we have to give our coworkers anonymous praise, coworker is offended when I don’t say “hi,” and more

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

1. We have to give all our coworkers anonymous praise

Team retreats are always a chore, but I just got this email with some information about what we’re doing at our upcoming one and really wanted to hear your thoughts on it. Each staff member is required (emphasis required) to anonymously write something nice about every other staff member. These compliments will go into a bag labeled with the name of each person, and each member of the team will then take the bag full of praise with them afterwards. I think the only thing worse than mandatory fun is mandatory compliments, and the idea of reading whatever forced things my teammates can come up with for me is giving me indigestion. What’s your read?

Yeah, it’s not great. I don’t think it’s horrific or anything — they’re clearly trying to make people feel good about themselves and their colleagues — but I don’t love the forced nature of it, or the fact that some of the compliments won’t be genuine and people will surely know that. But as terrible team-building activities go, this one doesn’t strike me as a complete outrage. Not all that useful, but not an outrage.

2. Coworker is offended when I don’t say “hi” back

I have a coworker who confronts me if he says “hi” to me and doesn’t hear me acknowledge him back. It borders on harassment (in my opinion). I’m not sure what the best way is for me to tell him to back off.

I normally get to work early in the morning and want to grab some coffee before I start the daily grind. My coworker arrives in the office around the same time and normally says hi when casually walking by me, or walking to the break room. The majority of the time, I say hi back. But if I’m in the midst of thinking about something or am listening to my podcast or just don’t feel like chatting, then I sometimes don’t say hi back. This apparently is considered rude by my coworker. But I see my coworker EVERY day. Why does it bother him so much that I don’t say hi every single time? I am not on the same team as this guy and we don’t work on any projects together, but the office is small. How do I deal with this sensitive person?

It’s a little rude not to respond to someone who says hello to you, but your coworker is being far ruder by making such a big deal about it. That’s especially true if you’re at your desk working when this happens (as opposed to passing him in the hall or bumping into each other in the kitchen), since presumably you could be deeply focused on work, which is a state where people often block out interruptions.

The next time he confronts you about it, try saying, “I don’t always hear you if I have headphones in or if I’m deeply focused. If I don’t hear you, it’s likely that since I’d never intentionally ignore you.” If he keeps confronting you after that, move to, “I’ve explained that I don’t always hear your greeting and you shouldn’t take it as anything more that. It’s becoming disruptive to have to keep explaining that, so can we agree to leave this alone going forward?” If he keeps doing it after that, just give him a strange look and otherwise ignore it. That’s about a him problem, not a you problem.

This all assumes you’re more or less peers and that there aren’t other political factors to consider. But if he has influence over your job, you’re probably better off just cheerfully saying “sorry, didn’t hear you!” each time while internally rolling your eyes.

3. Letting my office know about my child’s transition

My child came out as trans in February. He is out to my family as well, and has much love and support. We are moving forward with the process and the things we need to help him live authentically. (He is 12.)

How do I mention this at work (if I should at all)? I have been at this workplace about four years. It’s a great place to work, and I am very happy here. I am thinking of saying something to my department. We are fairly close — we know about each other’s families, and are comfortable talking about most things.

I am not overly worried about discrimination toward me. But it’s becoming more difficult to talk to about my child with his chosen name and pronouns every where except work. I’ve been using clumsy workarounds (like saying, “my kid” or “my middle child”). I’d like to just do as I did with my family and say, “Hey, Sue is now Sam, and goes by he/him, so you know, I’ll be talking about him like that from now on.” Is this appropriate?

It’s perfectly appropriate! It’s matter-of-fact, provides the relevant info, and will let you talk about your son without worrying about verbal workarounds. (This assumes your son is fine with it, of course.)

Read an update to this letter here.

4. Should I apply for a promotion?

I was promoted into my current (and first) management position about two years ago with the responsibility for hiring and managing a new team to develop a new product. I now manage a team of eight and while things have been difficult managing workloads that increase faster than I can hire (for reasons outside of my control), I feel that we are now finally in a position where people don’t feel they are on a hamster wheel. The key milestone for the product will be in about a year, and that was when I was planning to start looking for other opportunities.

Recently, it was announced that my boss would be promoted to a new position and his current role would need to be filled. I asked whether he thought it would be appropriate for me to apply and he said that my name was the first that had come up for the role, but that it might not be great timing as it would be potentially disruptive to the current team and development of the product. I had also been thinking the same thing and I agree it isn’t great timing for me to move on from my current role. He also said that there might be another, very similar role coming up late next year that I could apply for. However, while that role is at the same level as currently open one, it is less attractive to me for various reasons.

I’m torn about what to do. On the one hand, this promotion is in the direction of where I want my career to go and it would be a great opportunity. On the other hand, my team is in a good but precarious place and it might be bad for morale if I left, even though I would be managing my replacement. I’m also a bit worried about how my promotion would be viewed by others in the organization, as I haven’t been in the company that long and only have two years’ experience as a manager.

Should I wait until things are more settled with my current team and think about applying to the role that should open up next year? Or should I take the plunge and apply now?

I would go for it. People leave jobs; your team will survive. But let your boss know that you’re much more interested in this vacancy than in the other one coming up, since otherwise he may mentally slot you into the other one.

5. Employer left me a post-interview voicemail but hasn’t gotten back to me

I had an interview last week. I received a call and voicemail from the employer yesterday. I tried to return her call, but had to leave a voicemail. How long do I wait before trying to call again, or should I avoid calling again all together?

You could try a second follow-up call one or two days after the first, but after that, the ball is in her court if she wants to get in touch. If they want to hire you, they’re not going to forget to call you.

{ 825 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Since my response seems to be unclear, I want to clarify right up here at the top:

    It is rude not to say hi to someone who says hi to you, if you hear them and are simply choosing not to respond. (It sounds like that is the case for the letter writer sometimes, and other times she genuinely doesn’t hear the coworker.) You need to acknowledge people who acknowledge you at work, even if you don’t feel like it, and it’s rude not to.

    However, I do think the coworker is being even ruder than the LW by making a big deal about it. It’s not clear exactly what “confronting” means, but I’m hard-pressed to think of any “confronting” that would be appropriate to do more than once in this situation. Hence, my take is that the LW is being rude in those cases (which sound like a minority of the times she’s asking about), but the coworker is being ruder.

    1. Observer*

      That’s actually one thing I think I would have changed about your advice – stop refusing to acknowledge / return a greeting when someone greets you because you’re “not in the mood.” That’s toddler level behavior.

      I’m kind of taken aback at all the people who think the the OP is in the right for refusing to say good morning. It’s not ok and it’s rude. This is not about introversion vs extroversion or anything like that, and it’s not a favor to anyone to pretend it is.

      That’s not to excuse the coworker, even in the cases when the OP is actually refusing to respond (as opposed to genuinely not hearing the greeting in the first place.) As any reasonably effective parent of toddlers knows, you don’t get very far with toddlers by throwing a tantrum when you kid misbehaves. And, as a coworker, you do NOT have the standing a parent has to school someone else. So, the coworker really needs to get a grip. But the advice here is for the OP not the coworker.

      1. carrots and celery*

        Agreed. I’ve had a letter relating to a similar problem that I’ve wanted to write in about, but I really don’t want to get crucified in the comments by people who think pleasantries in the office are a sin.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’d be glad to put some commenting rules in place for future discussions around this kind of thing because I agree they go off the rails in weird ways.

          1. Kathleen_A*

            It really is kind of odd – it’s as though a few commenters (at least I think it’s only a few) seem to think that the ideal workplace is one where everybody just sits there at his or her little desk working, working, working and never interacting at all. Or that everyone should be able to tell when it’s OK to say “Hi” or “How are you?” or “How’s it going?” and those that don’t are doing that awful thing known as Ignoring Boundaries.

            Well, maybe that’s their ideal workplace, but it truly isn’t most people’s idea of an ideal workplace. I’m pretty introverted myself and enjoy a great deal of peace and quiet, but even for me, the thought of an office at which coworkers don’t generally say “Hi” or “Good morning” to each other the first time they see each other is not a pleasant one!

            1. Dessi*

              As a fellow introvert, and a painfully shy one at that, I completely agree with everything you said. Blatantly ignoring someone simply greeting you is so unnecessarily callous. Yikes.

            2. Anne Elliot*

              I’ve been thinking about the responses to this thread all day, which I too have found interesting and surprising. So as a 50 year old, I ask very genuinely: Could this be a generational thing? Is it possible that for younger folks who interact mostly over text or through other electronic means, these sorts of social conventions no longer hold, or at least with less intensity? I am not trying to insult anyone with “kids these days” but I’m genuinely wondering if there’s an age difference between those who find failure to acknowledge reprehensibly rude — and I was and am in that camp — versus those who think it’s fine, or at least not that big of a deal. Thoughts?

              1. Name Required*

                Maybe with teenagers, but no, most adults find this incredibly rude. The few, strange people that view mundane interactions with such strife are outliers, no matter the tone of this comments section. I’m 31.

              2. carrots and celery*

                No. I’m from the younger generation and I find all this “don’t talk to me” incredibly rude. My office is full of twenty and thirty somethings who all routinely engage in pleasantries. I don’t think this has anything to do with generations, but more of a personality issue found in every generation.

              3. NotAnotherManager!*

                Most of the people in my office who do not say hello to people who acknowledged them first are 45+-year-old senior-level people who think it’s beneath them to talk to “the help” (and, to be clear, this is NOT the majority of the senior-level people, but the majority of the people who do it are).

                My experience with my younger staff is that they crave more social interaction than our work environment typically provides, and I have to go out of my way to ensure that they are connecting and seeing each other face-to-face regularly. I know they use the internal chat system, but they regularly ask for more in-person time.

                1. Kat in VA*

                  I hate that some senior management think they can get away with being rude. They put their pants on one leg at a time, just like us.

                  That being said, our GM says good morning every morning, sometimes me first, sometimes him first. I can’t imagine him (or the CTO, or COO, or any of the VPs) to be so rude as to not acknowledge a good morning. Sometimes they may not hear me because they’re a bunch of retired military dudes, but that’s entirely different.

              4. Old and Don’t Care*

                I am, like you, of the Walkman generation, and the idea of having headphones on in the office, much less walking around with them is very odd to me. I understand the need to block out noise in an office setting, but can’t get used to the “Don’t say hi to me, I’m listening to my podcast.” as a workplace appropriate thing.

              5. Alienor*

                I don’t think it is. Maybe when it comes to texting vs. calling, but all of the younger people in my office say hi when someone says hi to them. I do think that younger people are less likely to *initiate* the exchange with older people–I’m in my 40s and find that 20-somethings mostly socialize with each other and don’t approach me unless they have a specific question–but they don’t ignore, either. (In fairness, when I was their age, my cohort and I didn’t hang out with the 40-year-olds in the office either, because the 40-year-olds tended to be our bosses and it felt weird.)

              6. Venus*

                I realize this is all anecdotal, but the two people I know of (both are long-time acquaintances on social media) who say that they do not like these types of interpersonal interactions at work are both 50+. They are also underemployed and do not like their jobs (not that their reaction is justified, but there may be a correlation).

              7. Cactus*

                I’m in my early 30s and work in an office with people ranging in age from early 20s-mid-60s, and while some people are quieter than others there is a lot of chatter, much of it initiated by people my age and younger. It kind of follows an ebb-and-flow pattern, but saying “hi” to people when I arrive or when someone else arrives is pretty standard. (I sometimes won’t initiate a greeting if I’m buried in my work, but I’ll return one.)

            3. wittyrepartee*

              My desk is right by the door. I put in headphones specifically so I can’t hear all the greetings.

            4. Not Rebee*

              See, I’m of two minds on this. I don’t think it’s the end of the world if you don’t say hi to someone. Maybe you don’t hear them. Or maybe you’re so focused your brain does that thing where it registers you heard words like 5 minutes after the words were spoken. Or any number of other regular life scenarios that might happen. Generally, should you blatantly avoid responding? No, that’s pretty rude. But when you’re not doing that, there’s a ton of reasons why you might not say hello back, and you shouldn’t worry overly much about it. That said, people should also not be that worried when people do not say hi back to them, unless it is very clear that they are doing it to be rude. By which I mean that unless the person looks right at you and clearly snubs you, you should assume the best and go about your day. But unless there is obvious rudeness, it’s not worth getting bent out of shape about.

              If you really do need to be acknowledged like that in order to feel connected, and you aren’t getting it, I think the best solution I’ve found is a former coworker who would say a general hello to everyone and then, if maybe you didn’t hear or were on the phone or whatever and couldn’t say it back, she will find some way to give it another go later in the day in a scenario where it is likely to work better for all involved (over coffee in the kitchen, or as she cruises by your desk on the way to the bathroom, or whatever).

              1. Laura*

                I think this is the best way to handle this. No ugly confrontations or tension, which is much less likely to actually help the situation. And there will always be a good time or bad to say or do anything unless you have an emergency. I think people can become far too reliant of being validated by their coworkers. They shouldn’t be outright rude to each other, but if you’re looking to your coworkers to provide this much fulfillment to your emotional needs, you’re doing it wrong.

    2. zinzarin*

      I wonder if there could be a cultural element at play here. In a previous position, I worked for an international company and did some training in France. It was standard to greet every single person the first time you see them at work each day; always with at minimum a verbal greeting, but often a handshake as well. Breakrooms at breaktime were often an obstacle course as each new person coming in would walk to every person in the room to greet them individually. A general greeting to encompass the entire room was not good enough!

      I was told that this is true on public buses as well! (I never rode, so I never saw this in person to confirm.)

      1. wendelenn*

        Greeting everyone individually when you step onto a public bus? Really? (Unless it’s for the driver, who can easily say hi to all the new passengers as they step aboard.)

        1. zinzarin*

          As I said, I never took a bus while I was there, so I can’t confirm if that really true. After reviewing a couple of cultural custom websites, it seems the on the bus it can be a general verbal greeting to all who can hear you, but it is definitely done!

          1. Scarlet2*

            You basically say hello to the driver when you step in, that’s it. Unless maybe you live in a tiny village where everyone knows everyone else?
            But I’ve used public transport in several French cities and I’ve never seen anything like it.

            1. UKDancer*

              Likewise. When I get the bus in French cities I smile and say “Bonjour” to the driver and anyone else in the general vicinity. It’s the same as going into a shop in France where you say “Bonjour” to the shopkeeper.

              It’s not a precursor to any detailed conversation, it’s simply acknowledging them as an individual and recognising you’re in their territory. I tend to do it fairly automatically without conscious thought.

              Mind I also say hello to the bus driver in London, because I think it’s important to recognise that there’s a person there, not just some kind of driving automaton.

              1. UKDancer*

                By anyone else in the general vicinity, I mean anyone near the driver, I don’t go down the bus and greet them. I just make a general greeting.

      2. Artemesia*

        This is ridiculous. I have spent many months in France and ridden many a public bus and French people don’t greet strangers or even smile at them. There is a fine sense of privacy and the American habit of accosting total strangers with the details of their life is not their norm. They NEVER greet people on the bus — maybe the bus driver with a bonjour. Because ANY transaction must begin with a greeting.

        No idea about customs at work but I seem to recall when I lived in Germany that everyone in a group was greeted upon initial arrival at school or in the family.

        1. Scarlet2*

          Exactly. It’s up there with “French women never shave their armpits” and “French people are fine with cheating”. A myth.

      3. Scarlet2*

        Er, no, people don’t go around and greet every passenger on the bus in France. Someone has been messing with you.

      4. Not Rebee*

        I haven’t found this to be true in France in a public transit sense or in an office setting but definitely it’s true when you walk into a store or something and a member of staff greets you. They do not want a smile or nod in return, but an actual verbal greeting

    3. Sarah H*

      I think considering the LW thinks it’s ok to ignore people at work it’s probably reasonable to assume her definition of “confronting” might be different than it is to those of us who think her behavior is rude.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        This is where I fall too. What exactly does “confronting” mean? Is it being belligerent every single time LW doesn’t respond or was it one conversation of “hey, how come you don’t always say hi to me?”

        1. alldogsarepuppies*

          yeah, I don’t see “confronting” to be yelling in their face, but maybe saying “Hi” louder because they assumed they didn’t hear you or coming over later to say “you okay this morning. You seemed distracted in the breakroom and wanted to make sure you’re alright”. People are acting like saying hello as you pass someone in the hall is really rude. Its not. Like you spend 40 hours a week together, or more, lets treat each other like humans and not inconveniences that others exist. In my read OP is the much ruder one.

          1. Kathleen_A*

            I wondered about that, too. I really am trying to take the OP at his/her word here, but I’m just not at alllllll sure that her idea of “confronting” is the same as mine. “How dare you not say ‘hi’ back?”=confronting. “It’s incredibly rude that you don’t say ‘hi’ back!”=confronting. But saying, calmly and politely, “When I say ‘hi’ to you, you don’t always say it back.” =/= confronting (at least not necessarily).

          2. Clisby*

            Any of those responses – “saying “Hi” louder because they assumed they didn’t hear you or coming over later to say “you okay this morning. You seemed distracted in the breakroom and wanted to make sure you’re alright” would be appallingly rude.

    4. Holly*

      Allison, any chance we can have a new commenting rule barring comments that only consist of an analysis of whether the parties are introverts or extroverts? It a) is impossible to characterize someone like that from a letter, and often, incorrect definitions of what is or isn’t an introvert is used, b) it completely derails the conversation into whether others are introverts or extroverts, but most importantly, c) is completely irrelevant to advising the letter writer on how to handle a situation in the workplace since neither self proclaimed introverts or extroverts are exempt from workplace or social norms.

      I normally wouldn’t suggest banning content, but it always seems to overwhelm the conversation and ends up being quite irrelevant.

      1. voyager1*

        I am with you.
        Add gender
        And Race
        And Martial Status
        And Socioeconomic status

        I mean the list is endless. People just need to read the letters for what they are and not make them a essay on culture and society as a whole.

        1. Holly*

          I strongly disagree with you on the comparison. Gender, race, marital status, and socioeconomic status have real impacts on the advice given and the context of the situation. Whether someone is an introvert or extrovert is not the same, and is nearly always irrelevant to the advice to be given.

          1. voyager1*

            Sorry, I read too much into what you wrote. I read the introvert/extrovert part as being a description for the whole “being on the spectrum” that comes up a lot on here. Sorry about that.

      2. Fancy that*

        Alternatively, Holly could skip parts of a thread that don’t interest her, rather than taking those threads away from people who find them useful/relevant.

    5. JamieS*

      OP is being the ruder person simply by virtue of being the person who’s initiating the rudeness cycle in the first place. You’re basically saying the coworker is being ruder because their response to OP being rude wasn’t polite enough.

      Also, we don’t know what OP considers “confronting”. However, when someone views saying hi to coworkers daily as a hardship I tend to think their standard for being confronted is lower than most other people’s standard for being confronted.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The OP has explained the confrontation further down.

        It is rude to take a minor rudeness and start chastising someone for it. This is a standby of etiquette advisors, in fact.

        1. Ann*

          Usually I agree with you Alison but I think you’re off base here.

          Deliberately ignoring a coworker who says “hi” to you is extremely rude in most office settings. Being a pleasant person is the minimum required to do most jobs. Most people would find this behavior insulting and would probably be taken aback by it. Questioning rude behavior or having a response to it is not “ruder” (and the fact that OP didnt describe his behavior is also pretty telling).

          This reminds me of the line of thinking that people who respond negatively to racism are just as intolerant as the racist person. It’s BS. Expecting basic courtesy from your coworker and calling out rude behavior is not rude, and certainly not “ruder” than the original rude behavior.

    6. Heffalump*

      I’m in the same position as LW2’s coworker. I noticed a few months ago that a particular coworker consistently wasn’t saying hi back when we passed in the hall. It was clearly an intentional cut direct. We hadn’t been chummy, but we hadn’t had problems getting along either, and we haven’t had any openly negative interactions, so I don’t know what her deal is.

      I thought it over and decided that confronting her would create awkwardness going forward, so I no longer say hi to her. I take it philosophically, but she’s being rude.

  2. Ginger ale for all*

    We did the mandatory compliment thing in high school decades ago. That is when I learned that I had nice eyebrows. Not smart, not pretty, not funny, not anything but the eyebrows. Hmmph!

    1. Engineer Girl*

      Yes. This is the problem with mandatory compliments. You end up with faint praise, which can be demoralizing.
      For example, women may get compliments about their clothes instead of their work product.
      Compliments should focus on work.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        I agree with this. I truly believe the people who promote this kind of exercise mean well, and there’s something to be said for getting people to appreciate their colleagues for the work they do.

        However, it was quite obvious some of my fellow attendees really struggled with this exercise. ‘Jane reads a lot’ and ‘John is pretty quiet’ are observations, not compliments. But that’s the kind of thing we tended to hear.

        1. boo bot*

          Yeah, I can only see this working if maybe they’re given a specific set of questions to answer that they can pick from or something: What specific task does this person excel at? What was a time they helped you with a work project? In what way do they make the office a better place?

          Even then, you can get things like, “Jane’s good at reading,” or “John is quiet, and I like the office quiet,” or something, but passivity starts to sound a little meaner, and maybe that spurs people to action.

          At least it’s better than having to anonymously criticize your colleagues? (I think there was in fact a letter about that? Possibly they had to stand in two lines facing each other and say mean things like the first half of some terrible teen movie, set in a draconian girls’ finishing school?)

        2. Kendra*

          I wonder if it would be more useful to have everyone make a list of at least one or two good things about each of their coworkers, but then keep the lists for themselves, NOT give them to the person they’re about. Then, when you have that one week where Jane is reeeeeallly working your last nerve, you can look back and remind yourself of that time she single-handedly saved your team’s project, or was encouraging or helpful when you were new, or whatever. I know that kind of reminder has helped me avoid being the office jerk a time or two, at least.

          At the very least, you might get some of the intended positivity, without quite as much potential for insincerity or awkwardness.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Or really weird praise. For example, I was once described as “bubbly”. I’m definitely not bubbly as per, wwll, everyone I have ever told about me being called “bubbly”

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          We did compliment sheets at summer camp one year. I got “You’re so quirky!” To a teenager who just wants to fit in and feel like they belong, “quirky” is not the compliment other people think it is.

          1. many bells down*

            I was described as “infamous” in high school by someone I didn’t even know. It’s been almost 30 years and I still haven’t figured that one out.

        2. No Coffee No Workee*

          In college, I was on a retreat with other “peer mentors”. The anonymous feedback I received was “I was really funny…not ha-ha funny, but Pulp Fiction funny.”

          It’s…accurate, but I’m still not sure if that was meant to be a compliment or not.

    2. Competent Commenter*

      Oh gosh this brings back a very awkward memory of a team retreat insisted on by our insecure, micro-managing, time-wasting manager. At one point we had to go around the group and praise each other. Awkward for the brand new person but reeeaaaaallll awkward for the manager. Try as we might (and we really did try, we didn’t want to make her feel bad even if we didn’t like her management style) it was very difficult to come up with as many compliments for her as for our core group of team members. And you could tell. She’d really talked up this retreat, which we thought was, as was typical with her, poorly thought out yet overproduced for a team of six. But after the damning with faint praise session she was visibly deflated. She never mentioned it again despite her initial plans for follow ups. Ugh, painful for all concerned. On the plus side we didn’t do a retreat the next year though.

      1. Mrs. Smith*

        Gosh, I’m sorry. Mine might be the one workplace where this was delightful. I am aware I have terrific colleagues – I really do, they’re all wonderful and some of them are my rock-solid, take-care-of-my-kids-in-an-emergency friends. We did something similar to this and I loved being able to tell them how much I appreciated them, and I was complimented on things I didn’t even know I was doing that people found helpful. I saved my comments as a keepsake in a drawer and reread it if I need a little perking up. Maybe everyone else hated it, but it sure made me feel great. But, as I said – I have an unusually great bunch of colleagues, and I know that’s rare.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Yes, me too — this question made me pull out the sheet I have from when my team did a similar exercise of giving everyone anonymous compliments, and it is wonderful! Of course there are a couple of people I don’t work closely with, or who were new at the time, so there are a couple of “you seem nice” but for the most part, they are really meaningful to me.

          Also, for the introverts on the team (if not for everyone!) it was really pleasant to spend a chunk of our meeting just writing quietly.

        2. Blue*

          I think this can be a very lovely thing – if done reasonably and if it isn’t mandatory. I once worked in an office that did this annually, and the person coordinating included me even though no one knew me well enough to give anything close to a genuine compliment (I’d worked there less than a month and I was on a small team whose work didn’t directly interface with most of the office…) Those forced “compliments” were just so awkward and so disingenuous.

          1. Joielle*

            Yeah, I think the not mandatory aspect is crucial. I was sort of a camp counselor at a wilderness summer camp thing for college kids (it’s an unusual but very fun program) and one year we had a compliment table, where if someone felt so moved, they could go write a nice note about someone and leave it on the table. It could be anonymous or not. It wasn’t mandatory but everyone liked each other and did a good job making sure everyone had about the same number of notes. It was really nice and years later, I still have those notes in a box somewhere!

      2. Dr. Pepper*

        My grandmother once remarked bitterly that boys always got the nice eyelashes. I started paying attention after that and damned if she wasn’t right.

        1. Free Now (and forever)*

          Yup. It’s genetic and official. Most men have longer, thicker eyelashes than most women. Must be why we were mascara and most men don’t.

      3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        OMG, I think I worked for this person except the activity was for the whole team to come up with compliments for her.

      1. Mel*

        I hate those kind of “compliments” some friends complimented me that way in high school and while they insisted it was an endearing quality, I was super self conscious about it for the next 2 years.

      2. Anon for this, colleagues read here*

        Some years ago we submitted a “most likely to” for each person on staff, which would be revealed at a staff retreat/picnic (during work hours, yay!). It was fun the first year — I still have my certificate, everything on it is either nice or funny in a nice way, the overall feeling was “we really get you and we like you”. The second year, not so good — we’d used up most of the good responses the first year. The third year, fortunately, I was unable to attend the picnic, so I got my certificate in my office mailbox. Half of the responses were bland or not applicable, and the other half were mean. I ran it through the shredder. But I did remember what was on it, and then I got to wonder just which colleague had said which mean thing.

      1. CM*

        My kid’s first grade class did this as a birthday treat instead of having cupcakes, and it was adorable and heartwarming. Everyone would write or draw a picture of something they liked about the birthday child, and the teacher would staple them all into a little book for the birthday child to take home.

        At work? I can see it going well if you have a kind and sincere group of coworkers, but there are a lot of stories here of it going badly. Still, this makes me think of all the letters where people are encouraged to publicly air their grievances with each other — being forced to say something nice is way better!

      2. Anax*

        Honestly, it feels worse to me in a school environment!

        On a close-knit work team, there’s good reason to believe that every employee will interact in some way; on my current team of ten-ish, I could say something decent about everyone.

        At school… not so much. It’s really easy to have classmates you literally never talk to, even in a small class. Mine was a class of fifty, and I became painfully aware that only two or three kids really knew me as a person – I was a shy introvert at that age.

        This is only a good exercise if everyone really does know and like everyone else; otherwise, it backfires, because rather than being “seen” and appreciated, people are reminded that the other participants really know nothing about them. E.g., at my last workplace, where we worked mostly independently and quietly, it would have been awkward – I didn’t know most of my coworkers very well, because we didn’t talk or work on the same projects.

        1. Marmaduke*

          I worked at one school with grade school teachers, and every semester there is an “accolades party” where all employees eat treats and receive the complimentary messages other staff members have submitted about them throughout the term. They aren’t exactly mandatory, but there’s a strong culture that everyone will put in one for at least every member of their team and every support staff member they interact with, and most people put one in for every other employee. The “you seem nice” comments add up fast, but the genuine ones are huge—and everybody needs them, not just the extroverts! So a couple of my teacher friends have systems in their classroom where they do something like those birthday compliments, or a positive note pass, but they tell the kids a month or so ahead of time (with frequent reminders) to start looking for good things about their classmates. Not every kid takes it seriously, but many do, and all of that practice in looking for positives does a lot of good for their classroom environment.

          This exercise might be better for OP if they look at it as an opportunity to get to know the people they work with and identify their strengths.

    3. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

      I did that in high school too, as a member of Operation Snowball. It was called Bag of Good Feelings, and we did it during our annual overnight lock-in as well as our weekend retreat. We decorated our paper bags and wrote our names on them at the beginning, and throughout the event we could go to the table and write nice things to put in others’ bags. We would get our own bags at the end of the event to bring home. I remember at least some of the slips not being anonymous, but I don’t remember if we were required to sign our names or if it was optional. It was a great thing to do in high school, but I can’t see that working so well for adults in a workplace.

    4. Sorgatani*

      I remember having that exercise too.

      It’s a strong memory, but I don’t think in the way that teacher intended.
      At the time, I thought it was pointless.
      I couldn’t think of anything nice to say about my classmates, so I don’t remember actually writing anything.
      People later asked if I’d written certain things… which I said I had. I was lucky that my class had a lot of people in it.
      The most common things said about me were that I was quiet (people who probably didn’t know me), or that I had a good sense of humour (these people probably had met me)

      My friends laughed about the ‘quiet’ comments; they had trouble shutting me up.

      1. CheeryO*

        Yeah, we did this at a retreat in high school, and a lot of mine were along the lines of, “You may be quiet, but you are so sweet!” and they honestly just made me feel terrible about myself, since I was well aware that I was painfully shy. I think it would go better with a group of adults, but it still kind of gives me the shivers thinking about it.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I have strong and opposing memories of the exercise we had. We had to have a sheet of paper on our backs and go around to each person and take turns writing something to each other.

        On the positive side, most all of my compliments were that I was smart and/or pretty. Then there was this weird exchange with another girl in class:

        I didn’t know her very well, but I remembered that I had heard her singing with her friend group in P.E. and thought she had a nice voice, so I wrote that she was a good singer. Apparently that wasn’t something she identified with, and she accused me of just making something up that didn’t have anything to do with her. And she didn’t write anything for me, and she told the teacher and the whole entire classroom that there wasn’t a single thing that she could think of to say good about me.

    5. Suquet*

      Yeah, I’m a high school teacher and this exercise is one I’ve seen recommended in a lot of places. I’d never actually use it since it sounds hellish to me, but it definitely has that high school vibe.

      1. Reality.Bites*

        Am I missing something here? This strikes me as an astonishingly easy way to engage in really appalling bullying

        1. Former Teacher*

          The way I’ve seen it done in high school is that the teacher collects, reviews, and distributes the comments. Like anything it can go well or poorly, I’m sure, but I’ve seen it go well.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            My 8yo did this in class this year. All the children thought of things about each other, then the teacher compiled the best five about each child and they did a kind of display. Very affirming.

            It worked very well because:

            1. The teacher could top up with specific compliments for those children with fewer or empty comments.

            2. 8yos take this kind of thing at face value and don’t feel diminished by generic praise if it’s accurate. Also small achievements are big when you’re small (e.g. good at sharing snack) so there’s no “faint praise” issue.

            3. It was part of a more general well-being session where the whole point was to celebrate oneself and each other.

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              Also, it may help with impostor syndrome. I know I thought no one in elementary school liked me except for my 2 or 3 friends, as I was usually too shy to talk to anyone else at length, but when I was hospitalized the whole class signed a card. Even if our teacher made them do it, I was kind of stunned that everyone in the class would even bother to write their name, much less a “get well soon” wish to ME! And the class actually clapped and welcomed me back on my first day back (it wasn’t near-lethal, but it was serious)! That really was the first step in realigning my concept of how others perceived me to be more realistic. I still have issues with that, natch, but I think that that was a huge push in the right direction.

            2. Falling Diphthong*

              Yeah, I think I’ve seen a version of this work well in early elementary. Key is the complimentees were 7, not 47. As you say, an age where “good at sharing snack” can be a sincerely moving acknowledgement of a small gesture they didn’t realize people had noticed.

              1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                Yes – even high school is probably too late for this, but a workplace? Puuuuke.

              2. MtnLaurel*

                Especially because my snack-sharing skills have declined greatly in the past 40 years.

                1. Anax*

                  That’s probably for the best.

                  Dear five-year-old self: No matter how much you want to be fair, Mom was right, there’s no good way to share a lollipop.

                2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                  @Anax – my high school sports team frequently shared one lollipop between an entire bus on the way to training. It’s incredible none of us ever caught anything contagious.

            3. ADHDAnon*

              I was thinking the same thing – this is something kids do in elementary schools, not grownups. My kids have recently done this in 2nd & 3rd grades. I would absolutely hate this at work. And would probably try really hard not to be noticed as I didn’t participate.

          2. SheLooksFamiliar*

            Ha. One of my high school speech coaches did something like this way back in the 70s, and it turned into a roast. At our year end banquet, he presented our state and national awards, but also created ‘certificates of recognition’ for everyone on the team, whether or not they got other awards. He spent a couple of minutes describing the unique personality quirk, or event, or habit that ‘earned’ us the award. To be fair, he did give sincere compliments to each of us, but came across more like Don Rickles than a kindly coach. IIRC, the head of the Speech Arts department had a word with him.

            Yeah, good intentions can go sideways.

          3. Jadelyn*

            Even if the teacher is the one who collects and distributes the comments, teenagers (and teenage girls especially, in my experience) are masters of the backhanded compliment. I was bullied very badly as a kid and I can just imagine all the things my peers might’ve said that would’ve sounded like a compliment to the teacher, but I would’ve known they very much weren’t.

            1. many bells down*

              Right? I was told “you have eyebrows like Brooke Shields.” Objectively, a teacher might think that was a compliment. After all, Shields is a beautiful movie star.

              They would probably not realize that it was a taunt I was subjected to and was in no way intended to be complimentary.

        2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          This also happened at my school, and yes it was the sort of bullying the teacher wouldn’t pick up on. Regina George style, “Wow I LOVE your bracelet”…”that’s a fugly bracelet.”

    6. Foreign Octopus*

      I’m having flashbacks to my old workplace that was very dysfunctional.

      We would have a morning briefing every morning where we would just go around and say what we were working on that day (so could have been done in an email), but the owner/manager decided to start adding a morning “appreciation” session on the end of these briefings. We all had to say thank you to a colleague who has helped us the previous day. Our jobs were very individually-focused so there wasn’t a lot of overlap. I remember once thanking someone for their nice parking job because it made it easier for me to swing my car into a spot.

      It was ridiculous but it was still going six months later when I left. I don’t know if it continued after that because I did flag it in my exit interview as something that made me realise the workplace wasn’t for me.

    7. Gotchagonch*

      Well at least you didn’t get “image feedback” where one man told me I have weird eyebrows.

    8. sunshyne84*

      We did this as well. I’m quiet, quiet, quiet, quiet and have a nice complexion thanks to my dermatologist.

          1. Elitist Semicolon*

            This is like that old What the Duck cartoon where someone says to the photographer duck, “Your camera takes such nice pictures!” and the duck responds, “your mouth makes such good compliments.”

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      The late, great Molly Ivins had a story of getting beauty treatments of some form (before a TV interview?), and the aesthetician studied her, and just as Molly thought she was going to say “Nope, first no hoper” she said “You have a fabulous space between your brows.”

      That has stuck with me as an example of you can, so, say something nice.

    10. Booksalot*

      I had to do this too…one particular “compliment” is permanently etched into my brain because it sounded like what a serial killer would say to someone he had in a cage.

        1. Booksalot*

          “Booksalot is beautifully haunted, like a wild creature kept in chains.”

          This took place in an honors literature class, so I choose to believe it was failed poetry rather than an attempt to harvest my skin.

          1. CM*

            Aahhh! Run away!

            I think the examples people gave above where this worked well are when they are curated — you don’t see the unfiltered answers from every person, just the highlights.

          2. it's-a-me*

            I think ‘Give a compliment to a coworker as if you were a serial killer’ would actually be much more fun than the real thing.

    11. Dr. Pepper*

      Interesting. We did this in kindergarten. Except we couldn’t really write so we went around the circle and everyone had to say something nice about the person sitting in the middle. I didn’t enjoy the exercise then and wouldn’t have enjoyed it in high school and certainly would not enjoy it at work. Forced compliments were awkward at age 5, why do people think this improves with time?

    12. Dr. Pepper*

      Honestly I’d appreciate a compliment like that NOW, but in high school I would have been highly annoyed.

    13. Anax*

      Yep, we did it in middle school. I was “smart” and “nice”; nothing about me as a person, which was also pretty demoralizing.

    14. JediSquirrel*

      This why the praise sandwich often goes so terribly wrong:

      “Your hair looks nice. You suck at your job. I like your shoes–are they new?”

    15. Tom & Johnny*

      Yeah this is totally a spa retreat thing. I’ve seen this at like, women’s support and consciousness raising retreats. And it made me cringe then. I can picture it being used at arts or theater retreats.

      But beyond such environments, it’s really not appropriate.

      It’s far too feel-good and huggy-huggy for the workplace, in my opinion. It’s extremely eye rolly in a workplace context.

    16. Cactus*

      We did it in high school too–there were a bunch of people who I didn’t know well so I just wrote that they all were “nice with a good sense of humor.” Except one dude who I knew played the trombone; for him I wrote “you are an excellent trombone player with a good sense of humor.”

  3. The Autistic Librarian*

    Re #2, one of my coworkers once got a verbal warning from our supervisor for not responding to a ‘good morning’ comment. My takeaway is that people are weird about daily greetings. Unfortunately, that might just be how it is, for the sake of keeping the peace.

    1. gsa*

      My guess is LW#2 is an introvert and the coworker is an extrovert.

      IMO, introverts can can adapt, extroverts, not too much…

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        MY guess is that OP is a woman and this guy is trying to make her “smile” on command.

        1. Miso*

          I’m an introvert and a woman, and I’d find it extremely rude if people didn’t say hi back to me.
          I wouldn’t make a thing out of it, and obviously it can happen that you just don’t hear it (especially when you’re wearing headphones), but just because “you don’t feel like chatting”?
          Wow. Rude.

          I always find it funny that in my country, Americans are stereotyped to be so overly fake friendly all the time and then at the same time in the comments here I read about how greeting people in the morning is too much to ask… Which is basic decency to me.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            But it’s not rude to essentially demand attention/interaction multiple times a day?

            1. Miso*

              When that interaction consists of saying hi or waving or some other quick greeting like that? No.
              And trust me, you will be judged and talked about as the person who never greets if you don’t.

              1. Blue Eagle*

                The issue isn’t that one person always says hi! to you. It’s that you work in an office with 60 people and each person wants to say hi! to you and have you respond. So your comment (sorry if this is nested incorrectly) that it’s only a quick second to respond doesn’t get it if there are 60 people – all of whom expect you to respond to them.
                In my office when I walk in, I say hi! to anyone who is looking into the hallway when I walk by, but do not address people who are obviously in the middle of work or who are farther down the hallway than my cube. Also, if someone chooses not to respond, I don’t take personal offense – hey people, from the other person’s perspective it’s not all about you, it’s about them. So calm down about not getting a response.

            2. EventPlannerGal*

              I just don’t see “hi” as demanding attention. Making a huge thing about it as this coworker is doing, yeah, absolutely that’s rude. But saying “hi” is pretty much the most basic human interaction possible while still being verbal. You don’t even have to respond to it in words – half my coworkers will just smile or nod or grunt to acknowledge receipt of the “hi”. To me, not even doing that is kind of rude.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                Yeah. “Hi” takes literally a second. Done once/day, it’s five seconds out of your week. Even introverts can hack that.

                He’s out of line to complain; she’s out of line to view a one-second nod-and-‘hi’ as an imposition of forced chatting.

                1. Works in IT*

                  Depends on how focused on something else she is. Sometimes I will be in the zone working on something an not notice when someone walked in to ask me a question until they skype me and the skype popup catches my attention. I would not be happy if I was in the middle of figuring out why something complicated isn’t working, and a coworker interrupted me because i didn’t notice them say hi.

                2. LSC*

                  I haven’t seen anyone argue that OP is being rude if she doesn’t notice the greeting due to wearing headphones/being focused, but that it is rude not to respond when she has heard it and just doesn’t feel like saying “hi” back.

                  In any case, coworker is being even ruder by making a big deal out of it, just like anyone who corrects someone else on an etiquette faux-pas is usually commiting a bigger mistake than the original one.

              2. SheLooksFamiliar*

                I try to be polite and return all greetings in like manner, but sometimes an acknowledgement is all that’s needed. If I’m wearing headphones or am in the middle of something, I’ll just nod in that person’s direction. You know, just to say ‘Heard ya, right back at ya!’ Or words to that effect.

                You work with all kinds of people at your company so, ipso facto whatevero, you’re on the same team. Part of being on a team means showing appropriate behaviors to each other. You know, doing nice things for the right reasons. Exchanging greetings is just a polite thing to do.

              3. Librarian of SHIELD*

                You don’t even have to verbalize to respond to someone’s hello. A nod, a wave, just some sort of “I acknowledge your existence, fellow human” is all it takes.

            3. Seeking Second Childhood*

              People may start speculating if you’re OP2… the letter speaks only about the morning ritual, and as of 550am EST I see no update from anyone with the word “multiple” in it.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                I recall other letters where it was multiple–every time people went to the printer or copier, or going around the office until you had tracked Felicia down in the supply closet to say “Bye Felicia.” Which I think is where some people’s shoulders go straight over their ears. But the version in this letter really is the mild social lubricant one where you exchange ritual greetings with those you encounter according to local norms. (Or it was, until he got weirdly confrontational about it.)

                1. Future Homesteader*

                  Thank you for working an unexpected “Bye Felicia” into your comment. I appreciate the morning giggle.

              2. BelleMorte*

                I think people (including me) are getting “multiple” because she cites multiple kinds of interactions i.e. Morning hi, passing him in the hallway hi, breakroom hi, wearing headphones listening to podcasts at my desk hi. This could easily be interpreted to multiple times a day, or it could just be one-off, but I think it’s likely multiple. I see my co-workers multiple times a day in all of these situations above, for example.

                1. Observer*

                  It doesn’t really matter. Refusing to respond to a basic greeting is rude.

                  Also, the OP explicitly complains about this happening “EVERY day.” That, by itself is a bit bonkers to me. I mean most of us have at least one person in their lives out of work that they see “EVERY day” (and actually in most cases it actually IS every day, because it’s 7 days a week). Could you imagine saying “I don’t understand why my SO / parent / Child / Roommate wants to actually say hello EVERY day?!”

            4. Myrin*

              I don’t think it’s multiple times a day – maybe I’m misreading something? As far as I can see, it’s just once in the morning when they both arrive at about the same time and see each other for the first time.
              If the situation were of the “multiple times a day” variety, I’d be with you because that is just annoying as all hell as well as unusual and awkward (and didn’t we have a letter about this here only two weeks or so ago?), but greeting someone the first time you see them – even if you see them every day – seems both very socially conventional and like basic decency to me.

              1. Clorinda*

                Even if it’s multiple, it takes literally no time to say hi or wave or nod as you pass someone in the hall. Maybe it depends on the workplace culture? My fellow teachers would consider me incredibly rude if I refused to acknowledge such casual greetings in the course of the day.

            5. Aquawoman*

              The letter does not say multiple times a day, it says first thing in the morning. It’s not rude to say “good morning” to someone every day. (I would also say if you pass someone occasionally in the hall a couple times a day, it’s not rude to say “hi.” I can see it get tiresome north of five or so). I think the coworker is extreme to not forgive the occasional earbuds-lost in thought lapse and it does smack a little of demanding a performance to get in her face about it, but I don’t think she’s totally in the right here either.

          2. Anne Elliot*

            Agreed. Alison did the LW a favor by assuming the issue is that the greeting isn’t heard, and her scripts are based on that. But the LW also says “sometimes I don’t feel like chatting” which indicates at least some of the the time the refusal to return the greeting is intentional. That IMO is super rude — low stakes but super rude. I would not make a deal about it and agree the coworker is out of line to do so. But not to mince words, I would stop greeting my disregarding coworker altogether and would privately consider that person to be an a-hole. Not insulting the LW, just underscoring how very rude it is IMO to refuse to engage in this brief daily social dance. My answer also assumes the greeting is courteous and not ostentatious or intentionally annoying, and that the exchange only occurs once or twice a day (good morning/ good night). We can hypothesize ways the basic exchange becomes more than that, or worse than that, but if it is just the basic exchange, to refuse to participate when it is literally three seconds out of your life, is rude as hell.

            1. EPLawyer*

              I’m not a morning person, but I still get that a polite good morning is one of those little social rituals that make society run a little smoother. Even if you don’t feel like it, just say Hi. Done and over.

              However, making a big deal out it is not something that makes society run a little smoother. You can THINK the person not responding is rude. But you don’t confront them about it. Because that is even ruder.

              1. Anne Elliot*

                Agreed! It’s just what I’m going to think in my tiny black heart. But it’s worth pointing out that even if nothing is said – and most people, like me, would not dream of saying anything – this kind of thing can definitely have repercussions in what people think and how they in turn act.

                1. Slartibartfast*

                  In my current workplace, it’s corporate policy for all employees to greet one another upon arrival, and you’re made aware of the policy and WHY it’s in place during onboarding. See, this place was so known for poor attitude and performance that when the parking sticker was redesigned, employees asked to not include the name of the place so as to not have their cars vandalized around town. And at the time I thought this was kinda hokey and over the top, but whatevs it’s pretty easy to just comply and move on with the day. But you know what? The awkward enforced feeling didn’t last long and it really does start the day off on a good note and foster good will toward the random assortment of humans I share a building with for 40 hours per week. Small doses of either pleasantness or hostility DO build up over time and color the perceptions of our interactions. I guess the TL/DR is, just suck it up and say hi because the social lubricant really does help the wheels turn easier.

                2. Slartibartfast*

                  Also forgot to add that whether directly because of the policy itself or just because of the quality of the leadership provided by the CEO that started it, this place is now one of the best around.

              2. The Other Dawn*

                I agree. I don’t get why people such a big deal over saying hello to someone. I can see if it’s like that previous letter where the person was forcing small talk on someone multiple times per day, but once a day is not a big deal. And it’s not an introvert vs. extrovert type of thing. One can be an introvert and still manage to be a little social so as not to be the office asshole. Likewise, an extrovert is able to limit themselves to a quick hello–I’ve witnessed it!

                1. The Other Dawn*

                  Oops, forgot to add that the coworker in this particular letter is being weird by confronting the OP over not saying hi once in awhile. If she didn’t hear him, it wasn’t intentional. Although it sounds like sometimes it is, as OP mentions that sometimes they don’t feel like chatting.

                2. Rusty Shackelford*

                  Yeah, to me these two posts are completely different. I do not want to start a conversation with the person between my office and the bathroom multiple times a day. But saying “hi” to someone the first time you see them is a pretty basic human interaction.

                3. Tacet*

                  Maybe it’s because it’s one of those goofy social niceties that people feel forced into giving, that many don’t even care about anyway, detail-wise (i.e. “how are you?”) Nobody wants to feel forced into doing something. Sometimes, the more you’re forced, the more you resist. And yes, the far sides can argue “what’s the big deal?”

                  It IS a big deal to those who feel that it is. And denying someone their feelings about it is as rude as you think they’re being. (as well as the “judging” that someone else mentioned earlier that occurs – nice tolerance there )

                  Empty talk for the sake of optics makes a lot of people unhappy. Why not just learn from it and move on instead of trying to force everyone to conform? Talk to those who are known as the talkers — and leave the ones who aren’t…alone.

              3. sunshyne84*

                Yea if I didn’t hear someone respond or got ignored I would just……stop speaking to them. Idk why that’s so hard for some people that they want to force you to acknowledge them. If they actually worked together then I could see how it would be upsetting, but geez.

              4. emmelemm*

                Same. I am definitely an introvert, and definitely not a morning person, but I can still say Hi to people when I see them for the first time every day. Makes everyone’s life easier.

            2. F+1*

              Aaaalll of this. When I read the “don’t feel like chatting” I was really taken aback. Your coworker isn’t expecting a song and dance routine; even a quick head nod is better than straight up ignoring. I had a boss that once said “god, even a pig would grunt at you” when taking about a client who thought they were too busy to acknowledge others’ presence. I wouldn’t bother greeting that coworker again after a couple no-replies, and absolutely privately think they were rude as hell.

              1. Librarian of SHIELD*

                Yeah, the “don’t feel like chatting” line stuck out to me as well. I have to do a whole lot of things during the course of the average work day that I really don’t feel like doing. And saying “hi” to people first think in the morning when I’m sleepy and not in the mood to talk is one of the most low stakes “I don’t feel like it but they’re giving me money to be here so I’ll do it anyway” tasks on my plate.

                I really do feel like basic attempts to be on friendly terms with your coworkers is one of those “other duties as assigned” functions in just about every job. That doesn’t mean you have to listen to them tell 17 stories about funny things their cat did last night when you’ve got work to do, but it does mean if somebody says hi to you and you don’t feel like saying it back, you do it anyway because you’re an adult and a significant portion of adulthood is sucking it up and doing stuff you don’t want to do.

              2. Observer*

                That gave me a good laugh. But it’s so apt.

                This whole thing feels a bit like kindergarten, to be honest.

            3. Joielle*

              Agreed! The LW is being super rude. You can’t employ the cut direct just because you don’t feel like chatting. Just say hi, it takes literally one second.

            4. Sam.*

              I very much sympathize with OP, because I rarely want to interact with people in the mornings and have often wished I could teleport directly into my office so I could avoid this situation entirely. In a dream world, I’d work in an office full of OPs, where everyone understands that not saying hi is just a sign that you hate mornings and aren’t a super sociable person, NOT that you’re a jerk or that you dislike anyone, and we can happily and mutually ignore each other in peace until 9:30 or so.

              But. I’m unlikely to find an office like that, and there are enough social expectations around this kind of thing that it’s generally worth sucking it up and saying hi, or at least smiling/waving. If you don’t, there WILL be ramifications on the way you’re perceived, and that’s just the reality of it.

              1. Quickbeam*

                Like you I have had to learn the minimal accepted social graces. I come in early to avoid a lot of the chat and leave by a side door to avoid the “goodbye!” chain. But I always smile and am cheerful when greeting people in the hall, at the printer or the front desk. It saves me a performance review issue.

            5. Iconic Bloomingdale*

              Thank you! I am not particularly social or chatty in the mornings. But to purposely ignore or fail to respond to a colleague’s basic “good morning” or “hi” is just flat out rude.

              If I were the affronted coworker, I wouldn’t confront the LW each time; going forward, I would ignore the LW. That makes life easier for both of us.

          3. Mel*

            Yeah, I hate talking to most people, but if I say hello and you ignore me nust because you wanna… rude.

            I wouldn’t call someone out on it though, I would just have a negative feeling about them.

          4. Goose Lavel*

            I an introvert like you Miso and I also thinks it’s rude when a simple morning greeting is met with a blank look and silence.
            I usually give up my morning greeting after 3 or 4 days after getting no response and put that person on my ignore list.

          5. Elemeno P.*

            I also would find it rude if people just straight-up ignored a hello and they weren’t otherwise occupied. My office is pretty friendly and everyone says hi, but there’s also common sense and people won’t bother you (even with a hello) if you’re on the phone/wearing headphones/staring intently at your computer. The rest of the time, though…it’s just saying hi!

          6. Holly*

            The commenters on this website err towards anti-social. It shouldn’t be taken to be indicative of an entire country culture.

          1. CM*

            I’m not sure which comment you’re referring to as fanfiction, but I do think there are a lot of possible scenarios here. Like, if you see someone for the first time that day, and you’re just walking down the hall looking at each other, and you don’t respond to their “hi” that’s rude; but if it’s the tenth time you’ve seen them, and you’re mentally prepping for a meeting while walking down the hall, and they say “hi” and you nod but don’t verbally respond, IMO that’s not rude. I think we should give the OP the benefit of the doubt that they are behaving like a normal human being here.

            1. Observer*

              Except that the OP explicitly says otherwise. It’s a MORNING greeting and they are sometimes not responding because they “just don’t feel like” answering. They don’t think they should have to because it’s “EVERY day” (The OP capitalized this.)

        2. AW*

          How is you guessing helpful? Way to go inserting gender into a letter that doesn’t mention it at all.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        Why can’t extroverts adapt? Why is the onus always on introverts to accommodate extroverts? Why is it never, ever the other way around?

        1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          For real. I don’t see why an extrovert should be incapable of learning that not everyone approaches the world the same way they do and should not be expected to adapt.

          1. CheeryO*

            Saying hi or good morning is literally just acknowledging someone’s presence, and it’s definitely rude to not respond if someone greets you. You cannot use introversion as an excuse to not perform basic social rituals. I am super introverted and need a lot of recharging time after work, but that’s my problem, not my coworkers’.

        2. Former call centre worker*

          I’m quite introverted and I think it’s very rude not to respond. Also just because one person likes to say hello and another doesn’t doesn’t mean the first is an extrovert and the second an introvert. Imagine if the other guy is actually an introvert and is making a real effort to be friendly to his colleagues and LW just ignores him sometimes – how would that feel for him?

        3. PantsOnFire*

          I don’t think this is a matter of introverts vs. extroverts. As I understand it, being an introvert means that social interaction is draining rather than energizing. BUT, if greeting a coworker once in the morning is enough to completely drain you, that might not be introversion. That’s probably depression/anxiety/whatever. Speaking from personal experience.

          Plus, I don’t see how an office would accomodate introverts to that level. Kinda hard to have a group of people work towards a common goal if everyone’s too scared to talk to each other.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Yeah, introverts find social interaction draining and being alone recharging, and extroverts the other way around. It’s a social energy pattern: not a pass to never say hi to your colleagues, or to never attend your SO’s professional or family events. Those things are perfectly doable for introverts, just tiring and so we build in time to decompress by ourselves with a book afterward.

            (I think “introversion” gets waved around as a socially understood fig leaf, over things that would more accurately be described as “extreme social anxiety” or “general misanthropy.”)

            1. Elise*

              +1,000 – I’m an introvert, and I cringe at the memes about “how to care for your introvert.” If saying the word, “Hi,” once per day is something you can’t do, then that’s not introversion. The coworker is being extra about it for sure, but if it was me on the other end, I would just mentally classify OP as unfriendly and stop saying hello. That’s probably what OP wants, but your professional reputation is not served by alienating people who are simply greeting you politely.

              1. BenAdminGeek*

                Agree! I’m an introvert, but I can also be a bubbly, charming person at work. It just tires me out and then I go curl up on the couch after work and read until my cat barfs and I have to clean it up.

                1. Amethystmoon*

                  Yes, exactly. I’m an introvert and not exactly chatty, but if someone says good morning to me at work and I hear them, I smile and nod.

              2. Ewpp*

                ‘Stop saying hello’ isn’t professional either though. And I agree with most of what you’ve said, but I think an ‘introverts’ feelings on the matter might be impacted by how they might have been called out for their actions prev. Not to say how for example the op would respond to the co worker, but in a general commenting way such as this.

                1. Elise*

                  Well, I wouldn’t shun them and pretend they weren’t there, but if they were obviously choosing not to respond to my verbal hello, I’d just nod in passing and move on with my life. It’s an interesting assertion that not saying hello to someone who doesn’t like saying hello is somehow unprofessional.

            2. Batman*

              I 100% agree with this. I lean introvert, but I’ve also struggled with social anxiety for most of my life and to me they’re different things.
              Also, sometimes i’m just tired and crabby and don’t feel like talking to people, but that’s unrelated to introversion, it’s usually that I didn’t get enough sleep or I’m depressed or burned out or something.

        4. Anne Elliot*

          This is commonly the response for social constructs that people object to for whatever reason. Why is the onus on me to conform to meaningless expectations and not on the other party to realize the construct is meaningless and adjust their expectations accordingly? The answer is that these sorts of minor daily interactions and courtesies are the currency by which our society reinforces cooperation and good will, and they are widely expected. Saying “Good morning” says “I see you and I acknowledge you.” Nobody HAS to do it, the rest of us can’t make you do it. But for a LOT of people, it is definitely noticed and disapproved if you don’t. The introvert/extrovert thing is a red herring. Introverts manage daily to be courteous and offer these expected greetings with no problem, it’s not some agonizing daily gauntlet.

          1. DinoGirl*

            Agree, it struck me as a bit odd OP finds his behavior rude but not ignoring a greeting on her part…
            That said, I had a coworker email me strangely once after an encounter in the bathroom to ask why I had not responded when she said hello and demanding explanation. I had, indeed, said hello, so I explained that I apologized she hadn’t heard me (perhaps because of all the background noise of flushing, hand dryer etc) but that I had, indeed, replied and am a soft-talker, nothing more.
            Given this was a one-off, I found the email odd even if I hadn’t really replied. Once in awhile just give someone a pass. There’s so much angst at work sometimes.

        5. 1.0*

          I’m a software developer and an introvert. all devs want to hide in caves and not talk and I’m worst than most. I sometimes book breakout rooms so I can hide from my coworkers.

          it is BONKERS rude to walk past someone saying “hi” and just blank them completely. you don’t even need to talk! you can smile and wave, or do the bro nod, or something, but just completely sailing past like you’re a Victorian matron shaming someone in public? yeesh, no

          1. BenAdminGeek*

            “a Victorian matron shaming someone in public” is the perfect comparison here! I love it.

          2. Clorinda*

            It’s ‘the cut direct’ and is reserved to punish the most serious social sins. Doing it to someone at random? Not cool.

          3. Public Sector Manager*

            “A Victorian Matron Shaming Someone In Public” needs to be your new screen name! It’s the most awesome thing I’ve read on a Friday!

          4. Pommette!*


            I’m a very shy introvert. I’ll go out of my way to avoid running into people. I’m also easily distracted, and have bad hearing. All of which is to say that I can avoid and accidentally ignore people with the best of them. But when I see one say hi, I say hi back.

            Not acknowledging someone when you see them say hi to you is beyond rude: it’s just plain mean. You’re basically sending the message that they aren’t worthy of two seconds of your time. It’s what middle-school bullies to to the kids they are excluding. It’s what snobs do to people they consider their social inferiors. It’s what Victorian matrons publicly shaming the fallen and otherwise unworthy do (I love that comparison).

            You don’t have to have a conversation with this coworker if you don’t want to! But you really shouldn’t purposefully ignore someone just because you’re not in the mood to chat.

        6. Iconic Bloomingdale*

          Introversion does not excuse rudeness. Responding to a basic morning greeting does not require any special or extra effort to socialize, network, chat or mingle. It seems to me that some folks use the “I’m an introvert” card to behave in an anti-social manner.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Yep. As an introvert, I swear it does not mean “I can’t, and shouldn’t be expected to, talk to people.” It *does* mean “if I do a lot of it, I’m gonna need some time to myself later.”

        7. Strawberry Milk Tea*

          I don’t think it’s an extrovert vs introvert issue. But I’m in the camp that maybe people should adjust a bit or just keep it moving if they don’t get the greeting they want. Who would want to greet or even interact with someone who harasses you for a Hello. I’d be hiding from them instead of trying to pass any greeting.

        8. Observer*

          Extroverts should definitely adapt as much as introverts. But this has nothing to do with that – this is about basic politeness.

      3. Introverts United*

        Extroverts can adapt perfectly well, they’re just not expected to by society.

        I disagree that this is an introvert/extrovert thing, though.

        1. Aquawoman*

          This is true for most extroverts, but there are some who are incapable of understanding that not everyone is the way they are. My grandboss wants everyone to work with their door open, and I don’t think it’s a trust thing, it’s that she perceives it as unfriendly to have your door closed. I also know people at church who are convinced that eye contact, a firm handshake and a conversation (in the noisy coffee hour after service) are the only ways to be welcoming to new people.

        2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          This is the point I was agreeing with above. I don’t think this particular situation is really much of an extro/intro thing. But the more introverted among us are much more frequently implored to change our ways and preferences to be more extroverted, whether that’s from family members who think we’re ignoring them if we want to spend a little time alone to colleagues who get huffy if we don’t want to go to the company picnic because we need a day off. It’s seen as weird to like to spend time by yourself but it’s normal to want to be constantly surrounded by people.

          In this case I think the OP is overreacting in not wanting to say “hi” all the time, but on the other hand if this coworker has been harranguing them about not responding if they didn’t hear or notice a greeting then I can see how this would lead to being completely fed up with the coworker.

      4. PB*

        Maybe? But this is just saying “hi.” It’s not having a conversation. I’m as introverted as they come, and don’t find responding to a greeting a hardship.

      5. Mel*

        I think you’re right because of the confrontation portion of that, but an introvert might actually be having a stronger reaction internally. We tend to over analyze interactions.

        1. Sunny-dee*

          Honestly, we don’t know what “confrontarion” means because the OP seems a bit …. exaggerated in her perceptions? He could have asked one day when she obviously blew him off whether she was upset or had a problem with him (which isn’t exactly unreasonable given someone being unnecessarily rude).

      6. Julia*

        Come on. Saying “hi” to a co-worker is extremely normal and has nothing to do with introversion or extraversion, terms that are being used far too much these days.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes. Most introverts are perfectly capable of returning a “hi.” (As an introvert myself, it’s dismaying to hear introversion used as an excuse for rudeness, which is happening here.)

        2. neeko*

          Seriously! Introverts aren’t people that melt into a puddle of goo and tears when people try to talk to us. Jeez. I’m an introvert. And shy. I’m perfectly capable of saying hi and having conversations in the workplace. I just need alone time to recharge after social settings. People can be shy and extroverted. Introverted and outgoing.

        3. fhqwhgads*

          True but I think there’s multiple layers of stuff going on in the letter. Coworker says hi when OP is wearing headphones…coworker took the risk of not being heard and has no reasonable beef. Coworker says hi when OP is visibly focusing on something at desk – again, totally possible and reasonable OP didn’t notice/wasn’t listening. Where it gets dicier is when OP sometimes definitely hears and has no logical reason to not have noticed and chooses not to acknowledge with either a nod or a hi back. It’s possible the coworker noticed and took umbrage with those occasions and thus has increased their “hi”ing in circumstances when it probably makes no sense to do so to prove some sort of point or hammer home the “you don’t say hi back”. Or maybe they always did it in the various scenarios described. Who knows. What we do know is OP definitely violates the social contract sometimes (choosing not to return a heard and unobstructed hi) and coworker volates the social contract sometimes (confronting OP about her lack of response – especially on occasions when it’s reasonable to surmise she didn’t even notice or hear, such as the headphones sitch).
          So they’re kind of in a circle or jerkish behavior at each other bth being partially reasonable and partially unreasonable and trying to use the reasonable occasions to justify the unreasonable ones.

          These two personalities will never gel.

      7. Another Manic Monday*

        Why not the other way around? Why should introverts have to adapt to the need of the extroverts and why can’t extroverts adapt to the need of the introverts?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Because we live in a society with social rituals and where not acknowledging another person’s presence is rude (assuming you actually hear them).

        2. JamieS*

          This has nothing to do with being an introvert or extrovert. An introvert is essentially someone who gets pleasure out of solitary activities more than an extrovert does and yes I know I’m simplifying. An introvert isn’t someone who can’t stand to ever be around others or who considers it a hardship to acknowledge others.

          Most people, regardless of whether they’re an introvert or extrovert, expect to be acknowledged when greeting someone and consider it rude to be purposely ignored.

          1. Julia*

            This. If greeting someone is a huge hardship, that’s not introversion, that’s something else. If it’s really that hard for someone to acknowledge fellow humans, they should find a job where they have to.
            I’m an extrovert (I think) and I hate having to greet people who have previously been horrible to me (my boss requires me to be nice to someone who harassed me before), but I still do it.

      8. Thatlady*

        I don’t think it makes sense to just say “oh this person is an introvert and therefore doesn’t want to say hi” because that’s not really very accurate of introverts.

      9. Holly*

        Introvert does not mean antisocial or exempt from workplace norms, and extrovert does not mean blind to social norms and entitled to coddling. I think these generalities hurt the analysis and advice the letter writer receives.

      10. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        What LW#2 is doing, sometimes (ignoring a hello when she’s not in the mood) is rude. Casting this as an intro/extrovert battle is not apt, especially because there are plenty of extroverts who adapt their behavior. This is about politesse, and in this specific context, manners have nothing to do with introversion or extroversion.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Just smile & wave. It’s just the returned acknowledgement that I’m not being ignored. Anyone who’should dealt with the silent treatment gets really aware of this.

    3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I can well believe this.

      I had issues with colleagues thinking I was rude for not responding to greetings and jokes in a busy open plan office. They didn’t tell me that’s why they were weird with me, though, just simmered.

      Then I had my hearing loss / disorder diagnosis confirmed and let everyone know. Suddenly they were all happy with me again, knowing that I had to SEE a greeting to HEAR it, so if it was offered in passing or from behind then there was a very good chance I had had no idea.

      I did make a point of greeting the greeting-lovers on my way through so they would know I didn’t actually hate them. That’s a tactic that might work for the LW.

      1. Anonymoose*

        I can’t see well. As a result, my ability to respond to greetings is hindered because I very rarely know who is passing by me. If it’s someone that I know well (so I can identify them from their body type and walking style) then I will say hello, and if it’s a colleague at their desk then I will do a little wave or nod (so if they are in deep thought then I won’t be interrupting them), but I know within the visually disabled community that it’s a thing where we find it hard to navigate the social greetings, especially in a crowd or if someone isn’t in their usual spot. In order to cope I usually walk with my eyes down on the ground, in part to see if there is something unexpected in my way (that I couldn’t see at a distance) but mostly to avoid navigating the social awkwardness of not knowing if someone is a good colleague that I should greet with a ‘Hi’ in the morning. This doesn’t really resolve the problem as I don’t say hello to anyone unless they call out my name, but at least there is general recognition that I do this to everyone so no one takes it personally (although they likely don’t recognize the reason for it, and maybe think that I’m lost in thought, but at least they don’t seem to view it as intentional).

        1. Anonymoose*

          I should add:
          I usually greet my colleagues appropriately in situations where I know who they are, so despite the fact that they likely don’t recognize that my greeting quirks in hallways and crowds are related to my lack of vision (experience shows that most people seem unable to make that connection), they seem fine with my greetings being situational.

          When I am walking and paying attention to my surroundings I often nod to everyone approaching me as a way of trying to balance the problem, as it is hopefully interpreted as a greeting by someone who knows me, and as a random head-bob (or friendly acknowledgement by a stranger) by someone who doesn’t.

          1. Observer*

            I can imagine that people don’t make the connection. It would never have occurred to me that someone with a vision problem might have a problem with greeting, although now that you have explained it, it makes a lot of sense.

            I thank you for having taught me something really important today.

            1. Anonymoose*

              Thanks for the positive response! I know a lot of visually impaired people complain about how it can be weirdly socially isolating in crowds (conferences are THE WORST) so having at least one person learn from this is great.

    4. Quinalla*

      I think it is weird to not respond to a Hi with a Hi or wave or morning. I also think it is weird to say Hi to someone with headphones on, but maybe he isn’t seeing them? I definitely understand not feeling like talking, but not doing a quick response or wave is not asking for a conversation. I agree that he is being way weirder in being confrontational about not responding, I would go with Alison’s script, tell him you didn’t hear him because of headphones/concentrating/etc. And if you want to discourage his behavior, always have your headphones on when you get in.

      1. Anonymosity*

        But OP2 isn’t writing in about the “hi”, which she mostly responds to in a normal fashion when she hears it (like she probably exchanges greetings with everyone else in the office without a second thought on either side, even if it doesn’t go perfectly to script); she’s asking how to deal with the *confrontation* that comes after if she doesn’t respond to coworker’s satisfaction.

        1. Sunny-dee*

          Yeah but the “confrontation” (which she doesn’t define at all) is probably because of her intentionally not saying hi when she just doesn’t feel like it – which she says she does.

        2. Elise*

          I agree that the confrontation is a problem, but it sounds like OP opts not to say hi sometimes just because she doesn’t want to. Should the coworker be making something of it, absolutely not. But that is pretty rude if it’s obvious they heard and opted not to respond. I’m often lost in my head and realize someone talked to me halfway down the hall. I will turn around say hi and apologize for not processing the greeting. We laugh, it’s no big deal. This is from someone who hates men who tell me to smile.

    5. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      I used to say “Hi”. Not good enough, it had to be “Good Morning.” This was only for the benefit of one complaining co-worker, everyone else was happy with a wave or a nod.

      1. College Career Counselor*

        Unbelievable. Passive-aggressive me is fantasizing about greeting this person at every opportunity throughout the day. (“What? I’m just being FRIENDLY and POLITE!”)

    6. MatKnifeNinja*

      My cousin, who is on the spectrum, lost his job over not not greeting people. The not greeting people greased the skids for being let go when the economy tanked.

      He learned work is not just go in a do your stuff and get out. Sometimes so soft skills will help you keep a job.

      My cousin wasn’t overtly rude or surely. Just saw no need for interaction unless is was totally work related.

      1. Iconic Bloomingdale*

        The same thing happened with my cousin who was diagnosed years ago with Asperger’s Syndrome. My cousin was terminated from a job in the medical field after the hospital received numerous complaints about my cousin’s “lack of bedside manner” and “aloof,” “cold” persona when dealing with the patients.

        Soft skills matter in the workplace.

        1. Observer*

          This is especially true in situations like medical care, and whoever trained your cousin did them no favors.

          There is actually some evidence that outcomes are objectively better with a better “bedside manner”.

    7. Decima Dewey*

      Extreme introvert here. I’ve worked with some people who took morning greetings very seriously, so I learned to roll with it. Some of them thought they were “bringing [me] out of [my] shell”, and I let them think so. From my perspective, going to their desk and greeting them meant they wouldn’t be at my desk repeatedly trying to figure out what was wrong.

      1. Observer*

        “bringing you out of your shell”? That’s gross. I give you credit for how you are dealing with it though.

    8. Batman*

      My mom gets really annoyed when people at work don’t return the greeting when she says hi and she’ll complain about it to me on occasion. It used to annoy me because I thought she was being like OP’s coworker and getting annoyed that people didn’t greet her every time they saw each other. I told her that I thought she was being unrealistic and that sometimes people are spacing out or whatever and not paying attention and she shouldn’t get so annoyed by it. I still stand by that and I think the OP’s coworker is being weird about it.

      Turns out though that there were some people who would just never say anything to her at all AND that there was a manager who would only say hello to the men, but never the women. Both of which are shitty. She actually brought it up with the manager and he changed his habits.

  4. Aphrodite*

    OP #1, we had to do that once in my office, the front office of an adult education division of a community college. One colleague who had been there for almost forty years and was more rigid than a cement sidewalk and was universally loathed because of the ridiculousness the rigidity caused made that . . . difficult, to say the least. Everyone else was easy. As I recall, my comment was something like “Keeps office supplies well organized.” (And she did; she kept the supplies cabinet locked so no one could get to pens, PostIts, etc.)

    I threw all mine out, unread, as soon as I could get out of there. Anything forced like that will come to no good. And later several people came to me and asked how I liked what they said. I had to admit what I had done but everyone understood why.

    1. valentine*

      I threw all mine out, unread, as soon as I could get out of there.
      This is the way to go, OP1, especially if someone writes “I know what you did last team-building.” Let them eat their tell-tale hearts out awaiting a response.

      1. boo bot*

        Yeah, you are my hero, Aphrodite, if I’m ever faced with such a circumstance, I’m doing this.

  5. Artemesia*

    Never pass by an opportunity for advancement because ‘it will disrupt the current team.’ This is how you end up working for people less talented than you are. Birds in hand outweigh birds in bush.

    1. KarenT*

      Agreed. And on the flip side, not promoting someone because you need them where they are is a way to lose good talent. An opportunity like this could open up somewhere else and then they wouldn’t have you at all.
      OP I would talk to your boss to make sure he’s not slotting you into the second position but also if there’s anyone on your current team who could move into your role.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Agreed. OP needs to go for it and not just stay where she is. Who knows…they could just keep her where she is indefinitely because she is “too valuable” etc. OP apply for the job!

      2. Fed up with my boss*

        This is a helpful reminder for me. I suspect a vacancy is about to open up in my company that my direct report would be perfect for. I’ll hate to lose her, but I know the best way to keep her at the company will be to support her in applying for the role. (She would also make my work life a lot better in different ways in the new role!)

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        That was one of my favorite rage quit stories. Word came back that she had been denied the internal promotion because her boss felt she was just too valuable to ever, ever let go. She spent the rest of the day quietly wrapping things up and at 4:00 went to HR to put in her resignation, effective immediately.

      4. Booksalot*

        I just lost an amazing colleague this way. He tried to switch from the Tea Pot Department to the Coffee Pot Department, and Tea Pots told him he had to finish Project Z before he could transfer. Project Z kept dragging on due to chronic mismanagement, with no end in sight. He got fed up and quit. Now Coffee Pots is pissed at Tea Pots, and we’re all worse off.

      5. Ali G*

        This is how my first job lost me. Was there 8 years, got a promotion, but was still doing all the other busy work pre-promotion. Instead of filling my request for an entry-level support person, they hired someone above me and basically gave her the work I was supposed to be doing (and wanted very much to do!). When I asked my boss what was going on, she said I was too busy to do the new work and since they “needed” me to do it, New Person was going to do the New Work.
        So what did I do? I got another job. They had to replace me with 2.5 FTEs. All because they didn’t want to hire an entry level person to support my transition to higher level work.
        When you have good performers, they have options! Employers should realize this.

    2. Policy Wonk*

      A favorite adage: Never be indispensable. If you can’t be replaced, you can’t be promoted.
      That’s the situation here – don’t let them do this to you. The promised opportunity will never come, because you’ll be too important to the project you’re working on when that one opens up and they’ll ask you to wait for the next opportunity. Rinse, repeat.

      1. Black Targaryen*

        Yes, exactly this. This was me. I had been promised a new promotion and the creation of a new position on a different team in a new city, and it took *two years* and me quitting before they said please no don’t quit! We can relocate you to the team immediately!

    3. Venus*

      An additional way to view it is:
      Never pass by an opportunity to learn more about the advancement system / senior roles that might be similar to one you want in future.

      I have known people, and done this myself, where we weren’t absolutely interested in a position yet it was a good opportunity to learn more about promotion interviews for that type of role. So, when an ideal position did open up, then we were much better prepared for the interviews and our experience was better aligned with their expectations (a year often gives enough time to optimize our candidacy if we have any gaps in experience).

      I would apply for this new position, both because it would be the better choice for you and also because it would increase your chances for the one next year. If they say at the start that they don’t want to move the OP4 into this role due to the timing, then I think the OP could request to continue in the competition if only to help them for the next one, and the OP could also quietly hope that maybe the circumstances would change in their favour during the competition (the OP’s chances of success are very much dependent on who else applies). In thinking about it, if the OP didn’t apply then there might be some small resentment (it’s a tendency of human nature) with whomever does get it. Better to lose legitimately than to limit one’s own chances.

      One option might be for the OP to sort out what would happen to the project if they did leave. Is there someone in the current group who could do the OP’s role? Some other option?

    4. Jules the 3rd*

      Besides, moving straight up means you’ll still have a little availability for your team, and you can at least make sure you have a replacement for your old position quickly. Go for it.

    5. OP4*

      Thanks everyone for the encouragement and advice! I think my biggest worry is leaving things unfinished and making it difficult on the next person, but I guess that will always be the case.

      1. Nixy*

        I think a great way to show that you are ready for the promotion is to take a plan for how you will minimize the disruption to your team if you get it to the interview. That type of forward thinking is exactly who I am looking for when I think about if people are ready for promotion now or later. Good luck OP4!

      2. Sara without an H*

        If you’re really concerned about what you leave your successor, start now documenting as much of your job as possible. I’m making plans to retire in 2-3 years, and it just hit me how much stuff is only recorded in my head. My project for the next 2-3 years is to get all that stuff written down.

        So document your job, have a frank talk with your manager, and go for it!

    6. Working Mom Having It All*

      Also, if the company wasn’t happy with your work and wanted to take you off the team, they wouldn’t be worrying whether it would disrupt your current life.

  6. Engineer Girl*

    #4 – Absolutely apply for the promotion!! You never know if the next one will be available in a year.
    Also don’t hold back because of bad timing on the product. They’ll make do. And it’s also not right that you should take the personal career hit because of their timing. They won’t reward you with brownie points later on. It’s also not right that someone less competent than you get the job because they are unencumbered. You’ve already demonstrated your ability to do the job by your performance on the current one.
    Let your boss know that you want THIS job and work with him on a transition plan.

    1. Mary*

      Also, the disruption is just not that great since you’re not leaving the organisation or even the department. If you’re only moving one later up, you’ll presumably be managing your replacement and still have oversight of the project and opportunity to give information and advice to the person taking over. This really doesn’t sound that hard to handle!

      1. Schadenfreude*

        Right, this recently happened to me. The only advancement opportunity in my previous department was eliminated, and my boss blew smoke up my ass about how valuable I was in my current position. Well, myself and the person who was my backup on everything (we were a mini-team of 2 in a larger team) stayed in the organization, but went to different departments. As we were both overqualified for our previous positions by that point, they have had a time filling them – and are getting entry-level applicants since they only thought they needed entry-level positions – and my new boss has indicated that my help with the transition will be ending soon, regardless of when the position is hired because of poor treatment I’ve received during the transition.

        Now I’m a manager, and this experience, though painful for me, is a fantastic lesson in leadership.

      2. OP4*

        True. I’ve been so focused on the fact that things are unfinished and my moving up would disrupt things, but I wouldn’t be going far…just taking on a lot more responsibility.

    2. KC Sunshine*

      100%. It’s almost never the “right time” for certain things. If you wait for the right time, you’ll be left behind. Forward is a good thing!

      “It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”
      ― Hugh Laurie

    3. BelleMorte*

      I put off applying for a promotion for a similar reason, and was told there would be a better promotion for me in 6 months that I should wait for. That position never materialized and 2 years later I was still in the same role I was in when I finally left the company for another one.

      If you think this job is a good fit, go for it. Your company would never put YOU over their best interests, don’t put them over your best interests.

    4. OP4*

      Thanks! You’re right, things have changed a lot in our organization over the last few years and it’s completely possible that the other position might not end up happening. I don’t know for sure I would get the job, but I guess I can’t know unless I apply…

    5. GreenDoor*

      Since the promotion would be an internal transfer, I say go for it. In my organization, it’s not uncommon for New Manager and Old Manager to work out a transition plan where the transferred employee moves to the new worksite but spends a portion of their day finalizing an important project they were working on. Maybe you could work out a transition plan that lets you help out on or continue to be a resource for the last project as you transition into the new role?

  7. Rafferty*

    #3 – I’d just like to add, as a trans person whose dad struggled to navigate this same situation, that you should probably double-check with your son before letting your coworkers know. It probably won’t be a big deal, especially if your son and your coworkers don’t know or interact with each other, but it can feel pretty weird and uncomfortable to learn you’ve been outed to a group of people without knowing that was going to happen, even if you would have given the go-ahead if asked.

    1. Anonny*

      Also don’t out him to new coworkers. He’s your son. As far as they know, he’s never been anything but your son.

      (My mum went through a period of bragging about having a trans son for ‘ally points’.)

      1. Jennifer*

        That’s not true. According to the letter she has talked about him at work using his old name. Everyone talks about their families there.

        If it were a workplace where people don’t chat much about home, that would be different.

        1. Overeducated*

          I think “new coworkers” here means people who come in after OP introduces the new name and pronouns. They wouldn’t need to know backstory.

          1. mom of trans*

            Yes, I’ve already mentioned to some people that I have two sons and a daughter, so going forward, that’s my story. I don’t plan on talking about my trans son! That seems odd.

            1. Gaia*

              I just had a whole conversation with someone about how they really don’t need to keep referring to their neighbor as their “trans man neighbor.” That is way more information than I required when hearing a story about how he helped jump start my friend’s car.

      2. Mae Fuller*

        The way I read it was that the coworkers know enough about each other’s families that at least some of them were already aware of this child as LW’s daughter. If that’s not the case then I completely agree with you.

      3. Saberise*

        They aren’t new coworkers. She said she’s worked with them for 4 years. So they know her as having a daughter. To all the sudden start talking about a son is going to confuse people.

        1. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

          I think anonny’s point was that, going forward, when new people start who don’t know your family, you can just say, “I have a son.”

      4. Me*

        Generally a good sentiment but off the mark here. The coworkers do not know him as her son in the least and have always known him as her daughter. That’s what the letter writer is asking – how to navigate talking about her son when her coworkers haven’t known him as her son.

        1. Anonny*

          I meant new coworkers who come in after OP has established that her son is now her son. My mum did that to me and I was like, yeah I’m not *stealth* about being trans but can you please not tell people who are effectively random strangers that I’m trans?

    2. Alsoanon*

      Seconded. My sister told her fiance’s family (who she met after I’d transitioned) that I’m trans. Even though I’m fairly open about being trans, I still feel weird years later that she told people I didn’t know about it without talking to me first.

      1. Reality.Bites*

        I’m gay, which of course is not at all the same thing, but I view a sibling’s fiancé’s family as:

        1. People I’m not likely to have a close relationship with
        2. People who nevertheless will know about me sooner or later.
        3. People I’m not even remotely interested in coming out to myself beyond “I’m gay” or “This is my boyfriend” because these are going to be superficial family gathering relationships.

        So I consider being gay part of basic biographical information shared in advance – “My brother’s a teapot designer, he lives in Portland but won’t say which state, he’s gay, he grows heirloom tomatoes”

        1. Moxie*

          By not saying the state, I assume Maine because everyone forgets about our Portland (even thought we were first! and the second one was named for us! (it was coin toss between Portland and Boston))
          ANYWAY, Hi from a fellow Mainer!

        2. Blue Anne*

          I do think gay and trans are extremely different for purposes of basic biographical information, even if someone is open about it.

        3. Working Mom Having It All*

          The complicated thing when it comes to trans issues is that there are a lot of trans people who are just living as the gender that they are. Their history, chromosomes, medical records, etc. are nobody’s business. It’s not really the exact same thing as being gay, where eventually you will have a partner and people will meet them and it will become apparent what your domestic arrangement is.

          I have a very close friend who is trans, and I can’t even imagine a context where I would bring that up to other acquaintances. It’s none of their business, and it’s not my place to do that. My friend is a woman. Period.

          1. smoke tree*

            Yeah, there are definitely more contexts in which it’s relevant to know that a distant acquaintance is gay–for example, if you’re inviting them to social events, you may get to know their partner if they have one. That being said, I would probably not go out of my way to identify someone as gay either, even if I knew for sure that they were okay with it. Not that it’s something to hide, but it does feel a bit heteronormative, since you would likely not identify someone as “Megan, my straight friend.”

    3. Policy Wonk*

      I’d also recommend you consider whether your co-workers are open-minded before you do this. Some of them may have strong religious or political convictions and could make it their mission to help you see the errors of your son’s ways.

      1. Crocheted familiar*

        I agree with this one. You don’t want to be in an environment filled with transphobia about how you’re a terrible person for supporting your kid.

        I also agree with the ‘talk to your son’ comments here. As a trans person, it’s a very weird feeling (of almost betrayal?) to find out that you’ve been outed as trans to people you don’t even know. I’d ask your son if he wants it done and how – does he want you to make an announcement or does he want you to just start using the different name and pronouns and explain only if people ask about your ‘daughter’? And I agree with Anonny above – if you get new coworkers who didn’t know about him before he came out, don’t out him to them. He’s your son. That’s all they need to know about his gender.

        I also just want to say that I’m so happy you’re supporting him. It feels like an ‘of course’ thing but I’m glad you made the choice to do it.

        1. mom of trans*

          Yes, this is definitely something I am thinking about. We are a fairly “purple” department, but no one (in my department at least) is transphobic. The company is owned by a person in the LGBTQ community, so it’s not a big thing here to be closeted.

          1. Working Mom Having It All*


            I live in a very liberal city in a blue state, working for a company that is well known for its inclusion efforts.

            I’m a closeted trans person.

            People here say things ALL THE TIME that inform me that I should stay in the closet. One of the most casual unthinking microaggressions people in my office do is to talk about trans kids in an inappropriate way. The subject of kids transitioning is something that a lot of cis people feel is a hot button topic that anyone can loudly opine on (almost always in an ignorant way/with no basis in fact) without it really meaning anything. Meanwhile they are broadcasting loud and clear that they don’t support people like me and that they can’t be trusted with basic info like my gender identity.

            All of these people would consider themselves to be liberal.

            1. Mike*

              Yeah I’ve heard more than one person say they support trans people but that it should wait until they are adults which shows a lack of understanding of how it works (or doesn’t work as the case may be).

      2. Aquawoman*

        Yeah, and at a minimum, she should be prepared for various flavors of comments that lack some awareness.

      3. Drewski*

        I worried about this too. It wouldn’t go over so smooth in my workplace…. but that kind of thing just isn’t real common or “out” around here I guess. Every workplace or city will be different, but it would be a pretty shocking update to just slip in here and many very long term VERY conservative/religious employees would definitely have a hard time keeping their mouth shut about it.

        1. Amethystmoon*

          Yeah, it depends on where you live. I have some extremely conservative/religious co-workers who I know just wouldn’t let it go. I live in a big city, but it’s a big Midwestern city.

      4. Gaia*

        I’m genuinely curious what the alternative is if some of the OPs coworkers would not be accepting of this, though. Should the OP actually just accept that they will continue to misgender her son? What if her son needed to come to the office at some point?

        I get that there are still people who have Big Feelings about the being transgender and even more so (for some reason I can’t quite grasp) when the transgender person is younger, but in an environment where children are talked about regularly, this would feel like … not as bad as misgendering but closer to denying her son’s identity by omission and it doesn’t sound like the OP wants to do that.

        1. Drewski*

          I am not trying to weigh in on the rights and wrongs of this. I think it is worrying that you cant wrap your brain around someone thinking people generally shouldn’t take a child’s feelings about their sexual identity as infallible to the point of chemically/permanently modifying their body in a way that prevents them from ever moving beyond their priorities and feelings as a pre-teen, or allowing their body to fully develop. Specifically at a time in their life when dramatic stages and rebellion have been common and changing for every generation.

          To imply the traditional thought process is “out of grasp” may be what prevents people from considering the progressive stance as a legitimate healthy alternative. I think recognizing that this is a wildly revolutionary and somewhat inconceivable idea, that has come into the mainstream relatively fast (extremely fast for the average boomer I would say) is important and prevents the jump to hate-based conclusions as to why someone would think that way.

          As to your question… I think it is reasonable to expect it may take some people (esp older people) time to adjust. To expect questions, curiosity, and slip ups with pronouns. Being that this is someones child, and not a coworker… I wouldn’t think it would be a daily topic at all. Not that the OP should be charged with educating everyone on trans issues… but OP may be put in that position of some of the coworkers are uninitiated and curious.

          1. Decca56*

            I’m confused by this comment. Do you assume that all trans folks have “chemically / permanently” modified their bodies? That’s not a fair assumption, esp. for younger folks.

            1. Drewski*

              No, but some people might. And the fact that it is one of the options and obviously private would leave people in the dark about whether or not that was taking place.

              Which is why I suggested being open or ready for people that are ignorant and not necessarily supportive of this lifestyle. Again.. this isn’t about MY thoughts on trans issues… this is about the fact that it isn’t one sided, it is controversial, and I don’t think taking the “Only progressive people are good people” road is a good idea in a professional setting.

              1. Blue Anne*

                It can be tough to not think “only progressive people are good people” when the definition of progressive in this context is pretty much “thinks it’s okay that we exist”. :)

              2. D'Arcy*

                Being transgender is not a “lifestyle”, and it’s not controversial in any sense of having two reasonable sides.

            1. Drewski*

              I don’t think a lack of understanding the nuances of child transition has to be trans-phobic (but I will try not to imply that the transition is permanent in the future!). Which was kind-of the point of my original comment. Not everyone is “in the know” or fully committed to this being a good idea. And that doesn’t mean they are Bad People. And it also doesn’t mean that you get a pass from working with or relying on these people in the professional setting we are discussing.

              So the point being, be ready for people to have questions/assumptions/misunderstandings.

              1. Mary*

                That’s why I was letting you know. The idea that trans children permanently change their bodies is one which is deliberately promulgated by people who are transphobic. If you’re inadvertently repeating it, I thought you’d like to know!

          2. Blue Anne*

            Hi Drewski – just so you’re aware, at that age it’s unlikely that anything irreversible would be happening. Changes in presentation, maybe hormone blockers to delay puberty. After a kiddo goes off blockers they can go through the puberty their body would naturally produce, or through a puberty affected by external hormones. It just gives them more time to figure stuff out. And we give kids who aren’t trans hormonal interventions all the time – I’m a cis woman who was put on hormonal birth control at 13 because my periods had me fainting in grocery stores. Extra dose of hormones every morning cleared that right up.

            Even after someone has started hormones to transition, it’s a process that takes a lot of time to become “irreversible”. De-transitioning is possible and going off the external hormones will always have an effect. My partner has been on T for about 15 years and his cycles still start up again if he’s just a couple days late with his shot.

            I feel like a lot of us in the LGBT community deal with this stuff so much that we assume the knowledge in everyone and/or react badly when people don’t know details. For people who know the medical effects of transition inside out, and also the horrifying stats on outcomes for kids who identify themselves as trans but can’t transition, it definitely can be really hard to grasp why anyone would have extra concerns about kids being allowed to transition. So hopefully, we can realize that people who aren’t LGBT probably haven’t had reason to investigate all this stuff, and people who aren’t LGBT can realize that we have had to investigate all this stuff and have good reasons for what we’re doing.

            But, also: while you might be concerned about why Gaia can’t grasp your views, and you might see that as a reason that people push back, what you’re calling “a wildly revolutionary and somewhat inconceivable idea” is, well, the existence and happiness of my family. And we’ve always been here. Thinking that kids transitioning is not legitimate/healthy because my family has suddenly become a lot less afraid than we would have been 30 years ago, and that seems too fast to get used to, is going to put people on the defensive.

            1. Drewski*

              Thank you for this comment. My intention was to remind people here that this insight into trans details is not something (I think) that should be relied upon in a hypothetical coworker. I did not mean to, and dont, condemn trans people or their methods of transition. But as I displayed in my faux pas, this is not what I would consider “common knowledge” yet (at least where I am from).

              I am not trying to undermine your family, or the ability for your family to thrive. My point is narrowly aimed at the average person being grossly uneducated on these issues… which I suspect (but may be wrong) you could agree with. And along with that ignorance comes assumptions, a for some people a natural resistance to paradigm shifts about gender/sex/biology/mental health that one must embrace to go from “biological sex/genders only” to acceptance.

              My apologies if what I said came off as an attack or condemnation of your identity. It was not meant that way.

          3. New Jack Karyn*

            What idea, exactly, do you think is “a wildly revolutionary and somewhat inconceivable idea”?

            1. Drewski*

              In the context of my comment, my intent was clear. Transgender issues as a whole are “a wildly revolutionary and somewhat inconceivable idea” to many conservative, traditional, older Americans. A very common group of working class Americans… which ties in to the question about telling coworkers about a trans child.

              Admitting that is not in any way a condemnation of Transgender people or culture. If you disagree, do you think the OP’s question was unwarranted in the first place? Obvious and boring?

              1. New Jack Karyn*

                No, it’s not clear at all. You could just have easily said that “We’ve moved pretty quickly on this, in just the last five years, so lots of good-hearted people are going to need some catch-up time,” but you didn’t. I know that nitpicking word choice isn’t cool, but you’ve gone over the top, here.

                1. Drewski*

                  My apologies. In my mind it was more clear that the line in question was from the perspective of the uninitiated. The person that only knows what they have heard on Fox. A pretty big chunk of the US population I would suspect.

          4. GlassShark*

            No one is talking about the “sexual identity” here though. It’s about gender identity which is totally different. If OP were asking “should I tell my coworkers my kid is gay?” then I would say it’s not relevant to the workplace. But this is about her son likely being misgendered in her workplace which is a relevant discussion to have (with the consent of your son, OP!)

            1. Drewski*

              Sure, I get that. I think revealing her son as gay would probably (imagining my workplace full of mostly boomer aged conservatives) go over easier because it is something everyone understands. My point was gender identity is something less black and white, more difficult to imagine for yourself, and newer in mainstream conversation, that can be confusing and not easily understood or accepted by some. There is more nuance to it and it has been highly politicized.

              And to be clear I completely agree this is something she should be able to tell her coworkers.

          5. Working Mom Having It All*

            Wow, this is a perfect illustration of why OP might not want to out their kid to an office full of people who are likely to have strongly held yet ignorant beliefs about trans people. Because it is 100% guaranteed that someone will say this. And chances are better than 50% that this will be the consensus in the office, and then it will be a whole Thing. And if OP lives in a small town or this is all happening within a relatively tight-knit community, some of the people who feel this way will in turn out OP’s child to others in an ignorant way that could potentially cause real harm. Because they see someone they know being trans as a fun party conversation and not private information about them.

            1. mom of trans*

              I have a lot of faith in my coworkers not to be jerks about it. For better or worse.

          6. Dahlia*

            You ARE aware that gender and sexuality are not the same thing, right? I hope so.

            Hey, guess what? Not trans, and when I was 14, I was on birth control. I was “chemically altering” my body all the live long day.

        2. Working Mom Having It All*

          Yeah, it’s a tough spot. On the one hand, there’s an angle where people talking more openly about this stuff makes it easier in the grand scheme, for all trans and gender-nonconforming people. There’s nothing shameful about it, and it’s not clear that OP gains anything by not being clear about what’s up.

          On the other hand, there are a lot of ways that this could hurt OP’s kid.

      5. GreenDoor*

        And if OP does, in fact, have anti-LGBT coworkers, I’d make that part of the “talking about you at work” conversation with the son. I think it’s fair for a parent to say “I support you and I want to talk about the You that you are now….but you hav to understand that I fear for my job security so as much as I support you I need you to understand that I have to be very particular about how I talk about my family at work.” Hopefully all concerned would understand that, sadly, some workplaces are so crappy that a high level of privacy is required. (As a mom, just typing about the idea of feeling forced to hide my kid from my coworkers makes me super sad.)

        1. mom of trans*

          We have a gay owner, so if someone is strongly anti-LGBTAQ+ they are probably in the wrong workplace. :D

    4. mom of trans*

      OP of #3 here: Thank you! I think I mentioned it to him before, but I will be sure to double check. They met him before transition a couple of years ago for Take Your Child to Work Day, but he’s kind of aged out of that at this point.

      1. carrots and celery*

        Yes, please do check with him first! I told my parents when I came out that I wasn’t comfortable with them telling their coworkers because I didn’t like the idea of them knowing my business. I realize my sexuality is very different than trans pronouns and names, but I always think the person who is being outed should be consulted because a lot of us in the community don’t really like when someone outs us to strangers. Or we have specific language we prefer to use to discuss it.

        (I’m glad someone else wrote this comment for you. I was going to and hesitated because sometimes the comments are….difficult, to say the least, when it comes to certain issues).

        Good luck and you’re a good mom for thinking about all of this. The community needs more parents like you.

      2. Lily*

        Hi mom of trans! I just wanted to comment and say that I’m going through a similar quandary – my nephew has begun to transition as well, but he’s only 4 years old. My family is very supportive of him and we are to transitioning to his new name and pronouns (still in the early stages but getting better). I have been weirdly avoiding it at work. It feels different since he’s so young, and I’m afraid my colleagues, who are extremely kind and “woke” people but very opinionated and willing to discuss “controversial” topics at work, will be skeptical of such a young kid being taken seriously on this issue. I had a scholar of gender identity explain to our family that he is simply expressing his gender as any 4-year-old would be. (Not that I think being trans and living as your true gender is controversial – but as we’ve seen on this thread, for some people it seems to be.)

        Anyway, I’m struggling somewhat with this because I don’t want to open him up to criticism or questioning of his identity at work, where no one knows him but they’ve heard me talk about him extensively using female pronouns and his old name. (He is the first child of any of my siblings, and lives near me so I see him regularly, so I definitely talk about him a lot!) I would love an update if/when you decide to tell people at work, and how you do it. Thanks for sharing your experience, and much love to you and your son and your whole family.

    5. transparent*

      When my son came out to us as our son, I also learned one of my coworkers is a woman. She came out to me when she saw us at a local Pride event.

      I told my closest work friends, my boss, and my boss’ boss. One reason was because telling them about my son was less scary for me than it would be for my coworker. I was more senior than she, and I tried to test the waters.

      The majority of people at work probably didn’t pay close attention to my mixture of sons and daughters. I’ve since changed employers. They only know my son as my son.

      Always ask your son’s permission before outing him. That’s just good practice.

  8. Roscoe*

    #1 This seems pretty innocuous. Its crazy to me that saying something nice about your peers is now considered hard to handle and gives people indigestion. Even if its forced, how hard is it. I had some co-workers who, as people, I couldn’t stand. But its not THAT hard to find one nice thing to say about them. Even if its something as simple as “I appreciate how timely you respond to emails”. That isn’t disengenous or even forced. Sometimes I think people just look for things to be offended about.

    #2 I mean you basically are admitting to ignoring someone when they attempt to make pleasantries with you. It IS rude to not acknowledge people when they give you a greeting. Even if you see them daily. Is saying a 1 syllable word that difficult? And it borders on harassment that he is upset that you won’t acknowledge his presence? Come on

    1. Drew*

      #1: Forced compliments are just as meaningful as forced apologies and forced elementary school all-class Valentines – not at all. I treasure genuine compliments, even minor ones, but compliments that I know people HAD to write carry as much weight as fortune cookies. If the office culture is so negative that this masturbatory exercise seems like a good idea, you have bigger problems.

      #2: This is the attitude that gets women catcalled on the street, or worse. “I’m just saying hi, grrl, you don’t got to be so rude. And you should smile more.” If LW#2 usually does respond to a polite greeting with a polite response, it is not her problem when she occasionally doesn’t, and the dude needs to chill out and let it go. I don’t always return greetings when I’m focused on something (whether it’s a podcast, a sensitive email I have to write to a touchy coworker, or last night’s burrito demanding immediate attention) and I don’t expect others to respond to mine every time. We’re allowed to be preoccupied sometimes.

        1. Katren*

          Exactly this is a person trying to be polite and friendly at work and is getting ignored by an extremely rude individual who apparently finds it too hard to just say “hi”

          Genuinely don’t understand why this is an issue, just say hi!!!

          1. anonymous5*

            read the original letter. OP typically says hi. They aren’t obligated to have a 100% “hi” rate.

            1. JSPA*

              The list of “why not” is a mix of work – reasonable (deep in thought) and not work – reasonable (didn’t feel like it). Once a day, on first crossing paths, it’s work – reasonable to acknowledge / return a basic, non – creepy “hi” from a co- worker. If there’s a creepiness subtext, that’s a real but separate issue. Part of the job you’re hired for is minimal politeness and pleasantness. You owe it to your workplace. You do not owe a “hi,” let alone a smile, to catcallers– there’s simply no parallel.

        2. Anonny*

          His response to not having his greeting returned may be coming from a similar place of entitlement though.

          1. Baru Cormorant*

            Maybe, but that comparison is really extreme to the point of distraction. We can debate the proper frequency and type of morning greeting without comparing it to sexual harassment.

            I think both people are being weirdly sensitive about this. As Alison says, “It’s a little rude not to respond to someone who says hello to you, but your coworker is being far ruder by making such a big deal about it.”

              1. Jules the 3rd*

                no, don’t. It’s a good comparison, because the problem in both cases is about the man who thinks he is owed a response. In both cases, it’s a problem for the man to fix. The only difference is what is OP’s reasonable response in each situation.

                People who are saying it’s a bad choice don’t really understand how entitled this coworker’s behavior is, and how inappropriate pushing OP to break her work flow is.

          2. Engineer Girl*

            Exactly. He gets confrontational when he doesn’t get a response. That’s entitled, just like street harassment is entitled.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              Exactly. Particularly since OP says he gets upset if he interrupts her while she’s working and she doesn’t respond how he wants her too. That’s entitlement 101 right there. Exactly the same as demanding she “smile,” or “take a compliment,” or “just trying to have a conversation baby,” ad nauseam.

              1. Katren*

                This whole line of commenting is just so completely over the top, if you really feel like this I don’t know how you ever manage to have a pleasant conversation with anyone!

                Don’t know why I even bother reading these comments, they’re always completely overtaken by very grumpy, hostile people. I’m glad I don’t work with anyone so unpleasant that I’d be accused of sexual harassment just for saying hello in the morning!

                1. EventPlannerGal*

                  I agree. Alison’s advice is usually spot-on but these comments are such an echo-chamber and dominated by people whose understanding of human interaction is almost completely alien to me. Saying hi, or thinking someone is rude for ignoring your hi, is not comparable to sexual harassment, and half of these comments are literally just making things up out of thin air to get outraged about.

                2. Gaia*

                  No one is saying it is sexual harassment. That is ridiculous. Some are saying that demanding a greeting be returned, even if it interrupts work, does come from a place of entitlement and it might be of a similar vein to catcalling. Not that it is catcalling, but that the entitlement that allows and defends catcalling might be similar to the entitlement that allows and defends demanding a greeting be returned 100% of the time regardless of what the person receiving the greeting is doing.

                3. 1.0*

                  god for real. it’s funny, I’m a strong introvert who would really prefer cishets in general, but men in specific, couldn’t see me, but — cheapening the actual ways misogyny and policing of women/LGBTQ people in public uphold the patriarchy by comparing a pretty standard second ritual between people who know each other legitimately makes me feel like I’m losing it

                  in the hopes of heading off the inevitable bad faith readings at the pass: yes, the coworker confronting OP afterwards is unforgivably rude and a real dick move. characterizing someone saying hi to you in the hallway at 10 am as unreasonable extraversion and an enormous burden akin to street harassment (??????), or thinking OP is rude for completely blanking someone they know, is real weird

                4. Jules the 3rd*

                  I have no problem chatting with my coworkers, I’m extroverted af.

                  I have a *huge* problem with someone ‘confronts me’ to the point of feeling like harassment if I don’t perform social interactions in the way they expect. It’s not OP or the people here who are being strange and grumpy.

                  OP, I have found that naming the strange behavior and pointing out it’s strange has been effective.

              2. Seeking Second Childhood*

                Op2 talks ONLY about mornings. If someone interrupted me while working, I’d say I’m working and can’t talk. And I’m on team “return the human acknowledgement”

                1. RUKiddingMe*

                  *Apparently I misread OP2…it’s just the mornings. My bad.

                  However he still interrupts her if she has headphones on and he complains that she doesn’t perform social to his desired standard.

                  Both of those are pushy, domineering, patriarchal, and entitled.

                  *I blame “middle of the night” and “lack of caffeine.” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

              3. Peacock*

                Are you even reading the same letter or are you massively projecting? OP doesn’t say ANYWHERE in the letter that he’s interrupting her while she’s working. You are all over the comments saying that OP is being harassed multiple times a day, and that’s not in the letter either. This is really weird.

              4. Valprehension*

                100% this. On top of which, if this confrontational dynamic was already established, it seems perfectly reasonable and even appropriate that OP no longer wants to respond to his greetings at all sometimes.

            2. Dr. Pepper*

              On the face of it, it does seem that OP2 is being rude for sometimes ignoring the coworker’s greeting and being ridiculous for wanting that to be okay. But…… it bothers OP2 enough to write in to AAM, and while I realize the depth of human pettiness knows no bounds, I’m inclined to believe there’s more context to this issue. Some people understate problems or don’t include nonverbal communication in their account of things. I (female) have had male colleagues who most definitely used their morning greeting as an excuse to get in my face and it was really tiresome. Sometimes even the standard “hi” was not enough and I was informed that I ought to wish them “good morning”. With a smile, natch. Ignoring them was tempting. On the surface, I’m sure y’all would be saying the exact same thing: “just say hi, you rude person!” but something about this situation is pinging my radar.

          3. Yorick*

            It’s a strong response, but OP is sometimes straight-up ignoring a coworker when he says “hi” in the morning. I wouldn’t say anything about it, but damn.

            There’s a woman at work who’ll pass by me and look at me in my face but not return my greeting or even smile. I think she’s the worst person. I wouldn’t do a thing to help her unless it was completely required.

        3. Sylvan*

          I’m sorry, but I don’t get the connection. Could you explain?

          If it’s relevant, I’ve been harassed and I feel like I’m missing something here.

        4. Drewski*

          That just isn’t true. Someone can be a jerk without it being sexual or gendered or harassing… come on.

          If he did this to another male coworker two would you suggest his inappropriate behavior to the woman no longer be considered harassment, or assume his harassment of both genders was rooted in his inevitable bi-sexuality?

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            It would still be harassment but let’s not even try to pretend that males demanding attention from women…a lot…isn’t a thing. A well documented thing.

        5. Anne Elliot*

          I really strongly disagree with this. I think it does a serious disservice to actual problems when every objection to real rudeness is dismissed as gendered and the rudeness itself is excused. It reads like, “Because we as women don’t have to respond to sexual harassment, we don’t have to be polite, either.” It just plays right into the stereotype of feminists, if not “all women,” being over-sensitive snowflakes and/or ‘bitches.’

          Nobody HAS to be minimally polite. I would argue that everyone should be, it greases the skids of social interaction. There’s no reason for the discussion to be gendered and every reason for it not to be. Not to mention, as others have pointed out, gender features nowhere in the actual question presented.

      1. Kc89*


        I agree

        Genuinely not hearing someone is obviously fine but to purposefully ignore someone is rude, there’s no way around it.

        1. Mongrel*

          But, in all but the most blatant cases, how do you tell if someone is deliberately ignoring you?

          1. Myrin*

            You really can’t, most of the time, which is exactly why the coworker is being extremely obnoxious about it – unless OP is, like you say, very blatant about the times she simply “doesn’t want to chat”, he has no way of knowing whether she was just staring into space and didn’t hear him. But to top it off, he doesn’t even care about that – even if she’s wearing headphones or clearly engrossed in something, he gets huffy and goes so far as confronting her about it. That’s exactly what makes him rude and needlessly dramatic.

            However, since we as people who read this letter actually know about OP’s occasional intentional not-greeting, we’re going to comment on that as well. The comments saying “it’s rude to just deliberately ignore someone when they’re performing a classic and harmless social convention” aren’t saying they can automatically detect such a thing when they encounter it in real life, or that the coworker clearly knows that OP sometimes intentionally doesn’t greet him and that’s what originally set him off, or anything to that extent, they’re just talking to OP because they know of her thoughts and feelings on this matter and might provoke OP to think more deeply about her attitude towards morning greetings.

            (However, at least in this particular situation, it’s somewhat moot anyway since the coworker reacts abrasively even when he’s not being greeted for very innocent reasons such as OP just not hearing him. The comments about the rudeness of deliberately not saying Hi are more of a general observation than really tailored towards this situation.)

          2. Perpal*

            That’s the worst thing about people who choose not to respond to (whatever) despite hearing you; you are left in limbo land of “do I try again or walk away?” (Esp if it’s about something more than a casual hi in passing)

          3. Julia*

            I have a co-worker who deliberately ignores me, and I can tell because most people don’t have perfect pokerfaces, so when I say “hi” or whatever, I can see in her face that she heard me, and sometimes she smirks a bit.

            1. Drewski*

              Yes there is one person in our office who very obviously selectively returns greetings. She responds to her “friends” but not to the one very pleasant person she doesnt like. It is much more obvious than she thinks, and is something I have been working with her to address..

              Little petty crap like that can have a MASSIVE negative impact on a workplace. Not saying that’s what is going on in the letter… but it happens..

            2. Iconic Bloomingdale*

              Stop speaking to her. Act as if she does not exist and even if you pass her in the hallway, pretend she’s an apparition that would you walk right through. There’s no need to bother with people who believe you aren’t even worthy of basic humanity.

              1. Julia*

                I actually did that and it was great, but our new boss demands we at least say hi, so I do and she gives me that “why should I greet you, lowling?” look and it’s awful. (Yes, I did report this back to boss, but it’s not helping.)

          4. Samwise*

            You can’t, which is one reason why you should give others the benefit of the doubt. The OP is not being rude, but the co-worker sure is.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        Re #2 Thank you! Yes this is exactly what I’m seeing. He’s trying to force her to interact, to “smile” as it were. I mean she has headphones on and he talks to her just to say hi? Power/dominance move much?

        1. 1.0*

          there is a huge huge huge gulf between “a stranger entitled to talk to you because you exist in public” and “a person you know and collaborate with greeting you in the morning” and honestly, as someone who has experienced some really terrifying harassment, comparing the two is borderline offensive. the coworker is being rude by trying to throw down over it, but “saying/waving hi when you pass a coworker for the first time” is not

      3. JSPA*

        Also, consider that the main benefit of the “something nice” exercise is on the people writing the praise. It can boost people off the track to getting “eating crackers” level knee jerk negative over people (except where truly inevitable). It invites you to consider that they may be great in some way separate from the ways they grate on you. The people caught in the “no hello” conflict (e.g.) could benefit. “Always greets people” and “good at concentrating”–just being forced to identify that these things are both positive traits in a corporate setting could go a long way towards breaking through the “So entitled / so self – involved” perceptions they’re apparently throwing on each other.

        1. Polly Want A Compliment?*

          If I’m at or getting to the eating crackers stage with someone and am then forced to do this ridiculous exercise, it’s only going to exacerbate the negativity I feel. I will get SUPER CREATIVE at finding ways to write “compliments” that are anything but, to express my true feelings within the confines of this stupid activity.

          Being forced to do this is going to make em more negative, not less, and that’s what the Pollyanna people who inflict this crap on the rest of us don’t understand.

          1. OP1*

            re: “Pollyanna people who inflict this crap on the rest of us” – could not have put it better myself.

        2. OP1*

          I get this for sure, and it’s not a bad exercise in forcing myself to be rosier (as you might have guessed from the submission statement, I’m not an unrelentingly positive person). But I still dread having to come up with nice things to say about people that I’m not even at the eating crackers stage with, I just don’t know well enough to be anything but neutral about.

          1. Important Moi*

            Rather than judgement or opinion I’m going to offer you a plan.

            I just looked up the terms “generic compliments” and “work appropriate compliments,” lots of phrases came up that could be modified to your work specific environment.

          2. Elitist Semicolon*

            Honestly, if I were forced to do something like that exercise, I’d be amused to get “I don’t know them well enough to anything but neutral about them” in my compliment bag. I’m more contrary than most when faced with forced socialization, but the pragmatism would delight me.

        3. boo bot*

          “consider that the main benefit of the “something nice” exercise is on the people writing the praise.”

          This is such a good point! I think whether or not this is a good idea really depends on the group, (damning with faint praise can be pretty demoralizing, especially if you get “she’s nice” from ten people in a row) but if you’re relatively sure people will take it seriously, I think the net effect of asking people to take a minute to reflect positively on the people they work with is probably worth it.

      4. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Female here who wants a reply to greetings. Just an acknowledgement of presence is sufficient, just tap your ear buds and waggle your fingers.
        For an idea of why, try reading about how “the cut direct” was such an insult in 19th c England, and think about how the mean kids in grade school could bully someone without saying a word.

      5. EventPlannerGal*

        #1 If you cannot imagine that anyone could be genuine when giving a compliment in this context, I think it may be you that has bigger problems. If I had to play this game, I can think of many genuine compliments I would give my coworkers that I just wouldn’t usually have an opportunity to say day-to-day without it being kind of weird.

        1. OP1*

          I mean, I get where you’re coming from, but I think that’s a little harsh. I gave more context further downthread that may help clarify this.

          1. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

            It’s harsh :( I have hardly ever spoken to some of my coworkers (in my division, my peers). I would not have a clue what to say that’s not appearance related, as appearance is all I know of them!

      6. Gumby*

        Forced all-class valentines aren’t particularly meaningful, but excluding part of the class can be hugely harmful. So I see why it’s “everyone or no one.” Plus, if you have a classmate who includes candy in the valentines – I don’t care that the person doesn’t know me or hates me or whatever because: candy!

      7. Observer*

        This is the attitude that gets women catcalled on the street, or worse. “I’m just saying hi, grrl, you don’t got to be so rude. And you should smile more.”

        Thanks for minimizing harassment! There is simply no comparison with the simple normal nicety of responding to the NORMAL greeting of a COWORKER and catcalls and directives from men you have / want nothing to do with.

    2. Obelia*

      It is a bit rude to refuse to acknowledge someone when they say hi (and from the letter, LW is sometimes ignoring him intentionally). As Alison says, the coworker is being obnoxious about it; if I was the coworker, I’d just think “wow, that person is quite rude” and avoid chatting to them. This sounds like it’s the response LW is after, unfortunately it doesn’t sound like the one they are going to get.

      For what it’s worth, early in my career the fact I didn’t always proactively greet people when I arrived at work was raised as a serious concern by my boss, so people really can read a lot into this!

    3. LGC*

      God bless you for just diving in, man.

      About #2 – so, aside from what everyone else has said about possible gender dynamics, it IS uncomfortable! I’m somewhat soft spoken myself and one of our janitors does this with me where she gets a little insistent if she doesn’t hear me say hi back.

      She’s a woman (and hearing impaired, so she literally may NOT hear me). I’m a man (and extremely busy). Even still, sometimes I’m internally like, “really, do I HAVE to go through this?” And if our genders were swapped, I might actually feel harassed because of society (even if that wasn’t the intent).

    4. Sylvan*

      +1 on #2. Is there something I’m missing here? Ignoring people is usually seen as rude. Being asked to not do that isn’t harassment. At least nod or wave or something.

    5. Anon for this, colleagues read here*

      See my response above. It can be really delightful. Or it can suck soooooo bad.

      Fortunately most of the likely suspects for the crappy comments I got are long gone.

  9. Grand Mouse*

    #2 reminds me a bit of the letter writer whose anxiety led her to go to a coworker’s house after not being greeted. I wonder if he is doing this with anyone else? I have anxiety too so I sympathize but I know one sure way to make people not want to be friendly is to pester them about it

    #3 is making me a little mosty eyed as a trans/nb person who wishes I recieved this support. Thank you for being so great and supporting him. I agree that matter of fact is the best way to do it; people will follow your lead. Oh and I imagine you would bit please correct people who misgender him! I have a few family members that are supportive but won’t bother when I’m not around, or heck even in front of me

    1. Black Targaryen*

      #2 made me think of the exact same thing. Just went and re read the story and it’s updates. That was a wild one. Hope they’re still well.

      1. valentine*

        Hope they’re still well.
        Unless I missed an update, they weren’t well. They had criminal cases pending and were still minimizing their actions and impact.

        1. LGC*

          I think that LW actually did end up going to therapy for her anxiety, though – and I think that Black Targaryen was just expressing general well wishes, because that LW did suffer severe (but deserved) consequences. She did get fired, from what I recall.

        2. ThatGirl*

          I posted a link below in moderation, but the update I found said that there had been a police investigation but no charges.

        3. Black Targaryen*

          There were three or four updates in total. They still had things pending but were making a lot of progress with therapy after trying multiple therapists and medication regimens, and I was generally wishing them well.

  10. Thomas*

    #1 seems like it could invite a lot of “Fergus is great because he doesn’t *always* break the tea pots! And when he does, he always apologizes.”

    1. One of the Sarahs*

      I worked at a place where a co-worker got “she makes a great cup of tea” as the nicest thing someone could think to say about her. Her job wasn’t anywhere near tea making.

      1. Zephy*

        In an office where individuals are relatively siloed and rarely get to see each other “in action,” so to speak, or see each other’s product, it might be pretty impossible to come up with compliments relating to someone’s actual job performance. I’m just trying to be charitable, of course – you know your old office better than I ever could, so maybe everything else about Jane really was toxic and grating, but damned if she wasn’t a wizard with the tea.

        1. One of the Sarahs*

          It was an outdoor activity centre where everyone who was an instructor worked with everyone else at some time, as a matter of policy, in different capacities (group lead, support etc). This person was super popular with kids especially, and excellent at specific activities, so this was NOT the case you’re imagining!

    2. Half-Caf Latte*

      We did a “go round the group and say something you appreciate about the coworker to your left” as a “fun activity” at a team lunch that was to celebrate … something? I was still very new to the team, barely knew these people, and it felt so forced. There was a lot of praising of so-and-so’s dedication as a mom, and then there was the comment about respecting someone’s devotion to their religion and “our Lord and Savior”, so that was fun.

  11. MommyMD*

    If you truly don’t hear him saying hi, explain and he shouldn’t be upset. If you DO hear him and just blatantly ignore him, it’s rude. It’s not hard to say one word.

    1. Np*

      This is exactly what I think. I think the coworker is being obnoxious, of course, but OP2 saying that s/he occasionally doesn’t say hi because of “not feeling like chatting” struck me as rude. In all of my workplaces, you returned a “hi” or “(good) morning”, even perfunctorily. If you don’t feel like chatting (perfectly normal!) you can return the greeting quickly and go right back to what you were doing.

      1. Willis*

        Yeah, this. If OP honestly doesn’t hear him, then by all means explain that and let him know it’s nothing personal. But don’t purposely ignore the “hi” because you’re annoyed by the greeting frequency.

        I’m not sure what’s meant by confronting the OP. If he tracks her down later in the day and wants to have a conversation about why she didn’t return his greeting, that’s really weird and I’d be more inclined to draw a firmer line. But if he’s just repeating the hello or popping his head into the break room to be acknowledged or something like that in the moment, that seems less offensive, and easier to handle with an “oh, I didn’t hear you earlier, good morning.”

        1. valentine*

          It’s not hard to say one word.
          It can be, and OP2 shouldn’t reward the coworker’s demands.

          1. NEWBIEMD19*

            I disagree. Unless OP2 is a functional mute. Just say hi to the guy. Not because he’s demanding but because it’s rude to ignore people in the office just because you don’t feel like speaking.

            1. CheeryO*

              Even a functional mute would smile or do SOMETHING to acknowledge the guy. Jeezus, these comments have me feeling some kind of way.

            2. Valprehension*

              Meh. If some guy had repeatedly gotten upset at me for failing to acknowledge him because I was caught up in work/wearing headphones, I’d be inclined to stop acknowledging him entirely.

          2. Drewski*

            Oh come on. If it is too hard to say one word, maybe an office environment isn’t the right place to be working.
            If OP2 is just ignoring this person it can have a legit negative impact and create one of those “toxic jobs” everyone hates where pettiness rules. Not saying the actions of the initiator are OK… because hes clearly not handling it well. But acknowledgement is the right thing to do here!

          3. Yorick*

            It just isn’t. OP says they ignore the coworker because they don’t feel like chatting, but saying “hi” is not a chat. It’s barely a sound.

    2. Maree*

      I agree! Not responding to a one-on-one greeting is basically implying that the other person doesn’t exist or is so far below you that it isn’t important to even acknowledge their existence. I can’t fathom why you would want to be intentionally rude to another human being who is just starting their day (as you don’t respond when you ‘don’t feel like chatting’).
      Comparing a workplace greeting to harassment is over the top and undermines people speaking out about actual harassment.

      1. valentine*

        I can’t fathom why you would want to be intentionally rude to another human being who is just starting their day (as you don’t respond when you ‘don’t feel like chatting’).
        You’ve answered your own question, but also: It’s like people who need coffee or tea to power up. We really need speaking/silent sections so some of us don’t have to be on every second we’re outside our homes.

        1. Colette*

          Saying “hi” is not being on every second we’re outside our homes.

          If the coworker wanted a long conversation, it would be more of an imposition (although the OP would still be wrong to completely ignore her), but responding to a greeting takes a second, and “I didn’t feel like talking” is not a reasonable excuse in this situation.

        2. Drewski*

          If saying “hi” is too much before the coffee or tea, and considered being “on”… then OP needs to wake up earlier and get ready to be “on” before they arrive.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes. If you’re working in an office, you need to say hi to people. If you can’t do that, you at least need to accept that it’s going to be considered rude.

        3. Dahlia*

          Man, this is such a divide between office jobs and retail. The second I walk through the door at my job, I have to be “on”. I don’t get an hour to putz around at work “waking up”.

      2. Rabbit*

        You have repeated this assertion multiple times all over the thread and it seems to be a key element of your ‘coworker is on a power trip/ this is just as bad as street harassment’ argument, but I can’t see it anywhere in the letter

      3. Human Sloth*

        Actually, my read of this doesn’t indicated multiple times a day. However, the confrontation seems over the top to me.

      4. Drewski*

        Ever work in an office? People say hi in the hall all the time. It can be annoying… but it can be petty as *** to blatantly ignore it.

      5. Valprehension*

        I would be rude to them because they’d been extremely entitled about this shit in the past when I had solid reasons not to have noticed them. Honestly, once someone reveals themself to be that entitled, I don’t want to reward them for it. Dude can fucking suck it up.

    3. Cambridge Comma*

      Exactly. If you don’t feel like chatting, you can say that you’re right in the middle of something if he tries to start a conversation. Ignoring a basic social convention is not a soft way to signal that you don’t want to chat.

      1. valentine*

        The coworker already doesn’t care what OP2 wants. I think any response will lead to escalation because it’s not enough to acknowledge someone’s presence. It has to be verbal. If OP2 said hi loudly each and every time, there would be a chorus of “It’s rude not to have a short chat. It’s not hard.” Where does it end? Not the bathroom. Would that people respected that as a workplace refuge.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          The penguins in Madagascar knew how to handle it: “Just smile and wave, boys. Smile and wave.”

          1. Goya de la Mancha*

            Exactly! I follow that advice frequently :)

            Especially if it’s just a once a day thing, smile, wave, move on. If co-worker is demanding interaction several times a day, co-worker might need to be put in their place.

          2. Anne Elliot*

            The penguins in Madagascar knew how to handle it: “Just smile and wave, boys. Smile and wave.”

            Handy! I use S&W frequently, including:
            1. I didn’t hear you but don’t need to know what you said
            2. I don’t understand what’s going on
            3. I’m drunk (may also involve 1 and 2)

  12. Aussie*

    #2 How difficult is it to say one syllable to a coworker?These are people that you spend more waking hours with than your family and other loved ones.. surely a bit of common courtesy isn’t some ungodly morning burden on you?

    I’m a right twat before I have coffee in the morning, but I still manage to say hello to everyone in the hallways on the way past – even just a cursory nod would do the trick.

    Or maybe just be upfront with your coworker: “I think my morning day dreaming is more important than acknowledging your presence.. I hope you understand”

      1. valentine*

        even just a cursory nod would do the trick.
        Not for OP2’s coworker or a lot of the commenters here.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I …just don’t read that in the letter posted. OP talks about replies and ignoring — so maybe trying the middle ground would help.
          Also one of Alison’s uncomfortable conversations — “Good afternoon $Name. I figured I should let you know I usually plan my day over my morning coffee. I get so focused on mental lists that I just turn off the world. Dsys when I can do that, I’m at my most productive. Thanks for understanding that I am not always going to notice.”

    1. anonymous5*

      I mean…the common courtesy of not making a big deal out of an omitted “hi” is equally valid here, especially when OP doesn’t even always notice the initial greeting. If we follow the commenting rules and take the OP at their word, then the OP is not the problem.

      1. Np*

        I totally agree that the coworker is being obnoxious. But at the same time, OP2 has admitted that sometimes the reason they don’t say hi is because they don’t feel like chatting. That’s rude. And of course no one’s obligated to say hi back if they don’t hear it, but if that happened to me, and someone asked for an acknowledgment (or repeated their greeting or whatever), I’d be apologetic and say “whoops, didn’t hear you! Hi!” and go back to what I was doing. It’s not that hard to offer basic courtesy.

      1. Blossom*

        No, she also sometimes “doesn’t feel like chatting”. That’s the part which took me aback, and which other people are also reacting to. Replying “hi” or “morning” back is common courtesy, not chatting.

          1. Kc89*

            I don’t think you can objectively say it’s ruder when clearly plenty of people don’t agree

            As you said people are weird about greetings, on both sides

            1. MK*

              I don’t see why it is important to understand something that isn’t actually in the letter. The OP complains about the single morning greeting, they mention nothing about being interrupted multiple times a day, and I am pretty sure they would if it was happening.

            2. Femme d'Afrique*

              I’ve read the letter a few times, and it doesn’t say that this happens multiple times a day. She says it happens every day, which is a different situation.

            3. Detective Amy Santiago*

              I think you’re reading something in this letter that isn’t actually there.

            4. DAMitsDevon*

              It’s ruder because he’s making a big deal out of a very short interaction instead of letting it go. While the OP should just say hi even if they don’t feel like it, if they are indeed saying hi to the coworker the majority of the time, then said coworker should probably just assume, “oh maybe they’re in a bad mood or maybe they’re tired, or maybe they’re listening to a podcast and can’t hear me,” during the occasions when OP doesn’t say something.

              I’m not diagnosing the coworker with anything, but I have anxiety (including social anxiety), and I could see myself worrying if a coworker I try to say hi to doesn’t say anything back. However, I can also imagine talking through an interaction like that with my therapist and coming to the conclusion that it’s more likely that a coworker who doesn’t say hi back to me is just lost in thought, busy, or not in the mood to talk to anyone, as opposed to the idea that they dislike me or want to be rude.

          2. MK*

            Alison, was there more to the letter than was posted? Because ypu say that he makes a big deal out of it, but it’s clear to me what the co-worker’s reaction actually is.

            1. Myrin*

              I assume this is the letter as-is (can’t really say why, it just seems “complete” to me when I look at how it “flows”) but I think your sentiment is an important point nonetheless. I reckon this is one of the letters which would actually benefit from more details – Willis above gave some examples of how the coworker might be reacting, all of which could conceivably be called “confrontation” but which show various degress of severity. (Alison’s script should be applicable to all of them, though.)

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Nope, there’s no more to the letter. But if the coworker keeps “confronting” her about not saying hi, that’s making a big deal out of a minor thing.

          3. Yorick*

            I’m not sure it’s clear that the coworker IS making a big deal. What is he doing, exactly?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I don’t know, and I wish we did. But there’s nothing I can think of that would fall under the “confronting” umbrella that wouldn’t be making too big a deal out of this.

              1. Mary*

                I don’t know, there’s running into someone in the kitchen and saying, “I said hi to you this morning, did you not hear me or something?” which could be anywhere from perfectly amicable small talk to aggressively confrontational depending on tone.

          4. CheeryO*

            I don’t fully agree. Yes, the coworker is being rude, but they’re just saying what everyone else would be thinking. If OP really is ignoring people some percentage of the time when they say hi, they should take the coworker’s reaction as a cue to just freaking say hi back, every time.

        1. Reality.Bites*

          I agree that not saying hi because you don’t feel like chatting is rude, but on the other hand, I wouldn’t want to ever talk to that particular co-worker and would never feel like chatting.

          1. Quake Johnson*

            But I don’t even think saying “hi” constitutes “chatting.” It’s a single syllable for heaven’s sake!

      2. Quake Johnson*

        Except she says “sometimes I just don’t want to,” which is, in fact, extremely rude, and kinda makes it seem she thinks social graces are beneath her.

        His response isn’t good either, but the problems stem from her own rudeness.

        1. Bagpuss*

          I agree that it is rude for OP not to respond when the obnl reason is that she doesn’t feel like chatting, but I don’t see that the coworker would be able to tell whther she was not respondiong because she is feeling anti-social, or becuase she was focused on something else and didn’t hear her.

          I thinkAlison’s script, letting him know that sometimes she doesn’t respond becayuase she hsn’t heard him, is a good one, but I do wonder, given that he ‘confronts’ her for not saying ‘Hi’ whether that will be effective or whether he will then decide that he needs to attract her atetion ad then get his ‘hi’. It’ odd to me that he feels the need to confront her of make an issue of it – if she responds most of thtim, I would have thoought the obvious asumption for him to make would be that if she doesn;t respond there is a good reason, such as her not having heard him, and the fact that he thinks it is OK to then confront her about it is pretty controlling / entitled.

        2. Archaeopteryx*

          Where are you getting this ‘multiple times a day’ nonsense? It’s not in the letter and yet you’re splatting it all over the comments?

        3. Environmental Compliance*

          Okay, RUK, the letter does not say multiple. Insert Inigo Montoya meme here.

          The LW only calls out a once a day morning hello.

    2. Sara*

      Where are you getting that from? I can only find them saying that it happens every single day.

    3. Peacock*

      Oh my god. Saying hello and expecting a simple hello back is not entitlement, it’s basic manners. Ignoring a friendly hello just because you “don’t feel like it”? THAT’S entitlement.

    4. Lena*

      No, they don’t say that at all. You keep asserting this over a bunch of comments, and it simply isn’t true, so please stop. Or at least, quote the text in the letter that you think means “this happens multiple times per day”.

      I think you may have conflated this letter with the fist bump guy from earlier in the week, who was demanding interaction multiple times a day. That’s a very different situation, though.

    5. Myrin*

      The thing is: I agree with you, and I’m very sure that most people at least in my life would also agree with you.

      However: I actually think this falls under the “let’s not derail” umbrella – Roscoe’s comment above should be enough to flag for the OP that her attitude towards daily greetings is something that she might want to adjust, or to at least show her that many people would not react favourably to the knowledge that they’re intentionally getting ignored.

      But the main point of the letter is the coworker, who, regardless of what exactly “confrontation” means in this context, is being weirdly fixated on and obnoxious about this, so it would probably be more productive for us as a commenting section to suggest ways OP could react to her coworker.
      But as I’m writing this, there are more than 50 comments solely debating back and forth about who is ruder and as a consequence becoming ruder themselves when that doesn’t really help the OP’s situation at all. (And again, I think it’s very fair and worth to point out that sometimes it’s better to do little things even if we dislike them to make social interaction run more smoothly – but that can be done by one or two comments talking about that, not fifty or sixty.)

    6. pleaset*

      “multiple times a day, that he interrupts her with headphones on”
      U trippin’ brah?

        1. pleaset*

          Yup. And every 15 minutes like clockwork that dude is all in her face.

          That’s four times an hour. Thirty-two times a day.

          One-hundred-sixty times a week.

          W T F?

          How is that OK?


    7. Environmental Compliance*

      Can you please pull out the quote that you are referring to? You keep focusing on this multiple times thing, and no one else seems to be able to find this in the letter.

    8. confidante's inferno*

      1) I’ve just ctrl+F’d because I felt a little bit Groundhog Day reading your comment – you’ve made at least 5 assertions that this is “multiple times a day”, and yet that’s not mentioned anywhere in the letter. Where are you getting this from?

      2) I disagree that it’s necessarily similar to the “smile for me” phenomenon at all. “Smile for me” is essentially saying perform for me, because I have the power to demand that from you and it would please me – it’s inherently gendered. Expecting someone to say “hi” back in the morning is just common decency. Now, it’s possible that the OP’s colleague is a sexist asshole, sure, but there’s nothing in this letter that would suggest that. I’m a woman and I’d be a bit put out if someone couldn’t be bothered to say even one syllable to me in the morning because they “don’t want to chat”.

  13. MamaSarah*

    I work in office where the culture is to say good morning or hello to the people you pass in the hallway or en route to the break room upon arriving for the work day. This seems to have come from the top down. You say a quick hello or good morning to the people you come across at the top of the day and then go about your work flow. I think LW2 is actually being impolite if they ignore their co-worker while passing by or in common area and refuse to acknowledge their presence (at least at the beginning of the day…I try not to interrupt clerical staff who are clearly taking their 15 in the breakpoint).

    1. Np*

      Every single office I’ve worked in, in several European countries, has had this attitude. “Morning.” “Morning.” Or even just tipping the head back as acknowledgment. Nothing chirpy, nothing over the top. Just polite.

      1. Miso*

        Yeah, this. I’m absolutely shocked by how many people here think it’s okay to just ignore people greeting you.

        1. Newington*

          It’s not that it’s okay to ignore a greeting (although I don’t see why it isn’t.) It’s that it’s definitely Not Okay to be aggressive in response.

          If your idea of ‘politeness’ is to get angry when people don’t take part in it, you’re not being polite.

        2. pleaset*

          The first and second conscious non-response by the OP is bad.

          That guy continuing to try to get a response is badder. Really – if someone doesn’t “hi” back he keeps trying each day. Why?

          Complaining about it is the baddest.

        3. Coldbrewinacup*

          I don’t know that I really care enough to consider it. I say hi, you don’t respond.. okay, moving on. I am not going to think you’re a jerk. I am going to think one of the following things: you didn’t hear me; you don’t feel like responding; you’re off in la la land.

          I will shrug my shoulders and move on with my day. No big deal.

      2. londonedit*

        Yeah, I agree that the coworker is being obnoxious by making a big deal out of it, but really, how hard is it to at least acknowledge someone when they say hello? Every office I’ve worked in has had a culture where people say ‘Morning!’ and ‘Have a good evening!’ at the beginning and end of the day – no, it’s not literally going around to each person, it’s just addressing the room in general when you arrive/leave, and they’ll receive a chorus of ‘Morning/Hey/Hi/See ya/Bye/head-nod’ in response. It barely involves even looking up from your work, you just cast a ‘Hey’ or a ‘See ya tomorrow’ in their general direction. I mean, no one really keeps notes on who does and doesn’t respond, so in that sense yes it’s odd for the coworker to have a bee in his bonnet about OP2’s occasional lack of response, but I don’t feel it’s some big imposition to expect people to respond when you greet them, especially if it’s one-on-one.

    2. One of the Sarahs*

      OP isn’t ignoring colleague, she’s not hearing them because of headphones, or being deep in thought – she says in her post this is an occasional thing, not everyday, and I can see how it happens (OP is making coffee at the sink, colleague enters kitchen and says Hi, etc etc)

      1. Quake Johnson*

        But she also says “sometimes I don’t feel like chatting,” which means she’s making a conscious choice to be rude.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          O.M.G she sometimes, occasionally, once in a while doesn’t feel like responding to his constant demands for interaction!

          1. Miso*

            The coworker says hi in the morning and on the way to the break room. So what, 2 or 3 times a day? In what world does that count as “constant demands for interaction”?
            You’re really reading things into this letter that simply aren’t there.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              And I read it as the different occasions _in the morning _ when he might give the day”s first greeting.

          2. Mary*

            I’m sure there are some working environments where “I deliberately blanked you in the corridor because I didn’t feel like chatting” is OK, but it’s definitely well outside professional norms.

          3. Drewski*

            The “doesnt feel like responding” thing is fine.. we all have that.

            But ignoring someone in a professional setting isn’t. So don’t.

          4. Ewpp*

            Also There’s going to be occasions when the waving (hello) or gesture isn’t seen. So people suggesting that is good until that point. I had a co worker once who shouted hello from one end of the building to me at the door. Didn’t notice it until they shouted again, and a third time. (this is an outlying situation) but then the co worker eventually came up to me and wanted to ‘have a conversation about if I was alright. It shouldn’t be a personal sort of thing whether people say hello or not but questions like these always get attention. I’m responding to your comments in general and think I get what you mean.

        2. New Job So Much Better*

          Maybe she could just offer a nod and a “..sup?” like Sheldon and Leonard when they weren’t speaking.

        3. One of the Sarahs*

          She said she says hi 90% of the time – once in 10 days, so twice a working month. Most of these she doesn’t hear, so even she misses the morning greeting deliberately 1 in 5 times, that’s only like max 4 times a year, discounting holidays and assuming their vacations line up etc etc.

          Sure, just ignoring people is rude, but getting called out on it is way disproportionate.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Same. In fact, it was a big part of my onboarding. The 10/5 rule, I think they called it. If you’re walking past someone, you smile/acknowledge them when you’re 10 feet away and then at 5 feet away, say “hi” or “good morning” or whatever. It doesn’t require a conversation or for people to stop working or anything like that. It’s basic decency and being cordial to your colleagues.

    4. Human Sloth*

      Here is what bothers me about the letter… and maybe I am sensitive, so…

      I have a bad vibe about how offended the greeter gets when OP doesn’t respond. Depending the whole exchange of the confrontation, I would think the greeters reaction to not being acknowledged shines a little light on the personality of the greeter. At this point I would respond back to keep peace. I find the confrontations worrisome and maybe an indicator of less desirable personality traits and/or behaviours on the greeters part.

  14. NeverNicky*

    #1 I work for a small charity (less than 20 staff) and we’ve done a similar exercise twice on team away days – first was with notes and envelopes, most recently face to face. With the latter, all we could respond with was “thank you”.

    I think both times worked well, although the latter time got a bit emotional! However, we were already a close knit team; there is a lot of mutual trust and respect; we are recruited for fitting our values (which include empathy and honesty) as well as our skills and we are generally conflict free.

    Comments both times were a mix of professional (knowledge, skills) and personal (so kindness, enthusiasm etc). I was very touched and cheered by what people said, especially as I work remotely from the rest of the team and I’ve worked hard to build and maintain relationships as we’ve grown and recruited new people.

    All that being said, I have worked for teams and organisations where these exercises would have been cringeworthy at best and disastrous and divisive at worst so I can see where you are coming from OP!

    1. Cambridge Comma*

      I‘ve also done this exercise and it was amazing, people were uplifted and the mood after was incredible. However, it was a happy group already. It would likely be horrendous with a toxic team.

      1. Not All*

        No…*you* felt that way and anyone who hated it (as I do) did a good enough job faking it that you couldn’t tell they were faking it (what I used to do).

        When a group has a strong culture of this kindof touchy-feely crap, most people will pretend to be on board with it & really like it. Right up until you get someone far enough along and secure enough in their career like me to no longer give a crap about faking it. Then it’s amazing the percentage of people who suddenly feel free to openly admit that they don’t like it either.

    2. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

      I also have positive experiences with this kind of thing, but it was an exceptional group of people. In other groups, the result could be anything from awkward to bullying.

    3. Reality.Bites*

      I’ve worked with groups of people I’ve liked and respected. I also have friends and family I love and respect.

      I am undecided whether it would be more tortuous to have to write out praise for them to be read publicly or to hear praise of me they were forced to write.

      It runs in my family. My cousin and her husband are both turning 80 this year and there is going to be a joint birthday party. The relative doing the planning mentioned in advance no speeches allowed.

    4. pleaset*

      We’ve done this face-to-face where I work, most recently in this year’s staff retreat. I’ve refused to participate.

      I thank people, generally in email, from time-to-time, and sometimes praise them (most recently last week to a colleague in another office – direct to her about something I just learned that happened a few months ago). That’s enough. And I don’t want to hear it about myself.

      We’re not toxic – we’re fairly high-performing. I just don’t like it – it feels forced and I don’t enjoy receiving it. If it was unidirectional I’d could easily do it for half the people I work with. The other half it’d be a bit forced (unless it was praise for trivial stuff) but I could fake it to seem genuine for most of them.

    5. Michael Valentine*

      We do this at my non profit. Not face to face, but in writing. While some of the feedback is nothing special (Thanks for being you!), I just toss that aside for the stuff that is more meaningful. I’ve gotten some great notes over the years, and I keep them in my desk to read when I need a pick-me-up. We are a remote company for the most part, so we have to be very deliberate about connecting. And for my admin team, in particular, it’s definitely meaningful. We get credit for just about nothing on a day-to-day basis.

  15. Jo*

    Op2, I used to have a flatmate who went in the huff when I didn’t say hi back to her one time. I think I was in a world of my own at the time, and she retorted by saying angrily ‘Are you not speaking today?’ and then snapping back at me every time I spoke to her. She had a tendency to go in a screaming fit at little things and had a deludedly high opinion of herself and of her own importance, so for someone to not acknowledge her would be a huge deal that most normal reasonable people wouldn’t have as much of an issue with. If you do hear your coworker greet you I’d just say hi back, but if you don’t I’d just say ‘Sorry! Didn’t hear you with my headphones/I was daydreaming’ and then address it as a bigger picture issue if they continue to take offence.

  16. Mandatory High Five*

    OP1, I agree that it’s off-putting but relatively benign in terms of team building cheer pressure. There is a perspective on it that may help a little, though.

    Instead of looking at it as a way to fill everyone with praise and overwhelm the self esteem meters, maybe think about it as being beneficial to the people offering praise. Putting effort into what you actually appreciate about your coworkers isn’t a bad thing.

    It’s a very different context, but we did something similar with my son when he was young and having problems with bullies. The situation (understandably) left him feeling very negative and isolated. We gave him an “assignment” to give a complement to one person each day at school. It was a small thing, and it wasn’t the exclusive solution to the issue, but it helped shift his mindset toward seeking something positive in his peers.

    I’m not suggesting that you should be treated like a bunch of 5th graders who need to learn to play well together. And there are undoubtedly people who will phone-it-in with lazy, superficial, or unfortunately inappropriate praise.

    The exercise is silly and and a bit condescending. But if you frame it as a way to appreciate your coworkers’ value rather than a chore to leave everyone feeling extra special and sparkly, it may be better for you — and that may even make it better for the people you’re praising.

    1. Shad*

      Wait—your son was being bullied and your response was to make him compliment them? Seriously? I really, really hope you’re glossing over a lot of more meaningful support and efforts to stop the other kids here, because putting it on the victim to just be happy anyway is kind of horrible.

      1. Reba*

        I didn’t read it as complimenting the bullies, but other people, to try to shift a negative feeling about school and classmates *in general* that was due to bullying. And she says right there that it was not the only thing they did about the situation.

        1. Lilysparrow*

          Yes, and making positive connections with other classmates also helps to cultivate a support network and allies among your peers. People being bullied need support and allies to stick up for them, so reaching out in small ways to those others is a proactive, empowering response.

  17. musical chairs*

    I’m in the US (not sure if the OP is) but I am a first gen American with parents who are immigrants from another country. In my culture of origin it’s considered extremely rude not to acknowledge when someone enters a room or your general space (ie cubicle area). Way more than in mainstream American culture. I had a coworker who would only half of the time respond when I said hello in the morning and even though it produces a larger sense of anger in me than it would with someone from a different cultural background, I never told him how much it offended me and why. Part of me wishes I’d told him that it means more than he thinks when he didn’t respond (he would also never would greet me when I entered the space he was already in), part of me understands it’s not totally appropriate to have that conversation in the workplace when my culture isn’t the majority.

    I’m of two minds on it cause it such a small thing to just say back so why not say it, but also it is a small thing so why bring it up?

    1. Bears Beets Battlestar*

      Interesting! It hadn’t occurred to me that there could be a cultural component.

    2. BethDH*

      Culture definitely plays a part, even if it’s just within the US! I’m mostly an extrovert and my spouse is mostly an introvert. You’d think I’d be all over greetings and he’d be wanting to avoid the small-talk hi. But his southern background says you can’t even pass people on the street (unless it’s very busy) without a nod of acknowledgement, while my Pacific Northwest urban background says it’s polite to pretend we all have a bubble of privacy even in public. I rarely greet even my coworkers unless they greet me first, but he would be (internally) upset by it even though he hates chitchat.

  18. Not Australian*

    I hope it’s not too off topic to wish OP3 and their child well throughout this transition; it sounds as if they have a lovely, calm and rational approach which must be wonderfully reassuring for the young man – so hooray for wise and understanding parents!

    1. JSPA*

      Seconded! : )
      Note that coworkers should get about as much slack on dead-naming / misgendering in the future as they would get for misgendering / misnaming / generally misremembering your other kids. Coworkers vary greatly on how much detail they store and process about third – parties – not – present – at – work. The coworker who struggles to remember who has kids at all, is probably not being unsupportive if apropos (e.g.) a discussion on preteen girls and texting, they say, “don’t you have a daughter that age?” As with any other misperception, that’s a “no, but we worry that Sam and his classmates are glued to their phones by their thumbs.”

      1. SuperAdmin*

        JSPA, that’s a great example – it corrects the misgendering without making a Thing of it, which means if the coworker just forgot they’re reminded, and if they did it deliberately you’re clear you’re not letting it pass. Best of all worlds.

        Thirding the well wishes to OP3 and their family – you’re clearly being a loving, supportive parent, and I think the way you suggest phrasing Sam’s identity to your coworkers is perfect – no big deal, not really a discussion, just an ‘FYI, this is how things are, when I talk about my kids this is who I mean’ and carry on with your lives. Thank you for being a wonderful ally to your son.

      2. Yvette*

        Exactly, if they use the wrong name or pronoun it is most likely out of habbit than being disrespectful. If I am used to calling you Robert for several years, and then you decided to change your name to Howard (for whatever reason) it would probably take me a while to get used to it.

          1. J*

            That was a test. I was just cautioning about moving too fast in doing irreversible things to a child.

            I got the sense conservatives were not welcome here and you confirmed it.

      3. Gaia*

        I think this really depends. If it appears they truly don’t remember (and this applies universally to any of their coworkers’ children) then yes, give them the same slack you’d give them for any other error regarding your family. But some people who have Big Feelings about the transgender community will use “oh, I forgot” as an excuse to continue to misgender/dead-name people and that should be given exactly 0% slack.

  19. Rexish*

    #1 Okay, I’m the person who doesn’t fell the intense hate towards forced work fun, christmas parties and team building. I agree that forced compliments are not the best ones. But do you genuinly have a working culture where you compliment each other when there is reason to? I’ve yet to experience a work community like this. In my ecxperience the approach has been more of a “if there is no complaints, then you are doing a good job”. Forced compliments are not great, but there is potential that there might be genuine compliments and people sharing their appreciation. I’ve done this several times even as an adult in my hobby. I’ve always walked out feeling pretty good from some of the commnets. It might not be everyones cup of tea but it doesn’t have to be that bad.

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      Yeah, agreed. I know that at my office there’s plenty of people that I have positive opinions about, but that would also be kind of weird to just say normally. I wouldn’t mind an opportunity to voice those without it being weird.

    2. Mary*

      I’m not sure about the “and then they’ll be given to your co-worker” is the weird part. If it was more like a 360 with brief positive comments to be given to supervisors, checked and then passed on, that would make more sense.

      I kind of feel like it’s not a bad way to take the temperature of your working environment. If it’s really that hard for people to think of short compliments / appreciation for their co-workers, yikes.

    3. pleaset*

      I did a couple weeks ago.

      Sent an email “You’re so smart – we need more people like you” to someone months and months after she did something really good, that didn’t directly involve me, that I really think we need more of.

      I sent it partially out in a commiserative way since I suspected she was feeling down about some other things happening. But there wasn’t really a reason for me to send it.

    4. No Coffee No Workee*

      I’d actually look forward to reading the comments, forced or not. Seeing what my coworkers struggle to write about me would give me a lot of insight into how I come across in the office. Ideally I’d see a lot of comments about my work ethic, talent, deamonor in the office, etc. but if there was A LOT of fluff like “always has a neat desk” or snide comments like “always says hi no matter how busy someone is”, I’m self aware and confident enough to take a look at the situation to see if I need to adjust anything.

      1. Willis*

        I was scanning this quickly and read that as “always has meat at her desk.” I thought maybe you were getting a compliment from Ron Swanson!

  20. Quake Johnson*

    Aw, I think the exercise in number one is kinda cute.

    I find the culture on this site often veers too far into the “At work we must only focus on working, there is no room for fun, compliments or joy,” side of things.

    1. Bagpuss*

      I don’t think it is that there is no room for fun, compliments or joy.
      I think it’s more that forced “fun” , and forced compliments, are the issue – its not a bad thing to encourage peopl to think about their colleagues strengths and what they appreciate or admire about them, but when it becomes madatory it creates a risk both that people will be forced to be insincere, because it is mandatory, and that the value of the compliments is reduced becaue the receipients know that it was mandatory.

      1. PB*

        This. I’ve had coworkers in the past I would have struggled to say anything nice about. I wouldn’t have appreciated having to come up with praise for them. Sincerely offered praise, on the other hand, is a wonderful thing, especially in a thankless job.

    2. Foreign Octopus*

      I think the exercise can possibly work as long as everyone is on the same page and the guidelines are clear i.e. work compliments only instead of “Jane’s got nice hair” or “Tom bakes very well”. Focusing on work items makes it more beneficial, I think.

      1. No Tribble At All*

        There are coworkers I would struggle to compliment on their work abilities. There are also coworkers I would struggle to compliment on their personality.

    3. OP1*

      I like fun, compliments, and joy! I also like doing those things with coworkers I feel genuinely about, and would prefer it in a workplace that comes naturally. I want to clarify that I don’t *dis*like any of my coworkers except for my department head – but very few of them are people I know well enough, either professionally or personally, to be able to genuinely compliment. Most of them fall firmly into “neutral” territory.

      1. Quake Johnson*

        But isn’t that the point of the exercise? If you can dig deep and find *something* you like about each person that can start the process of shifting them from “neutral” to “genuinely like and respect.”

        1. Emma Lou*

          Forcing myself to find something nice to say about someone does absolutely nothing to make me like or respect them. It makes me resent them (a tiny bit, but now they are associated in my mind with this crappy stupid exercise and not with anything positive).

          Genuine liking and respect come through authentic interaction, not forced activities.

          1. Quake Johnson*

            But the activity can allow for interactions to happen.

            The malaise people have for this is just so Eeyore-ish to me.

            1. WellRed*

              But the interaction in the forced exercise isn’t really authentic. I have worked in the same small company as our marketing manager for 10 years, am friends with her, think she’s awesome. I do not engage with her on work stuff. So, I would be hard pressed to compliment her on whatever aspects of work she does because I have no idea. I’d come up with something, of course, but…what does it mean? Does it have any value whatsoever in the workplace to say, “Margo is awesome. We have the same dirty sense of humor”?

              1. Quake Johnson*

                I think it does. They’re making these comments anonymously and then taking them home.

                I think Margo would smile to read your comment about her sense of humour, probably figure out it was you, and be happy for a little bit because of it.

            2. In Rude Health*

              And this insistence that we can all learn a very special lesson from this tacky forced bullshirt activity is just so Pollyannaish to me.


          2. a1*

            I think we’re getting at the whole point of the exercise here. No one is 100% evil nor 100% angel. I worked for a real sh*t manager – so bad he was like a caricature of a bad manager – and even though he was so bad I would quit on the spot if I had to work anywhere near him again, I can still find something positive to say. He was good at contract management. Just because he was a sh*t people manager does not negate that. Same with when I was in retail, a coworker was very cliquey, gossipped about everyone, etc but you know what? she was great with customers. Just because I don’t like these people doesn’t mean I can’t see where they do have skills somewhere. Even if it’s the only place they have a positive skill, it is still there. It’s not going to change me to liking them and wanting to be friends of anything, but I do think it’s useful to see people as multifaceted and whole people.

        2. smoke tree*

          I think it depends, though. There are some people I work with who I only have a few words of communication with each year. Even if I dig deep, I couldn’t come up with anything better than “responds to emails quickly” or “doesn’t have obnoxious email signature.” I’ve heard of some workplaces where people are encouraged to write a thank-you note to a colleague and copy their manager when they go above and beyond to help you, or are consistently helpful, or whatnot. That seems like a better direction for this impulse to me.

    4. Dr. Pepper*

      As someone who cares about getting the job done and goes to work to work, I find the culture here refreshing. I find that fun, joy, and compliments that come organically from people actually doing their jobs and accomplishing real results are far more meaningful and satisfying than mandatory team building exercises. You want me to say something nice about Bob? Well, maybe Bob could do the thing I asked him to do a week ago and NOT roll his eyes about it or go into long monologues about how he’s sooo buuusy. I am friendly and polite to everybody, even Bob. I am very appreciative of coworkers who make my work go smoother and my life easier and I tell them so. Being required to come up with something nice to say about the ones who don’t? Nope, not into it. If that makes me an Eeyore, so be it.

    1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I’m just imagining the compliments I’d give to some of my previous coworkers and the ones they’d give me. They’d be incredibly vapid, superficial, or barbed for the most part with one or two actual compliments. I’d be anxiously trying to think of something useful or encouraging and end up making it weird somehow, probably.

  21. Sue Wilson*

    1. I think when it comes to personal commentary on other people, it has to be acknowledged as fraught to put someone on the spot. This type of thing only really works when everyone already respects and/or likes each other, but it often goes unsaid. In those situations, this can be really sweet. But if your team dynamics ever ventures below or at “work acquaintances,” this activity isn’t going to be fruitful. I don’t mind team building, but i do wish the people who organize it were more thoughtful about planning activities around the circumstances of the team and the actual anticipated outcome.

    1. JSPA*

      They seem to be getting advance notice. Surely people can muster a “talks willingly to drop – in clients” or “willing to play devil’s advocate” or “impeccably turned -out.”

      1. Sue Wilson*

        i mean, advance notice or not, dislike or indifference really obscures normal abilities to compliment. The impulse to be irreverent or petty because much more frequent.

    2. Even Steven*

      I agree with this. I hope that the organizer sorts the compliment slips before distributing, and then creates his or her own numerous slips for any colleague who would otherwise get none. Just because colleagues are supposed to create one per colleague doesn’t mean they will. If they can’t come up with something nice, they may give up entirely. And an imbalance would be seriously problematic. It could turn into one of those 3rd grade Valentine’s Day fiascos where regular kids sit at their desks watching the popular kids getting snowed under with valentine cards, and cringe non-stop at their empty desks until the whole uncomfortable public popularity contest is over. We’re all 3rd graders inside, and need the structures we live in (work, school) to be kind and respectful.

    3. Strawberry Milk Tea*

      We have a similar activity at work but instead of doing it anonymously its done voluntarily at company meetings. A Big boss kicks off the compliments and many people choose to compliment and praise coworkers. People LOVE doing it this way but like your comment, everyone already respects and likes each other so it’s just added on niceness.

  22. EGA*

    LW #3: I think it is a. appropriate to let your team know about the transition and b. shows others who might be queer or have queer family that they can be open about it, should they choose to be.

    I am in my mid-20s and have a trans parent who came out a few years ago (before I started at my current job where I have been for ~2 years). While I and my family are 100% supportive and everyone in my personal life knows, still not everyone at work knows, including my direct supervisor and CEO (with whom we work closely). I struggle regularly on whether to mention it, as family/parents/siblings come up regularly as a topic. I still have fear about other’s potentially hurtful reactions and close-mindedness. This has given me yet another reason to be open about it next time it comes up!

    1. Doing Too Many Thing*

      EGA, I’m sending internet hugs if you want them. Figuring out how to talk about a key family relationship that once looked typical (I assume) and now doesn’t (also an assumption) can be a challenge. It’s not like you grew up learning to navigate these conversations and safety judgements. I hope you’re able to find a way to handle it that feels right and balanced for you.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      To add to your “b”, you might find other people in similar situations that you never knew about before, or people in sympathetic situations. The son of a co-worker of mine is transitioning, and when he finally said it out loud around me (I kind of already suspected), I was able to share that my sister is trans and I understood it was a complex thing for him (my co-worker). I think that was a big relief to him.

    3. mom of trans*

      EGA, you certainly have my support! It’s a weird thing to navigate, and I just want it to be as matter of fact as possible.

  23. Sue Wilson*

    2. I guessing that you think “i don’t feel like it” looks exactly like “i didn’t hear you” but consider that this person is going overboard to get acknowledgement because he knows you sometimes fake not hearing him. Alison’s advice remains great and the proper response, but I get the feeling that you think you haven’t contributed to this dynamic between you and your coworker and so you shouldn’t have to tell him to chill, and tbqf, you have (there’s no way to opt out of social interaction at work, even if that interaction is merely telling people you’re going to be unavailable), and responding when you hear him will likely mean you have to say “chill” less often.

    I’m not unsympathetic to your “i don’t feel like it” OP. I had what I can only describe as very selective mutism as a teenager, where opening my mouth felt like a climbing a mountain. I would spend entire days not speaking. My body interpreted “i don’t feel like it” as a command. But I still found ways to communicate. And so can you. Wave, if you really can’t find it inside yourself to say hi. Interacting with people grounds your mind to reality; be kind and give someone at least that confirmation that you are both in the same dimension.

  24. Sue Wilson*

    4. If im reading you correctly, you’re going to leave anyway in a year? What if you got that advancement opportunity now from another company, would you leave? Timing isn’t going to always work out, and the company is going to have to replace you anyway. At least if you move into the higher position, they know you’ll be there to oversee any difficulties.

  25. Lena Clare*

    LW1: When I was a teacher doing PSHE lessons with year 7 (age 11-12), we’d have a blank picture of a flower for the students and they’d have to fill in a nice thing that someone said to them on each petal until it was completed. Then they could decorate it, cut it out, and stick it in their planners to look at.

    Anyway one day, I told off one of the students for something or other minor, I can’t remember what, and another kid piped up “Oh hey, miss, he’ll have to look at his flower now!” It was very, very funny.

    So yeah, I think of that kids’ activity when I hear of things like this, but we had to do it in our work place too and it makes me wonder if management doesn’t get their team bonding ideas room kids’ PSHE/assembly books.

    But that headline also makes me think of this:


    So go with it! Give your colleagues the most outrageously lovely compliments you can think of, so that they laugh when they think of it rather than cringe!

  26. Former call centre worker*

    #1 – we’ve done that exercise. We submitted comments in advance and someone collated them, so we had plenty of time to think about it. We also discussed it as a team beforehand and it was a team decision to do it. It worked well overall, but if we were to do it again I’d probably suggest a guideline of sticking to work-related stuff as much as poss, to avoid anyone feeling that their colleagues value their baking skills or regular tea rounds more than their work

  27. Betty*

    #1 – I find these things a bit tedious, but I think it’s a perfectly fine thing to do as a team-building activity. The two things I particularly like about the way this is structured is that the compliments are written down and that you get advance notice. That way you’re not left floundering on the spot looking someone in the eye desperately trying to come up with something.

    I remember doing this at school, though, and literally 27/27 of my comments were along the lines of “she is very clever”. By the end I felt like a brain in a jar rather than a real human.

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      Same. I find them tedious but as long as it’s a one-off, it’s fine.

      I made a comment above where my old boss made these sessions mandatory in our daily morning briefings and that was overkill.

  28. LGC*

    So, LW2, this is where you can deploy humor if you otherwise have a good relationship. It’s not to say that you can’t feel harassed, but…like, slipping in a “Hey, don’t talk to me before I’ve had my coffee” if you can swing that in a cheerful way might help.

    I mentioned upthread that I have a similar situation with a coworker (who sometimes might NOT hear me). I just say I already did say hi this morning and she didn’t hear me (because that’s almost always what happens). I don’t know how confrontational your coworker gets, but this can be tricky – if you do feel threatened, DON’T do this, but if you just mean he’s annoying you…give it a shot!

  29. Cheese Cheese Cheese CHEESE*

    There seems to have been a spate of letters recently from people who see social interaction with their colleagues as a massive imposition, who inevitably find endless validation in the comments. I think it’s quite important to point out that in the majority of workplaces (source: career across multiple businesses, including visiting 20-30 client sites a year for a while) you simply cannot get away with this kind of behaviour. If you refuse to greet people because you “don’t feel like chatting”, or get the arse at the idea of having to say nice things about the rest of your team, or act like talking about your weekend is a violation of privacy, then people WILL notice and it WILL affect your career. Because humans want to spend time with other humans who are easy to get along with, who accept the basic rules of social interaction, and who don’t make them feel like dirt on a shoe for trying to say ‘hello’.

    Oh, and introversion means you find social interaction draining and need alone time to recharge. It’s not a green light to be as rude as you like to anybody who actually speaks on the basis that they must be an extrovert and are therefore inferior. It’s perfectly possible to be introverted and sociable.

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      I agree with this.

      I dislike morning interactions as I find them repetitive and dull, but they are part of the social contract that’s considered acceptable in most Western workplaces. It’s the price that we pay for being part of a society and sharing our lives with others, even in the most peripheral sense. Interpersonal skills are hugely important for every walk of life and if we start viewing regular morning greetings as an imposition then we (our careers) are going to suffer.

      I’m an introvert to a fairly hermit-like degree, but I also know that it’s important to be kind to others and make adjustments that I’m comfortable with for other people’s nature.

      Saying hello is a perfectly reasonable thing to do in a workplace. The issue with OP2 isn’t that it’s saying hello, it’s the fact that the co-worker is demanding a response and is being rude about it and that needs to be the focus of the advice.

    2. Sylvan*

      I agree with you… I’m not sure about today’s letter, because I feel like there’s something I’m seriously missing.

      However, I’ve noticed the same trend of… antagonistic? Interpretations and responses to everyday interactions in comments here. In my office, at least, it wouldn’t go over very well.

    3. Jennifer*

      +1000 especially that last paragraph. The co-worker could be an introvert for all we know.

    4. PB*

      I’m just going to cosign this, because you’ve perfectly articulated how I feel on this topic. I’m honestly disturbed by the trend of people who feel put out by having to say “good morning” or other basic social pleasantries. It’s not an introvert/extrovert thing. It’s basic human contact.

    5. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Agreed. I’m a huge introvert, but I’m still pleasant and kind to people.

      Soft skills are just as important as hard skills when it comes to career progression and if you have a reputation for being unpleasant and rude, it will impact your ability to move forward.

    6. Goose Lavel*

      OP might prefer a morning greeting via text? Some are just a bit too self absorbed to bother with return greeting.

    7. Lily Rowan*

      Yes, thank you! Being nice to people you have to spend a significant amount of time with on a regular basis is well worth it. Even on a surface level, even if you don’t feel like it.

    8. HS Teacher*

      Thank you for posting this. I couldn’t agree more. I’m as introverted as they come but still can manage a hello in the interest of not being rude.

    9. Julia*

      Thank you.

      I’m fairly extroverted (but would probably fall under the category of hypersensitive extroverts, especially regarding noise) and still have to excuse myself from the loud chatter my co-workers often produce in our open office, and often find their topics (food, food, and more food) extremely annoying. That said, I still can’t st0p greeting them – and I work in a culture that expects quite a lot of greetings, not just good morning, but “I acknowledge your hard work” and “excuse me for leaving earlier than you” – just because they sometimes annoy me (which is a fit issue, not an introversion issue).
      One of my co-workers completely refuses to acknowledge my existent (and the existence of everyone who started working after her) and it definitely affects the atmosphere in the office. Today she was off and another co-worker and I both remarked how much better things felt that day. You work with humans, and I presume no one signed up for another round of Mean Girls in their professional lives.

    10. confidante's inferno*

      Thank you! This is a common theme here in the comments and I’m baffled by it! I’m an introvert with anxiety and I still manage to participate in basic human interaction. If you can manage to hold down a job then you should be able to say “hi” on a morning.

    11. CheeryO*

      Yup. I’m super introverted. I genuinely like my coworkers, but I have days where I wish I could do all my work in a little pod and never have to interact with anyone. That’s not the world we live in. We’re stuck with our coworkers for 40+ hours per week, and usually we rely on each other to some extent to get work done. If you act like you’re above socializing (and that yes, includes the occasional happy hour or whatever it is your office does, in addition to daily pleasantries) people WILL notice and WILL think poorly of you for it. This site attracts a very thoughtful, intelligent bunch, but I would not necessarily recommend drawing your boundaries as close and as firmly as some do here.

    12. Aquawoman*

      I just searched the comments for the word “introvert” and got 32 hits, of which exactly one defended the LW’s behavior on the basis of introversion. The rest either were by introverts who were saying that people should return routine greetings or by people who were saying that it’s irrelevant. So I’m not sure what your second paragraph is responding to. I think it’s a little insulting to project onto anyone that they think extroverts are inferior.

    13. londonedit*

      Yes, agreed. Life as human beings is built on thousands of tiny social interactions, and it’s just bizarre to want to opt out of it all, and to actively feel attacked by people ‘making’ you – god forbid – say hi to them in the mornings (I’m talking about the reaction of some of the commenters here, not the OP’s letter itself). If I go into a shop, even if I’m hungover or annoyed or not wanting to speak to people, I don’t shove my purchases on the counter and ignore the person serving me and grab my stuff and leave without saying thank you. Because that would be spectacularly rude. Instead, I make myself follow the social convention of at the very least saying ‘hello’ and ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, even if I’m not smiling about it. My being hungover or grumpy isn’t anything to do with them. Similarly, I make the effort to at least say ‘hey’ or ‘hi’ back to someone who greets me at work, even if I have no clue who they are, because that’s the polite thing to do. If it annoys me, fine, but that’s my problem, not theirs, and it’s still polite to respond.

    14. Even Steven*

      Thank you, cccC! Exactly. Our companies are not just paying us for our work, but for being pleasant and cooperative with our colleagues, since so much we do at work requires interaction with them. We have to interact, and because we are not robots (oh, well) but are social beings, that includes small niceties. It is necessary, and used to be quite automatic, but it is certainly souring in many places. Sad to see, when it really is such a small thing to say or even just nod hello.

  30. Foreign Octopus*

    OP2 I think both you and your co-worker are being a little rude here: him by demanding an explanation, and you for ignoring him because you don’t feel like chatting. I get it though. Ignoring him seems like the easier option and maybe if he didn’t come back with a demand, then it would (maybe) have solved the problem, however it hasn’t and I do think that you need to talk with him about it in a clear and simple way.

    It’s also hard to tell how prevalent the greetings are. If it’s just when he sees you in the same room or when he’s passing in the corridor, then I wouldn’t say it’s excessive. If it’s any more than that, you might have grounds for asking him to scale back, although I’m not sure how to phrase that.

    The thing I’m more concerned about is his confrontation of you when he either doesn’t hear a response or get a response. That’s troubling. If he’s making you feel uncomfortable and you have the infrastructure, approach HR and let them guide you. If that doesn’t work, then the only way forward is to have a conversation with him. I might try something like:

    “I don’t want to be rude, but it’s a little difficult for me to respond every time you greet me. Sometimes I’m really in the zone and it’s distracting when you then ask me why I didn’t reply. So if you don’t get a response, it’s because I’m working and probably didn’t hear you. Please don’t take it personally. Thanks.”

    For the rest of the time, just greet him. It doesn’t even have to be a hello. Give him a head nod, eye contact, a small smile, something that says “yes, hello fellow human, I recognise your existence”.

  31. JediSquirrel*

    #2: I’ve told all my coworkers I’m not really awake before 10:00 because I’m just not a morning person. If you need to tell me something important before then, either write it down or make sure I write it down, or it may not happen. It’s just part of training others how to manage me. Allison’s script is a good one, and I’m sure it will work for you.

  32. PolicyChick*

    So LW 1’s office basically has a mandatory Snap Cup?
    “Grace always speaks her mind, and she looks fabulous in charcoal!”

    1. OP1*

      I’ve never heard of a Snap Cup before now. I love it. Now I need to watch Legally Blonde 2.

  33. Myrin*

    OP #3, you sound like a very thoughtful, lovely parent – I’m so glad your son gets to have the support of you and your family, I can guarantee that it means a lot to him. I’m sending best wishes to all of you and hope that – as Alison and others say, too, always with the caveat of your son being okay with it, of course – The Talk at your workplace goes off without a hitch!

  34. Jennifer*

    You know this particular co-worker is weird about greetings. It happens every morning. When you walk by his desk, just say hi. Problem solved. He’s being rude but not returning a greeting because you don’t feel like it is also rude. This way he has no chance to complain.

    1. Strawberry Milk Tea*

      Who would want to try to regularly greet someone who escalated a situation for not getting a Hi in the morning? Doesn’t it become “Now I have to say Hi or coworker will hunt me down or interrupt me to get what they want” which sounds stressful.

      1. Jennifer*

        Just say hi and go on with your day. It’s not worth going to management or HR about. This is the path of least resistance. It’s not worth waging war over.

  35. AnyoneAnywhere*

    I’m going to disagree a bit about #1. I agree that I would be annoyed about it in a work context- but especially in professions with high burn out rates- like social work- feel good things like this can make a bit more sense. There are well known stories of people dying suddenly and their loved ones finding scraps of paper from activities like this in their wallet- which were made in grade school.

    My sister still has some slips of paper from a fourth grade version of this framed. And come on- you don’t have to lie or engage more than you want to. “Jenna is always dressed so nicely! Peter always has a funny knock knock joke. I love Deb’s post-it collection. ” Sure, it’s nice if you have something meaningful to write, but even little things like this fulfill the requirement and could be meaningful to a person.

    1. londonedit*

      I agree. Maybe I just have a particularly charitable outlook, but I think it’s quite a nice thing to do in a team. So often everyone’s focusing on their own work and unless something big happens it’s easy to forget to just say ‘Hey, really appreciate your support’ every now and then. I actually have an example from yesterday, when I did an ordinary part of my job and sent something out to a couple of colleagues. I got a response back saying ‘Thanks for this – and if I haven’t said it before, thanks so much for all your help’. It was such a simple thing, but it really meant something to me that a colleague had taken the time to acknowledge my support with a little more than the usual ‘Thanks!’ And I have to say I wouldn’t really mind if the compliments I got from this sort of exercise were things like ‘londonedit is really good at baking’ – I feel like those things are about work as much as ‘londonedit always gets the report done on time’ would be, because they’d show that my colleagues appreciate my contributions to the workplace as a whole, not just me doing the bits I have to do as part of my job.

      1. No Tribble At All*

        Re: are mandatory compliments still meaningful, I wonder if there’s a similar divide between people who find inspirational quotes inspirational and people who find them sappy and unhelpful.

          1. londonedit*

            I think they’re sappy and unhelpful too :)

            Having read your post with more info, OP1, I can now totally see why you’d hate doing this, and why you’d feel forced into trying to come up with something…anything…to say about people who in reality make your working life pretty miserable. That’s not the same as thinking ‘Well, this is a bit silly, but hey Jane does do a great job at answering all those crappy emails she gets, so I suppose I can say that’.

  36. SigneL*

    Am I the only person who would use the same compliment for everyone in #1? (Like, “nice eyebrows!”) Would that be terrible?

    1. Lisa Turtle*

      I probably wouldn’t use the exact same one but different variations of a couple of different compliments. Enough to participate but that’s about it.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        ” doesn’t microwave fish in the breakroom”
        “doesn’t steal my pens (that I know of)”
        “doesn’t clip their toenails at their desk”
        “doesn’t take up 3 sinks to curl their hair every morning”
        “doesn’t abuse the caps lock key”
        “doesn’t listen to Italian opera music at full volume every day”
        “responds to emails promptly, usually”
        “knows how to use speakerphone”
        “mutes themselves properly on conference calls”
        “doesn’t text me at 2AM”
        “has to my knowledge never been mean to a puppy”

      2. Blarg*

        Here’s what I’d suggest: to the people with whom you are closer, make jokes. Try to make them snort. It will make you feel like you were able to acknowledge how stupid you find this, it will be a compliment to those you hold in high regard that you “get” them, and to everyone else, you offer inoffensive platitudes.

        It’s like any shared thing — when I left my last job, many people wrote “good luck” on my goodbye card. And that was fine and inoffensive. The people with whom I had close working relationships wrote more in-depth, meaningful things, and the people I was closest to wrote sarcastic comments to lighten the mood.

    2. Carina*

      That’s what I’d do. Something boring, bland and absolutely meaningless. I’d put the absolute least effort possible into it.

      And I wouldn’t read the ons I received. Maybe burn them. Ritually. In the break room.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        There’s at least a half hour comedy episode lurking in “write compliments to each other, then all ritually burn them in the breakroom.”

        Either that or it’s the pilot of a show where that ritual accidentally summons a demon, and the rest of the season is office workers trying to defeat the demon.

    3. Jamie*

      I love that! I’ll be blaming you for the next 8 hours of my noticing everyone’s eyebrows all day.

  37. Doing Too Many Thing*

    #3: assuming you have your son’s go ahead, I think your wording is spot on. It’s almost exactly what I used when I told my coworkers about my spouse’s transition, except in my case I added a line about “I’m letting you know because we talk about families here and you’ve met her several times before, but I don’t want this to be a big thing at work.” Again, emphasizing that this is a matter of fact change to how I’m referring to a family member but I’m not wanting emotional support or overt displays of allyship. It worked really well for my particular set of coworkers.

    1. mom of trans*

      Thanks! I may add that last bit: “Hey, you guys met my child, and we talk about this stuff here, so I’m letting you know.”
      Good luck to you and your spouse!

    2. pugsnbourbon*

      I told my coworkers about my wife’s transition via email, using similar language. I framed it as “this won’t change the way we work together but it will change the way I talk about my life.” We were not a “family” workplace but it was common to talk about spouses and families in passing, and she’d met some of them before. It turned out fine and some of my coworkers actually gave really sweet, supportive responses.

  38. Purt's Peas*

    #3, I think you could also simply…stop talking around your kid’s name & gender. If someone asks about it because they remember the names of your kids, your wording is perfect; if they don’t ask, because they remember the names of your kids and assume correctly that your son is trans, great; if they don’t ask because they didn’t remember, that’s A-OK; if they ask your best work friend that’s totally fine!

    I think your wording makes most sense to tell a few people directly, like your best work friend, and then you can just stop talking around your son’s name and pronouns.

    1. Working Mom Having It All*

      This is where I land, too, I think, as someone who is trans but closeted at work, and as someone with a lot of trans people in my life. I’d probably just start referring to my kid as the gender and name they use, or, yeah, opt for things like “my middle child” or “my teenager” or the like. Without a big flourish of announcement that something has changed. Especially if, as seems to be the case, “we talk about families at work” means more like “my child once visited the office, years ago” and less that everyone knows all the intimate details of the exact ages, genders, hobbies, etc. of each of your children. This probably matters WAY less than you think. Especially since in most cases it’s fairly immaterial what gender your coworkers’ kids are. I have a coworker whose son comes in regularly on school holidays and such. If suddenly next Rosh Hashanah, her daughter came in, why does that matter to me? I might surmise that her kid was trans, but honestly it’s none of my business.

      Frankly as someone who is non-binary, I find the way some people lean on girl/boy/son/daughter talk to be off-putting. I always cringe a little when parents say things like “This is my boy, Fergus” or “I have two daughters and a son.” I guess it’s fine if it comes up specifically (“You have a daughter, right?” “Yeah, she’s 12.”), but, like, people are more than their presumed external gender expressions? It’s absolutely OK, correct, even, to say “My twelve-year-old plays soccer” or “My older two loved Disney but the baby was cranky the whole time”.

  39. OP1*

    Thanks to Alison for answering this, and the commentariat for all the discussion so far!

    I want to respond to some of the comments and share a couple of things for context that weren’t in the submission.

    It’s interesting to read that people in a healthy, tight-knit workplace have done this and enjoyed it – that’s great! Unfortunately, this is an extremely unhappy, dysfunctional workplace, ruled over by a tyrant. Morale is terrible. To my knwledge almost everyone on staff has gone to HR in the last few months about the behavior of our department head. So this comes off as one more band-aid to cover up the festering problems underneath.

    We’re a small team (only a couple of dozen or so), but we function in distinct units. I know what several of my coworkers do, but I don’t necessarily know how good they are at it, or even how they do it. Think front-facing traveling salespeople and the back-office folks. So while I like the advice to only address things that are work-related, I genuinely don’t know what I could say about the work of some of my coworkers!

    I’m not worried about anonymous bullying with this group. The reason it gives me indigestion to think of reading the comments that others will write for me: it’s the dread of seeing those things that are obviously scraping to find something nice to say. It makes me pre-emptively cringe. As does the idea of trying to come up with things for other people I work with that I just don’t know well enough to come up with something that isn’t vague. People are going to be able to tell when things were hard to come up with!

    And while I’m not trying to find something to be offended by (thanks for that), I will freely admit that this workplace is my BEC, and I’m probably overreacting a little bit. But in a place where everyone is miserable, this kind of self-help-book team-building crap doesn’t do much good.

    Having said that, I really appreciate the comments that are helping me reframe this in a more positive, more charitable way. Best commentariat on the Internet.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      That is definitely important context. It sounds like one of those things you do with kids who are misbehaving rather than grown adults. It’s a poor management technique. Everyone’s complaining? Let’s make them be nice to each other!

      1. OP1*

        Yeah, I could have given more context in the submission, but when I sent it in I thought that it was ludicrous on its face without all of the background. Lesson learned. :) As Alison has told us many times, a toxic workplace environment really does color your view of everything, and it’s possible/likely that if I were in a better place this exercise wouldn’t have been so, well, triggering for me.

        Agreed that it feels condescending and patronizing. The fact that so many commenters have shared stories of doing this in grade or high school just underlines that for me.

        1. Meep Moop*

          As someone who has had questions answered on this site in the past, know that it’s hard to predict what commenters will focus or need more clarification on. Your original letter was fine!

    2. Foreign Octopus*

      The additional context is very helpful, and it sounds like this is just another thing that’s making you crack at this workplace. In a healthy working environment, this activity is probably beneficial but as Detective Santiago says it does sound like a teacher/parents trying to make their kids get along without addressing the root cause of the issue.

      Honestly, the best thing to do will be to grit your teeth, dust off your resume, and start applying for other jobs if that’s an option for you.

      In the meantime, treat this activity as though you’re observing it from an anthropological point of view. Use David Attenborough’s voice to narrate the proceedings. That might help you find the humour in a potentially awkward situation.

      1. OP1*

        Oh I LOVE the idea of having Sir Attenborough’s commentary in the back of my head. It’s like that scene in Mean Girls when Cady goes to the mall. Brilliant.

    3. Lily Rowan*

      That does sound like a nightmare.

      But at least on the “scraping to come up with things” front — it’s fine that you don’t know much about some of your more distant coworkers and vice versa, so I wouldn’t worry about that part. You’ll each have a few vague/surfacey things in the pool, and who cares?

      To be fair, my reaction to a lot of questions on here is to take the issue less seriously, but I know that’s easy for me to say from over here.

    4. Jennifer*

      I understand. I can’t speak for you but for me that would bring back those bad memories from school of waiting to get picked for the kickball team. Just remember what you think of you matters the most. Best wishes.

    5. LGC*

      Thanks for providing more context!

      So…honestly, your problem isn’t this exercise, in my opinion. It’s that your job sucks. I think you’d be a lot less stressed out by this if you were doing this for a job that wasn’t actively hostile towards you.

      That said:

      – if you can’t speak directly about their work, speak more indirectly. It’s team building, not a performance review.

      – this is good advice for your coworkers as well. I’m hoping that they don’t just write about how your shoes look.

      – I imagine if you’re this miserable, you’re not alone (misery loves company, and it seems to be especially fond of yours). So that might take some pressure off of you, since you’re probably not the only person that thinks this is garbage.

      Good luck! You’ll get through this! (And hopefully you’re looking for a new job because it sounds like you need one.)

    6. Yorick*

      If you don’t know enough about someone’s work to give a work-related compliment, it’s ok to give a non-work related compliment. Jane might need to hear that she has nice hair, or that others find her enthusiasm refreshing, or that coworkers appreciate when she brings in donuts, or whatever.

    7. nnn*

      Do the comments get shared, or does everyone just get their own collection of comments to read for themselves?

      If they don’t get shared, you could write the same thing for multiple people. And you could be vague (“Jane is awesome!” “Bob is an invaluable member of the team!”)

      It’s possible that even if they do get shared you could carry that off – if they’re reading out a dozen different comments and one of them is “Bob is an invaluable member of the team”, then they’re reading out another dozen comments and one of them is “Jane is an invaluable member of the team”, are people going to notice? (I can’t tell you whether they are or not)

    8. Dr. Pepper*

      Honestly, this is the exact context in which I took your letter. If you were on good terms with your team, had a competent supervisor, and a positive work environment, you would not have written in. You would have shrugged and been like “eh, seems a little silly but whatevs, I’ll play”.

  40. Hiring Mgr*

    #1 sounds kind of silly, but think of all the toxic bs garbage that people deal with day after day, year after year (as we see here constantly)… Given that, a few compliments, even if in this stilted way, seem ok to me.

  41. MicroManagered*

    OP3 if having an official conversation about your son’s transition feels weird, this might be a good situation to deploy a tactic I like to call “pepper it in.” I first learned it from a gay friend as the technique she used for coming out at work.

    Basically, if you have something in your personal life that isn’t really your coworkers’ business per se, but their knowing will make your life easier (such as being able to correctly refer to your middle child, or being gay, or getting divorced, or whatever), tell a friend or two at work. It helps if you can find one that’s a blabbermouth. Tell them, and then ask them to “pepper it in” conversations with others. Let THEM have the “Sally and her son Rick…oh yeah, Sally’s middle child is trans. He goes by Rick now… Anyway, Sally and her son Rick went to see The Lion King…” conversations with people. Then, by the time it comes up again, it’s already normal. You don’t have to manage their feelings or yours, because it’s just already out there.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      I was thinking something similar. If OP feels awkward making an announcement, just drop it in the next time the child comes up in conversation. You can enlist coworkers to help with this, but you can also just do it yourself.

      “Oh, Rick and I went to The Lion King last weekend – did I mention that my middle child is transitioning and goes by Rick now? – he thought the CGI was pretty cool but likes the original animated one better.”

      I don’t have any trans family members, but I’m gay and married to another woman. I used to feel like telling people was a Big Deal and I’d talk around it or use a hushed tone or kind of stumble my way through the sentence or whatever, but as I’ve gotten more comfortable and more out over the years I just talk about her in a matter-of-fact way and it works fine. It’s not quite analogous because of the way that there’s an affirmative change in how OP will talk about her son that needs a bit of explanation, but I’d think a similar tone and attitude.

      The key is to aim for the same matter-of-fact tone that you’d use when mentioning that your kid switched from the neighborhood school to the science magnet program. If you make it sound like A Big Emotional Thing, people are much more likely to treat it that way, and vice versa.

      Caveat: this would work fine in my city and industry, which is pretty progressive. It might not work as well elsewhere.

    2. mom of trans*

      See, it would feel more natural to me to talk directly to my department, and then “correct” people when they ask about Sue, or my tween daughter. “Oh, no, I think you mean Sam; I have two boys and a girl.” We are a fairly small company, only about 90 employees, and not everyone knows or would remember all the details about everyone else’s family.

    3. Remedial Chaos Theory*

      I’d be kind of afraid that the Sally and her son Rick…oh yeah, Sally’s middle child is trans. He goes by Rick now… Anyway, Sally and her son Rick went to see The Lion King…” conversations with people. Then, by the time it comes up again, it’s already normal. method would run the risk of “Sally’s middle child goes by Rick now, can you believe? People sure are weird, if it were my kid, I’d never….” or something like that.

      1. MicroManagered*

        Well that could happen anyway. If people are going to be ignorant and gossip, there’s no perfect delivery method to eliminate that, other than to not discuss it at work at all.

        1. MicroManagered*

          OH! You mean the person “peppering it in” with other people might frame it that way? There’s the possibility of that too, I suppose. The only real remedy there is to make sure you are telling people you trust not to.

  42. LPUK*

    Years ago I worked for a company who went very hung ho for the Gallup engagement survey – it was incorporated into every managers KPIs. One of the questions was ‘ have you had any form of reward or recognition in the past 7 days’ and it caused quite a kerfuffle for all the reasons commentators have voiced. As a manager it w