and came back stinking of weed you could likely be disciplined.

                If you work in a clean room that requires no nail polish or makeup and go out on your lunch break and get a makeover with hair and makeup done you can be disciplined.

                If you have a coworker with severe peanut allergies so the office has made accommodations, and you go out on your lunch and have a peanut butter sandwich, come back without brushing your teeth and send your coworker into anaphalayctic shock you can be disciplined.

    4. staceyizme

      I actually wondered about that! But- it’s not a necessary perk. In the end, day drinking in a small office isn’t a right/ wrong thing. But- what is the company going to do from a systems perspective when they encounter cases where one person’s needs are at odds with their culture? I’d hope that they would ask themselves about their own values as an organization and think deeply about how those translate into the daily habits and interactions in the office. In this case, a glass of wine or beer is in the office. It impacts the well being of one employee significantly and it isn’t essential to the function of the office. Is it essential to the brand or the culture, in some way? Every organization gets to tell its own story and startups often have a unique degree of latitude in framing their work culture. But- one of the issues that they have to address is the growth pains inherent in bringing more people into the mix. More people- more needs- more diversity- more potential for conflict. It’s good for managers to think through how some of these things are going to be framed and to have clarity when sharing the culture with new potential hires. Getting the connection right between vision, values, beliefs and behaviors allows each organization to treat people with consideration, clarity and consistency. This seems potentially like the dog-friendly or childcare-onsite question. Some people would love dogs or kids close by. Others might have concerns (such as allergies for dogs, fear of being bitten or concerns about space, safety and cost for onsite child facilities). If these daytime libations aren’t an inherent, consciously chosen part of the brand’s story and culture in the office, it’s probably a reasonable request to stop the practice.

    5. Stitch

      It isn’t unlike those letters we get about people bringing dogs to work. Someone who an allergy/phobia has a legitimate issue, but people get attached to these things and ending them can be tough, particularly for a small startup.

    6. Lexi Kate

      I agree I don’t think this is going to get better. My husband worked for a startup that started bringing in alcohol and when they were financially able to redo the office space they created a liquor wall in the break room with space for room temperature and refrigerated alcohol so it was available at all times. If the alcohol smell is not something you can deal with long term it may be time to rethink where you want to be. In my experience people that want to drink during work or have it available are as adamant about it as people who bring their dog to work.

      1. Booksalot

        In my experience people that want to drink during work or have it available are as adamant about it as people who bring their dog to work.

        Hard agree. (Now imagining these worlds colliding, and people getting their dogs drunk at work…)

        1. staceyizme

          More likely the humans get carried away with overconsumption of alcohol and order some costumes such as doggie sweaters, hats and collars that no reasonable pup would wear. Some employee would make an ill timed critique of her superior and be dismissed. Clutching her white wine spritzer, she’d decide to start a canine glamour magazine, which she would then run. It would be wildly successful and “The Devil Wears Prada, Puppy Chronicles” would be released at the theater a few years later…

      2. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway

        At a start-up this small, it is really going to be a case of if the founder can empathize other peoples’ perspectives or not, and if they have the wisdom to think about their business beyond the initial dream. In a lot of cases that is just not going to happen. A lot of my peers have left small start-ups for reasons like this, where the “party” was more important than the people or the product as a whole. And even well-meaning principals sometimes need a talking to from an outsider they respect to truly hear good advice. I’m rooting for you, but it might not hurt to start looking if you think the founder won’t be accepting of another viewpoint or making a (reasonable) accommodation.

  13. MommyMD

    A seven to ten percent raise is huge. I would not expect that and I would wait.

    On the aggressive greeter, I’d just nod, smile and keep walking.

    1. Anastasia Beaverhousen

      Yeah, 10% is a LOT. The biggest raise I’ve ever gotten was 9%; I had a glowing performance review, and my duties had increased that year.

      1. Sally

        Me, too. When I got a 5% raise, which was a lot more than the usual, my boss had to do it by getting the money from two different budgets. I really appreciated everything he went through to make it happen because this company really nickel and dimed the employees.

        1. nonegiven

          When DH got 5%, it was after several bad years where if anyone got anything it was 1% and most didn’t get any at all.

      2. Meh

        The first year I was at one job, my boss gave himself a 38% raise and a title change, without any actual change in duties or hours worked. He got his boss to sign off on it so it went through but it felt like a very iffy and questionable move to me.

    2. CupcakeCounter

      I didn’t even get 10% when I got a 2-level up promotion! I’ve never gotten more than the standard 2-3% raise during the normal performance review cycle. All of the larger increases have been the result of job changes and one economic realignment a year after I started current job (basically bringing me up to the full amount I had requested during the salary negotiation).

    3. Jules the 3rd

      There is one industry exception. My software engineer friends expect 5 – 10% raises, and go job hunting if they get a good evaluation and less than 5% raise.

      But yeah, everyone else (including multiple other STEM careers), 3%’s pretty good.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch

      10÷ is our cap that’s given for exceeds expectations and promotions to advanced levels. 3÷ is standard COLA. So yep yep 7-10÷ is way too much for most places at 8 months with a backslide involved.

      Granted I got 10÷ by 6 months once but I came out of the gate swinging at the fences. I got it in two chunks. 4÷ after probationary period and 6÷ at annual reviews. That’s not normal, the 4÷ was above my expectations.

    5. A Simple Narwhal

      It honestly depends on your office. At my last job it was standard to get a 10% raise every year, it was a way to reward longevity at the company.

      I realize that this is uncommon, but it’s not unheard of.

      1. WellRed

        I’ve gotten a couple like that, but since haven’t gotten any ; / Honestly, for a person making $40K, an additional 10% isn’t all that much (though I’d certainly welcome it).

        1. OP4

          yes, my salary isn’t super high to start with either, so 10% (while I viewed it as a stretch!) is not very much money

    6. MCMonkeyBean

      Especially after only 8 months, which is when it sounds like they were originally going to ask for that! I think *sometimes* people take a job at a lower salary than they were looking for if part of the negotiations included an expected raise soon after. But unless you had explicitly talked to someone about this before coming on, asking for that high of a raise so early in your tenure would come off pretty badly IMO.

    7. Risha

      I used to get 11-13% raises! For a few years in the mid-to-late 90s. I haven’t gotten anything over 3% since then.

    8. Booksalot

      Generally speaking, I agree that 7-10% is a lot. But I’m from a “temp to hire” kind of field, and LW mentions being new-ish. I could see 7-10% being a reasonable increase if LW was in my kind of situation, where the year mark might mean switching from an hourly temp agency payment to a salaried company payment. The last time I made that transition, I got a 20% increase, plus access to health and retirement benefits.

    9. John B Public

      8-12% used to be common, but then we had a couple of recessions and now the “norm” is something between nothing and 3%- which is actually terrible.

      Inflation varies between 1.5 and 2.5%, so if you subtract that from your raise you can see often you’re actually getting nothing.

      This is why job hopping is more common, and why it’s good to both leave a good impression on your boss, and every two or three years look for another job. Sucks for managers, sucks for employees.

      1. TootsNYC

        yeah, my company gives 2% raises, and though on paper I make more than I ever have, I have SO much less money.

    10. MassMatt

      For the LW asking about getting a raise–I think it’s worth looking at whether both your and your boss’s assumptions about your performance are accurate. You mentioned your performance backsliding due to personal issues but going into that meeting expecting a big raise after 8 months at the company, this would be really aggressive/unrealistic in most places I have worked. You mention your boss having to revise his opinion after examining your production numbers or whatever so perhaps he was not giving good feedback previously either.

      It is great that you have taken the negative feedback to heart (it is difficult to hear!) and worked to improve but it is still too soon to ask for another evaluation. Go with the company process and make your case at the next review. But check into what % raise is realistic before asking for a double digit increase.

    11. Skeeder Jones

      I came to comments to see what other people had to say about the 7.5% raise. It’s definitely not the norm to get anything like that these days. And if you haven’t been there a year, it’s usually pro-rated. I kicked ass last year, got nothing but positive and glowing remarks on my review, After being pro-rated, my raise was barely noticeable. But you know what, I went from 3 years as a contractor to a direct employee with benefits and I’m grateful enough for that that I’m not complaining at all! I work in learning and development and that field always takes a beating during a recession so I choose to look at the positives and not get caught up on the dollar signs on my paycheck.

  14. mark132

    Does ADA actually extend to coworkers choice of beverages? I actually would prefer no alcohol in the office as well for different reasons. ( I’m not a fan of intoxicants at work.)

    1. MommyMD

      ADA is overused. Not everything is ADA. Sometimes you just have to put up with things. And if you can’t, sometimes you have to find a new job.

      1. JSPA

        You seem to be confusing panic attacks with personal preferences? I can assure you that nobody would have a panic attack by personal preference, nor as a way to register a personal preference.

        Even if OP has not shared details to that effect, let’s consider it the many scenarios where someone could develop PTSD and / or anxiety attacks in association with the smell of alcohol, whether in childhood or as an adult, integrate a variety of societal statistics for the sorts of problematic actions that occur around alcohol, and exercise some extra compassion.

        1. MatKnifeNinja

          Throwing this out there.

          Being next to someone smoking (cigs or cigars), triggers my asthma. Badly. Badly enough that one time it cascaded into an ER visit and just dodged being on a ventilator. So…for a while every time I just smelled cigarette smoke, I’d spiral into a panic attack. Second hand smoke on someone’s clothes. Smoke smell in a car. My world was slowly closing.

          I did some therapy work. Realized it was the trauma from the ER visit rearing it’s ugly head over and over, not so much the stale tobacco smoke.

          I have never smoked and seldom drink. I can smell alcohol in a glass or on a person, just like second hand smoke. OP, I believe you when you say you smell it. I don’t know if you have a chemical sensitivity to alchohol or it’s something more like my second hand smoke issue. My brain goes into hijack mode to get me out of a perceive life and death situation.

          You can ask the boss about no booze in the office. People are more sympathetic to smells like perfumes, air fresheners, essential, etc, and such. He maybe apologetic or do a near fatal eye roll.

          If it’s the near fatal eye roll, ask if you can work remote on booze days. Even if the stuff is in toddler sippy cups with closed lids and straws, I have a feeling that wouldn’t make you anymore relax.

      2. Stitch

        If LW has to stay at this office, she may consider cbt. It really helped my sister who had panic attacks that were triggered by something unavoidable (car sounds).

      1. JessaB

        As a person with panic disorder and PTSD can I request that you please, Chillin, not refer to something that causes enough anxiety to make someone write to AAM for suggestions as a “personal preference,” thank you.

        Would it rise to ADA if the company was big enough, I dunno. Does it matter? The company isn’t big enough, but a decent company would care whether or not there was an ADA that they were accountable to and whether or not it rose to the level of being covered. If something is upsetting a valuable employee and it’s not critical to the business…

        Now obviously if this was an alcohol related business I’d say bad idea to work there. But I’m not a lover of alcohol in businesses that are not involved in the making serving or sale of, during working hours anyway. Just as a general thing. I don’t get why it’s a thing that’s done. The liability to the company if someone does something Darwin Award Winning under the influence of company provided spirits, is just…their insurance company would scream.

        1. chillininmyofficeyo

          My comment was to mark, who said he simply “isn’t a fan”. That is a personal preference.

          “I actually would prefer no alcohol in the office as well for different reasons. ( I’m not a fan of intoxicants at work.)”

          1. JessaB

            thank you. I was a little on edge from the other topics, I read more into the tone which I should not. I know better about reading printed commentary neutrally because there is no tone of voice on the net. Thank you, and I apologise for calling it out that way.

      2. mark132

        I should have finished my thought. I’m not asking it be banned because off my preference under ADA. just in the op’s case can it really extend that far?

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      If the OP’s panic attacks are severe enough to be covered under the ADA, then yes, this could be an ADA-required accommodation. (In this case it’s probably moot though, as the company would need to have 15 people to be covered under the law.)

      1. Case of the Mondays

        OP should check her state laws too. Most states have adopted a form of the ADA and some cover employers with as few as 5 employees.

      2. mark132

        I think alcohol is a special case, but what if is some other beverage? That is more innocuous. Something like coffee ( if you’ve ever worked in Utah this isn’t as silly as it sounds.)

        1. RoadsLady

          I do work in Utah. Last year I switched jobs from a rather large school to an itty bitty one. I am one of those weird Mormons, yet even I was surprised at the lack of a coffee machine. I personally love the smell of coffee. We were so small a faculty the coffee drinkers didn’t care one way or the other, but it would have been interesting to see what would have happened if someone were triggered by the smell of coffee.

          1. CmdrShepard4ever

            I think that the coffee is an even better example than alcohol. When I started at my current job no one else was a coffee drinker, but I was so I bought a small single serve drip coffee maker for my office. We had a coffee maker but it was stored away and no one used it. Eventually we got a few more coworkers who did drink coffee and we started using a full size coffee pot. One coworker even bought a Keurig for all of us to share. Our company provides free coffee and tea in the office for people that want it.

            If a new coworker came in and said that the smell of coffee gave them panic attacks, I would be sympathetic. If they asked us to try and minimize the smell of coffee, by quickly disposing of used coffee grounds, not letting coffee sit in a pot all day, making smaller batches, using cups/mugs with lids I would be all for it. But if the coworker asked the company to stop buying coffee for the office and/or to ban coffee from work premises, I would be upset and start to have a negative opinion of that coworker.

            I used to have a bad reaction to onions and mushrooms (not allergic to them) when I would bite/taste them I would feel the urge to gag. At work we often have company provided pizza, the most often one that is chosen is supreme (onions, peppers, mushrooms, and sausage.) I know a lot of people like supreme and I didn’t want to impose on everyone with an issue that is only related to me so I didn’t say anything. I would just pick off the onions and mushrooms. When I ordered pizza at home I would make sure to not get supreme. Eventually I realized this was not sustainable to I slowly started to eat onions and mushrooms at home and work through the gag reflex. I have now gotten to a point where I still pick off bigger pieces of mushrooms and onions, but I can eat smaller pieces without feeling like I have to gag.

            1. JessaB

              On the pizza thing, it is not unreasonable to ask the company to order ONE pizza maybe plain cheese. Mr B is just not a toppings or spicy things guy and I cannot eat pepperoni because it has mustard flour and I’m allergic. Supreme for those who love it is great, but when it’s a corporation, it’s not outrageous to ask for a couple of plain pizzas. Every place we ever worked had no problem with ordering ten supreme and a plain or something. And they were really surprised when the plain went extra fast.

              Once in a blue moon sending out an email going “what’s your fave pizza” might be a good thing.

            2. LJay

              There’s a difference between not liking the taste of pizza, which you can choose not to eat, and being distressed to the point of panic attacks by the smell of coffee or alcohol, which you can’t just choose not to smell if someone is imposing them in your work area.

              If you would continue to make your coworker have panic attacks because you don’t want to give up a totally optional item (assuming there aren’t other solutions that would work for him) you’re not actually being sympathetic towards them.

        2. Working Mom Having It All

          One thing I think is getting lost here is the difference between a personal preference and a disability.

          If you experience PTSD-related panic attacks at the smell of alcohol of any kind (or of coffee, sure, why not), that might be a matter for ADA compliance.

          If you are Mormon, that alone is not going to be an ADA issue. Not liking that your coworkers drink caffeinated drinks is not the same thing as having an uncontrollable physical reaction when your coworkers drink caffeinated drinks.

          Same for someone who is “not a fan of” x, y, or z customary workplace activity. I’m not a fan of polyester dress pants, but if I worked in a business formal environment, I would be able to suck it up. Artificial fibers don’t give me literal panic attacks or trigger seizures or something. I just would prefer not to wear them.

      3. neeko

        There is also some protection is the person is in recovery, went to rehab, or identifies as a former addict. Not suggesting that the OP is, just pointing out that there are some protections when it comes to alcohol.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever

          But I think the protection about being hired and keeping your job, not about forcing the employer to not have alcohol around at all.

        2. Traffic_Spiral

          Fun fact, under ADA rules, OP probably has a better argument under the “I’m a recovering alcoholic” claim than the “gives me panic attacks” one.

    3. JessaB

      It’s not the choice of beverage it’s the smell of it. The accommodation (if the company qualified) could be as someone else suggested covered drinking containers and breath spray or something if the smell on breath was noticeable. It shouldn’t be. But yes serious anxiety/PTSD/panic attacks, can very well be protected under ADA.

    4. CatMom

      As others have pointed out, panic disorders (here, panic attacks induced by the smell of alcohol) are likely covered by the ADA.

    5. Holly

      The ADA defines having a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual. Major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.

      It’s possible having *panic attacks* due to the smell of alcohol might substantially limits OP’s major life activities – it also may not. It would depend on more information not in this letter. In your situation, merely being uncomfortable with intoxicants at work would not be considered a disability.

      1. JSPA

        OP didn’t say “uncomfortable.” Nor, “it makes me a bit anxious.” Or, “is culturally alienating.” An actual panic attack at work would naturally tend to interfere massively with, “concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.”

  15. nnn

    Can we make “hello, I greet you, fellow human” and “hello, I am greeting you warmly” the standard social scripts please?

      1. Jules the 3rd

        That’s how I greet the *human* inhabitants of this planet.

        Feline inhabitants get ‘hello, god’ (under my breath so as not to alert the human inhabitants) while canines get ‘mm, yes, lots of smells on my shoes’ or ‘yes, I am Not Dead and it is Delightful’ (for the one who lives with us).

    1. Jamie

      I love this. And said with a smile and genuinely reserved yet playful attitude would totally work.

    2. JJ Bittenbinder

      Only if you pronounce (and maybe even spell) it hyoo-mans. For the proper “I am totally not an alien” feel.

    3. Lauren

      I’d like to have OP try – under his eye or may the lord open – it would be my go-to at least once. Prob confuse the person though if they aren’t familiar with that show.

    4. Ey-not-Cy

      This makes me think of nathanwpylestrangeplanet comics on instagram. Amusement. Greetings.

    5. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain

      And the standard response needs to be, “I complete the social circle and greet you warmly in return.”

    6. TootsNYC

      these would be fun for the OP to simply say as she breezes past this woman every time.

      Just funny enough to derail serious conversation, but also sort of friendly. Almost like an inside joke, which might actually satisfy the Friendly One.

  16. Boobookitty

    As someone who has to use the bathroom more frequently than usual because of a medical issue, I would find the “greeter” to be personally upsetting. It would almost feel like someone is monitoring my trips to the bathroom. I’ll say “hi” in the morning and “see you tomorrow!” at the end of the day, but please be busy with something and just pretend you don’t see me making frequent trips to the bathroom.

    1. Boobookitty

      And also I’d feel it’s bringing my private medical issue to the attention of anyone who is within earshot.

      1. LJay

        But you feeling that doesn’t make it true.

        If he was commenting on your bathroom habits, that would be problematic.

        But presumably people can see you stand up and walk over to the bathroom. And the greeter greets people doing plenty of other things that aren’t going to the bathroom,

        This has absolutely nothing to do with revealing your private medical information to anyone.

    2. Anastasia Beaverhousen

      Yup, this! I *have* had a coworker point out my bathroom visits. It was weird, and I didn’t like it, and didn’t like that coworker much after that.

      1. Don't be that person

        Had a boss who demanded to know why I was going to the bathroom so often. Told him I was changing my tampons. He turned red, said, “oh” & never asked me again.

          1. female peter gibbons

            Huge pet peeve of mine that if I stand up with my purse, another coworker would say “Oh , are you leaving already?” whether it’s 10 am , 2 pm , or 4 pm. Then I would have to clarify that I’m going to the bathroom or lunch, (obviously). That means I have to announce to everyone within earshot I’m going to the bathroom?!?!?!!?!? This is like a hall monitor situation.

            No need to be this person. Just let people go to the freaking bathroom even if it’s 100 times a day. You’re a coworker, not a boss.

            1. Jennifer Thneed

              So, maybe don’t clarify? Just grin and say “yup!” and walk away. (Especially effective if you leave your jacket behind.)

    3. stack it up

      Literally used to work somewhere like this, we had a security guard who sat at a desk that I had to pass to enter, exit, reach other rooms required to do my job multiple times a day, the bathrooms, the break room, access to a water fountain…. getting it? So he could see me pass and also see where I was going after I passed. And I also have to use the bathroom frequently and he would straight up say every time “You need to drink less water!” or “You’re wearing a path in my carpet!” etc. etc. etc. When I tried to bring it up to coworkers they’d just say “That’s how he is, he’s older, etc.”

      Emphasis on USED to work there. One of many reasons I left.

    4. Budgie Buddy

      I have a similar situation with sneezing. I have allergies and tend to sneeze twice in a row. Sometimes I wish the person who invented the social convention of relying to sneezes with “Bless You!!!” would die in a fire. I know people are only doing this to be polite but it makes me so self conscious to know that everyone is monitoring a body function I can’t help.

      If someone were greeting me every time I went to the bathroom I would also find that really weird.

      1. WellRed

        I have flat out told me not to bless me every. single. time. They are allowed to bless me for the day ; ) It took some time, but it’s normal now (and no, I don’t get angry if they forget).

  17. Artemesia

    /This. To expect a huge raise right after getting essentially put on an informal PIP is really tone deaf. I would really try to get some salary history information and wait till the next round.

    1. Stitch

      Especially since LW has a history of backsliding. Performing for a couple months can be easy. Sustaining that can be harder.

    2. Colette

      Yeah, the OP is looking at it as a temporary problem that kept her from performing at her usual level, but her manager has no information other than that the OP wasn’t able to consistently perform at a high level. Asking for a raise would be tone-deaf – and asking for a 10% raise would be way out of line.

    3. Busy

      Yes, It seems like the OP is really not taking this seriously enough. Her boss put her on an informal improvement plan, really. It might be a bit more of a paranoid/negative thinking person, but I would be kind of be happy they kept me employed and are pleased with my turn around!

    4. Queen Esmeralda

      This reminds me of a letter writer of a while ago. This person was on a PIP, but wanted to ask about being promoted. Not quite reading the room correctly.

    5. an infinite number of monkeys

      I’m also struck by the fact that the negative performance review was a surprise to OP. She seems to accept and take responsibility for the issues now, but if that’s the case I’m not sure how she expected an “exceeds” when a “needs improvement” was the reality. It sounds to me like she needs time, not only to build a consistent work reputation, but to get a stronger grasp on how she’s doing in the moment.

        1. TootsNYC

          (sorry–the default generic here at AAM tends to be “she,” so when there’s no indicator in the letter, most commenters use that. It’s not personal, not anymore than using “he” would be if you had been a woman)

      1. Cheshire Cat

        What struck me was that it seemed to be a surprise to the manager, too. And this shouldn’t be a surprise to either! OP4, it sounds as if you’re having regular check-ins with your manager now, but if you didn’t have them before your review, keep going with them now.

  18. Myrin

    Ah, unusual greeters! How we love them!

    I have a coworker who greets everyone, every day, with a greeting that is almost but not quite a regular greeting, but even its regular form doesn’t fit the context. (Let’s say “Have a secure trip!”; it’s already a bit weird to use “secure” instead of “nice” or “good” or so, but then he also uses it instead of “good morning”, not when anyone is going on any trips.) We’re from the same cultural background, so there’s no way this is just a regional oddity I’m unaware of, either (and you can clearly tell that everyone else finds it strange, too).

    I like this guy, I trained him when he started and we get along really well, and yet this drives me absolutely up the wall. I have no idea why! It’s certainly not something to get this annoyed over! But I just want to strangle him whenever he arrives in my field of vision and I hear “Have a…”. But those are my feelings and, oh my, I just need to deal with that. He has an odd but ultimately harmless social quirk which acknowledges my presence in a somewhat awkward way, so I’ll just nod and smile or greet him normally and that’s that.
    (This is certainly one step down in annoyance compared to someone who does this literally every time someone walks past them, but the principle is the same regardless.)

    1. AngryAngryAlice

      If I was ever greeted with “have a secure trip!” I would tell everyone in my life about it because it’s *that bizarre* lol. I can’t imagine how you hear something like that every day and don’t lose your mind in a fit of totally inappropriate rage and/or laughter!

      1. Myrin

        To be fair, that’s not literally what he says but it’s strangely hard to translate that into English so I just chose something that’s similar enough – the thing he says is slightly less out of place than the trip sentence but no less aggravating. I can’t even bring myself to respond with the simply “You too!” that most of the others seem to have gotten in the habit of saying – which is weird for me because I usually have no problem with that whatsoever, but for some reason my body refuses to engage that way; it’s very unreasonable of me – so now I’m just resorting to a cheerful “Yes!” which is also weird but we both find it kinda funny, which is a win.

        1. JSPA

          “Safe journeys” is a common parting line in literature of a certain era (when travel was less safe), and still in limited use.

          1. Myrin

            I know, which is why I used the example I used but changed it to “secure” to show that it’s not even 100% the common usage anyway, nevermind that it doesn’t fit the context in either configuration. But like I said, this is not literally what he says anyway but an anonymised example I made up.

            1. Wendie

              Sometimes there is a language barrier for tone in the comments – jspa was just kindly sharing her expertise.

              1. JSPA

                I figured it might have been a translation of a translation of a translation of something used historically…and thus explicable…and one explained, more tolerable. Which could still be the case, even if I caught on to a sample back-formation in this case, rather than an actual re-translation.

                I’m sure a lot of US-film-based pseudo spanish (or pseudo french etc) floats around, baffling actual spanish- (french-) speaking people, too…

    2. Jennifer

      Re Aggressive greeting

      Have you considered that she’s been told it’s her job to greet everyone cheerfully? I worked retail and had to do the same. Most of the time I didn’t feel like it but that’s life. I do many things I don’t feel like doing at work. Just say hi and keep walking.

      And let’s not make this an introvert/extrovert thing. You don’t get a pass when it comes to VERY basic social niceties because you’re an introvert. If you can’t say hello to someone a couple times a day, that’s beyond introversion imo.

    3. Jules the 3rd

      mmm – rich pageantry of life… Just keep your sense of humor about it, it really helps.

    4. smoke tree

      I would be so tempted to respond with something equally nonsensical each time–“and an auspicious new year to you, good fellow!” I would probably also respond to the smarmy coworker with escalating weirdness, because they really can’t expect me to have a serious conversation about the weather or my commute multiple times a day. I really have to admire their dedication to small talk.

  19. KayDay

    #2: My (new) boss does this, but I managed to get him to stop doing it to me. Disclaimer: this probably isn’t the most professional way to handle it, but, for the love of the flying spaghetti monster, desperate times call for desperate measures. Basically, any time my boss came into my office at 8:30am exclaiming “Gooooooood morning, good morning! Happy Monday!!!”….all said in complete sincerity and accompanied by a subtle jig (I kid you not)…I responded with some form of “how can I help you?” The more enthusiastic the greeting, the more terse the response (i.e. full-on happy dance greeting = “wha’d’ya want?” ; where as a more restrained “happy Monday, have a great day” got “is there something I can help you with ?”). Coupled with actively avoiding my boss before 9am, this method was quite effective.

    1. Not Australian

      Actually, ‘is there something you need?’ is a pretty good repressive response to someone taking up too much of one’s bandwidth.

      1. TootsNYC

        I do this to my MIL sometimes. She’ll call, and the first thing she asks is “what are you doing?” (hanging out at home, doing home stuff?) So I’ll say something like, “cleaning up from dinner,” and then she asks, “what did you eat?”

        Makes me crazy. It’s the stupidest thing in the world to talk about. And it just underlines for me that there is no interesting conversation between us.

        So I say, “Food. Did you call for something specific?”
        I do have conversation with her after that–once there is actually something to make conversation about. I don’t hate her, I quite like her. I just don’t want to have small-talk about what I had for dinner.

        1. Avasarala

          This makes me sad because it seems like she is reaching out for some kind of conversation topic and you’re shutting it down. “How are you? All well? How is your daily life, which I can’t see or experience with you except what you choose to report to me, and I care about you so I hope it’s well?” I’m sure you know your situation best but I wonder if you’re misunderstanding each other.

    2. jDC

      Every single day of my life my old boss would get all amped up and say “big day big day”. How he survived this i don’t know. I am an awful morning person who can easily go until 10am with no communication outside of necessity. I sucked it up but many days I wanted to hide his body in my trunk. I just had to remind myself that not everyone is a angry brat in the morning like myself. (Waking up with an extra hour before getting ready has helped me so I have time to slowly and calmly acclimate).
      Oh, and everyday is not a BIG day. Argh.

    3. Jules the 3rd

      Yeah, but coming into your office is totally different, and you have a lot more standing to push back.

      I feel you on this, I have used ‘too early for that!’ to some good effect in a similar situation.

    4. K

      Ha, I get my daughter out of her crib every day with the “Good Morning!” song. I wonder if his mom did the same.

    5. NomdePlumage

      There’s a person who passes my desk every day with the loudest, most overly-enthusiastic “GOOD MORNING!!!!!” and it is way too energetic for that early in the morning. It is literally jarring and I jump in my chair.

      After a few pointedly unenthusiastic “yaaays” and just “ok,” this person finally started toning it down. And this is before they get coffee! I’m almost jealous of their pep.

  20. MK

    OP4, I think it would help you manage your expectations if you took a more realistic view of your performance at this job. You were great for the first six months, then you messed up for two months, apparently without it being obvious to your boss, and after you have been given an improvement plan (and I assume supervised?) you have now been performing great for a few months. That’s not the picture of a superstar, it’s one of someone with great potential and ability, but not a steady high performer.

    I say this because your letter comes across with a view of your that is not supported by the facts. Also, you say that you have proven your consistency, when you actually haven’t. Your boss has sent you be great for a few months in a row before, they need to know the two months were an aberration, not something likely to happen again in a couple of months.

    1. LKW

      Agreed. OP#4 your naivete shows a bit here. From my perspective, you worked less than one year for this company, and fell behind on your performance. You let personal issues impact your professional performance which happens to all of us, but when that happened, you didn’t reach out and discuss the problem with your manager or your team. I see this as potentially putting the department, a contract or a project at risk because a piece of work wasn’t being done to plan.

      Going forward, if you are on any kind of improvement plan, expect that your end of year evaluation is “this thing happened, you were able to turn this around, if your next year is strong, you’ll be back on track”. Think of it like a GPA – you can’t have a 4.0 if you pull in a D one semester.

    2. JSPA

      Yep. You may not be someone with attention span problems and resulting cyclical performance issues…but people with cyclical performance issues have careers that look like yours (short stints, and in longer stints, a few good months followed by bad until a warning, then repeat).

      You don’t want to flag that you find 4 good months worthy of high admiration! The color of that flag may be yellow or red or “this way to exit,” but it’s surely not green.

      Similarly your boss may be praising you because you seem to need extra praise to keep motivated, or because you’re really “all that,” when you’re on, or because they’re liberal with praise, or because they tend to unquestioningly buy your overly-enthusiastic, under-critical self-assessment and self-reporting, until they check the details and become dismayed. Asking for a massive raise will again be “flag-y” in a bad way.

      There’s a slim (very slim) chance that you actually are so excellent– such an unprecedented superstar — that your glowing self-assessment is on point, ditto your assessment of what the company should be paying to hold onto you. If so, your boss knows what you make and knows you’re worth more than that. If they want to raise the issue early, they can.

      1. Guacamole Bob

        Yes, the prior career instability caught my eye too. It may be that OP has just had life happen to them, or a string of contract/temp/short-term jobs that would be normal in some fields, but I also wonder if there was some job hopping going on. Certainly as a manager if I’d noticed instability on a resume but decided to hire a candidate anyway it would put me on alert for an inability to sustain performance and grow within a role, and asking for a large raise so soon after a bad performance review would not come off well.

        Virtually all the jobs I’ve had, even internships and admin jobs, had a learning curve and room for growth. I always did my job better after 18 months than after 2 (or if it was an internship I could have done more and better work if I’d been able to stay). OP writes as if she mastered the job completely on day 1, aside from the period where she was having personal problems. I’m sure there are jobs where that’s possible, but I’d say they’re the exception rather than the rule, and they’re probably mostly fairly low level.

        OP, most jobs measure performance trajectories in years rather than months. Do sustained good work, take on new responsibilities and new projects, look for other ways to contribute, look at what people who’ve been there longer or who are a level ahead of you are doing, and be patient.

        1. DC Cliche

          I think it’s also important to interrogate *why* the poor review “snuck up on you” as well. It might be a lack of self-awareness and experience. It might also be the relationship with the manager. Blindly assuming everything is great, vs. being critical and thoughtful, is a good skill to have in the workplace and will dictate response in future situations.

      2. hbc

        My mind went straight to the idea of Supportive Praise or Kneejerk Praise, because otherwise, how do you get to review time and go “Oh, wait, you’re actually not doing that well”? I think this is a common pattern in work environments that otherwise feel pretty awesome–people spend so much time building you up and giving positive reinforcement that they don’t check you against actual goals until review time.

        You can also get this if you’re replacing someone who was terrible across the board or are picking up a new role, where at first they’re just thrilled that C+ work is getting done.

  21. CouldntPickAUsername

    another one of these letters, one that leads into the replies having the chatter vs non chatter debate aka the introvert vs extrovert debate.

    can we please accept that not everyone processes social interaction the same way. having to give a canned response every time I walk to the bathroom sounds personally exhausting. I am an introvert, and find small talk honestly kind of draining because it doesn’t come naturally to me and I have to think it through. However yes it would be rude to just outright start ignoring a coworker when they’re “trying to be nice”. But…. that coworker is also ignoring social signals and cues themselves that say “hey I just wanna go to the bathroom not chat about the weather every effing time”.

    This is a case where both sides have an extreme, and what generally works best is a happy medium. However currently this coworker is at an extreme and it would be nice to dial it down. The problem is respecting extroversion is usually seen as more polite than respecting introversion. Outright saying something would be seen as rude and mean no matter how it’s said. So you’ll need to be a bit more subtle. Sometimes when you’re going by the area power walk and when they say something “sorry can’t right now” when they start. Break the pattern and make it more normal to not give them their social cookie every time you go by.

    1. WS

      +1, I am an introvert with a very chatty co-worker (who gets so lonely that if everyone is busy will she chat with herself!) and sometimes a quick “Sorry, busy!” is all that is needed. But I do also engage with more chatting than I am entirely comfortable with because that’s comfortable for her. It’s a balance!

    2. EPLawyer

      Thank you. Everyone has to accomodate the extrovert. How about understanding not everyone wants to chat all the time. Small talk is not always necessary in every single situation. The extroverts can dial it back a bit sometimes and not just pass it of as “being nice.” Why do introverts always have to dial it up?

      Why can’t NOT talking all the time be seen as “being nice?” Why can’t leaving someone in peace to walk around the office be seen as “being nice?”

      People are avoiding this person in order to not have to “be nice.” This is not just a quirk. It’s actually affecting the office atmosphere. Which can affect how people feel about coming to work. I know I would DREAD having to deal with Chatty Cathy all day every day.

      1. Anononon

        I think it’s more complicated than that. It’s not about accommodating the extrovert. It’s about the fact that, to some degree, literally everyone doesn’t want to talk all the time, even extroverts. And introverts do want to talk sometimes. So, the sides aren’t talking versus not talking. It’s a scale of how much talking is correct, because the minimum IS going to be some amount of talking.

        1. oops oh well

          This will get me heat but from an outside perspective, I would be classified as an extrovert and my SO would be classified as an introvert, and they despise the introvert/extrovert label deeply. They say every time it comes up that their “fellow ‘introverts'” use the label as a crutch to not want to conform to social niceties and participate in normal day to day interactions at large in ways that ultimately hinder them. Basically, my SOs advice to this would be “Suck it up, say hi, and put in your headphones to quietly recharge when you’re at your desk. You’ll get used to it.”

          Not saying I agree or disagree, as someone who has no issue with small talk and sometimes starts it myself I don’t feel like I get as much of a say here. Just offering a thought from an ‘introvert’ I know that despises people trying to use introvert-ism as a ‘get out of social norms free card.’

          1. Anononon

            As someone who definitely has more classic introvert traits (large group social interactions get draining and overwhelming very quickly)…I fully agree with your husband. (With the caveat that social anxiety =/= introversion and I don’t think that people with strong social anxiety should just be told to suck it up.)

            1. oops oh well

              Most definitely, and he’s worked against that particular struggle as well. In that regard I don’t think he believes in anything as wholeheartedly as he does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which was a total gamechanger in his young adult life, and (we both, actually) think essentially everyone would benefit from at least a few sessions of CBT.

          2. TootsNYC

            I also think that not all extroverts do what this woman is doing.

            I’m an extrovert. I can read the signals. I don’t start conversations with everyone who just walks past.

            So similarly, I don’t think, “Oh, I’m an extrovert” is an excuse for failing to be respectful of other people’s attention. It’s not all about you, Too Talky Extrovert!

            1. oops oh well

              Totally!! It’s way more about “reading the room” than anything else and maybe you’ve just gotten to the root of why I bristle a bit when “introverts” accuse “extroverts” of being so terrible to them – that’s not a extrovert thing, that’s an oblivious thing!

      2. Colette

        If the coworker who greets everyone all the time had written in, everyone would be telling her that her expectations are out of line – but she didn’t, so the advice is targeted towards the person who did write in.

      3. JJ Bittenbinder

        Thank you. Everyone has to accomodate [sic] the extrovert. How about understanding not everyone wants to chat all the time. Small talk is not always necessary in every single situation. The extroverts can dial it back a bit sometimes and not just pass it of as “being nice.” Why do introverts always have to dial it up?

        I really don’t find this to be true. I do find it to be a common complaint from people who hate socializing, but most places I have worked have very few rules or policies that prioritize extraversion over introversion.

        1. TootsNYC

          I think the complaint is far less about workplace rules and much more about societal expectations and norms. “People are being friendly!” is far more valued than “people want to keep to themselves a bit.”

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss

      I consider myself an ambivert, but am NOT a morning person. That coupled with a crappy commute means I need to decompress when I walk into the office and someone like this would drive me insane. I disagree with Alison’s advice. When I walked in first thing, I’d just give her a monotone “morning” as I walked by and not engage. I wouldn’t confront her about it, but I would not give her a reason to carry on a conversation. If she had a legitimate reason to talk to me, that’s one thing, but outside of a friendly “hi” to passing co-workers, this is a bit out of control.

      1. Observer

        Alison’s advice is actually not that the OP should engage but to find a way to respond that is friendly and collegial without actually engaging. A canned response, expressed in a friendly fashion as you keep moving works.

    4. I hate coming up with usernames

      I disagree that this is an introvert vs. extrovert thing. I’m also an introvert, but I can’t even begin to imagine being “exhausted” by saying, “Fine, how are you?” to a coworker as I pass their desk. It’s such a social norm it’s practically a reflex to me. I guess none of you have ever worked retail or customer service or some other job that requires greeting basically every person you come in contact with, but there are ways to do it that require no real effort on your part. The mental gymnastics many commenters are going through here to be outraged that they have to give a standard, “Fine, and you?” response to someone a few times a day just baffles me. If this is seriously OP or anyone’s biggest problem with their workplace, I would consider them lucky.

      1. it's me

        I think at this point people acting like OP doesn’t want to say “Hi” or “Fine” once to this coworker are being disingenuous. The problem is, and I quote, that “I have to pass them to get to the kitchen, the bathroom, other people’s offices … and I’m forced to answer a question every time.”

        1. I hate coming up with usernames

          I’m not being disingenuous. It sounds like, “Fine, thanks,” would cover practically every question being asked. She’s not being grilled or interrogated every time she walks past this desk. She could do this with literally three words or less.

        2. Observer

          Except that unless the coworker is actually blocking them or the like, they really aren’t being “forced” to do anything but provide a canned answer.

          1. TootsNYC

            right–the pressure is mostly internal, springing from the desire to follow societal norms.

            So if the OP can let go of that, and just always say, “Heading to the kitchen” or “off to the loo” as she goes past (or even better, “I greet you, fellow human”–and I’m serious about suggesting this, btw) instead of actually answering the literal question, it might be easier for her.

            It could even become the inside joke, and then it would have even less mental weight.

          2. it's me

            I mean… it’s bizarre to be asked a question literally every time you pass someone. Pointing out that no one is literally being “forced” is… tiresome.

            1. Observer

              No, it’s practical. Because it’s key to how you respond. Sure, the coworker is being weird. But acting like you have not options in how to respond to weird behavior is not useful or realistic.

      2. nonegiven

        On your way to and from the bathroom, to and from the coffee pot or water cooler, to and from lunch, to and from meetings, to and from the copier, so 10+ times a day?

    5. Holly

      Being an extrovert or introvert does not exclude anyone from having to partake in workplace or societal norms. No one is FORCING OP to respond to this person. OP can ignore this person. OP can completely ignore Allison’s advise and say “I’m an introvert, so I’m not going to respond to you.” That said, that could have a negative impact on OP’s social life and career as it is going to come off as rude and overly precious and is not in line with workplace norms of how you treat somebody even if that person is very annoying.

      1. CouldntPickAUsername

        never said anyone was being forced please don’t put words in my mouth. in fact no one said forced it’s about social norms and what people treat as expected and normal.

    6. Cherries on top

      This idea of being an introvert OR extrovert, and acting on that no matter what, seems like such a limited way to view the arguably way more complex thing that is human personality.

  22. Batgirl

    OP2, The key to this kind of co-worker is to keep moving, like a shark, even if you’re walking and talking at the same time. Be chirpy as you scuttle by: “Fine, thanks!” If you slow down you’ll get even more questions, if you seem annoyed, you’ll get even more social lubricant thrown at you. Cheerful + busy is the fastest equation I’ve found.

    1. Washi

      Yes! Be extremely warm but keep cruising.

      One good thing about people who violate social norms is that you are often more free to gently violate them back. I wouldn’t normally just say “hi!” and keep walking by a regular person who asked me a question, but I’ve found that incessantly chatty people are just not fazed by it as long as you don’t seem mad.

    2. Arts Akimbo

      “EWWW, stop throwing your social lubricant on me!” is probably completely the wrong thing to say, but the thought of it made me laugh this morning!

  23. TemporaryMe

    #4 – I’d be particularly sure you wait until you show solid improvement (agree with Alison).

    It is of particular concern that the criticism caught you off guard AND you were planning to ask for 7.5% after just 8 months. Now, I’m in a high COL area, and our base salary only goes up 2-3% a year. Maybe your industry is different, but I previously got 8% only when I got my last big promotion, but I added greatly to my stress and workload with that shift, and had 10 years of proven experience, and added staff management responsibilities.

    We do get bonuses that equal 3-5% of our annual base, but those are variable and not to be counted on (as they are also hinged to the company / division / team and you meeting specific goals set the previous year, and some things – like the company profitability/cost control – may be completely out of our hands).

    But my industry is not Silicon Valley…. so YMMV. In our area, the only way to get that kind of jump is usually to leave the company, go to another, and that gets you the boost. Or to get a promotion.

    Just adding to the encouragement to find out what the normal is for your role, your company – with your level of contribution. I check glass door, good friends in the company, HR for the current job reqs (and compare them to similar postings in the industry) and try to get a pulse on what I’m worth in the market. And balance that against how I’m performing overall, what I’m saving them or accomplishing, and what my resume would look like if I was applying.

    1. Dan

      I’ve had two different jobs in more or less the same industry. What surprised me most is how night-and-day different comp structures are between the two. At Job #1, straight out of grad school, I went two straight reviews with no raise. Then, in year three, I got promoted (and was told the prior year I would need to get promoted to get a raise) and that raise was 7.5%… the equivalent of 2.5% per year, aka standard raise. I did get promoted, on paper anyway, and wanted to be happy about it. But the reality was, I would have had to quit if I didn’t get promoted that year. The following year, I got the good ole 2.5%.

      Current job has very different comp practices. I got promoted this year, and that promotion came with a 14% raise. The best part was, I just got to keep doing what I had been doing, so more money without more stress. (My field is a little funny. You more or less have to be performing at the next level to get promoted, and then when you do, your paycheck goes up, but your day-to-day activities and stress levels don’t change.) But raises at current job aren’t going to be like this forever. Our pay is rather formulaic, and mostly a function of what pay band you are in, and your relative performance. If your pay is anywhere near the median, your raises won’t be huge (e.g., no more than 2-3%) no matter how strong your performance is. But if you are a strong performer below the median for your pay band, your raises will be a bit bigger. I got the promotion raise I did because I was already a bit below the median for my then-current pay band, and then getting promoted put me into a higher pay band, so there was a pretty big gap to cover.

      1. dealing with dragons

        it’s not really equivalent to 2.5% a year though – you weren’t paid more for those two years. At the end, sure, that’s what it works out to but you don’t see that money. Compounding interest, etc.

        1. Dan

          I hope I didn’t seem to imply that I thought 7.5% was a big raise, because I certainly didn’t think so at the time. You’re right… what it really worked out to was that I got *nothing* (nada, zip, zilch, “the bagel”, “the doughnut”, pick your euphemism) for two straight years, which is pretty demoralizing, no matter how one computed an average. If I got a ginormous raise when I got promoted (like we get at my current org) perhaps I could have taken it in stride. But a promotion raise that small? I said “thank you” with a tone that really meant, “you’re lucky I don’t quit on the spot.”

    2. HRach

      HR Manager here (major city, not tech) and I can vouch for all of this. 2.5-3% is the typical increase for those employees meeting and exceeding expectations and, at my company, even that would have been prorated for someone who had only been in the building for 8 months of the cycle (so, they would only see 75% of the 3%).

  24. Bubbles McPherson

    LW1: I feel your pain. Alcohol makes me nauseous, even the smell of it. I hated my last job when I had to go to official functions at a conference where drinking was expected and encouraged. I just drank a Coke and planted myself in a corner as far away from everyone else as possible. I wish bosses didn’t assume that alcohol was natural and normal for everyone, because it’s Absolutely Not! (People in recovery, people with religious objections, etc.)

    LW2: This sounds like someone who may be a bit quirky, let’s say. I once had a co-worker on the somewhat isolated night shift ewho was a little “off” in a similar way. Every conversation was loudly and aggressively friendly, and as an introvert, they grated on me more than others. It was annoying, but what could I say? “You’re being too friendly”? “You’re being too nice”? The co-worker was well-meaning and just didn’t pick up on those nonverbal cues that everyone else does. I suspected that he was on the spectrum in some form. My solution was to just repeat myself using different words and force myself to be cheerful right back for a few minutes. It didn’t hurt me any in the long run and it brightened his day a little.

    1. ..Kat..

      LW 1. I deal with strong, nausea inducing smells at work on a regular basis. I am a nurse – think disgusting body fluids. I find discretely chewing strong mint or cinnamon flavored gum works well to block the smells. Maybe this would work for you.

      1. Dee Em

        This is a great idea. I previously worked in an open office with no break room. The microwave and refrigerator were just at the far end of the room. The food smells were unbearable to me and people prepared food pretty much all day long. I constantly felt sick. A coworker recommended fighting smell with smell. She put on hand lotion when smells bothered her. I don’t like scented lotion so I tried sucking on hard candies (can’t chew gum – TMJ) and that worked for me!

      2. Roger

        LW1 here: kudos to you for that work! I’ve worked in the death industry (those smells don’t bother me, funny enough), and I know I couldn’t deal with half of what nurses handle on a daily basis. I do carry an essential oil stick on me, so I’ll sometimes blast my nose with the smell of whatever essential oil I’ve got. Not an ideal situation, but it’s gotten me through some rough patches

    2. RoadsLady

      Alcohol is a weird cultural thing. So often non-drinkers have to explain why they don’t drink as part of the social dance.

  25. Dan

    #4

    LW, can I suggest something? I have a feeling from your writing that you might be misjudging a few things. First, for the most part, you use really exaggerated language in much of your writing What really sticks out to me, though, is that you got a “needs improvement” when you were expecting an “exceeds expectations.” (I’m assuming that there’s a middle ground, either “satisfactory” or “meets expectations”). Most people are going to get the middle rating; one typically has to preform really well to do better than “meets expectations” and that’s usually pretty hard to do in the first year of a job. You’re in “we need to talk” territory, and that suggests a rather significant performance misjudgement.

    My company hands out big raises to strong performers, at least to a point. I’ve averaged 7.5% annual increases for five straight years, which includes just 2.5% my first year, IIRC. These big ones took a couple of years to really hit my groove and demonstrate value.

    But you really, really have to know your company and your performance to know what to expect, what to ask for, and when to ask for it. You say that you’ve never had a performance review before due to career instability. My advice is to dial it back a little bit and just settle in. When you ask for a raise, especially a big one, there’s always an implicit threat that you will quit if you don’t get it. That threat only has teeth if your company sees you as a strong performer. Given that your most recent review is sub-par, you haven’t demonstrated that worth yet. If you want to credibly go in and ask for a 10% raise, you basically need to have two consecutive years of “exceeds expectations” and have gotten not-spectacular raises in the past. Also, take a look around you. Your performance reviews and raises are in part a function of what’s happening with your peers. Most of the time, “exceeds expectations” is graded on a curve — your manager is not going to give the whole department high marks. And raise pools are limited — what you’re given as a raise is money somebody else *isn’t* getting. So you really have to have a well calibrated sense of what your peers are up to in order to know how what, when, and how much to ask for.

    Good luck.

    1. Queen Esmeralda

      Back in my management days, a speaker at a seminar said “Ninety percent of employees think they’re in the top ten percent of performers.”

      1. Bagpuss

        Ain’t that the truth.
        I recall having to tell an employee that they were being laid off. They argued about having ben selected claiming that they were as good as or better than other employees who were not selected for redundancy.
        They were not. On any possible measurable scale they were much, much worse (and had had feeback and support about improving, and concerns about their performance, and had not had raises as they didn’t meet requirements.)
        they left, still convinced that they had been treated unfairly and apparently unshaken in their conviction that they were excellent at their job.

      1. Dan

        Hm. In which case, you need to find better ways of calibrating your performance. It’s not terribly uncommon as a new person to get motivational “great job” pep talks to keep you motivated, but then get told the job was not so great come review time. It’s easier to calibrate when you have peers doing similar roles in your department, it’s harder when you don’t.

      2. voyager1

        I think Dan gave really great advice . Especially the part about two years (reviews) of exceeds expectations.

        1. OP4

          I definitely agree! I only responded to the part that needed further clarification, but I am taking the rest to heart.

  26. Some Sort of Management Consultant

    #2:

    Yes, overly cheerful or interaction-demanding people are often annoying. It’s hard to say from the letter whether this is an awkward-but-well meaning person, a gatekeeperish busybody or a lonely person who just wants to talk.

    But like Alison says, you’ll come off as a bit of a jerk if you tell someone to smile and say good morning less.
    I say that someone already said this, but I’d employ the “Royal Parade” method: acknowledge, smile, greet, exchange one sentence and keep moving the entire time. Imagine you have hundreds of subjects who clamor for your attention, and you don’t want to risk offending any of them.
    Brisk, brief and pleasant but keeping your forward momentum the entire time. Hi, good, you? Bam, bam, bam!

    You are a steamship passing by other boats, noting each other and then moving on.

    I can probably come up with dozens more silly metaphors but I’ll stop there.

  27. Pomona Sprout

    RE: letter #2–

    Am I the only person here who is wondering how the “aggressive greeter” is getting ANY work done? Think about it: she sits by the door, everyone has to walk by her to go anywhere (including the bathroom, the kitchen, etc.), shd she tries to start a conversation EVERY time someone walks by? We’re not told how many people work there, but even a handful could easily add up to 20 or more of these convos Every. Damned. Day. If there are as many as 10 people unvolved, the number rises into the dozens. That’s a pretty good chunk of time out of “aggressive greeter’s” day, not to mention everyone else’s. How does she have time for this?

    No, I am NOT anti-workplace friendliness! But like anything else, there are appropriate levels. The math I just did above, together with the o.p.’s description of people trying to hurry past the greeter and avert their eyes, tells me that her behavior is excessive. If I were the greeter’s manager, I would seriously consider moving her to a different location away from major traffic patterns, if at all possible. I would also take a look at her workload as well as her productivity, to make sure she actually has enough to do.

    I realize I am probably not offering “advice” that will be of practical use to the o.p. I just want them to know I agree that this a problem and that they have the right to be bugged by it. It bugged the hell out of me just to read about it.

    1. WS

      I work with one of these people and I don’t know how, but she absolutely does get all her work done and her workload is not light. I need quiet to get things done, she needs people, we try to reach a happy medium.

      1. MsM

        Yeah, I would be concerned that moving someone this extroverted away from people would cause them to go seek them out. Or drive their immediate seatmates to distraction. At least this way, it’s distributed, and you can plan for it.

    2. Carlie

      I was wondering the opposite – if LW is getting up and walking past the coworker’s desk so many times a day that saying hi annoys them, how is the LW getting anything done?

      Just breeze by with a “Fine, thanks” to whatever the coworker throws out as a gambit. You could mention it to the manager in case the coworker feels obligated to greet people but doesn’t actually want to, so the manager can give them “permission” to stop, but this seems to just be a peoples is peoples situation.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss

        I drink a lot of water, and then need to use the bathroom frequently. I can also have several meetings a day. None of this keeps me from getting my work done. But if I had to walk by someone like the LW describes every single time I got up, it would drive me crazy too. If it was just a simple “hi” every time you walked by that would be fine, but this is WAY over the top.

      2. Perse's Mom

        Coffee? Bathroom? Meetings? Calls? Touching base with a coworker? Touching base with her manager? Lunch? Break? Grabbing something from the printer?

        There are tons of reasons for people to get up and leave their desks throughout the day. Part of OP’s point is that it’s not just OP, the coworker does this to every person who passes the coworker’s desk. All day long.

    3. I hate coming up with usernames

      I’d hardly call it a conversation.
      Coworker: Hi, OP, how are you!
      OP: Fine, and you?
      Coworker: Good.

      Maybe it’s a regional thing, but this is a generic greeting in pretty much every place I’ve worked. It takes like three seconds. Really not taking much out of my day.

  28. Alice

    #2, most importantly don’t stop when you pass by her desk, she can’t /demand/ you to answer unless she gets up and tackles you to the floor. Also I misread Alison’s response (still need to have my morning coffee) and thought she was suggesting the script “I greet you fellow human”. I would be very tempted to use that.

  29. EJame

    LW 1, I would check your state’s laws on disabilities. Alison’s right about the ADA, but some states have laws that require smaller companies to do the same. Washington’s HRC laws, for instance, start at 8 employees.

    I have a panic disorder, so I feel your pain! Physical symptoms are SO valid; it’s really easy to write ourselves off because it’s “in our heads” but I’ve been having panic attacks for almost three years, to the point that they’re just physical. I may know what’s going on and that I’ll be fine in 15 or 30 minutes, but it doesn’t change the fact that until then, I can’t talk or think straight. Tachycardia, trembling, hyperventilating… these are all symptoms that can be caused by dysautonomic disorders, POTS complications… and panic disorders.
    You have a right to advocate for yourself without disclosing your medical history, regardless of what category of medicine it falls under.

    1. Lucy

      “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

      Our entire lives happen inside our own heads and almost everything our bodies do is controlled there too. Can’t live without a head.

      1. jDC

        Ah thank you! I deal with anxiety and panic attacks and someone saying I’m fine or it’s in my head just makes it worse. My husband is an angel because he completely validated how I’m feeling while also offering whatever I need to help, from leaving where we are to ignoring it if that’s what I feel helps. There is zero part of me that enjoys or wants to feel this way. It is miserable and takes away from SO much of my life. I just want to do the things I used to do easily. So badly. Yes it is in my head but my head is what controls my body!

      2. Gazebo Slayer

        So true!
        I used to have chronic nausea larged caused by an anxiety disorder. Sure, the problem was in my head, but that didn’t mean I didn’t still feel sick much of the time, or that I wasn’t underweight because I refused to eat.

      3. TootsNYC

        I’m reminded of my dad telling me about an exchange he’d had with my Rude Political Uncle. Uncle doesn’t really approve of his daughter’s husband because he’s been out of work for a bit and struggling with depression.

        Uncle told my dad, “It’s all in his head,” and my dad said, “Yes, that’s where chemical imbalances of the brain usually manifest.”

    2. Lauren

      As a person who has anxiety, I’d tell OP to focus on ‘the physical reaction’ part without telling anyone about the panic attacks. She can legit imply that she may vomit at any moment by saying – I have a very strong physical reaction to the smell of alcohol and its becoming unbearable to be in the same room.

      When OP talks to the boss, offer a solution. Say the part about the physical reaction, then say you don’t want to take away from the culture, but ask to limit it to 1 specific day / afternoon a week and ask if you can work from home that day – with the caveat that people know that the empties need to be removed by the next day when OP returns.

      It sucks to have to imply a different physical reaction, but its the world we live in. If OP doesn’t want any backlash for it ‘being in her head’, its best to go with an acceptable reason for the accommodation. Let’s face it most panic attacks end up with massive nausea, vomiting, sweating, chills, and other fun bodily function symptoms so its not a lie, just a re-framing of your medical issue.

  30. Koala dreams

    #2
    It seems off because it’s not the way greetings normally work in an office. So if feels almost rude, like the coworker is breaking the invisible social rules of the workplace. The common way of greetings is to only use the verbal greeting once a day with the same person, and then rely on non-verbal communication. It makes me think of a comedy sketch I saw about how to greet each other in the office. First time, you say good morning. Second time, you nod. Third time onwards, you either keep nodding or make a weird face. The thing is, as a coworker you can’t really give an improvised crash course in greetings. Your best way forward is to simply be polite to the annoying coworker and keep nodding or making weird faces (whatever works in your company culture) and let their uncommon greetings be. If it’s any comfort, probably they are just as annoyed with you as you are with them.

  31. Ico

    The attitude expressed in letter 3, question and response, is always frustrating to me. First there’s “If you had a manager who assessed people based on the results they get”. Who says the manager doesn’t assess based on results? There is often a baked-in assumption that Jane’s work results are the same, she’s just trying to appear busy by working longer hours. I’m sure some people do that, but her results might also just actually be better, and should be assessed as such.

    If we imagine that the expectation for a 40 hour week is to produce 10 units of work, but a different coworker “Joanne” is extremely smart and can produce 15 units in those 40 hours, Joanne deserves to be recognized for that. Is she “creating an unrealistic standard by which you’ll be judged”? Maybe – you certainly aren’t doing as good a job as her. Would it be selfish to ask her to work slower so she stops making you look bad? For sure, and it’s not fair to Joanne’s talent or the company, for that matter.

    Now imagine Jane from the letter is working at the same pace as you, but works 60 hours per week, producing 15 units as well. Why is it more acceptable to ask to Jane to handicap herself? Dedication and diligence are also talents, and if this is Jane’s career and she wants to be the best at it, that should be up to her.

    Being the best at something can require sacrifice, and it _is_ selfish to not make sacrifices yourself and then complain that the people that do are passing you. If they were athletes instead of office workers and someone was complaining that Jane’s results were better because she woke up early to put in extra training hours but you didn’t want to do that, that would seem absurd. She deserves the fruits of her efforts, and the fact that shes an endurance runner to Joanne’s sprinting doesn’t make them less valid.

    1. Washi

      I think Alison meant more that it won’t be a problem if the manager is focused on whether the OP is meeting her specific benchmarks for her job, rather than judging her level of dedication by how many hours she worked.

      Also, it would be perfectly reasonable for a manager to feel like an extra 5 units per week is not worth the employee’s time, even if overtime is unpaid. Maybe 10 units is all that is needed. Maybe the manager has seen this pattern before lead to burn out. Maybe the manager worries about the optics – that it will look like management is pushing in reasonable standards and not able to prioritze properly to balance the workload.

      It’s not always as simple as letting Jane practically live at the office if she wants to.

      1. vlookup

        Agreed with all this!

        Also, as a manager, I would not want to set or reset expectations such that someone needs to work long hours to be successful in their role. Even if that works for Jane, it’s going to create nothing but problems when Jane’s eventual replacement or someone else in a similar role (like OP) is unable to get their job done in a more normal work week.

      2. Alternative Person

        Agreed. A good manager realizes only so much useful work can get done in a given time frame and that people should only be working so much.

    2. LKW

      I worked on a project where they had developed this weird “hero” culture. If you could get the work done in 40-50 hours great. But if you were working until 2 am every morning then Wow! You were really going for it! I did call it out – that one of the “heros” was meeting with the client at 4pm and then demanding that his team work all night to have something by 9 am at which time they’d repeat the cycle. I noted that if the moved the client meeting to 10 am or said “Well it’s Monday at 4pm, let me have my team work on that and we’ll have something to you by end of day Tuesday” it wouldn’t drastically change the schedule, but it would improve working conditions.

      But they liked the hero nonsense.

      1. OP3

        Hi! Op3 here, thanks for the comments. The first comment in this is actually part of the the reason I wrote in, I wanted to see if I was totally off base in how I was thinking about this.

        My coworker has also told me they have poor time management skills so while I do think they are producing more I don’t know if they are doing so in a good way. I admit it’s hard for me to tell since our work is so different. I am also concerned about burnout – it’s a frequent thing in our industry.

        ,

        1. Stitch

          I do think our work culture undervalues efficiency. My boss can never work past 6pm because her son is at the onsite daycare which closed then. She is actually the best boss I have had, she gets us all to produce but doesn’t micromanage.

        2. Jules the 3rd

          meh, their burnout is not your concern. You just need to be clear with your manager about your workload and hours vs manager’s expectations.

      2. Confused

        My last job had this. The optics of leaving at 5, no matter if your work was done, weren’t good so people just stuck around until my boss left which could have been anywhere from 6-10pm. So glad I am GONE from there.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss

      You’re making the assumption that all managers are reasonable. There are some who think because someone sits in their seat longer each day, that they are more dedicated to their work, when in reality it could mean several things, and not all of them positive. They could be slower completing their work or screwing around so much during the day that they need those extra hours to complete the same amount of work Jane does in a normal amount of time. There are plenty of people who work harder and not smarter, and the Janes of the world shouldn’t be penalized because they are getting just as much work done in a shorter amount of time. OP has a legitimate concern. I would speak to my manager and make sure I wasn’t missing anything since her co-worker seems to be putting in double her hours.

    4. Colette

      In most cases, working a lot of extra hours doesn’t actually result in more, high-quality work, and will increase the number of errors. To use your example, Jane’s 15 units are more likely to have problems than Joanne’s units.

      Jane may be at work later because she’s not good at managing her time, or because she spends her day in conversation with the person who happens to sit by the door, or because she’s less skilled and it takes her 3x as long to get anything done, or because she just really doesn’t want to go home.

      And she may burn out and leave the company in the lurch – so rewarding her (at the expense of penalizing others who want to have a life outside of work) is not in the company’s best interests.

      1. Le Sigh

        And if a company isn’t really clear-eyed about what’s going on, it’s giving them a false sense of what a project or a program might cost or require.

        If Jane is working 70-80 hours a week but the bosses don’t completely realize this (maybe they realize she’s working long hours, but not the extent) then they have a skewed expectation of what it takes to produce those units. And then Jane takes another job and the company doesn’t realize they actually need two employees and twice the cost to produce that same level of work. And the person who replaces her can’t begin to live up to those expectations.

        That doesn’t even get into the performative or culture issues it can create that others noted above. Voluntarily or not, working insane hours is not always a net good and managers are smart to realize that.

        At the very least, I get why OP is concerned!

    5. Le Sigh

      “Being the best at something can require sacrifice, and it _is_ selfish to not make sacrifices yourself and then complain that the people that do are passing you.”

      Also, this isn’t what OP3 is doing. They aren’t complaining and they never said they wanted to be the best. Based on what they’ve seen, they’re wondering if these long hours are expected of them and if they’ll be judged on a curve, based on what their coworker is doing. That is entirely fair, because it sounds like they didn’t take the job with the expectations of working those very long hours and weekends.

      Maybe their manager is reasonable and will only go off the OP’s established benchmarks–but I have worked in offices where managers would see the colleague working insane hours and wonder why we weren’t all doing that. Working long hours can be a choice, but it’s not a choice made in a vacuum and I get why the OP is asking.

  32. Bagpuss

    LW #1 – I hope that you boss is open to your request.
    If not, as a practical work around, given that it is the smell which is the trigger for you, you could consider having something on your desk which has a scent, or keeping some Vicks or equivalent which you can dab under your nose to mask the smell of alcohol.
    Its not ideal, but it might help, if you boss or coworkers aren’t willing to change their habits.

    1. JSPA

      they used to make an unscented version of Febreze. I believe there is still a version available that works on cat odors sold by another company. That and some strategically-placed little desk fans (there are superlite ones that work off USB ports) might provide a zone of stinklessness. Depends on the degree of the problem. That’s more “this odor bothers or offends me” than “this odor gives me feel bloated anxiety attacks,” though.

    2. Carlie

      Also, maybe they could ask for an air purifier (with a carbon filter specific for odors) to be put in? It wouldn’t eliminate it entirely, but could cut it way down and that combined with Vicks might do it.

  33. Brooklyn Nine-Niner

    Regarding #3: given that you and your co-worker appear to do different work, if your boss asks you why you aren’t doing as much, maybe you could say “with all due respect, our jobs are pretty different.”

    1. fhqwhgads

      This might just be me, but I find “with all due respect” is sort of like “no offense but” in that it usually prefaces something that isn’t respectful? To the extent that simply saying it, even if what follows would be fine on its own, tends to come across as hostile.

  34. ExcitedAndTerrified

    OP2, I’m kind of curious if your coworker is, either officially or unofficially, the receptionist for your office space? I ask because that might explain their behavior on a few different levels – greeting everyone who comes in is often an expectation in roles with reception duties. Many of the receptionists I’ve known expanded that to everyone who passed by on the basis of a) it showing they were doing their jobs to others, and b) it making the office look more pleasant/harmonious when there was an outsider sitting nearby.

    Additionally, a lot of times the receptionists were genuinely isolated from their coworkers (being unable to leave their desks and socialize at all during the hours the office was open), and and thus, those brief interactions while people passed by were how they had any clue about what was going on. Especially given the tendency to hire extroverts for those roles (so they would naturally engage with clients who were waiting), they were often starved for social interaction.

    If none of this holds for your coworker… has anyone actually told them that? I’ve seen more than one office where reception duties were just expected of whoever was close to the door, and it may be that your coworker is just assuming those duties fall on her.

    1. EventPlannerGal

      Former receptionist here who has been wondering exactly this.

      For those of you that have never held that type of job, I strongly agree with ExcitedAndTerrified’s point that it can be a hugely isolating role. You’re usually alone or with maybe one co-receptionist, working in a big empty space all day every day with only brief interactions with colleagues, visitors and delivery drivers to go on. (I realise someone will inevitably pop up to be like SOUNDS GREAT TO ME HUR HUR but I promise you, it can be awful.) I’m a chatty extrovert that has often been taken on in public-facing roles specifically because of that, and I have never been as depressed in my life as when I worked reception. If that’s what’s going on with the coworker, they are of course taking it to an annoying extreme, but I do sympathise.

    2. MsSolo

      Yes, this is what occured to me. If the greetings are the only interaction she has with other colleagues, maybe actually stopping to chat sometimes instead of just giving a cursory reply might help. She’s trying to feel involved in other people’s lives, and of course that’s not a given in a work context, but if everyone else is having the water cooler chats at the actual water cooler and she’s stuck sitting with her back to them, it’s not surprising she’s trying to engage people in work appropriate small talk in the windows she does get.

      1. Paulina

        Perhaps proactively stopping by to chat, when the OP does have time/attention, would divert away from getting interruptions when the OP is going past to somewhere else. Pick your own chat times and reinforce the behaviour that works for you.

  35. Fieldpoppy

    LW2, I’m going to put on my “PHD in communications” hat here. This kind of social interaction is formally called “phatic” communication — meaning it’s social pleasantries that aren’t meant to be taken literally. (Like, “how’s it going?”) As Alison said, the purpose is connecting to other humans, not information gathering. You can choose whatever form of connection back you want that is culturally okay within your office. For me this is a “hey!” or “hi!” with a nod and a smile and — as many have said — keep walking. The asker doesn’t actually care about your commute, they want to know you see them.

    I’ve seen comments upthread that this is a “demand” for a conversation. I get why it feels that way — but technically, it’s a request for acknowledgement of existence and that hey, you are all in this (whatever this is) together.

    I agree it is annoying — they are overusing phatic communication — but it’s not so off that it merits a scolding or a STOP IT. Just participate in whatever mild way feels okay for you.

    1. Arctic

      People make this assumption but it is not always true. The woman I work with who does this will grill you for answers if she gets you to stop. She will absolutely not just take “good morning have a nice day!” or a similar pleasantry.

      1. Joielle

        That seems different than what’s happening in LW2’s situation, though. If LW2 tries a quick pleasantry and gets grilled for more info, then LW2 would be justified in being much more direct about how disruptive the coworker is being (and you would also be justified in being more direct! That sounds so irritating). But if a quick pleasantry will do the trick, LW2 should just go with that. In other words, we don’t know yet whether LW2’s coworker is engaging in phatic communication or not.

        1. Arctic

          You’re absolutely right. I’m projecting, which is unfair.
          I’m all about phatic communication as a social nicety. Obviously my co-worker situation is weighing on me more heavily than I realized.

      2. Observer

        In addition to the projecting, the trick is to NOT stop. Keep moving. It’s not going to make her happy, but it means that YOU have fulfilled your part of the social contract here and any weirdness now belongs totally to her.

  36. Anon for this

    I think there are two schools of thought; not greeting someone would be considered rude and greeting someone too much apparently is considered rude. I agree with AAM that you just have to find a way to deal with someone’s annoying quirks. It could be SO MUCH WORSE. I once lived in a foreign country where everybody greets everybody, everywhere. I had to take a test and as there was no scheduled start time, people arrived at different intervals. I walked into the testing room and quietly sat down and started my test, trying as best as I could not to disturb those already there. Every. Single. Person. who entered after me offered a greeting to the group as a whole. “Good morning”. To which the group responded “Good morning”. I felt my face get a little red as I realized that what I thought was politeness by not saying a word was actually rude! Different country yes but when I started my current job there was a coworker who each morning would walk in, right past my desk and not say a word. I was so annoyed by that. She was inches from my desk and could not even acknowledge my presence. I started saying “Good morning Sue!” loudly. I have to walk past the receptionist anytime I leave or go to the kitchen or restroom. Sometimes we talk, sometimes we don’t. It’s more awkward when we don’t. We see each other. We make eye contact sometimes but …having said hello already that morning there is not much else to say and the silence feels weird.

    1. PretzelGirl

      My sister lives in a foreign country where people greet each other, but no one says the “Hi. How are you?” American thing. Its viewed as something saved for super close people. Its hard for her to get used to and several people give her looks when she slips up/

    2. Close Bracket

      “She was inches from my desk and could not even acknowledge my presence. I started saying ‘Good morning Sue!’ loudly.”

      This is the kind of aggressive demand for attention that is rubbing people the wrong way about the LW’s coworker. Why not just let Sue walk by quietly? It is literally less effort for you to let her be, but you choose the path of most resistance.

      “I agree with AAM that you just have to find a way to deal with someone’s annoying quirks.”

      And that is exactly what you are not doing. Let Sue walk by. Get your validation in other ways.

    3. nonegiven

      There was a guy at school who, judging by his accent, was probably from Germany. Every class I had with him in it, he would walk in and put his things on his seat, then leave for, I assume a bathroom visit. Every time, when he got back, he’d say, “GOOD MORNING!” and he apparently did not have an inside voice. The problem was 99% of the time, when he got back from the bathroom, the instructor was already lecturing, so he interrupted them.

      Someone told me in another class, he walked in too early, with his “GOOD MORNING!” and interrupted the class before his.

  37. Arctic

    LW 2 the woman in the office across from mine does this. We are near a door and anyone who passes by she yells out at. All.Day.Long. So, it’s not just “good morning, Bob!” in the morning. But anytime Bob or anyone else passes she has to yell out a greeting to them.
    And a greeting is rarely enough. If she can get you to stop she will absolutely grill you on what you did for the weekend or your commute. It’s never just a quick thing. She asks so many follow-up questions. So, I have to listen to this all day long.
    And then, with me, every time I leave my office or come back it’s the same thing over again. Another greeting, more questions. “Going to a meeting?” (every time) “Nope, just going to get coffee/run to CVS/go to the printer” “Where do you get coffee? What do you need at CVS? “Oh, which printer? See you in a second!”
    I agree that this is how offices work and if someone says hi or something to you just say it back. But this is driving me up the wall.

    1. Arctic

      And she will insert herself in conversations by sort of yelling from her desk to anyone close enough that she can hear what they are saying.
      Like the other day a co-worker was talking about her basement flooding. And she said to the co-worker she was talking to “I was on my way to drop my dogs off at doggy daycare and Glen called me to tell me the basement was flooded.” And the woman in the office across from me yells out “DOGGY DAYCARE?!?!” and tries to talk about that. Like, 1) not your conversation so butt out; 2) definitely not the point of the conversation.
      It’s so frustrating. Because I am all about office niceties and the idea that we have to do the basic level of interaction to be good office citizens. But this is so out of control.

      1. Rebecca

        I feel your pain. I was never so glad to get out of “cube land” and into offices, even if I have to share with one other person, due to this. Coworker over the wall of my cube (and right in the middle of all the cubes) was like this, always listening, inserting herself into conversations, commenting, ugh, it was exhausting. Worse, she would overhear things, then go to other coworkers and ask questions! “Is Rebecca OK? I heard her making another doctor’s appointment, I hope it’s nothing serious”. Note, she went to OTHER coworkers, not me…it got back to me. Then, it was story time every morning. Every. Morning. And multiple times per day, again, exhausting. It got so bad that we developed a buddy system, and would rescue each other with phone calls, so if she was rambling on to me, someone would ring my office phone, and I’d say, oh, gotta get this! And make “office speak talk” to a dead line, then go right back to work.

        I’m all about niceties too, but seriously – there is no reason for this person to talk to every single person who walks by, multiple times per day, every single day. I’d find it exhausting.

    2. Jules the 3rd

      This is what ‘information diets’ were made for. Practice minimalizing your responses so that she doesn’t have a handle for the next question. If this feels too rude, consider scheduling one day a week where you stop for 5 minutes and converse a little more in depth. Practice asking her questions.

      Minimal responses:
      ‘Going for a meeting?’ “Nope”
      “Getting coffee?” “Nah”

      Asking her questions:
      ‘How was your weekend?’ “Quiet – how was yours?”

      She’s looking for engagement. Superficial engagement can be very tiring for introverts, so redirecting that into a longer-but-less-often chat can be a compromise.

      Captain Awkward has good chat scripts, though I’m not sure how to search for them. Maybe ‘Captain Awkward information diet’.

      I was really impressed with your ‘maybe this is weighing on me more than I realized’ comment above.

    3. Observer

      This woman sounds exhausting, for sure.

      In addition to the information diet, I’m going to repeat – keep moving. Someone used the analogy of a ship in motion passing other ships. It’s a bit cheesy, but I think it would work here.

  38. The Door Cube Stinks

    #2 Lay off the Door Cube person, its a hard seat to sit in you don’t have to sit there smile and say Good Morning and let the rest go. I sat in a cube in front of the door for a year and it was exhausting and I did end up greeting everyone that walked by every time because not only was a huge distraction every time the door opened but I felt ridiculous looking up at the door noise or the noise of a purse, cup, or something clinging the door or my cube that I was making eye contact with the passerby and felt obliged to speak. As the first point of contact at the door you also get all the questions coming in (has everyone’s elevators been going slow, has it been raining here all morning, has so and so came by yet etc) as well as they are often reported for not greeting people. Give the Door cube person a break, its not an easy seat to sit in.

  39. Mannheim Steamroller

    OP 3…

    Maybe your coworker has bought into Jack Ma’s claim that working “996” (9:00AM to 9:00PM, 6 days a week) is “a bliss.”

  40. PretzelGirl

    Throwing this out there. I work with a lot of people on the spectrum and that have autism. It sounds a lot like how some of them behave. I can go a few hours without seeing a client and pass them again and get “Hey, how are you? What have you been doing since I saw you last?” etc.

    But honestly I would just deal. I would be annoyed too, but probably keep my answers short and sweet and keep going.

    1. Close Bracket

      Are you referring to OP 2’s coworker? Spectrum people behave in all sorts of way (Just like allistic people! It’s almost like we are all individuals!), but avoiding phatic communication is just as strong a spectrum trait as making too much conversation. My personal spectrum traits would make having to interact with OP 2’s coworker every time I walked by draining, so while we extend understanding to spectrum people, let’s make sure we extend understanding to all spectrum people. While we are at it, let’s extend understanding to allistic people since plenty of them both avoid phatic communication and make too much conversation.

  41. Faith

    LW2 – I would be tempted to respond with a smile and cheery “Same as always!” to every question.
    How was your commute? – Same as always!
    How is your day going? – Same as always!
    Where are you off to? – Oh, you know, same as always!
    Nice, cheerful, friendly, and totally meaningless.

    1. Environmental Compliance

      I have 100% done this before with an extraordinarily chatty coworker when I was a TA. Dude, it’s before 7AM, I have 4 labs to teach today and classes I still have to take, it’s likely going to be another 14+ hour day, let me say good morning and get to my lab to set up in peace, I don’t really want to talk for 20-30 minutes about your weekend. And it was *just* about his weekend, or whatever else in his life he wanted to talk about – very, very one-sided. Every single time he saw you he would attempt to start the same “conversation”.

      I also resorted to putting in headphones and just smiling & waving. Most days I was actually listening to something (it was a 20ish minute walk, so I found audiobooks), but there were some days I was just using headphones to avoid lengthy conversations.

      With less…..obnoxiously chatty coworkers, I try to make a point of stopping by to say hi & chit chat once a day, give or take. Other than that, it’s generally a quick “hi! good to see ya!” with my normal quick walking pace. It balances out the “I’m busy, so sorry can’t talk” without brushing them off too much.

    2. sometimeswhy

      My canned response to all of those is, “Oh, you know…” then I let it hang or let it hang for a second and close it with, “Anyway, have a good day,” or, “See you later!”

      In all the many many years I’ve been using it I’ve had one person follow up with, “Actually, no. Why would I?” He was on the spectrum, we had a conversation about the mechanics of polite but meaningless conversations and that was that.

  42. Chellie207

    #1. My absolute favorite response to those types of greetings is a variation on “Nice To See You”, possibly with a side of “Good Morning”. It’s totally unobjectionable and doesn’t start a conversation. Never, never, never ask Annoying Talkers “how are you?” or any other question. I think it is also useful to say their names. ATs are generally making a bid for connection and it doesn’t cost anything to be kind. The ATs I’m thinking of are not necessarily unkind, but often have a lifetime of behavior that has developed around not being able to read social cues. No amount of ramping up the cues is going to change that. And it’s kind of a hard way to live.

  43. ResuMAYDAY

    OP#2 is off-base by calling the greeter ‘aggressive’. That’s a loaded word that implies the greeter means to do emotional or physical harm. OP, if you describe the greeter in this manner to your boss or colleagues (even in water-cooler talk) YOU could be reported for creating a problem.
    When I read the header (aggressively greets everyone…) I thought perhaps the person was grabbing people and hugging them, or blocking their way.
    Your coworker’s greetings are abundant and overbearing, but certainly not aggressive. As you get further in your career, you’ll likely meet other people who make you wish you only had to deal with a bunch of odd greetings in your day.

    1. Colette

      I disagree with your definition of aggressive. The coworker is demanding interaction other people don’t want to provide. That’s aggressive.

      Having said that, the OP’s best option is to give a quick response while walking by – but that doesn’t mean the coworker is behaving appropriately.

      1. ResuMAYDAY

        Colette, I have the unfortunate perspective of experiencing two workplace violence situations. Each one involved employees whose aggression went previously unchecked by management. I’ll just say, from my own experiences, that I sincerely hope this greeter is the most aggressive coworker the OP ever has to deal with.

        1. fhqwhgads

          You’re taking an intense narrow use of the word “aggressive” though. I mean this sincerely: it has a broader meaning that what you’re discussing, and just because more aggressive/scarier/worse people exist does not mean the OP is being hyperbolic in saying the person is aggressive. I’ve actually been wondering as I read through…since a lot of people seem to be assuming the LW is exaggerating or projecting her own feelings about the behavior in how she describes or if we’re actually taking her at her word that is it aggressive – and that dismissing that as the OP overreacting is missing a crucial bit of info about the situation. We can’t know.

    2. East of Nowhere South of Lost

      Until you’ve worked with one, it doesn’t seem harmful or aggressive, but it is 100%. Mine would block your path until you talked to her and a simple “good morning” was not enough.

      1. Jules the 3rd

        Blocking people’s entry until they chat is aggressive and would need addressing, but it’s not what OP2 is describing. OP2’s coworker is seated.

      2. Observer

        Blocking people IS aggressive. But the OP’s greeter is actually not doing that. That’s not a small differnce.

    3. Bagpuss

      I don’t think that intent to harm is actually necessary for aggression.
      I also think it is entirely probable that the greeter is not intending to be agressive and would be hurt and surprised to hear themself decsribed that way, but that doesn’t actually mean that they are not being agressive in their approach.

    4. Batgirl

      I don’t think the co-worker is intentionally aggressive but it sure feels that way when you’re dodging unwanted interruptions whenever you need to get up.
      My boyfriend’s housemate is like this. She thinks she’s friendly but she’s actually just so socially anxious that she has a vice like grip on every interaction. You can’t just walk past her, through a room she’s in, with any amount of chill because as soon as she hears an approach, she’s in meerkat position, locks eyes with you and feels compelled to verbalise something, even if it’s the umpteenth time you’ve walked past.

  44. Heather Kangas

    #3 I feel you with this one. This is kind of happening in my office. One of the people who does it is a manager but actually is managing no one at this time (like she has the title but no one is working for her) and works these long hours. I actually caught her in the office one evening during her vacation around 7:30PM-8PM on a Wednesday. She said she had to send something but was off that whole week Mon-Fri. They only reason I was there is I went to happy hour near by with some friends and didn’t want to carry my gym bag with me. I think it speaks to a company culture problem and a problem in work culture in the US esp. Even though many of us are paid to work 40 hours, there is a strange expectation that we are in the office 45-55 hours. If a company and management don’t promote work life balance and allow someone to do this and make others feel they need to do the same, it sends a message. I don’t think many of us make enough to miss time with family and friends to prove something. Just my thoughts. Granted I don’t know this person but they sound exactly like this one person in my office and the fact no one has done anything is beyond me.

  45. Hello from the other side

    My desk is THAT desk. When I’m engaged in a task and don’t immediately greet whoever happens to be walking by at any given moment, I’m subjected to talk within earshot about how rude I am. So I greet people and then it’s an awkward social interaction. It’s really a no-win situation to be the unfortunate soul stuck at that desk. Just say hi and move on.

  46. Short & Sweet

    LW2, just for one day, how about trying overkill? Walk by their desk EVERY. FIVE. MINUTES. And respond to their questions with overly enthusiastic questions of your own. “I’m great, thanks! Hey, did you see that game last night?” Just to see what happens…

  47. Arts Akimbo

    LW#2, this situation is what the phrase “Fine, thanks!” was made for. It is polite, while simultaneously providing neither information nor opening for further conversation.

    “Good morning!”
    “Good morning,”
    “How was your commute/cat/day/bathroom break?”
    “Fine, thanks!”

    Done! The key here is to use a pleasant tone, and *keep walking.* Don’t even have to break stride. Eventually, giving the “Fine, thanks” doesn’t even break your train of thought.

      1. Jules the 3rd

        Yeah, I don’t stop walking with the morning hellos. I don’t know anyone who does or who expects me to.

  48. Mara

    Even though I’m someone who has panic attacks and can totally understand LW1’s need to remove the trigger from their life, I think if it was me, I would be worried that requesting a change in culture like moving the office drinks to after-work happy hour, as Alison suggested, would totally alienate me from the workplace.

    If the Manager is someone totally understanding and supportive and is able to sell the change to the team that is 1) their decision, 2) better for the office as a whole, 3) not motivated by any single individual, it would probably be fine. But on such small team in an office setting where this (by the sounds of things) is an appreciated perk, I’d be worried people would make a fuss about the switch, and the manager would eventually slip and say “oh well we had a request for accommodation from an employee to remove the alcohol from the office due to a medical condition” and it would be an easy link from “accommodation request” to “Gee, Mara is the only one who never shows up to happy hour I wonder who that was?” and then work becomes difficult.

    If were in LW1’s position and don’t want to disclose to the whole team, I’d go with one of the suggestions up thread about either having drinks limited to a particular day, with permission to work from home/elsewhere that day, trying to manage the issue with finding lids for the drinks, or revisiting the cultural fit about the office generally. Small teams are tricky and, while I’d like to trust that people will put my needs over their wants, I’m skeptical.

    1. M from NY

      Although I don’t have regular panic attacks it’s really not fair for OP as new employee to expect this type of change after one month. This goes beyond just don’t partake since its the smell of alcohol that’s the issue. OP doesn’t have to disclose why to everyone but a one on one with boss to advise they are looking for another job. [Not with ulterior motive of getting boss to stop but make it clear they need to ask more questions regarding match of cultures during interview process].

      I empathize with OP my younger self would not have been kind had this type of perk been stopped for one person.

      1. Bagpuss

        I’m not sure that I agree that it is unfair for OP as a new employee to make a requst or even to expect a change.

        Particualrly as this is something which is not part of normal office culture in the majority of workplaces, so it’s not somting you would normally expect to ned to ask about during the interview process.
        I do think it is *awkward* to be ahaving to ask, for the sorts of reasons you give.

        I think it is perhaps analogous in sme ways to being the first female employee and asking to have the topless calendar taken down from the break room wall – it’s not an unreasonable request but everyone is going to (assume that) they know who asked an d there may be repurcussions.

      2. Observer

        Here’s the thing – How does the OP suss this out when looking at jobs? What questions could the OP ask that would give them the information they need and not come off as very strange?

        Also, why would the OP give the manager a heads up that they are looking if they aren’t going to be asking for a change? The odds are that the manager is going to start looking for a replacement, and there is a good chance that they will find someone before the OP finds another job.

        1. M from NY

          I didn’t say it was OP fault but when the only solution is for office to stop what they’ve enjoyed the reality is the social tone of office will change. I don’t believe topless calendar is equivalent. If everything else was fine telling boss reason may help with job search or at least cover any questions if reference us

          1. M from NY

            ** if reference is needed. At end of day only way change can happen is saying something to boss regarding seriousness of OP situation. Hinting around won’t work.

            I also disagree that this rises to level of disability requiring accommodation. This is 10 person company not one department of larger company or new manager going against established norms.

            The overwhelming sympathy on here is just not realistic expectation for reaction to request change to that company’s culture. It’s been one month. Sometimes the answer is to remove yourself and find workplace where you can thrive.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              As noted, if they’re just 10 people, ADA won’t apply. But if they were 15+ and thus covered by ADA, this very well could rise to the level of disability requiring accommodation under the law, depending on the severity of the panic attacks.

      3. Ask a Manager Post author

        Whoa, no! We should not be advising people with a disability to look for a new job because of something like this before they’ve even spoken with a manager.

        1. Observer

          This is true. And I didn’t mean to imply otherwise.

          But even if that’s what the OP is going to have to do, why would anyone think that the OP owes the employer warning that they are looking. And why the assumption that the OP didn’t try to figure out the culture?

      4. fhqwhgads

        I’m sort of waffling on this because on the one hand – I totally get the “for one person” argument but on the other it sounds like this is a company of 10 but only 4-5 are ever in at the same time? So, framed another way “20% -25% of the office” isn’t cool with this. It’s also still small enough that “the culture” at this point is probably just “the founder’s personality”. The founder might feel very strongly about keeping a certain sort of culture, but getting in this early is also a good way to help form what the actual culture might be as the company grows. So she might be better positioned to object now. Worst case scenario, she’s not a good fit here but that might be the case anyway. If she tries the get it to change, it might, and then yay, it did. If it doesn’t, it’s the same as if she didn’t make the attempt but had to leave because of it anyway.

        1. Roger

          LW1 here: I think you hit the nail on the head that the office culture consists of the the founder’s personality. The manager (one of the founders) likes drinking a lot. For him it’s very enjoyable to have alcohol, whereas I think other people in the office see it as a nice perk, but not something they’d expect or be bummed if we didn’t have it.

  49. Marty

    #4

    – Raises aren’t necessarily rewards for brief periods of improved performance.

    Why? Because you need the bigger picture to make an informed decision. Even the best performers have their off moments. The big picture matters.

    I get the impression you’re either new to the working world or not used to holding long-term positions. I don’t think your timeline expectation matches up with what most would consider to be reasonable.

    “Needs improvement” is a reasonable evaluation for someone new to a job.

    1. OP4

      You’re right, I’m not used to holding long-term positions. I’ve never been let go for poor performance, but my positions have been reorganized or my companies have gone under. I appreciate the insight!

  50. Introverted Not Shy

    Unpopular opinion ahead:

    I bet that the office greeter was chastised for not looking up or acknowledging the presence of anyone at anytime. I can see the reverse letter from folks who are insulted because she doesn’t respond to their greeting. This is a darned if you do, darned if you don’t situation.

    These are econds long interactions of a superficial nature. Even if they happen multiple times a day, the time consumption is deminimus. The emotional energy expended by many to avoid or work around just being pleasant is excessive. The woman is not asking for your life story! I realize this commentariat skews to anti-social and isolatonist, but it gets extreme sometime. It’s not an hours long party. I am an introvert and have no problem with these brief interactions, because introvert does not mean shy.

    The presence of other peopleis a necessary inconvienience to live. We should be more tolerant of one another.

    1. East of Nowhere South of Lost

      I’m fine until it becomes passive-aggressive. Some people are just not Ok with a simple ‘good morning’ or nod or wave, they want a whole small-talky conversation in the hallway, while i just want to get into my office and into the day’s work.

    2. Batgirl

      I will take most opportunities to chat with colleagues and would still describe this co-worker as quite awkward though. One of the most important people skills is having the ability to figure out which people welcome a chance to complain about traffic and which people are going to baffled by being asked about their commute. It’s the kind of reaction reading that’s pretty integral to being socially successful.
      This person could (probably does) have genuine difficulties with that but it’s still legitimately annoying to shout out things at people when they’re in transit to do something else, and about topics that aren’t really of any interest to them; repeatedly without any warm or enthusiastic encouragement. It’s a kindness to overlook it and give them a hurried hiya, but it’s not the way to get fans.

    3. EventPlannerGal

      I agree. I get that the commentators here skew far more introverted than I am, but I feel that it’s just not possible to both a) take a job in a standard office environment and b) create your own perfect cone of silence where nobody ever interacts with you in a way that you don’t like. Just nod and smile, say something quick and keep walking.

  51. pentamom

    Am I the one who is off here? I would think “Your performance is inadequate, therefore you don’t get the raise this year” isn’t just saying you don’t get the raise until you fix it, it means your inadequate performance has lost you the raise for this year. Fixing it means you will have a chance at it next year, but not getting the raise for the year is the fixed consequence of failing your review for the year. It’s like failing a test — you can’t go back and make it so that you’ve passed the test in the past and you now have a top grade on your transcript, but you can ace the next one so that your grade improves going forward. It wouldn’t occur to me that it would be any other way.

    1. Jesse

      Normally I would agree, but the writer is very new to the job. I think “needs improvement” can have different context for someone who has been in a position for a few years as opposed to someone who is still adapting to their new role.

      A new person expecting “exceeds expectations” when the reality is “needs improvement” suggests that they’re still so new to their role that they don’t understand the big picture yet. It’s one of those “the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know” situations. Since the writer is new, has been getting praise from their manager, but a deeper look reveals deficits that need improvement, I would say this is most likely the situation.

      The letter writer needs to take a step back and consider factors beyond superficial good performance.

    2. Bagpuss

      I think that’s reasonable in most situations, certainly for merit raises.

      I think if you have a generally good mployee who is going through a difficult patch an employer *could * offer a review – but it would depnd on the employers policies and also I think woul most likelybe reasonable where the employee has ben in post for a while so hs a track record which can be taken into account.

      In which case you migth be saying to them “We can’t offer you any kind of raise icght now, but we will fix afurther review in 6 motnhs (instead of a year)”

    3. OP4

      Just a quick clarification – “your performance is inadequate, therefore you don’t get the raise this year” is not what happened. The question of a raise didn’t come up at all.

      1. Observer

        But that’s still what it means. One of the reasons that the raise didn’t come up is because your performance didn’t merit it. It’s a good thing you abandoned the idea of asking for a raise when your manager brought up the performance issue, because it would have come off REALLY badly. *She* didn’t say anything about the raise because she didn’t need to, not because she forgot about it.

  52. StressedButOkay

    OP4, I think you need to tweak your how you’re looking at the raise – you’re not leaving any money on the table because there was no offer on the table that was removed. I would give it several more months before even talking to your manager about it and, instead of talking about the figure you want, ask what the general procedure is for raises in your organization and what you would need to do to get yourself to the point of potentially getting one.

    Use the time to continue to improve and prove yourself to your managers and upper management that the slip was a one-time thing and that’ll put you on the right path. It might not be to the tune of 10% but it’ll be a good path.

  53. NicoleK

    LW #3. I wouldn’t worry about it, unless your Boss starts making comments. You said your coworker has poor time management, that probably explains the long hours.

  54. boop the first

    Wow, a lot of people are taking the greeter situation really personally. I’m guessing a lot of you are greeters.

    The thing is, this clearly isn’t your typical greeter. The OP has already established that person of note is also someone who is generally unpleasant to be around. Annoying quirk is one thing, but if your morale drops every time you leave or enter a room, that would seriously effect your work environment.

    I had to change my entire walking route to avoid a man who kept greeting me on the street. Complete stranger. If it was just a matter of saying “good morning” every day, it was fine. But it wasn’t. Every day was an escalation beyond my control. But that’s irrelevant, what’s relevant is that suddenly, every morning a figure would appear on the horizon and my whole body would tense up with anxiety. Sometimes it was some other stranger, but I couldn’t know for sure and it was an awful lonely feeling, knowing that I couldn’t complain without seeming crazy.

    People should have an equal right to feel okay at work. I could change my route. It meant taking a physically less-safe route, and a longer route, but at least there wasn’t some guy hiding and pouncing and touching on me anymore. All in the name of friendliness.

    OP needs a new route. Maybe coworker needs a desk change.

  55. East of Nowhere South of Lost

    I worked with an aggressive good-morning’er who would walk into your path to greet you if you failed to adequately make enough smalltalk to satisfy her. I cringed if i saw her coming down the hallway because nothing less than *stopping*, *smiling* and LOUDLY saying “GOOD MORNING” would satisfy her. Just let me get to my desk, lady!

    1. Jules the 3rd

      As I said above – this would need addressing. Physically blocking people is not ok.

      I recently had to deal with attention requests in my cube farm, though this involved him saying hello to each person by name, and not *leaving* until he got an answer back, even when people were on the phone. He was not doing it passive-aggressively and was responsive to ‘I’m often running meetings via the phone, could you just wave if you see that I’m busy?’

      But this is not what OP2 is describing – their coworker is seated. OP totally has the option to keep moving.

    2. YuliaC

      I have one of these in a neighboring office. She will not only walk into my path and demand a response she deems appropriate, she’ll also shake her head in a judgmental way and sometimes tsk-tsk loudly if I try walking past with one of the breezy deflections recommended by many here..

      1. Batgirl

        I think that’s clearly her problem when it gets to that stage. What is she going to say that could possibly impact your reputation? “Yulia gives such brief greetings when I’m trying to stop her from going somewhere! It’s like she’s being polite to an annoying person!”
        I think she’s walked out onto thin ice to actually tut! I’d be so tempted to call that one out:
        “Earler when I was walking past and we said hi to each other.. where you tutting or annoyed at something? I was too busy to check on you then but I thought I’d circle back; is everything ok?”

  56. mostlymanaged

    On OP #2… Not to risk the ire of the commentariat but… Until I read this comment section I had _no idea_ that people felt friendly greetings/small talk at the office was rude (even the kind of multiple times a day ‘excessive’ small talk :/ ). Or at least I didn’t know people found it annoying! And I work with developers! It feels really strange to walk by someone/a desk/get into the office without at least saying ‘good morning, how’s it going.’ Even if I’m seeing the same person more than once in the same day, I’ll usually greet them and go through a couple of sentences of light conversation. (And I get that not everyone feels it is rude either.) Basically, I’m saying if I didn’t work in a back office I probably _would_ be OP’s coworker.

    It might be a holdover from being a receptionist/server where the expectation is to a) acknowledge and b) check in with most people you interact with through the day. I don’t really have a solution here, except to ask how old OP’s coworker is. Are they particularly young? Could this just be a holdover from a previous work situation?

    1. Lucette Kensack

      I think the commentariat here is extreme in its dislike of small talk and other relationship-builders at work (which isn’t surprising, since we are folks who like online conversations and relationships!).

      My own feeling is like the folks who are moving past others’ desk spaces (receptionist desks, cubes on the central aisle, etc.) should defer to the preferences of the folks who are seated at these high-traffic spots. They get passed a thousand times a day, so they get to decide if they want to interact with each individual person going by.

      Of course, the passersby don’t need to chat if they don’t want to, either. A breezy “Hi, Caroline,” with eye contact and a smile, but without breaking stride will do the trick while still being pleasant.

    2. Batgirl

      I think it’s highly dependent on culture, workflow, personalities, friendships – a whole bunch of context. In many places what you describe is fine! For me, it only really becomes annoying when the person is clearly only satisfying a reflex in their own head like an itch AND has no ability to discern whether I’m busy/interested/whether I even have a commute.
      Interesting that you think it’s a service industry itch. I used to work retail but British retail is a whole different animal. You don’t offer help, you are supposed to hover in a way that seems approachable. My first time stateside I was all “Why does the shop assistant want my soul?”

      1. mostlymanaged

        Hah! I grew up in the UK and moved to the US 15 years ago– I reaaaaally had to work on my friendliness when I started working retail/food service over here. Now when I go back to the UK my family is like “You’re so American now!”

        So much of working life is varied and subtle– I guess I have some sympathy for the devil here. It’s like getting over bad habits from a shitty job. It can take time to relearn habits from other sources.

        1. Batgirl

          Lol that’s funny. I think when you have a variety of experiences you do tend to be sympathetic to people being out of step.

    3. Holly

      I agree I think the commentariat here tends towards anti-social or introverted preferences, but it’s really a “know your office” situation. We’re also getting only the LW’s point of view, so it’s hard to say if this “greeter” acts the same way you do or if it’s markedly different.

  57. Allison

    #2 I’m wondering if she’s a super social person who took this job because it would mean getting to interact with people as they pass by, and she’s disappointed that people just aren’t as into talking as she thought they’d be. Or, if she’s engaging people because she thinks that’s her job, and if people ignore her it’ll look like she’s failing in an essential duty.

  58. hbc

    LW2: I think you basically have to treat this person like the door with the sticky lock that never gets fixed or that vent that blasts freezing or hot air in your face as you pass through or that weird uneven spot in the floor. This is just something that is a fact, a very minor annoyance that you don’t have the power to fix. You have to do a “Fine, thanks” every time you walk through just like you have to jiggle the lock slightly.

    I think the most you can do to address it is say something like, “Hey, sorry if it seemed like I was short with you yesterday. Sometimes I’ve got a lot on my mind as I pass through, so don’t be offended if I don’t respond. And I won’t take offense if you’re focused on your work and don’t say ‘hi.'”

  59. Kit

    For letter #3, I would be careful about how you frame the discussion with your manager. Make sure you aren’t implying the Jane is having issues managing anything – leave her out of it except to ask about hours. As the person who routinely worked insane hours but has co-workers who never do, I would not be happy to have my work questioned by someone who isn’t working directly with me. I had a co-worker with the same title as me, was in a different department for a while but moved to mine. My job is very different from his, I have a broader skill set and more technical qualifications, and I do a lot more “critical work” (work that is required for the company to function) than he did (80% to his 10%). So if my co-worker went to a manager about my hours and implied I was incorrectly managing my time I would not be happy about that. And honestly, if someone threw me under the bus like that and my manager questioned me on it? I would have no compunction about detailing exactly how our work load and requirements differ and why.

    This is just in my case, but keep your wording mind when speaking to your boss, throwing shade, even inadvertently, is not a good look.

    1. OP3

      OP3 here – totally, I have a really good working relationship with my coworker.

      The last thing I want to do is throw them under the bus.

      I think part of the problem is I have other commitments that prevent me from working those type of hours and if I’m producing all the work I’m assigned, I don’t want to be penalized because I’m not producing an insanely high amount. And I just wanted to get perspective on if that was a valid concern and if so how if possible to deal with it.

      1. Kit

        It’s definitely valid and totally talk to your boss, you being aware of the disparity is important and a good thing to talk to your boss about. It’s possible this is something that is specific to each of your positions but it could be you are missing out on something and maybe there’s an opportunity there for you. Not to work those hours, I mean to expand into a new area. People who work those hours are often well compensated or differently compensated – I have a crap tonne of time off, a ridiculous amount of flexibility in my work hours and very little supervision, which i love, but not everyone is able or wants to make that particular trade.

  60. Amethystmoon

    #2, is there any way at all you can bypass their desk, even if it means going out of your way or in a different direction around them? If so, you could always use the “trying to get more steps in” excuse if you’re called on it. I’ve done that to avoid people who happen to be on the more annoying side.

  61. ragazza

    I have a coworker like the one in #2. She has to greet/try to start a conversation with everybody. It’s really annoying and I notice other coworkers avoiding her. I handle it by giving her a vague smile and non-committal responses, and yes, I keep walking. The worst is when she sets up in the lunchroom and has to start a conversation with every single person that walks in. Then I just wait until she leaves.

  62. Memyselfandi

    LW2: I worked in Quebec in a French community. The custom was that each time you encountered someone during the day you acknowledged them and said “bonjour.” It did not matter how many times that occurred and since the printer was at the opposite end of the floor, it could happen several times a day. At first I found it invasive, but by the time I moved to an English community 3 years later, I found the lack of greeting cold. Of course, we did not stop and chat, and I think that is more the problem than the greeting. Shifting your perspective a bit to see this as a gesture of warmth and developing some strategies for quick answers (How was your commute? Same as yesterday!) and breezing by might be the best solution.

  63. Wing Leader

    Wow, I totally feel you, OP#2! I literally have this exact problem with a security guard in my building. He aggressively pulls anyone who passes him into conversation and won’t let up, even when they’re trying to walk away.

    In addition to just being generally annoying, he also has a tendency to get very personal. One morning, after he greeted me, he immediately asked me when I would be having some kids (my husband and I have decided not to, but I can’t fathom why I would need to tell him that). And other things like that. Ugh.

    1. ragazza

      Uggghh. That’s when you say something like “wow, what a personal question” or put a shocked expression on your face that he would ask you that.

    2. ACDC

      I’m a big fan of wearing headphones to deal with stuff like this. I won’t even have anything playing, but just the visual of wearing headphones typically leads to people not talking to me. I can get away with just a waving hello as I walk by.

  64. Gazebo Slayer

    I’m very much not a fan of the “work till you die at your desk” culture so common in the US – I’m a big worker’s rights person – but… I have mediocre-at-best skills and various other problems, and the way I am able to distinguish myself and make myself look normally valuable , not even like a superstar – is to work very long hours a lot of the time. Jane may be someone like me.

  65. President Porpoise

    #2 – Beat them to the punch! Greet them succinctly in a manner that doesn’t invite invite further interaction. “Good morning! Nice to see you!”

  66. Trout 'Waver

    #2 is fascinating to me because of the comments. It’s one of those letters that’s a vague Rorschach test on which people project their own experiences.

    For me, the aggressive greeter at my work was cataloguing people’s responses and then gossiping in her inner circle about whose responses weren’t sufficiently cheerful and how they must have something going on at home or were out partying the night before because they seemed grumpy and wouldn’t you know it’s the third time this week…….

    ARGH!

    1. Batgirl

      I think you’ve just explained why sometimes I’m happy to small talk and others I’m not. I just have this occasional instinct that they’re not really greeting me, but have their own agenda. Some people are straight up busybodies.

  67. RoadsLady

    #3. I once had that type of coworker. Nice lady, but very much into the job.

    I seemed to be keeping up on my job, but the stark contrast was disconcerting.

    I checked with the boss. I was doing just fine, Coworker just really liked working, there was no concern of her high standards becoming the expected office minimum.

  68. Me

    Oh #4 I don’t want to be harsh, I’m intending for tough love vibe, but LW really needs to take a step back and really look at their performance.

    They’re a strong performer and things are great, except for the part where they really weren’t a strong performer to the extent that they were formally reprimanded. In the first year of employment. That’s pretty significant. And then add in desiring a raise that’s way way way outside the norm, I worry that LW’s perception and self-reflection abilities lean towards the over optimistic end.

    LW seems young/inexperienced. I would expect a full year of solid performance before any talk of a raise that’s certainly not going to be 10%. Work hard and improve through the next cycle.

  69. OP4

    Thank you, Alison! I appreciate the outside perspective, and I’ll focus on shining until my next shot rolls around. :)

    1. OP4

      Follow-up observations having read through the comments:

      – I’m really surprised at how many people gendered me as a woman despite no mention of it being included in my letter. FYI, my pronouns are they/them.
      – I really appreciate the insight from everyone who observed my raise request was unreasonably high. FWIW, I hadn’t settled on a number when my review originally came around, and the 7-10% was a recent estimate based on Googling data about cost-of-living versus merit raise averages and talking to coworkers who admittedly are in different departments; I didn’t plan to decide until hearing from Alison and reaching out to some other contacts. However, I had been taking my manager’s short-term feedback (which was and is genuinely glowing, both before, after, and even during the informal improvement period) into account and not assessing my more long-term big picture. I will adjust my expectations in the future!
      – Theories that my characterization of my performance are inaccurate/exaggerated are… well, I don’t know what to tell you. Every description was a direct quote from my manager, and I have a folder of emails outlining specific and general contributions I’ve made from peers and superiors. I definitely needed the outside perspective on how long it would take to prove that my difficult period was an aberration, but y’all seemed pretty eager to speculate that it, in fact, was not. That is disheartening, but I don’t want to give the impression I’m not still grateful for you giving my situation some thought.
      – Theories that I’m early in my career/haven’t had many long-term opportunities are accurate, due to an extended series of personal tragicomedies. I’m looking forward to settling in here, building stability, and making my mark in the future. Thank you all for the advice and reality check!!!

      1. Jamie

        I’m really surprised at how many people gendered me as a woman despite no mention of it being included in my letter. FYI, my pronouns are they/them.

        That’s not about you personally, it’s the convention of this site to use female pronouns when gender isn’t known, like a counter balance to the convention of defaulting to male.

        I had the same expectations of raises when I was new to my career, and due to a fluke of my first raise/promotion being 42% I had a WILDLY skewed idea of how that normally worked. Reality can really suck at times.

        One thing from my lessons learned file is when I had to take a job significantly under what I was comfortable with I brought it up in the negotiation process of a date at which we would “revisit compensation” (not just a review, I made sure those words were in my offer letter) and sketched out with them what my performance/expanded duties would look like to get to $X.

        So there are times where a significant salary jump can happen, easier when the job description isn’t written in stone and has room to expand significantly or you know your performance would warrant it but willing to work for less to prove yourself, but definitely getting it in writing makes that a much smoother process down the road.

        1. Jamie

          Meant to add … or they can tell you the role will never pay what you’re hoping and you can then factor that into your decision.

        2. OP4

          My perspective as a trans person is that it’s not a great convention! Being misgendered by strangers isn’t less upsetting when they default female than when they default male, and when you deal with it IRL all the time, it’s exhausting to deal with it online while *anonymous* as well.

          Thank you for sharing lessons learned!

          1. Observer

            I’ve been trying to use they as my default. But the point that Jamie was trying to make is that no one was really trying to assign gender. Some people are just more comfortable with the single so they use “she / her” in the same neutral fashion that “he / him” is officially used.

            Of course, since you’ve mentioned your pronouns, I would hope that anyone who sees your responses would honor that.

          2. Close Bracket

            I try to use “they” as a default when I don’t know a person’s gender or when I am talking generically. What I get stuck on with that is “they” is not really generic—”they” also has a role as a gender specific pronoun, just like “he.” I don’t get too stuck on this bc misgendering someone as “they” when they are really a “he” or a “she” seems like a much smaller deal since binary pronouns hold a higher status. It’s still a misgendering, though.

            What do you use when you want to talk about a person of unknown gender?

      2. OP4

        rereading my letter, I originally stated I had the percentage for the raise request in mind when my review came around; this was inaccurate!

  70. Marissa

    #1 – Is either drink a less likely trigger than the other? Could you ask that they stick to beer in bottles, or just the wine? I’m sorry you’re in this situation. I hope it’s a scenario where they aren’t being inconsiderate, they just don’t realize anyone is being negatively affected.

  71. Buttons

    OP#2 The initial good morning has to be acknowledged, that is common courtesy and part of being human. However, it is ridiculous to have to get by the gatekeeper multiple times a day. So I would do something equally as ridiculous, like gun fingers or a wink, and not speak. You are acknowledging they spoke to you, but you aren’t indulging it. Good luck!

  72. Cartographical

    OP #2 — this would make me so anxious, I’d be looking at blueprints to try and avoid this guy look some kind of secret agent man. I’d go with “it’s all good” and breeze past or try the claims l classic Han Solo quote: “Uh, everything’s under control. Situation normal.”

    As a last resort, you could go with the absurd: “My plans for world domination are on track.” “I’d be better if that alien invasion would hurry up and happen.” “Doing great, and if you see any smoke, it wasn’t me.” “I think the pigeons are onto me. Gotta go.”

    1. Jamie

      “I think the pigeons are onto me. Gotta go.”

      I am not a chatty, smalltalky type of person but if I worked with you I would totally be the OP’s co-worker just to hear what you’d come up with each day as this would amuse the heck out of me.

    2. VictorianCowgirl

      I love these! I also love that they answer a question, but not the one OP’s coworker asked. I think it’s a great strategy to answer intrusive questions with non-answers. Making them absurd is excellent.

      1. LJay

        But nothing in the letter indicates that these are at all intrusive questions. “How was your commute?” is not an intrusive question.

        And coming up with strange answers is more effort and is going to draw more attention to and elongate the interaction more than, “Fine, thanks.” “Great.” “Another day in paradise.” or any other normal answer.

  73. it's me

    OP: Every time anyone passes my coworker’s desk, my coworker tries to have a conversation with them including a specific question.
    Commenters here: OMG I can’t believe you don’t want to speak to your coworkers at all, you hermit.

    1. Peacock

      No, it’s more like: Commenters here – OMG this is comparable to street harassment and you should not have to put up with coworkers that you know and see everyday having the SHEER AUDACITY to say hello to you in a friendly manner!

      1. it's me

        Saying hello in a friendly manner is not the complaint. Thank you for proving my point.

        1. Peacock

          I haven’t proved any point. I think you missed my point.

          The letter totally misuses the word “aggressive”.

          The letter says that the greeter is saying hello and asking questions about commutes etc, and while the repetition may be annoying, it’s certainly not aggressive – unless of course the greeter is constantly yelling “HEY ASSHOLE HOW WAS YOUR STUPID COMMUTE” while physically blocking their way and looming over them. THAT would be an aggressive greeting, but I doubt this is what the greeter is doing, otherwise it would be more explicit in the letter.

          What is being described in the letter might be annoying, but it doesn’t justifty the type of rudeness (ignoring them, rolling your eyes, telling them they won’t engage in conversation after a certain time of day) that a lot of the commenters here are suggesting OP use. And it’s 100% not comparable to street harassment or catcalling, which is also what some commenters here have said.

          It is normal to speak to your coworkers, it is normal to say hello to them, it is extremely odd and really rude and antisocial to go out of your way to ignore your coworkers, and comparing a coworker talking to you to street harassment is so beyond any semblance of sense I don’t know what to call it.

        2. LJay

          But the questions stated are the functional equivalent of saying hello.

          “How are you?” Is the equivalent to “hello”.
          “How was your commute?” is the equivalent to “hello.”

          Those are the only types of questions the OP has indicated that the greeter asks. You could say “hello,” in a friendly manner as a response to any of these and keep walking and it would be a completely normal social interaction.

          It’s not like the greeter is going, “Hey, I see you’re heading to the bathroom. What are you going to do in there?” or, “Why don’t you have kids yet?” or, “Can you outline for me your entire schedule for the day in detail?” or anything like that.

          They’re making vague social noises that can be acknowledged with one or two words, and then saying “Have a Wonderful Wednesday”.

          If the questions were intrusive, or the demand on the interaction of the OP was more than saying, “hello” or “fine thanks” or whatever, or the greeter was chasing the OP down to talk to them or blocking their path, it would be a different letter with different responses.

          As the letter was written, it is basically about saying hello in a friendly manner.

  74. Anon Today

    OP#1: I would talk with your boss as Alison suggested and hopefully they will realize this is not the best practice for inclusivity (for your panic attacks and other people’s reasons for not drinking) and move it to outside the office. I also hope your boss would not disclose their reasons for this change. My company, not huge, but more corporate has strict rules about not drinking in the office or during the day. We sometimes have happy hour for a launch celebration after hours on a voluntary basis. On a personal note, I am sober 35 days today. Being on this side of the coin, I am humbled (and a bit humiliated) by the alcohol culture we live in. I was one of the people pushing, “c’mon, have a drink”, judging other people for not drinking and being completely obtuse to their person reasons or struggles. I will never do that again. I also realize that the office isn’t the best place for alcohol. I certainly do not want my company to know my struggles and don’t want to have to explain myself when they knew me as a drinker before. Bad precedent to set. I honestly am dreading our next off site event and cannot believe the questions and pushiness I’ve already received from non-work people who I also don’t want to disclose to. I hope you’re able to work with your place of employment with this.

    1. Jamie

      Congratulations on your sobriety. I thought about people who are in recovery when I read this post as we’ve seen so many people comment on how hard it can be when they are on a specific diet and free treats in what are forbidden foods to them are constantly available at work.

      I’d imagine this would be a very difficult environment for some in recovery. Could be a bad fit for a lot of people for various reasons and I don’t get why this would be a workplace norm they’d want, but as someone who would never drink at work maybe I just don’t get it.

    2. Observer

      Oh, that kind of switch can be SO HARD, even in an office that is not ridiculous.

      Congratulations of the sobriety. May this continue.

    3. VictorianCowgirl

      Congratulations on your 35 days! :)

      Your points are very salient; I am in recovery as well and have noticed it is usually those with unhealthy drinking habits that engage in pushiness.

      Tip if you want one: I have found a simple “Yeah I’m not drinking tonight” response to be the most effective for not setting off the defensive responses due to its temporary implication. “Not drinking ever again” doesn’t usually go over well. You can try to brush off the “why” with casually repeating that same message using different words like “oh because I’m just taking a day off” (use the word “because”), roll your eyes and wave your hand as though you’re saying “just doing the dumb dishes again” and people usually accept that. If you know who the pushy people are, you can try to keep your distance. You can also try to leave after an appropriate amount of time and not stay a minute longer than you have to for optics.

      Whatever you do it helps to practice and role play before you go so the answers are rote.

      Best wishes on your journey.

  75. Tech Lead to the Stars

    LW1 – I’ve been at jobs like yours and I can say that what worked at one of them was finding an ally. My friend mentioned to me her anxiety about this, and I started advocating for the position of no alcohol in the office. I am much more social than she is and knew many people that influenced the corporate culture. I pointed out how many types of people (alcoholics, people with religious objections, etc) we were isolating with a policy that made being at work within working hours feel unsafe.

    Depending on your personality, and the company, it might help to find allies and not make it about your issues or needs, but about the company’s ability to hire people who aren’t comfortable with alcohol.

    You might have to be willing to leave, but many people at start ups just don’t think of the impact on others when they have drinking as part of your corporate culture. And I’ve seen even dudebros become more sensitive to the problem when it’s pointed it out.

  76. New Jack Karyn

    LW2–If the cheery “Hello!” and keep walking for each of these interactions is still too much for you, you might try asking your coworker to dial it down. Frame it as a ‘me thing’, as in, “Fergus, I know you’re just being sociable and friendly, but saying hello every time we cross paths is tough on me–it yanks me out of my train of thought. Can you try dialing it back, maybe to just first thing in the morning and maybe when I’m coming back from lunch? Thank you so much!” Be warm and friendly when you ask, and try to not imply that they’re doing anything wrong–it’s just this quirk you have.

    1. Batgirl

      I do a variation of this in that quite honestly my inattentive ADHD means that I quite often blank people who are speaking to me – especially if I’m busy or in a headspace where I’m not expecting anyone to engage me. People confront me about it and react quite well when I say that it’s a personal quirk I do all the time.
      I would go with the ‘me thing’ if asked, but I wouldn’t preemptively say ‘don’t talk to me’. Rather, I’d be more inclined to say on the spot ‘Sorry, miles away! Excuse me, won’t you? I just have to x’

  77. Observer

    This is true – if there are thoughts of growth then focusing on “we wouldn’t want to exclude good people over this” is a good way to go. It’s positive (we’re going to grow, yay) while making the point that it’s an issue.

  78. Meißner Porcelain Teapot

    OP #2: I’d great them once in the morning with a cheerful “Hey, how’s it going!” and then just flat-out ignore them until end of day, when they’d get an equally cheerful “Have a good one!” Seriously, multiple-time greeting throughout the day is more than excessive. If the greeter ever addresses your silence or (hope not) complains to your boss about it, you can point out that you did in fact engage with them twice every day. Also, I know how difficult this is for the more literal-minded among us (I am German and an introvert–it took me a long time to understand this greeting dynamic), but unless it’s work-related, there’s a good chance that every single thing the greeter asks you is just an empty, formulaic fluff for the greeting. No-one is expecting a serious answer (which is why replying with “Hey, how’s it going!” rather than answering the question is going to get you out of the interaction pretty quickly).

  79. Andrea

    A simple fix for the aggressive greeter letter writer is to come in wearing headphones. Then you can just wave and smile as you come in.

  80. Jessica Noyes

    My comment is about the person whose colleague works very long hours, a fact that makes her worry about comparisons. My dear sister has serious ADD along with some other issues, and had a fairly straightforward government job in records management. It would take her ten hours to accomplish what others might complete in eight hours, but she stayed late, and was successful in her job. She did this for decades, and now has retired with a decent pension. So that colleague of yours might be in a similar situation.

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