my manager says my shyness is seen as rudeness

A reader writes:

I received an email today from my manager that I am feeling a bit upset about. Here is the situation.

My boss came over to the cubicle farm and was talking to a couple coworkers when it came time for me to leave for an errand. We have glass panes on our cubicles that we use dry erase markers to write on when we go somewhere so people know where we are. So I stood up, wrote on the glass, and left. I didn’t want to interrupt the conversation between my boss and coworkers so I didn’t say anything and assumed if they needed me they could check the glass.

When I got back, I saw this email from my boss:

“This morning was a good example of a missed opportunity for communication with your team. You were leaving – we were all standing there. You could have said ‘good morning, ‘I’m leaving,’ ‘Be right back.’ Instead you chose to leave without saying a word. You did write on your board, that is very helpful and I appreciate your effort. However, next time, I challenge you to think about chances to engage. We know you’re not a morning person but we all need to be courteous and professional.

No doubt this email is a shock to you. I don’t believe your behavior is based on anything other than habit. I point out this interaction based on our last meeting — you are aware of what to do to improve your performance. My email is an effort to help your improvement by communicating my perception of our interactions in case they differ from yours. I’m willing to chat about any of this. But I won’t be upset in any way if you just take this feedback and use how you wish. My door is open if you need.”

I responded, “Sorry, it’s good to know my shyness is misconstrued as rudeness so I will work on it.”

And she said, “It is. And that is so unfair to you.”

Now, for some background, I am painfully shy. Even just saying hello and good morning to my coworkers who I know well is hard for me and I don’t know why! But regardless, I say good morning to anyone I run into in the mornings (not people already sitting at their desks though), I answer warmly if someone greets me, I chat with my coworkers often, I either say hi or at least smile when I pass people while walking, and I have a really good friendship with two of the women I sit by. I don’t feel like I come across rude, but apparently I do to my boss? She is a very outgoing, loud, extroverted person and I wonder if she just sees shy as rude because to her, if she isn’t loudly exclaiming greetings and jokes to people, that rude for her.

I even asked one of the women I’m close to (who know will be honest with me) and she said that it’s common knowledge that I am quiet and shy and I never seem rude.

So I guess I don’t really know what my question is, I’m just wondering what your opinion on this is. If someone is quiet, do you find them rude?

No. You don’t sound rude in the least. You don’t even sound standoffish!

Let’s review: You say good morning to coworkers, answer warmly when people greet you, chat with colleagues “often,” greet or smile at people you pass while moving around the office, and are friends with the people sitting closest to you. Your only offense here seems to be … that you didn’t say goodbye to a group already absorbed in conversation when you left? That’s really not rude!

It sounds like you and your boss had a previous conversation where she encouraged you to communicate more with people. And maybe there are legitimate issues there — maybe you’re not sharing enough information about your projects or raising potential problems or speaking up in meetings. But those would be actual work-related issues, things with impact on your and your team’s work. Not interrupting a group to say goodbye is not in that category. And the fact that she’s framing it as “a good example of a missed opportunity for communication with your team” makes me skeptical about whatever earlier feedback she gave you too.

Now, to be fair, that could be wrong. Maybe your boss’s earlier feedback was legitimate and about things with real work impact, and she just seized on the lack of goodbye as part of a pattern when it really isn’t. Sometimes people do that. And in fact, even if she didn’t raise legitimate work issues earlier, it’s worth asking yourself whether your shyness does lead to anything with real work impact because sometimes people, including managers, are bad at giving relevant examples of something that really is a problem.

But I’ve got to say, it sounds a lot like you have a very extroverted boss who thinks everyone else should function like she does and is “correcting” you based on that when it’s not relevant to how well you’re doing your job. I can’t say for sure without knowing what the previous feedback was, but if it wasn’t actually about how you work … then your boss is the problem, not you.

Of course, you’re working for her and she has power over you, so knowing intellectually that you’re not the problem doesn’t solve anything. But it can be useful to see the situation clearly for what it is (if indeed that’s what it is).

And to answer your question about whether quietness comes across as rudeness: It depends on how the shyness manifests. It can come across as rude if you’re, say, refusing to acknowledge people who speak to you or only giving short, disengaged answers to someone who’s trying to talk with you. That can come across coldly, like “I don’t like you and don’t want to interact with you.” But shyness that manifests as … timidity, for lack of a better word, doesn’t generally come across as rude. You sound like you make a point of acknowledging and connecting with coworkers, even though it’s hard for you to do. You’re not the liveliest person in the room, but you shouldn’t need to be if you’re making an effort to be part of your office and to connect with colleagues.

Again, I’m working without a lot of details here and maybe your boss did have some good points when she gave you feedback earlier. But this one sounds very off the mark, and combined with the way she approached that email to you, my strong hunch is that she’s bringing some seriously problematic biases to the table.

{ 481 comments… read them below }

  1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    It wouldn’t hurt to take this as a sign to put out some feelers about finding a new job. Yes, job-hunting is a challenge for shy people, but you might find a place where your quiet ways are more appreciated and encouraged. Think of all the people who write in to Alison about their noisy colleagues — that will never be you!

    You can even spin it into an answer to the “greatest weakness” question: “I tend to be quiet and shy, and while some people can interpret that as rudeness, it’s actually given me a great opportunity to observe positive ways of interacting so that I can challenge myself to build quality work relationships instead of just quantity.”

    1. olddog*

      Yes! I have done this, framing my style of “quietly taking in the lay of the land in order to assimilate into a workplace culture.” I’ve had great feedback about this in interviews. Interviewers have found it insightful and self aware.

    2. DD26*

      At the end of the interview for what became my first professional job, I was asked the ‘greatest weakness’ question and responded that I was shy. My manager told me later that’s what got me the job. Clearly I was shy, he had spent all day interviewing me, but he said if I could admit it,we could work on it. I’m still shy, but no where near the level I was at 22.

    3. Smithy*

      Sigh. I hate to say how I much I have to agree with this….

      I’m in fundraising and that does tend to attract people who are often extroverted and/or louder. Not all teams prize only those behaviors, but people who are outgoing/speak up often can receive praise just for that and less for for their more holistic body of work.

      In one job, I hired someone who was quieter. For a variety of reasons, she didn’t interact much with my boss at the time – largely because of how my boss’ work was organized. However every time my boss talked about her, it was about how quiet she was. I’m a louder person who sees value in those types of connections, but it became clear because my direct report didn’t have a performative socialization reputation her performance was viewed as weaker overall.

      Once I left that job, she didn’t stay much longer. I always championed her work, and she was really good at the job – but that was just a team that valued a certain level of performative socialization.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I absolutely love the term “performative socialization”. As an introvert, this is exactly what it feels like to me. I do it (and likely not to the degree that would satisfy a strongly extroverted boss with a bias for that personality type), but it’s definitely a well-rehearsed show.

        1. What She Said*

          Same here, do it and hate it. It’s extremely exhausting to an introvert. Speaking as an introvert.

        2. Smithy*

          As an extrovert, even I find it a helpful term because knowing who likes that kind of performative socialization and who doesn’t is technically helpful even if it’s not a task I necessarily dislike.

          I’m perfectly happy to have social conversations and speak up during meetings. And while I prefer it when it’s with colleagues or leaders I respect/connect with and a meeting when I feel I have relevant insight…I will also do chit chat about the subway/weather/Pret and make a generic hear-the-sound-of-my-own-voice comment in a meeting when I feel it’s professionally necessary. But those moves backfire when you don’t read the situation well.

          With my direct report, I did specifically try to call out certain team meetings where it would be advantageous if she could say something. Because I could point out the senior people attending who it mattered to and make the guidance as specific as possible. Even like, this VP really enjoys social interaction and local restaurants.

        3. DannyG*

          “performative socialization”… I am shy, but in healthcare. My solution is to play the part… white coat ON I can interact with anyone from the hospital CEO to the new janitor, 1:1 with students on clinical rotation with me or lectures to 100 or more, presenting research at international meetings. White coat OFF I’m the guy at the cocktail party sitting in the corner playing with the host’s cat. It took several years to get where I could do it consistently, but I can turn it on and off pretty much at will. It takes conscious effort and work.

          1. JustaTech*

            I do this too (to a lesser extent). I’m always perfectly happy to give a presentation and speak up in a group (the presentations thing comes from doing theater as a kid I think), but send me off to a networking event, or the socializing portion of a conference and I’m painfully awkward and uncomfortable.

            But even when I put on the “presenting professional” role, it’s still exhausting. After each of the last two in-person conferences I went to, where I had to be “on” the whole time, I was so completely exhausted that I cried on the flight home from sheer tiredness.

          2. allathian*

            I’m an introvert, in a writing job that means I don’t have to talk to people all day. But I’ve come to realize that I’m also one of the people who speaks the most at our team meetings. So I’m no longer shy, although I was when I was a teenager.

            In high school, I joined the drama club at least partly to get over the worst of my debilitating shyness. The most difficult thing I remember having to do as a teen was my first job interview. I got the job at a grocery store, and found to my amazement that it was relatively easy to talk to customers when I was wearing my uniform.

            But even now, spending lots of time with other people exhausts me, and I find the presence of other humans draining even if I’m not interacting with them at all. I’m a chatty introvert, and at the office I approach other people to talk to them, because I find it both enjoyable and valuable, because knowing my coworkers just a bit on a slightly more personal level makes it a lot easier for me to work with them. But I pay the price afterwards, I’m a lot more tired after a day at the office than after a day WFH, although not as tired as after a whole day of Teams meetings (which I fortunately don’t have more than once a year or so).

      2. Quinalla*

        It’s an interesting term! I’m an introvert who enjoys that type of socialization (my Mom is the biggest extrovert on the planet, so I learned to like it as a defense mechanism lol), but it wears me out a lot. It’s different from socializing with people I’m close to, which is usually both draining and energizing for me in different ways, I usually think of it as small talk or surface level talk.

        Most of the leadership at my company leans extroverted and the vast majority of non-leadership leans introverted, so there are sometimes interesting conversations because of biases around that for sure.

      3. GlitterIsEverything*

        Performative socialization….

        I’m loving this phrase, even as a selective extrovert. (Extroverted by nature, but I’ve spent enough time with people that I’m selective about who I choose to interact with.)

        It very strongly reminds me of the management vs non-management socialization. Sometimes mgmt doesn’t realize that their casual chatter can be intimidating for someone who is shy or introverted, or comes across as excluding non-mgmt folks.

        I have to wonder if this is some of what OP is dealing with – an expectation that everyone *should* interject themselves into other people’s conversations for unrelated things (“Sorry to interrupt your productive conversation, I wanted to let you know I’ll be out of the office for about an hour.”) just because *they* do, even if there’s a power dynamic at play.

        1. allathian*

          That sounds very likely.

          I’m introverted, but not particularly shy. But I doubt it’d interrupt other people’s conversation, especially if some of them are above me in the org chart, to say something unrelated to that conversation, especially if I’m just going to get a haircut in the middle of the day, and my OOO is marked on my shared calendar and Teams status line where anyone can see it. My org is fairly informal and we have a very flat hierarchy (my great-grandboss is the president of our organization, and I’m a senior SME, below me in the org chart are junior SMEs and interns), so I might say something if I feel that I have something relevant to contribute to the conversation.

          But that said, even people who aren’t particularly shy might hesitate to interrupt a lively conversation to say something that isn’t relevant to the topic, particularly when the people talking include their superiors.

    4. Nonny Mouse*

      Heh! I had the exact same problem as LW when I got my same teaching job. I’m an extreme introvert; super-extroverted principal thought I was rude.

      So I left, and got a teaching job among an ethnic group that don’t speak to people socially until they’ve known them for two years. Boy, was I popular! After two years, that is.

      It just sounds like an untenable situation for LW. She’s being labeled as wrong when she’s not doing anything wrong. Given a different culture, boss would be wrong.

                1. MigraineMonth*

                  I was going to suggest people (like me) who are born and raised in northeast US.

                  A house with a door 4 feet off the ground (in preparation for steps that haven’t been built yet) is called a “New England welcome”.

              1. allathian*

                I’m a Finn, and while we’re by and large more introverted as a culture than the average American, performative socialization is a necessary skill at many offices here, too. It’s just that the threshold of introversion where people start thinking you’re rude is a lot higher than in the US in general.

                Also, butting in on other people’s conversation when you don’t have anything relevant to contribute, i.e. just to say goodbye or let people know you’ll be back later, would be considered rude in any office I’ve ever worked in, whereas simply writing when you’ll be back on the wall would not be.

            1. Nonny Mouse*

              Okay, so I was avoided saying because I was afraid I’d be accused of stereotyping.

              But I can’t let fellow introverts suffer. The ethnic group is the Central Yup’ik people of Alaska.

              Of course there are individual exceptions as in any culture, but by and large, I found it to be true.

          1. Lyon*

            I feel your pain, as a fellow shy, slow-to-get-socially-comfortable person who has been criticized by a boss for my personal demeanor, in a way that framed it as professional development. In the case my old boss, the message was, “I used to be introverted, too, when I was Young in the Workplace, but I worked to become more outgoing to fit in at work (so you should have to, too!) It’s constant effort, but it can be done (so it must be done!)”

            The framing of a quiet personality as childish and unprofessional left me feeling condescended to, infantilized, inherently unacceptable, gaslit, as though my in-job-description accomplishments were worthless, and generally miserable at work, and I quit soon after.

            Good managers will find a way to work with your personality and not make you go against your own grain.

            Or you can find a mediocre manager who has a different weird fixation; I got along fine under the guy who was obsessed with efficiency.

    5. OP*

      Actually, yes I am job hunting! It isn’t only for this reason but it definitely made me ramp up my search.

      1. Rescue Dog*

        I am shy but successful in my field because for the last 25 years I have worked from home. Look for a remote job. I can be sporadically socially performative on Zoom and that works just fine.

      2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Hi OP and other commenters on this thread. I don’t have anything to add, so I’m going to continue reading below.
        -Not Tom

        oh wait, I do. Your boss is an ass.

      3. AnonInCanada*

        Best of luck! The audacity of this boss who thinks you’re being rude for not interrupting a conversation by not saying “goodbye” when you left. S.M.H. And I hope your next boss will appreciate someone who’s quiet unless you need to say something. I sure would like more people like you in my office! :-)

        1. AsPerElaine*

          I was scolded by a teacher as a child for interjecting when she was having a conversation with another teacher. Part of that was a somewhat old-fashioned idea of when it was and was not appropriate for a child to participate in a conversation, but there was a clear takeaway message of “It is rude to interrupt a conversation to talk about something unrelated, unless the unrelated thing is Very Important (and urgent).”

      4. Trawna*

        May I just say, OP, that your manager sounds like a peppy little nightmare. You are giving her “courteous and professional” in spades, but her email oh so clearly demonstrates that she doesn’t know what that is. Get out!

      5. Caroline Bowman*

        I’m very glad to hear this. Alison gave a really good answer, but just to chime in: your boss was objectively wrong in sending you that email. Notwithstanding any other work issues you may or may not be having around communication or whatever, your behaviour was entirely and completely normal in the scenario you describe. I’m very extroverted. Very. I’d have done exactly what you did in that situation, because I have to be very careful not to butt in and interrupt.

        Shyness is a totally normal personality trait. It’s not a negative. It’s like any other personality trait in that it can be a positive and it can be a challenge, depending. I hope you only do what you are comfortable doing around being ”less shy” and only in situations where it genuinely is called-for. Stepping outside comfort zones is good, it helps growth, being painfully miserable and squirming is awful and unnecessary.

        Your boss is wrong. Very wrong. You are right. Get yourself a job where you can be yourself and make no apologies for simply being quiet.

        1. learnedthehardway*

          Agreeing very hard!!

          It would have been awkward and rude to interrupt a conversation that you were not a part of, simply to say you were leaving for a moment, especially when your team already has a standard way they signal they are going to be away from their desk. Frankly, it would have looked attention-seeking to your team, and odd to the grandboss.

    6. Anne Wentworth*

      +1

      Don’t underestimate how a boss like this (who chooses to interpret someone else’s communication style as offensive when it’s just different from hers) can impede your career and wear you down mentally.

    7. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

      I actually like my quieter coworkers a LOT. It means that I, too, can turn off and just clean the dishes, kennel, or playroom and nobody takes offense at it.

      There have been times where a manager will check in remotely and be like “wtf?” because they KNOW there are 3 people in the building and see not a soul because we’re each in a different kennel room where there are no cameras, cleaning. We’re all carrying a walkie so we can communicate, but the place looks like it’s tended by ghosts.

    8. Regina Phalange*

      I definitely recommend that all introverted people read Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Reading it was the first time I ever felt like my introversion wasn’t a liability.

      1. EJ*

        I came here to say that all EXTROVERTED people should read that book!! Really everyone. So good and useful

        1. allathian*

          Yes, it’s good for everyone. For introverts so that they can understand themselves better, and for extroverts so that they can understand introverts better.

    1. The Real Fran Fine*

      LMAO! Agreed (and I really need to stop jumping to this response in my head now that I’m a people manager myself, lol).

    2. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      Yes. As I read the line, “No doubt this email is a shock to you,” I thought: “LW, do you… work for MY boss?” Good night is right.

    3. Spooky*

      +1

      You know all those BuzzFeed articles in the vein of “Introverts: Here’s how to be more outgoing” ? My favorite Onion article was “Extroverts: Here’s how to shut the f up sometimes.” I dream of sending it to this boss.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        This!

        I want to see dozens of articles telling extrovert how to function in an introverted world instead of the other way around. Something like “Extroverts: Here’s how to cultivate that reserved, quiet, professional image that will get you farther in life!” or “Extroverts: Here’s how to shut up in a world where you are always talking too much.”

        At least WFH I can mute my Zoom call.

      2. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

        I’m dreaming of a future where OP prints out that Onion article and leaves it on her desk as she silently exits her current job for the final time.

      1. Rebelx*

        I would have responded to the boss’s email with something along the lines of “I’m surprised to hear that my actions were perceived as rude. I didn’t say anything because I felt it would be more rude to interrupt an ongoing conversation, but I will keep your feedback in mind going forward.” Because the “rudeness” is 100% the boss’s perception, and a different person might have considered it “rude” if OP had interrupted.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, this. Including the grandboss!

          As I noted above, I’m in Finland, and interrupting a conversation just to say goodbye, when there’s another way to show when you’ll be back, would be considered rude in every office I’ve ever worked in.

        2. Intermittent introvert*

          I get it the sense that if OP had interrupted to say hello that she would have gotten a similar email for rudeness. It’s a lose/lose situation either way. Sorry OP. I’m an extroverted introvert myself with ADHD. But I was taught that it’s rude to interrupt, especially a person above your pay grade.

  2. Lacey*

    I feel for you OP. I’m not painfully shy, as you describe yourself. But I am quiet until I get to know a group of people better.

    And in spite of my attempts to be friendly and more a part of things, people always see me as SO quiet at first.

    But it sounds like you’re doing all the things I do and while people often think I’m a very quiet, shy person, no one’s ever called me rude for that.

    1. Queen Ruby*

      I’m exactly the same way. I’ve been at my job almost 2 months, and still laying low until I get a better feel for things. I can be very outgoing when I feel comfortable, but my default is quiet, observant, and happy to chat someone’s ear off, provided they initiate the conversation – which happens often since I work with a bunch of friendly people. But overall, it seems like my coworkers are focused on getting their work done and going home, not being overly chatty. Which is cool.
      I’ve also become very conscientious because my last job was loud, hostile, and full of totally unprofessional lunatics. It was totally acceptable, even welcomed because of the laughs, when I would drop a very loud F bomb and throw a pen at my monitor. I am still recalibrating lol

    2. Beth*

      I’m remembering now getting crappy feedback from one really terrible manager about how nice it was that I was “coming out of my shell”.

  3. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

    Sigh. Offices can be so, so weird about this stuff.

    My old job talked CONSTANTLY about “bringing your whole self to work” and “embracing different work styles and communication styles.” But I still got called into an HR one-on-one because people apparently had trouble with the way I thought out loud…during brainstorming sessions.

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      Ugh my oldjob did this too. “We want you to be your true self at work! You seem too reserved, we want you to open up and just be you! Well, not like that. We want you to be you! Just, not toooo much you. No, not like that. Or like that. Why are you confused? We just want you to be yourself!”

      It seemed to boil down to “we want you to appear happy, outgoing, and chummy with everyone, but don’t have strong opinions and don’t stand up for yourself, also don’t be tooo chummy with people because we can’t have you wasting any time with non-work conversations, your chumminess should just make you happier to work longer hours for no additional compensation.”

      1. Aggretsuko*

        This is right up there with being told my natural voice is rude and mean and my using a fake cheerful voice is fake. What do you WANT from me?!?! And they won’t let me not speak so as to not make people mad by speaking, either.

        Nobody wants you to be you, really, and it unfortunately sounds like OP needs to put on Fake Cheerful Talks A Lot Face at this job.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        This is exactly why I leave about 40% of my authentic self at home and am quite happy to do so.

        1. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

          I hated the “bring your whole self” line. They were entitled to my work self, not my whole self.

      3. Sylvan*

        This reminds me of something. I’m fairly quiet and people encourage me to “come out of my shell.” I’m not in a shell. I’m talking as much as I want to.

        1. Leigh*

          Yes, I hate that term. I’m the lone introvert in a department of extroverts, similar to the letter writer. I talk, just not a lot. One of the women I work with once told me it was her personal mission to “bring me out of my shell.” I think she was waiting for me to reveal some exciting, more talkative personality and was disappointed when this other Leigh never emerged.
          I’ve never told her that I think she’s nice but exhausting, and it’s my personal mission to find the quieter version of her.

          1. allathian*

            Well, maybe you should, if she ever comes out with that crap again… Introverts aren’t tortoises! We don’t need people to “bring us out of our shells.” I’m fairly chatty at my job now, even to the point of initiating conversations, because in any group I’m likely to be one of those who’s been there the longest.

        2. LittleMarshmallow*

          I hate that too! It’s like not being loud is a fault you must overcome! So annoying! It doesn’t help that media portrays quietness as something that people should strive to overcome. Plus a lot of people just suck at realizing that not everyone needs to be like them. I have a churchy example from my childhood that this letter reminded me of. There was a lady that was close with my mother that was, let’s say, an exuberant worshiper (hands raised, shouting amen all the time or other exclamations, and always being just generally aggressive with her “joy”). Unfortunately she conflated that behavior with how good of a Christian you were and would repeatedly try to get me to “let my joy out”. Like lady, I’m plenty joyful internally I just don’t express myself that way. If that’s how you want to then you do you but it would be incredibly fake if I did it (which, side note, was why I related a lot to the little girl in the newest ghostbusters movie… like that brought back flashbacks too). Now that I’m 38 and have sort of accepted who I am, those that know me know when I’m excited because even though I don’t hoot and holler, I have tells. Most people do if you take the time to learn who they are!

          So. I guess, my advice is, as Allison says, do some soul searching to ensure that you aren’t missing work related communication and your boss just sucks at communicating that to you with real examples instead of this silly one. But don’t let it consume you. If your colleagues are otherwise cool with you and your boss can’t give you better examples don’t agonize over it. And finally… unfortunately, sometimes you have to play the game… if there are ways that you can play to your boss’s desire to have you appear more “friendly” that won’t destroy your psyche worrying about it then do them. Hopefully if you can show a little bit of “effort” she’ll back down some on hounding you about it.

        3. Lyon*

          Sometimes I am in my shell! But, like a cat under the couch, demanding I come out is only going to force me further in. I will come out when you make it chill and safe out there.

    2. What She Said*

      My favorite was the conversation my boss was supposed to have with me about not saying “good morning” to a particular co-worker (he told me about it after I left for a new job). I am not a morning person. If you say “good morning” to me you will get a very quiet or sometimes simply mouthed “good morning” back. Sometimes just a small smile. But if you insist on greeting me, not stopping, and continue walking by, guess what you will never know I was actually responding. My boss told my co-worker I can’t force her to say “good morning” to you. Loved that boss!

      1. LobsterPhone*

        I had a similar experience at a previous job…I was chastised by my manager for not greeting the room with a robust good morning when I arrived for my shift (me assuming that other people like to ease quietly into their day as I do) and when I noted that my manager never greeted us and would actually ignore greetings specifically directed to her, my manager said ‘I’m not a morning person’.

  4. Reality.Bites*

    I would never interrupt a conversation I’m not a part of to tell people I’m leaving for a few minutes, unless I was off on a coffee run or the like.

    1. Eye roll*

      But I would now interrupt boss literally every chance I got. “Hey, sorry to interrupt, but I wanted to say ‘hi’ on my way to the bathroom like you told me to, boss. Can’t miss those opportunities!”

        1. Zephy*

          A nice, firm handshake with a hand you KNOW was freshly-washed because it’s just a little bit clammy, maybe even still wet on the back – unpleasant on the surface but better than the alternative.

      1. Important Moi*

        It would probably do LW some good to do that, even though it seems to be offered in the spirit of malicious compliance here.

      2. OP*

        lol I have actually started doing this. Except not apologizing just inserting myself and saying something…she actually seems to not mind so I guess interruption is what she wants???

        1. Lacey*

          Some bosses/offices are weird like that.

          I worked in a place where I was deemed, “unfriendly” for not spending tons of my personal time socializing with my coworkers (it was a small business and they did all know each other outside of work).

          But 10 years in I did have a couple of work friends and we would sometimes spend hours chatting. Not usually all at once, but sometimes.

          And management told me how happy they were that I’d finally found friends at work.
          I said, “You know I’m not getting anything done during that time, right?”
          And they said, “That’s ok!”

          Oooookay then.

          1. TheAG*

            I had a boss who chastised me for not interrupting a conversation just to say “HI!!” (which I think is very rude, frankly) and not going into all 30 of the offices when I was coming in and leaving to say “good morning” and “good night!”

            Of course I was coming in 2 hours before everyone else and leaving after everyone else. And I was essentially doing his 2 grade-level higher job for him because he was so chatty, and also incompetent.

            Same guy that told me “don’t apply for promotions. wait for someone to tell you to apply” (who I also found out later threatened to sue the company if he was not given the job he was not competent to do).

            He was shocked when I left to work in another division. *SHOCKED* I tell you. They fired him shortly after I left hehe

          2. allathian*

            That’s nice! At least they weren’t all criticizing you for not doing your job when you’re socializing so much…

        2. Gracely*

          It sounds like it’s exactly what she wants. Which is weird, but at least you know how to proceed with her.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          She may read that as you feel comfortable enough to step in for second.

          Some people do life at 90 mph. If there isn’t a lot going on around them then they are bored. She may just enjoy the busyness of all these small interactions.

        4. Ellis Bell*

          My partner once had a weird interaction with the office extrovert where she seemed to expect something along the lines of interruption actually. She uses to go around the office “good morning” everyone like a cruise director. He would respond, but probably not with huge glee and finger guns, because he hates the performative social stuff and only goes along to get along. One day he was on the phone and super busy, so he was not responding to her, and she actually grabbed his chair and shook it to get his attention . So, I think she was expecting him to interrupt his phone call to pay her some attention? Honestly….rude.

          1. allathian*

            What? I just don’t get people like that. I mean socializing at work is all very well, but she was clearly completely unprofessional.

      3. WillowSunstar*

        Exactly. Do malicious compliance. Always interrupt the boss until boss admits to there being exceptions.

    2. Smitty*

      Agreed, but given the boss’s feedback, would it make sense to just look over and wave as you leave or pass a group of people. No speaking necessary, but some sort of acknowledgment to appease her.

      Not that you, or anyone, should have to do this of course. Just as a way to satisfy your boss by showing “warmth” without having to stress about jumping into random conversations.

    3. ErinB*

      It feels like these are sorts of details that would make a big difference on how the boss sees this. Was it a coffee run? Did the LW have to walk by the group to leave? Was the conversation small talk or was it work-related?

      Depending on those answers, I could see how walking by silently (if LW did in fact have to walk past them) without acknowledging the group could come off as rude. On the other hand, I agree with you that I’d never insert myself into a work-related conversation just to say that I was headed to pick up my dry cleaning.

      This isn’t to say that there’s an exact formula of what makes something rude, but these details do tend to color how the interactions appear.

      1. Hi! Hello! Good morning!*

        Yes, this! I read it as she walked through the group of people and if so, yeah, that’s rude. How hard is “Be right back”? Did they think you were part of the conversation, even if just in listening mode?

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Huh. Just goes to show that these things aren’t universal, because I’m the opposite. If I was chatting with a coworker and another coworker walked by and interrupted the conversation to say “be right back,” I’d think that was weird unless it was obvious she was leaving the building *and* we were supposed to have a meeting any minute. If they weren’t involved in the conversation and weren’t trying to join it, I don’t need them to say anything when they’re walking by.

          1. Hannah Lee*

            Same here! Like if they were leaving for the day maybe? Or like you said, you had a meeting with them shortly so they were making clear you hadn’t forgot about it BRB! Or if they were were in a customer facing role and one of the group was expected to cover in their absence, or if the culture of the org is that people call out stuff without addressing anyone in particular, maybe? “Heading to Engineering but I’ll be back!” as you’re flying past.

            But otherwise interrupting a work conversation (or even any conversation) I wasn’t a part of to report my comings and going wouldn’t be necessary.

            Also, weird move by the extrovert boss to provide this feedback by email. Like if you’re trying to coach, encourage, train face-to-face interpersonal stuff, have a conversation.

            It sounds like Boss just does not see the LW as ‘her people’ and is letting impact real work stuff.

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Definitely, in my office it’s polite to wave but not to interrupt someone else’s train of thought.

        2. My Useless 2 Cents*

          “How hard is “Be right back”?”….Sometimes extremely hard.
          Depending on how well/how long I’ve known the people in the conversation (All of them, if just 1 out of 10 was a “just met” it will skew the calculation big time), how friendly have *all* participants been in the past, how intense is the conversation (if work related), how loud the conversation is (if chit chat), what would the probability of my getting waylaid into the conversation, does anyone make eye contact with me, how long has the conversation been going on, does it sound like it is breaking up at all?, what is my social bandwidth at the moment, what am I heading to that I may have to prepare myself for (picking up dry cleaning at a place I’ve been to a dozen times? picking up dry cleaning from a new place? (yes, there is a big difference between the two) going to a new doctor for a check up? meeting an old friend for coffee? – all come with their own degree of anxiety and stress that will effect how strong my shyness is at that particular point in time), did a mysterious rip appear in the back of my pants in time between when I sat down to the time I’m walking past this group, numerous other fears and anxiety that are entirely situational dependent. Yes, all of this goes would be going thru my head before I even stand up from my desk and when I’m walking past and I’m slightly dizzy because I’ve forgotten to breathe while all these thoughts are bombarding me. Social anxiety is NOT fun or easy.

        3. starfox*

          I would think it was weird if a coworker interrupted a conversation I was having with someone else to tell me they would be right back, personally. Like… okay? See you soon?

          I would also have tremendous difficulty interrupting others to say “be right back” because I have ADHD and I have so thoroughly engrained “no interrupting others” into myself. I might give a little wave if they were looking at me, but otherwise I would just… leave….

        4. Seashell*

          I always feel uncomfortable if it’s possible I’m bothering someone when they’re occupied with something else, so I would err on the side of not saying anything. So, yes, saying anything then would be hard or at least awkward for me.

      2. OP*

        To answer this, I was at my desk and they were talking to my right. It was clear I was not part of the conversation. The door is to my left so I got up and left from my desk. I did not walk past them.

        1. Nesprin*

          Ok that adds to the bonkers-ness of this situation. They expected you to interrupt a conversation to say that you’re leaving?

          Is your boss usually… stable? Does she take slights easily?

      3. Despachito*

        In this particular case, and with a lot of hindsight, I’d just say to the boss “You all seemed to be absorbed in conversation, so that I did not want to interrupt”.

        For a reasonable person, this should be more than enough. But I am afraid your boss is NOT a reasonable person by the wording of the mail – it was pretty weird. Who thinks that interrupting a conversation is the best manner of socializing?

        If it helps, I often see these situations as awkward too – if I am leaving, should I say goodbye only to the boss? To everyone? To those I am chatting with at the moment? I know it is situational but am always questioning whether the solution I chose was the correct one.

        And, despite the smooth wording, your boss is an ass.

      4. Totally Subclinical*

        I’ll sometimes smile and wave at a group of coworkers as I walk by them; that way I’m acknowledging them but not jumping into a conversation that may be none of my business anyway.

    4. Asenath*

      Yes, this! I am quiet (in real life, perhaps a little less so online) although I don’t consider myself shy, but I did have to make an effort to learn how to do ordinary greetings and courtesies and social chitchat with less discomfort than comes naturally. But interrupting MY BOSS and a couple of co-workers who were in a conversation to announce a bit of trivia like the fact I was leaving my desk for a moment? I’d see that as outright rude, and think you behaved quite appropriately. And in addition, you make an effort with the social greetings and so on! I’d be tempted to explain to my boss that I hadn’t wanted to interrupt what looked like a private business conversation, and how in the future I could know when to butt in. But then again, I’ve always been good at thinking of responses long after they’re relevant, and much of my life would never have spoken up like that.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        I agree with you about that.

        Perhaps catching someone’s eye in passing, but not interrupting. Again, like you, my best responses come well after the event. (Keeps me out of trouble, because I can be an imp)

    5. Antilles*

      If it seemed like they were just casually chit-chatting, I wouldn’t hesitate to toss out a quick “hello” or give a friendly nod/wave as I walked by – not intending on starting a discussion, probably not even breaking my stride, simply an automatic (almost unconscious) acknowledgement.

      But I can’t imagine anybody expecting it or being upset that you didn’t actively jump into their ongoing conversation.

      1. doreen*

        I’ve worked places where it would absolutely be seen as rude to walk past a group of people on my way out without saying anything. You wouldn’t be expected to interrupt the conversation and say ” I’m going to pick up my dry cleaning and expect to be back in an hour” – but you would be expected to say something like “see you later” as you were walking. And it wouldn’t have been the boss who thought I was rude- which brings me to something else. Something about the wording in the email , particularly where the boss says “And that is so unfair to you” about the shyness being mistaken for rudeness makes me wonder if it’s not ( just) the boss who sees the LW as rude – maybe it’s the co-workers and the boss is really just trying to let the LW know. It might be ridiculous for them to think the LW is rude – but I have absolutely known people who would have considered someone rude if they didn’t say good morning to people already at their desks.

        1. Cascadia*

          Yes, this was my take too! The coworkers think she is rude and said something to boss. Could be right after they left, coworker said “see, LW never acknowledges us!” Or something similar.

        2. Midwest Teacher*

          I read the “it’s so unfair to you” more as the boss being condescending. Like “oh poor OP is so painfully shy. poor thing has to work so hard to be social.”

    6. ThatGirl*

      I mean, in this case I don’t think it would have been rude to say “be right back!” as the LW walked by … but I also don’t think it was required, or rude *not* to say anything.

    7. Old Cynic*

      I would have done exactly what the OP did. If I tried to wait for a break in conversations to say I’m leaving then I’d be waiting there until 5pm.

    8. Gnome*

      Agreed! I would find it rude to interrupt!

      Maybe OP can smile and wave at people to acknowledge them (without actually interrupting) as she goes by? Sometimes that overt friendliness helps.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Yeah, at most you might wave, but interrupting the conversation to announce you are leaving seems rude too?

        1. Rain's Small Hands*

          Yep – unless its something on the order of “hey, I need to step out for 20 minutes – can you watch the phones?” But if no one is going to be missing you, and they are mid conversation, it seems rude to interrupt.

      2. Big Bank*

        This is what I was thinking. If they looked her way, a brief wave and smile. That might have triggered a break in their side-bar and a verbal question to Op, if a conversation about the departure was actually necessary.

        Now if they were so engrossed in convo they never looked towards her exit, then it’s absurd to suggest she should have done anything.

      3. WillowSunstar*

        This maybe is a regional thing. I am from the Upper Midwest and we would consider it rude to interrupt.

    9. FalsePositive*

      Yes, I would have left quietly too. Maybe waved if someone was looking in my general direction on the way past.

    10. Emotional support capybara*

      Right!? I don’t know how this boss was raised but my folks taught me that not interrupting someone else’s conversation is, you know, the opposite of rude.

  5. ZSD*

    I hate that the boss put this in an email. I mean, I don’t agree with the boss’s take anyway, but I feel like this type of thing is something a manager should convey verbally rather than in writing anyway.

    1. The Real Fran Fine*

      I just posted that concern, lol. Email loses all sense of tone and body language can’t be seen, so it was a poor delivery vehicle choice for this message. This should have been a face to face discussion so OP could determine through the manager’s voice/speech and body whether this is a super serious issue OP needs to correct immediately or if the manager is simply giving this feedback as an FYI around possible perception issues, but OP is truly free to ignore it if she doesn’t think it’s a real issue (or doesn’t care about perceptions).

    2. Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom*

      I agree. The boss wanted to make a point of this to the OP, and document this for the future. The boss also felt that they could not engage with the OP because, after all, they are shy and will not respond. I can already see what kind of a boss this is. For some reason this letter struck me and I felt like it was something I lived through.

    3. Myrin*

      Yeah, the fact that this was actually written down makes it sound suuuper patronising to me (in the way some people talk to children, like “ooh, little dum-dum”) – which might’ve happened in a conversation, too, but it also might not have.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      I was kind of wondering if the boss did that thinking they were catering to OP’s shyness. I don’t think it was the right decisions, but it sounds like the boss doesn’t really understand OP very well to begin with and made an incorrect assumption about feedback delivery route.

    5. Chilipepper Attitude*

      It sounds like there was an in-person convo and this email was a follow up.

      If the OP responded to the in-person convo like she did in her email (“it’s good to know my shyness is misconstrued as rudeness so I will work on it) then I am not surprised the boss used email as a follow up. It allows the OP to calm down a bit before responding. She did not in this case.

      I’m surprised Alison did not comment on the response by the OP that is passive-aggressive at best and rude at worst. If OP is responding to critiques this way, the boss is understandably concerned and I’m not surprised she used email for the follow-up.

      1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        I think the passive aggressiveness is in the eye of the beholder. She acknowledged an issue (which is not even a work issue, it’s a Boss trying to make her have a different personality) and said she’d work on it. She’s an employee, not a minion.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        OP seems calmer than the boss, to my eye.
        Boss is basically saying “please interrupt people engaged in work conversation to say you’re leaving, whether they need to know that right that moment or not”. These two people have fundamental differences in how they think respectful communication works.

    6. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      My mindset is totally different (and devious, I guess). I would prefer to receive it via email – that’s written evidence that may come in handy later. If only every inappropriate, screwy thing my manager said to me was written in an email. I would have a very interesting scrapbook indeed.

    7. Two Chairs, One to Go*

      I agree. It’s weird to email someone about this. It’s weird to bring up period.

    8. Sean*

      One thing that sat uncomfortably with me, on top of everything else, is that the boss said “No doubt this email is a shock to you.”

      Surely it’s for the employee to be the judge of that, not the boss. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but it definitely seems like the boss’s attitude comes across as ‘when I want your opinion I’ll give it to you.’

    9. Allonge*

      Eh, there have been plenty of people here saying that they prefer to get critical feedback in writing so they can think about it and not have to react in the moment. This is not the issue.

  6. OlympiasEpiriot*

    HUGE extrovert here: I would have done the same thing when leaving because if I wasn’t already part of the conversation, I wouldn’t have wanted to interrupt.

    No useful advice, just sympathy.

      1. Justme, The OG*

        But being shy is completely different from being an introvert. I am an introvert who is not shy, my kid is an extrovert who is shy.

        1. Valancy Snaith*

          Honestly none of this has anything to do with introversion/extroversion, but The Internet has latched onto “introvert” as a descriptor for quiet, shy, reticent, all the way up the scale to “blatantly rude” or “struggling with social anxiety” or whatever else. Extrovert doesn’t traditionally mean outgoing, talkative, bubbly, etc., either, but The Internet has decided it means all of those things all the way up to “rude, boundary-invading jerk.” Ah, this is how we lose good, descriptive words.

          1. Schmitt*

            Last time I looked it up that’s what was in the dictionaries – shy, reticent, socially anxious – and the Internet has spread the definition ‘recharges in solitude’.

            1. River Otter*

              Dictionaries are descriptive rather than prescriptive. They reflect usage but do not dictate which usage is correct. People use introverted to mean shy or anxious, so a dictionary is going to include that definition. The meaning in a psychological setting as part of the five factor personality model is a little different from the colloquial usage.

    1. Merci Dee*

      I think I might have tossed out a wave and a smile as I walked by, figuring that someone facing in my direction might see it and wave back as I kept walking, but I wouldn’t have stopped to jump into the conversation.

      1. ferrina*

        Yep, ditto. I’m wondering what the OP’s body language was- was she open and smiling, or closed or very intentionally facing away?
        Also- how close was the conversation? If it was ten feet away, sure, ignoring makes sense. But if it was pretty close, it would make sense to say “hey”

        1. olddog*

          FEIW, My workplace has a mask mandate and Ive realized how much I ordinarily rely on non verbal communication, much of which is concealed by masks currently. I’m having to remember use verbal communication as folks can’t see the smile etc under the mask.

          1. Smithy*

            A) Yes to this and B) between the mask and being on camera on Zoom on mute…I’ve become a very unnatural “thumbs up” person which I despise.

          2. starfox*

            We don’t have a mask mandate anymore, but I definitely spent the last two years smiling at people through the mask and hoping that my eye crinkle sufficiently conveyed the smile….

            1. Trillian*

              I’ve realized that my expressions have become quite exaggerated in two years of mask-wearing in an attempt to project. Having work on toning it down.

        2. Antony-mouse*

          Yeah, OP says they were talking next to her, and when I worked in an small office (5 people), regardless of who was having a conversation with whom, we’d always say bye whenever one of us left the room for any reason (and this was a running around sort of job so it was a lot). The only reason you wouldn’t is if 1) someone else was on the phone, in which case it was a wave or mouthing the words or 2) you were really stressed and rushing. So not saying bye or hello usually meant number 2 and was a sign for coworkers to try and jump in and help you out

        3. Trillian*

          Eh, if people treat me like I’m not there by standing beside my desk and talking while I’m working, I’m liable to return the favour.

      2. Lydia*

        Yeah, it’s one of those situations where either would have been appropriate and shouldn’t have raised eyebrows. OP took one completely normal option. Boss is wrong on this.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Yeah, I was thinking this was less about shy-vs-outgoing than about a cultural/linguistic difference in how acceptable it is to interrupt people.

      Like how some cultures see a certain amount of “conversational overlap” as not just polite but necessary to show you’re engaged, while other cultures treat it all as interrupting.

      Or, like how in some cities people say hi to everyone they see walking down the street while in other cultures you do NOT bother people without a reason!

      1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        Yes, this. I was wonder inghow much of our reactions maps to our conversation styles. I wouldn’t even think a quick “see you in a few” even qualified as an interruption — it doesn’t require any response or even pausing the conversation — but other commenters have a different take. I’m a talker who is comfortable with “overlap” and has a short pause, so it feels normal to me. I can see where it would feel unnecessary and disruptive to someone who’s not like that.

        1. Antony-mouse*

          +1000

          So many people saying it’s rude to interrupt, which yes it is but saying ‘bye’ isn’t an interruption

          1. ecnaseener*

            For me it totally would be, if they’re engrossed in a conversation! (I’m from one of those “don’t bother me without a reason” cultures :P )

            1. allathian*

              Yes, me too. I’m in Finland, and butting in on a conversation unless you have something relevant to contribute to the topic that’s being discussed would be considered rude in every office that I’ve ever worked in. If you have something relevant to say, you wait until there’s a small gap in the conversation and say what you need to.

              Please note that we also consider people who ramble on and on so that nobody else can get a word in edgewise without interrupting to be rude.

              When I went to France as an exchange student, I was fluent enough to take notes in class from the first day. But I didn’t feel truly accepted until I learned to show engagement by interrupting people a couple months in. This was very hard for me to start with, but also very, very worth it when it became a spontaneous thing I did while speaking French. Sure, they could tell I wasn’t French by my accent, but more than one person sought my company because they didn’t have to change their natural way of speaking to talk to me.

  7. The Real Fran Fine*

    Why in the world was this sent to OP in an email? This is the kind of thing OP should have been pulled aside for and spoken to privately if it is in fact apart of a larger pattern we’re not privy to. And Alison is exactly right that interrupting a conversation just to say goodbye when you wrote it on the dry erase board isn’t rude – it’s considerate (I hate when people interrupt a conversation I’m having to interject about something off topic than what I’m discussing).

    OP, you may have to start faking it more at work, shyness be damned. Your manager seems to be judging you based on her own communication style, so you may need to adapt to her ways if you want to continue there with no problems. That sucks, though.

    1. ONFM*

      OP, you need to find a new job; your supervisor’s email is full of red flags. She “knows” you’re not a morning person – how? Why has she come to that conclusion? She references past issues – and when you offer a reasonable explanation (shyness), her response does not accept that. She has decided you’re unprofessional, and you have to prove her wrong. Her email is also full of organizational coaching/therapy speak (in my experience); I would assume this was put in an email in order to create a paper trail of your issues. Fake it ’til you make it, and start applying elsewhere.

      1. Mewtwo*

        Yeah – I’ve never worked somewhere where those exact words on an email would be seen as acceptable and not unhinged. Even if the boss has legitimate concerns, that’s not how you address them! If I were the OP, I would start job searching.

    2. wordswords*

      It’s hard to say without knowing the people and dynamics involved better, but it IS possible that the boss thought she was doing a kindness to a very shy person by not forcing OP to have an awkward conversation about this face-to-face or even in teal-time chat, but letting her read it and absorb it on her own. If so, the boss may well have been wrong in that choice, for all the reasons you name, but I can see a version that’s attempted kindness (even if landing wrong) rather than red flags of discipline put in writing.

          1. wordswords*

            Ha, I like the color but hadn’t even thought of the ducks! A teal-time chat (while watching teals on the water) does sound much more pleasant than many alternatives.

      1. Hi! Hello! Good morning!*

        Yes, exactly. I have read so many times in advice columns about sending email or text so people can read and react w/o you watching. (I tend to prefer in person, but I seem to always be outnumbered on that). So here the boss does that, and in addition it’s a follow-up to a previous conversation so not even a new thing, but it’s wrong now.

      2. Trillian*

        Verbal or emailed, it’s insufferably patronizing. She’s not requesting acknowledgement, she’s demanding strokes.

  8. I should really pick a name*

    I’m curious why you didn’t explain to your boss that you didn’t want to interrupt anyone.
    It might not have gotten anywhere, your boss sounds like a lot, but it’s worth a shot.

    1. nnn*

      Building on this, if you’re not sure you could carry off explaining that you didn’t want to interrupt without coming across as defensive, you could ask “I just want to clarify: you’re saying you do prefer that I interrupt your conversations for things like “Good morning, I’m leaving”?”

    2. Ginger Pet Lady*

      Maybe because even just saying hello is painful for her?
      I’m curious why you think it would be a simple thing? Even you admit the boss likely wouldn’t have been receptive, so why should OP do something so difficult for her with so little chance of success?
      I don’t think you’re getting how hard interaction is for people with crippling shyness.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        This would have been in the email response, so shyness doesn’t enter into it.

        1. Rake*

          Actually I am also cripplingly shy and emails cause social anxiety for me too. I am sweating and my heart is beating just writing this comment. To me it feels the same as standing on a milk crate with a megaphone.

          1. I should really pick a name*

            The LW responded by email, so clearly this isn’t a problem for them.
            I’m suggesting that their response could have included an explanation for why they didn’t say goodbye.

            This is venturing into “Not everyone can have sandwiches” territory.

            1. Ann Ominous*

              I don’t think that’s a definite conclusion one can make, or proof that email isn’t a problem for her just because she sent one. People freeze up over email too, second guess themselves and don’t know how to respond. OP sounds like she was trying to be accommodating to her boss.

            2. Frog*

              It could have, but I assume that because the boss is being so over-bearing she kind of just (anxiety-)accepted her boss’s framing of events. I don’t think it’s particularly uncommon with social anxiety to just automatically appease and agree to make the weird situation go away. Similar to “fawning” as a trauma response for example.

              1. I should really pick a name*

                The email the LW actually sent is kind of passive aggressive, so it really doesn’t feel like that’s the case to me.

                1. The Real Fran Fine*

                  The manager’s initial email was also passive aggressive, so are you really surprised OP responded that way? People generally don’t react with sweetness and light when they feel personally attacked.

      2. Lana Kane*

        It’s definitely hard and I feel for people who experience it. I was like that growing up. But in the end, not clearing that up solidified for Boss that it was on OP’s shoulders (“Sorry, it’s good to know my shyness is misconstrued as rudeness so I will work on it.”) and not that she just did not want to interrupt a conversation.

        Regardless, taking the desciption of the interaction at face value, Boss is being ridiculous. Not to mention that that’s a topic for a conversation, not an email. It’s exhausting how people hide behind emails to avoid a conversation that is difficult, but is kinder to have face to face.

    3. Aggretsuko*

      She probably did explain and still got in trouble anyway. I get in trouble when I explain why I did things….

      1. Hannah Lee*

        “That’s not a reason/explanation, that’s an excuse”

        … said to me after old-boss asked why I did xyz. If someone has decided you’re wrong, and is more invested in letting you know it than in understanding what happened so it can be prevented next time, no ‘reason’ matters

        1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

          Quote from my soon to be ex-boss: “I’m asking for solutions and you’re just giving me more problems!”

      2. Willow Pillow*

        I sense the feeling from other commenters here that had OP said the magic words that they could have fixed this conflict, and it honestly feels a bit gaslight-y. Sometimes there’s nothing we can say that will change someone’s preconceived notions.

  9. L.H. Puttgrass*

    This morning was a good example of a missed opportunity for communication with your team. You were leaving – we were all standing there. You could have said ‘good morning, ‘I’m leaving,’ ‘Be right back.’ Instead you chose to leave without saying a word. You did write on your board, that is very helpful and I appreciate your effort. However, next time, I challenge you to think about chances to engage. We know you’re not a morning person but we all need to be courteous and professional.

    OMG. That reads like something out of Office Space. I half expect the next paragraph to be about TPS report cover sheets.

    1. ginkgo*

      Yes! It’s not just the extreme extroversion that’s annoying – it’s the need to control. Ughhhh.

    2. Budgie Buddy*

      This whole email makes me want to puke like Bojack Horseman after eating too much cotton candy. This is the cotton candy of emails : sugary sweet and puffed up with air and dyed with artificiality.

      1. L.H. Puttgrass*

        Sugary sweet, puffed up with air, and dyed with artificiality—but with razor blades hidden in it.

    3. starfox*

      Actually, think about how baffling it would be if OP had said “I’m leaving,” lol.

      Presumably, they all recently arrived if it’s still the morning… so I’m just imagining OP standing up abruptly, walking over to their colleagues, and saying, “I’m leaving,” and then sauntering out the door.

  10. Blue Moon*

    I’ve gotten this exact feedback before. I’m a shy person but can manifest a “customer service personality” when needed. I got amazing feedback from both external clients and internal ‘customers’ that I worked with. Seriously, glowing reviews, and I even received internal awards for my work. But when I got reassigned to a new manager she took issue with how quiet I was and tried to manage me into a more bubbly personality. It did not work, and she found a reason to let me go after four months. I was on track for a promotion at the time. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this, OP.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I’m kind of wondering now if you’re the top performer on my team, whom I was able to pick up because his last boss wanted a performance and not just his exceptional work and customer service skills. Their loss, my gain.

  11. thisgirlhere*

    I rarely disagree with Alison, but this is one of those times. It sounds like OP isn’t communicating enough with her team, at least according to the boss. It might be based on nothing (we really don’t have enough info to make this determination), but if OP recognizes that she’s painfully shy, there is a good chance that is hindering her ability to be assertive when that’s necessary. However, OP never NEEDS to change herself but might in fact have to change jobs if the boss wants certain traits for the role that OP doesn’t have. OR the OP can really put the effort into breaking out of her comfort zone and try to meet the demands of the role.

    1. Spencer Hastings*

      I think you actually agree with Alison: namely, if there is a real performance problem with the LW, then this is not a good example.

      “It sounds like you and your boss had a previous conversation where she encouraged you to communicate more with people. And maybe there are legitimate issues there — maybe you’re not sharing enough information about your projects or raising potential problems or speaking up in meetings. But those would be actual work-related issues, things with impact on your and your team’s work. Not interrupting a group to say goodbye is not in that category.”

      Also, something I often bring up in discussions like this is the effect of cognitive biases. When I was in grad school, a professor told me that I should speak up more in her class. But the thing was, I spoke more than any other student in that class! I think she was thinking “oh, Spencer is a shy person in general” and didn’t think much about what was actually occurring. Similarly, whether the LW interrupts conversations to say hi and whether she keeps colleagues up to date on projects are totally orthogonal to each other, so the concept of “LW IS SHY!” could be crowding out other relevant info in the boss’s mind.

      1. thisgirlhere*

        Good point. I wonder if there was an issue with the exchange itself though and the manager just did a really bad job of explaining that. Being frosty to coworkers is a real performance problem (and as mentioned, I don’t feel we have enough info here to make that determination). But it could also be what you’re saying and what Alison points out: not everyone is an extravert and that’t actually a good thing.

      2. Mewtwo*

        Exactly. Another issue is, in general, if you have already talked to an employee about improving aspects of their performance – especially one that is behavior related like the OP, you need to actually give them some time to improve! And not nitpick every instance in which they might have slipped up or didn’t mark improvement. It looks like the OP is making deliberate efforts to say “good morning” to people and her manager chewed her out the one time she didn’t (even though I don’t think there is anything wrong with the situation to begin with.)

      3. Willow Pillow*

        To add on, in this specific OP DID communicate with their team in writing and their boss acknowledged that. As someone who tends to think better writing/typing, I have often come across a bias that communicating = speaking, and that nonspeaking = noncommunicative. It’s super ableist and frustrating.

    2. I'm just here for the cats!*

      but “communicating with team” to me means talking more about projects or giving feedback during meetings not saying goodbye when she leaves for a moment.

      Maybe that’s the problem the manager isn’t clear what they want the OP to do. I would hate it if my boss told me I had to stop and say hi to everyone. Some people are just not as sociable and they just want to do their work.

      I also wonder if boss is not aware of the relationships OP has started. It might be a thing where boss doesnt see OP doing all of this work.

    3. Mewtwo*

      Ok but then why didn’t the boss say THAT instead getting their panties in a bunch over a “good morning”?

      1. thisgirlhere*

        I was thinking that the exchange may have been very awkward, like OP pushed through a group without saying anything, but she has since clarified that this was not the case. Agreed manager should have said nothing in this instance (even if there are other issues).

  12. HIlls to Die on*

    Gosh, that really wasn’t cool of her. I was painfully shy when I was younger but now….

    Anyway, what helped me was taking 1 opportunity per day or per team or person – whatever makes sense – and making sure you do that in addition to being the nice, professional, warm coworker that you already are.

    But it doesn’t sound like your boss ‘gets’ you and that’s worth heavy consideration as you go forward. You don’t have to be besties but you don’t need her judgements standing in the way of your career development. Sheesh.

    Hang in there.

  13. Plebeian Aristocracy*

    The line that got me was that the boss wrote: “It is. And that is so unfair to you.”

    LW, even the boss is admitting on some level that this is BS. Unless there is more here, you seem to be pushing yourself to interact more with people. You are fine, and (by the work you seem to be doing) you are a valued member of your team.

    1. Mockingjay*

      Yeah, I can’t wrap my head around the boss. If OP’s shyness is ‘misconstrued,’ who is doing the misconstruing? Boss? Coworkers? Both?

      OP, this place sounds like a huge culture mismatch between you and them. You are focused on quietly performing well; they want validation of presence as part of performing well.

      Try a few more outreaches – a “BRB” doesn’t require engagement, just wave your hand and call out as you walk by. But keep an eye on whether your boss’s personality preference affects your standing with her.

      1. Legalize Texas*

        Yeah, I can’t wrap my head around the boss. If OP’s shyness is ‘misconstrued,’ who is doing the misconstruing? Boss? Coworkers? Both?

        This is the exact part that stood out the most to me, because I’ve had a number of bosses like this before who will correct you on things they claim they think are unfair but that they must correct you on anyway in the name of “optics.” But who those optics are for is never actually illuminated, it’s just this nameless specter of What People (don’t worry about which people) Will Think.

        Usually two possibilities: It’s what the boss themselves thinks and they’re BSing you, or they are paranoid that they have to micromanage this personal thing as a part of their job in order to look good to their management in general.

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      Yes!! Boss specifically acknowledged that this is HER PERCEPTION of the interaction and then was like “oh I know, so sad that people misinterpret your personality” as if she isn’t people (possibly the ONLY people – has LW received feedback about how other coworkers perceive them?)

    3. Andy*

      I think that boss is trying to show sympathies to op with that line. He/she also communicate that he/she does not think it is about bad intentions.

      The boss is not asking op to chat with colleagues or interact a lot. He/she is asking op to say goodbye when op leaves the room.

    4. Jora Malli*

      This is the line that got me too. If the boss has the impression that other employees are misconstruing LW’s behavior, then this would require a two-pronged approach. Talk to LW about how the behavior is coming across, and also, talk to the colleagues and make sure they have the context to accurately interpret LW’s actions. But instead of having LW’s back and making sure the team understands that shyness is not rudeness, they’re dumping the entirety of the problem in LW’s lap. “I know it’s unfair to you, but you just have to suck it up and live with it” is a terrible thing for a boss to tell you. I’m so sorry, LW.

  14. olddog*

    This is maddening to me. I am someone who is reserved, introverted and is largely recovered from Social Phobia. (These are 3 different things!- only Social Phobia is a disorder).
    The US in particular pathologies introversion which is not a disorder, it is a temperament/characteristic. It may make sense to try to make some modest accommodations if you perceive multiple people to be misreading you, but this your boss’s issue, not a valid work performance issue imo.

    1. Beka Cooper*

      Me too! One thing that makes me mad about it is that, for me at least, my social anxiety gets worse because I am aware I’m shy and then get self conscious about it. At one point after college I managed to say to myself “I’m quiet and there’s nothing wrong with that.” Not too long after I made that resolution, I went for an “interview” at a yarn shop I wanted to work at, and the owner looked at me, said disdainfully, “You’re shy, aren’t you?” And I just said, “yes,” and although he showed me around the store, it was clear that as a quiet person I would not be considered for the role (which was a bait and switch anyway, advertised as a store manager but was just a regular retail position). Years later I encountered him in a different context (yarn shop world is small apparently?) and I’m really glad I never worked for him; I probably would have had a breakdown with the attention on my personality being wrong.

  15. Suz*

    The only mistake I think the OP made is in the reply to their boss’s email. They should have mentioned they didn’t say anything because they didn’t want to interrupt the boss’s conversation.

    1. ferrina*

      Yeah, OP’s email read passive-aggressively to me. A simple “Thanks for letting me know. I’ll keep this in mind.” would have sufficed. (especially since the boss had a line in her email about “take it as you will”)

      1. Velociraptor Attack*

        I would have read OP’s email as extremely passive-aggressive and rude if I had been on the receiving end, which makes me question their presumption that they aren’t coming across as rude.

        1. River Otter*

          Yes, OP’s response was absolutely terrible. I get that OP was feeling embarrassed and defensive and hurt, and the response reflects that. I’m in a minority in thinking that email was the right medium for the boss’s message bc emails are asynchronous and allow the recipient time to react before responding. OP didn’t take enough time to moderate their reaction and respond constructively. The message of “I’m shy not rude” is the correct one to get across, but the passive aggressive phrasing is going to overwhelm that message. I’m actually impressed by the matter-of-factness of Boss’s subsequent response.

          This needs a subsequent in-person conversation. It would be best if the boss followed up with that step, but at this point, I think OP is going to have to be the one to follow up, and it’s going to be a much harder conversation. If OP hadn’t sent such a passive aggressive response, her only problem would be overcoming her boss’s perception of her shyness. Now OP has to convince her boss that she is not rude and also not passive aggressive about feedback.

        2. Darth Mofongo*

          I have to agree – plus the implication (which maybe is untrue) that this had been discussed before and that perhaps other coworkers find LW standoffish.

          I wouldn’t necessarily be mad about the email, I am a big believer in giving folks the benefit of the doubt (especially with non verbal communication), but it really reads poorly to me.

          1. Velociraptor Attack*

            I’m really curious about boss’s line “I point out this interaction based on our last meeting — you are aware of what to do to improve your performance.” and OP not including any context of that in their background information.

            Does that mean this has specifically been flagged as a point of improvement that OP needs to work on?

            If this had already been a topic of conversation and then I pointed out an example and I got that email in response, it would be a big concern.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        Huh, I didn’t read it as passive-aggressive at all. Though that is the problem with written communication; without tone, it’s really hard to judge sincerity.

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Yeah. My response was, “Oh jeez, sorry! You guys were in the middle of something and I didn’t want to interrupt”. I’d put the “sorry” in because, even though it wasn’t my intention to be rude to anyone, obviously it came off that way. Also, keep in mind, the assessment of rude may not be the boss’s. It could be the impression of someone else in the conversation and the boss is bring it up with or without that person’s knowledge.

    3. Emmie*

      I found OP’s response passive aggressive and unprofessional. It can be difficult to maintain professional and kind communications with something so personal, but the OP missed the mark here.

      1. Andy*

        Me too. I mean, I do think it is valid to disagree with boss or argue about feedback. It is definitely ok to defend yourself. For me, this is not about hierarchy. The answer as constructed came across as unnecessary aggressive to me.

        Saying “I am shy and it is difficult to me” or “I did not noticed other people saying good bye in similar situations” or “I did not wanted to interrupt” would say the same thing, but would came across less … rude.

    4. My Useless 2 Cents*

      The *boss’s* email was rude and unprofessional. Boss’s opinion on OP’s personality is NOT a legitimate business concern. OP said she is seen as quiet but friendly and has confirmed that observation with others. OP had every right to stick up for herself.

      1. Me ... Just Me*

        Perhaps the coworker didn’t want to get involved and just was like, “nah, you’re fine”. It seems this is part of the performance rating and OP is on some sort of corrective action path and “knows what to do” in order to be perceived as less rude and more approachable. The boss seems kind and I would be money that it’s not the boss, but coworkers who perceive the OP as rude. Boss just has the task of trying to make things work.

        1. OP*

          Nope I talked to her and she said it is just her and no one has said anything. Also this is not a previously talked about topic or correction path at all. The meeting she talks about was a corporate all hands meeting not a one on one and I simply stated a goal to be more engaged with my work. Everyone said a goal in that meeting.

          1. OP*

            Although I admit my response was the wrong thing to do. I should have given myself more time to calm down and see the situation more clearly.

          2. misspiggy*

            Oh dear. If the boss hadn’t specifically mentioned ‘shyness’ before the email, it seems very manipulative of her to pull you up on behaviour that is only tenuously connected to ‘engagement.’

            If I got an email like that I would see it as a sign that the boss is trying to manage me out, for a reason entirely unconnected to my job performance.

          3. Zweisatz*

            OK in that context it is even more strange and inappropriate that your boss sent that feedback in an email (instead of having a talk).
            She sure seems to have an issue that’s mostly about her (but can unfortunately still affect your prospects at that job).

        2. sommonsensesometimesmakessense*

          No, that was a really rude email from the boss, regardless. Nothing OP said suggests she is on a PIP or anything. The boss sounds loud, brash, and lacking in understanding professional etiquette or in understanding how to work with and manage different personality types. The boss sounds judgmental, not kind.

  16. ferrina*

    What was your body language? That can make a huge difference. If you were deliberately avoiding eye contact and turning so quickly that no one could catch your eye, that can come across as really rude and unapproachable.
    Try making eye contact and giving a quick smile or wave. That can really make a difference (even if you don’t change how much you actually talk.

    And if you were already smiling and glanced their way….I got nothing, your boss is weird.

    1. PsychNurse*

      Yes I agree. Did you give a little smile and a friendly wave? Or did you stealthily and with no facial expression take a marker and begin writing? Those come across very differently.

  17. SP*

    I was in a similar situation as you as an introvert working for annoyingly outgoing management. I got feedback that I didn’t smile enough (don’t even get me started on that) and that made people afraid to approach me. WTF. This was not a customer facing role.

    I asked if I was supposed to sit at my desk maniacally grinning at my computer screen on the off chance someone came by to ask me a question. They said no. So I asked them if I was receiving negative feedback based on my default neutral facial expression that I cannot change, and therefore was being penalized for my physical appearance. The issue magically was never brought up again. I would play dumb and ask for concrete examples of how your shyness is negatively affecting your work so you can fix it and watch them sputter.

    1. Mf*

      Are you a woman or female presenting? I ask because OP sounded like a woman and this kind of feedback tends to be highly gendered. Often, men seem to get away with doing less emotional labor in terms of being happy, smiley, friendly, perky, etc.

  18. Varthema*

    FWIW OP, I think your response to your boss nailed it. Not defensive (but contained a gentle defense anyway), short and concise, positive conclusion. I agree with Allison that it sounds like more of a boss thing than a you thing, but regardless, hats off to how you handled it.

  19. Irish Teacher*

    Perhaps it’s how I’m reading it, but to me, the boss’s comment sounds quite condescending.

    “No doubt this email is a shock to you. I don’t believe your behavior is based on anything other than habit.”

    This part both sounds like she is making quite a few assumptions about what you think – she is telling you she knows what you feel – and also sounds to me like how somebody would correct a naughty child rather than the way one adult would speak to another. “I know you are TRYING to be good and just didn’t KNOW this was wrong”.

    I may well be biased because this does remind me a little of my work experience boss’s advice to me and well, firstly, that WAS a bit of different situation as I was there to learn and we were working with teens who I wasn’t much older than so I do think she saw me as a mix of a colleague and a kid she was working with rather than a fully-fledged adult employee and also…well, I’ve talked about this boss here before and while she meant well, she…had quite a few issues and she also just wasn’t a good boss for ME for a number of reasons. I am not especially shy but I don’t do well with stuff like banter and she had a habit of mocking what I said, then complaining I didn’t talk around her. (She MEANT it as friendly teasing but it was the sort of teasing I can’t do. I will add that at least one of the younger children we were working with had a similar problem with her and she was SHOCKED when this child finally told her, “you actually really upset me when you do that!”)

    But yeah, I might be biased here, but even if your boss HAS a point and your shyness is coming across badly, I think SHE is also coming across badly and arguably her own approach could easily be seen as rude or at least as condescending so perhaps she isn’t in the best position to be giving advice here.

    I definitely don’t think being quiet comes across as rude. Most people can usually tell the difference between somebody being a bit awkward or not knowing what to say and somebody deliberately snubbing them. And while it CAN be misconstrued, so can some reactions of extroverted people. The way you describe your boss acting COULD come across as pushy, depending on context.

    1. The Real Fran Fine*

      “No doubt this email is a shock to you. I don’t believe your behavior is based on anything other than habit.”

      Not gonna lie – the minute I saw that line, I would have deleted the email and went back about my day, lol.

      Girl, bye.

      1. Queen Ruby*

        I would’ve printed it and passed it around for a good laugh at happy hour with my friends….where I’m not shy at all!

    2. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

      I remember one specific employee I worked with who barely said 10 words to most people all day. So many people complained she was too quiet. Imagine my surprise at hearing that, as she talked to me in full sentences, was friendly, and all that. One day she told me she talked to me so much because I never PUSHED her to talk; I was perfectly fine whether she had many words or zero words. I literally didn’t care, as long as she did her job, and was always willing to assign her something she could do by herself while listening to her music or whatever. She was so much more comfortable coming to me to ask for about stuff because I would patiently wait for her to talk when she felt ready, and was always warm to her even if all she did was nod a greeting and get on with the work.

      Honestly, sometimes her silence was a relief among so many chatty Cathies.

      This, people, is why you never, EVER try to make people be fake talkative: they’re more likely to want to talk to the person who accepts them when they’re not talkative.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      Aha, yes. I have definitely worked with that person who only works with young people because they were the social behavior police in high school and they don’t want to retire from telling people how to be. I definitely got the same vibe that the boss sucks at being mature, never mind at being a mentor. I wonder if OP can take on one piece of harmless advice, thank them for it, and hopefully that will satisfy them. Some of these people are not happy until you become a full on puppet though.

  20. Former Gremlin Herder*

    As a kid, I was constantly told my shyness and anxiety around social situations was rude. It wasn’t helpful then and it isn’t helpful to adults! I also can’t believe someone thought email was the way to communicate that feedback; that’s absolutely a topic that needs to be done in person or over Zoom. Sorry you’re dealing with this OP-I hope things gets get easier for you.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      When my sister was a teen she overheard some other kids talking about her. They thought she was stuck up because she never talked to people. She was painfully shy. And then she was also hurt.

      1. anon24*

        I was told my entire childhood by my mother (who sheltered me and kept me away from other people and told me I didn’t need friends and sabotaged any attempt I made to make friends) that I was rude and snobbish and thought I was so much better than everyone because I was always the quiet one in the corner whenever I was in a group of people. No, I just literally have no social skills whatsoever and have no idea how to human or what people even talk about when they’re together so I wasn’t in the corner thinking how much better I was, I was in the corner panicking and wishing I could flee from the humiliating situation of realizing that literally everyone in the room knew how to be a human and I didn’t.

        1. Zephy*

          I’m sorry your mom sucked so bad when you were a kid, I hope your relationship with her serves you better now.

          I didn’t have someone else sabotaging my social-skill development, but I did kind of do that to myself (I’m neurodivergent). Social anxiety being treated as purposeful rudeness on my part as a child meant I got zero support in managing the anxiety part, which meant I struggled mightily with the social part. I’m 31 and feel like I just learned how to people like, five minutes ago. I think I’m pretty okay at it but I’m still awkward, get quiet when I’m overwhelmed, and have a raging, untreatable case of RBF to boot (that I have been Spoken To about in a work context on more than one occasion).

      2. River Otter*

        I got that all the way into undergrad (and possibly later but didn’t notice bc after a while people developed the maturity to keep those thoughts to themselves).

        Then I just got that crap again at age 51 in a work setting where someone who probably thought he was teasing me said, “River is really quiet. She probably just doesn’t like us.” I was, in fact, walking by him on my way to take a 5 min break outside; I might have said something under other circumstances, like circumstances where he did not neg me about being quiet, but I just kept on walking without a word or glance in his direction bc if this is middle school, son, I can out middle school you.

      3. 1-800-BrownCow*

        I heard this a few times in my teen years, college years and early career (20s). I hated that people said I was stuck up as speaking to people I didn’t know or know well was very difficult for me and I’m seriously not the least bit stuck up. Painfully shy is a good descriptor because it was, in a sense, painful for me. I still struggle with this as I’ve recently realized that I rarely make eye contact with others. I’m now working hard to make and maintain eye contact, and it’s painful for me. It’s mentally exhausting and I feel like my body tenses up and my heart rate increases (fight or flight response!).

      4. Chirpy*

        I once had someone in high school be really surprised when they found out I was friends with my childhood best friend “because she’s so stuck up”. No, she’s just always been driven/a high achiever, and also went to a private Catholic elementary school, so she didn’t know a ton of people when she switched to the public high school so she threw herself into her studies and after school clubs instead. We’d known each other since we were toddlers.

    2. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

      Hi, Gremlin, me too. Me, too. The only good thing that came of it is that I seem to be very good with marginalized people because I just… I don’t understand “normal” humans, so…

      I just kind of accept all divergent humans as normal. Oh, you’re a guy who needs a period product? Ok (this actually happened to me. I was at my locker digging for a tampon before I realized my coworker basically just told me he was Trans by asking for a tampon. I was disappointed I didn’t have one, but it didn’t occur to me to be at all shocked by the revelation. I was, and still am, very happy that he felt safe enough with me to ask, though.)! Having a mental health crisis and need to walk it out? I got my crocs on, let’s go.

      I wonder, sometimes, if I was meant to be enough of an outsider that I would become a safe person for young people who who feel like outsiders to actually feel accepted.

  21. Falling Diphthong*

    Taking you at your word about engaging with people and a trusted colleague saying this isn’t a broad issue: This sounds like a stark style mismatch between the boss and you, and given the power dynamic I’m not sure how you could get her to see your side. I would go with the “say hi whenever you encounter her” advice except not sarcastically–this could be what it takes to get her to think “I told OP to engage more and look, now she’s doing that.” Just ramp up how you interact with her, and she may well interpret that as you ramping it up in all interactions.

    This is a reasonable accommodation if you otherwise really like your job and are not constantly interacting directly with the boss. If that’s the case, I’d try to frame it as something like your boss insisting a certain form always have different margins–it’s a weird quirk, but if other things are okay you roll with it.

  22. Falling Diphthong*

    Broad top-level thought on whether shyness lands as rudeness:

    I was shy when I was young, and in college I know this occasionally came across as being rude, or stand-offish, or not liking someone. I can remember being hurt when someone relayed this: I was just shy! I had social awkwardness! Looking back much later, I’ll add that I hadn’t had much practice at feeling safe when making small talk with people I didn’t know and spent my 20s learning to be better at interacting with people when we were thrown together. (“These random people are not your middle school bullies, and so you shouldn’t treat them that way” is my mid-life interpretation of this shift–I’m not sure I had those words for it at the time.)

    So this is a way that shyness sometimes lands. If people who know you interpret things one way, and people who don’t know you interpret the same thing another way, well: It’s not always possible to limit your interactions to people who know you well. Someone upthread mentioned developing a customer service face that they could put on when needed. I do think it’s a good thing to try to become less shy as an adult.

    A formerly shy person had an example that resonated with me: someone told them that shyness was being totally focused on yourself and how you felt. And as an adult occasionally trying to interact in groups, I could each see how that focus would be tiring for those around you.

    1. Jenny*

      Agree, especially in college, I didn’t realize my shyness was as off putting as it was. If I saw someone on the street that I didn’t want to talk to, I just wouldn’t look at them. Until it got around that a person I barely knew and had avoided had called me a “stone cold bitch.” And I’m a pretty chill person so this shocked me. I’m wondering if there’s a general sentiment like this around LW’s office (which, is really unfair and untrue but boss could be hearing about it frequently.)

      I still don’t go out of my way to chat with people I know but if I see them, I’ll give them a wave. It’s not my favorite thing to do but I understand that social norms are a real thing.

      I’d guess that LW is probably in the same boat. It’s uncomfortable but it’s part of working with people, especially in an office. “It’s the way shyness lands,” is so true. I like the customer service face idea.

    2. allathian*

      I was also painfully shy when I was young, with a history of bullying by exclusion in junior high. I got off easier than many others, I was never the victim of physical violence, nobody called me a slut or groped me, as happened to most conventionally pretty girls at my school. They just turned their backs on me when I showed up, and talked about the fun things they did during the weekend, to which I wasn’t invited, and if I had been, I wouldn’t have gone anyway. But the result was that I was very wary of strangers when I was in junior high. Things improved in high school, when I found my people among some of the other unpopular kids. I also joined the drama club, which really helped me get over the worst of my shyness. Getting a job in a grocery store helped me even more. I was never shy in my work role. When I went to college, I was still introverted, in the sense that I needed time to myself to recharge (and I’m so glad I never had to live in a dorm or with any roommates except my sister, except when I went to France as an exchange student, and later to Spain as an intern).

      There’s nothing wrong with being shy, but life is a lot easier when every encounter with someone you don’t know well isn’t fraught with anxiety.

  23. The Wizard Rincewind*

    I’m a shy introvert working for the most extroverted person who ever extro’d and this thing is my greatest fear. My sympathies, OP. I’ve improved with time, but I used to be so uncertain about social norms that staying quiet was the way that no one got mad at me. If someone got mad at me for staying quiet, I’d give up.

  24. Joielle*

    As I was reading the letter I wondered if the boss’ feedback was meant to be less like “being shy is a performance problem in your role” and more like “if you want to move up in this company, you should try to be more gregarious, and here’s an example of what I mean.” Of course, I personally think that’s BS – shy people can be excellent leaders. But if that’s the boss’ style, it might be worth thinking about how other managers and leaders act in the office, and whether you want to emulate that (or not!).

    I feel like we often see letters where people want to be promoted to a higher level but something mysterious is holding them back, or where someone’s employee has some soft skill deficit that’s holding them back and the boss isn’t sure whether or how to tell them. I wonder if this is the boss’ attempt to give that kind of feedback – certainly not as clear as it could be if so, but maybe a good faith attempt?

  25. Lizabeth*

    Your boss sounds like my ex-coworker who was “upset” that I didn’t say goodnight to them when I left for the day. This is in spite of the fact their office was out of the way to the front door.

    1. Random Bystander*

      The only way that even makes sense is if it’s a situation like back in the in-office days–a number of people worked different schedules (some started as early as 6am and left at 2:30pm for the day; I start at 7am and finish at 5:30pm, but only four days a week; another co-worker started at I’m not sure what time, but finished at 7pm)–so it was a definite courtesy for a co-worker to say goodbye/goodnight at the end of their day when their departure meant that remaining co-worker was the only one left on the floor. But an IM worked just as well if the desks weren’t in a passing-by-on-way-out path.

    2. Antony-mouse*

      Would you not go round and say bye to your colleagues when you left? I’ve only worked in one office that was a building with about 5/6 offices in it and it was fairly customary for when going home for the day to stick your head in every one, either to say bye, chat to anyone working late or if everyone was gone, double check the lights were out and the blinds were down etc

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        That is definitely not universal. I have never worked in any office where that was the norm.

  26. Bernice Clifton*

    I feel like this is so bizarre that I wonder if the LW’s boss is actually annoyed that she stepped away at all and is focusing on the lack of verbal goodbye?

    1. Sal*

      This. It feels more about power and control than legitimate feedback. If I received something like this I’d have concerns that my manager thought sitting and typing this email was a good use of her time because it clearly took her a while and… yikes.

  27. shy or retiring*

    Gosh, I’ve been on both sides of this, and I’m torn. OP, I have to encourage you to take a good look at your behavior and make SURE you’re finding opportunities to warmly engage with people. I’m close to someone who is also painfully shy, and their behavior has sometimes been very easy to misread as dislike rather than discomfort. They’re more mindful of it now and actively try to find ways to communicate “hello I think you’re cool I’m just really awkward” to people when they sense they’ve been too avoidant, but it’s caused MAJOR issues in the past.

    OTOH, I’ve also been the person who’s been pushed to be more Performatively Outgoing, and it’s really annoying. So if you do a little self-audit and you really don’t think you’re coming across poorly to anyone else, let it be and gently correct your boss (“I didn’t want to interrupt”) if it comes up again.

  28. aurora*

    It sounds to me like OP is the one who framed the “shyness = rudeness” statement, in her response to her manager.

    Her manager was, IMO, kind and diplomatic. I think that initial message from the manager was well-put, and gave OP the chance to do with it what she wished to. OP is the one who lobbed it back huffily. I am with the manager on this one. OP could have just given a little smile and wave and used body language to “duck out” of the conversation.

    So often, Alison will tell a manager that they are doing a service to their report by explaining norms. I think this is one of those cases where the manager is trying to help. OP can take the info and try to integrate it into her workplace persona. No one is saying she needs to be Bouncy Betsy, but I don’t think the manager was out of line.

    1. Mewtwo*

      Lmao do people get this torn up when someone doesn’t say “bye”??! It must be a cultural thing.

      1. Chilipepper Attitude*

        I think Alison got it right when she said the manager was trying to point to an example and got it wrong when she used a non-work-related example.

        I think the manager handled it really well when the OP gave the huffy response about being shy = rude. The OP was clearly ruffled and that was not the best response (and I understand why!). The manager was pretty great in her reply about being open to talking about it and saying it’s okay to let it go.

    2. Andri*

      I agree with your reading here. The manager made it clear that she could take or leave the feedback, but it seems like she was trying to advise OP on their company/industry norms.

    3. Gumby*

      From my reading OP wasn’t *in* the conversation to start with. It was happening near her but she wasn’t part of it.

      Interrupting an ongoing conversation that doesn’t include me to tell the group that I was leaving would be weird. It would be different if I were part of the conversation to start with; then it seems reasonable to make a quick comment before leaving. (Not required. If the conversation were flowing such that my comment would be an intrusion I would quietly leave w/o making a big production of it.) But nosing into a conversation that I am not a part of only to contribute that I am now leaving the general area is just odd and awkward.

      1. Antony-mouse*

        You see to me, I would assume that anyone in the office/nearby who isn’t obviously wearing headphones is ‘part’ of the conversation. Whether they’re adding to it or not. Both in a sense of these people are listening so be mindful of what I say, but also they could chime in if they had a point. If I was chatting with coworker X opposite me, I would assume coworker Y next to me was listening in and a part of the conversation even if it were just me and X talking, and I’d probably think it was rude if Y just got up and left

        1. Zephy*

          I think that’s where you and I (and many others in the commentariat, it seems) would differ. I don’t assume everyone within earshot of my conversation is automatically included in that conversation. I wouldn’t think it was rude of someone I wasn’t actually talking to if they got up and left the area where I was, unless they did it in a rude way that was also directed at me (stomping off in a huff, making a point of leaving right when I showed up, that kind of thing).

          1. The Real Fran Fine*

            Yeah…the idea that just because someone is within earshot of my conversation with someone else means they’re now part of it is bizarre to me. Unless I’m specifically speaking to you, don’t jump into my conversations – I hate that so much. It’s so rude. When people used to do this to me when I worked in an office, I would just stand there looking at them without speaking until they walked away.

            Don’t be that person.

            1. Antony-mouse*

              So I worked in an office with one of each in each corner and one in the middle so five people. If say opposite corners are having a chat about what they did at the weekend, I would never have thought I was butting in on a conversation to say ‘that sounds really nice’ or ‘oh I bet the kids loved that’. It sounds like you think it’s rude for anyone to ever try and join a conversation

              1. allathian*

                I’m somewhere in between you and Fran. In a situation like that, if two of my coworkers were talking and I had something to contribute to their conversation, I’d do my best to attract their attention with non-verbal cues, like catching the eye of the person who’s talking, and jumping in when they finished talking if they didn’t take the hint and ask me what I wanted. But I wouldn’t do that just to say goodbye if they were having a lively discussion, unless one of them addressed me by name and asked if/when/where I was going.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          Sometimes! But a lot of the time you just have to tune people out or you’d never get anything done. If someone is near the conversation yes, they might join it, or they might just be busy, or entirely in their own world. I would be exhausted if I not only had to listen to everything but I was also expected to behave like I was a part of every single conversation. Can’t we just do the work sometimes?

    4. nom de plume*

      Wow, it’s interesting how differently people are seeing this! I personally think the manager’s email was condescending and heavy-handed. Saying goodbye to people she wasn’t talking to in the first place when taking leave for a *temporary absence* is not about communication, and it doesn’t raise issues of courtesy, as the manager implied. It’s just… not a big deal.

      If the manager really had concerns about how OP is viewed, she could take a wholly different tack, and ask OP how she feels about the team and her relationships — is she feeling integrated, what’s getting in the way, if anything, etc. She could actually help, by facilitating interactions, for instance.

      Instead, I read this as the manage scolding OP, then being all “but this is just for your own good and I’m willing to discuss how lacking your social skills seem to me, though I haven’t explained why they relate to your work in any way.” It’s heavy-handed and unnecessary.

      The whole thing is weird. And OP, I think your reply was just fine, not unprofessional or passive-aggressive as others have said.

    5. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      I didn’t read her reply as huffy. I read her reply at face value–she’s shy and she sees it’s coming across as rude* and will work on it.

      *I sort of doubt this part. I think this manager is going to interpret everything the LW ever does as being about LW being “too” introverted/shy.

    6. Burger Bob*

      ???? But OP can’t “duck out” of the conversation if she isn’t in it to begin with! This was other people having a conversation that just happened to be in the same room as her, but she was not in the conversation. And what’s more, OP has clarified in a comment above that she didn’t even walk past them! The exit of the room was in the opposite direction. I would think it was extremely weird if I were talking to some people and somebody across the room who wasn’t even involved interrupted us to announce that they were stepping out for a couple minutes. What’s the point? Why would any of them need or even want to know? The manager is being weird here. It’s true that we’re missing whatever was discussed at their prior meeting, but the example the manager has chosen to highlight is a pretty bizarre one. I think most people would have done exactly the same as OP did and manager only called it out because she has decided OP’s general quietness is a flaw that needs to be corrected.

    7. Mother of Cats*

      Okay, but OP says that they have glass windows that they use to communicate if they’re leaving their desk. If using this isn’t part of office norms… why do they have them?

    8. Former Retail Manager*

      I interpreted this similarly. While this example may not have been the greatest example for the manager to use, I think she did so because it was a recent example and part of a larger overall pattern that the manager has deemed to be an area of improvement. Without knowing how formal or casual the conversation was, it’s hard to say if OP’s actions were appropriate or not, but regardless, it seems like the manager was trying to convey expected communication norms so OP can work on it.

  29. YouBeYou*

    In the dark times when I worked in an office, I got feedback that I should be “nicer” and more of a team player. To make a long comment short, it boiled down to asking me to present a fake picture of myself, which, in retrospect, feels just a tad sexist. Especially when it came to requests that I smile more.”

    I’d offer you advice, but frankly, I left the office and started working for myself, which is not the best option for everyone. Your employers have control over when, where, and how you work. They cannot, and should not be trying to control basic personality characteristics.

    I would recommend two books:
    – The Managed Heart, which is ancient at this point, but still valid, and
    – Quiet, which is about the strength and value of being an introvert.

    However, for the purpose of your own happiness, I should note that both my daughter and I received significant benefit from anti-anxiety medication. My social anxiety has dimmed, but I am still not a great person to be around in the morning. My mood has improved significantly by not having to plaster a grin on my face and “be nice” when my head is killing me.

  30. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

    I definitely think an email was a terrible medium for this message, but it sounds like it’s a follow up to a conversation you already had about interactions with colleagues. I believe OP when they say they are warm and friendly with their team and colleagues. It’s equally possible OP’s boss has heard feedback from people outside that group that OP comes across as rude and noticed an instance that could be construed in that manner and used it as an illustrative example.

    I will say, if I had few interactions with someone who I perceived as rude or cold, that perception *would* be underscored if I saw them stand up amidst a group of friendly chatters and just leave without saying anything. I would be *wrong*, but it would reinforce my already-held beliefs — and I really suspect that is what OP’s boss is pointing out.

    It’s also possible that OP’s boss just sees any behavior that isn’t exuberant as rude — but I think that’s belied by the boss acknowledging how unfair it is OP is being judged for being shy.

    Some things I think OP can definitely do:
    1. Ask for your boss to give this kind of feedback verbally instead of in an email. All tone is removed from emails / chats, and text medium is not the place for this type of feedback at all.
    2. Ask your boss for her support in backing you up! If she has heard from other people that they perceive you as rude, ask her to push back on that with nuance. She hasn’t experienced issues of your being rude. She knows you to be shy, but she also knows you to be . (Note: as someone who much earlier in my life, and before I gained essential emotional intelligence, thought people who were shy were being rude — I can tell you it helped ENORMOUSLY for someone else to check me on my faulty perceptions. That is a role your boss could play for you here!)

    If your boss doesn’t seem on board with that, then I agree with some others that it might be time to really work on reframing your interactions with her – or even to look for a different workplace. But I think given that you’ve built up strong relationships with your team members, this was a miss on your boss’s part (in delivery, content or both) and you can address it directly with her.

    1. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

      Oops! I used unsupported characters in my comment and that removed them entirely. The part:

      She hasn’t experienced issues of your being rude. She knows you to be shy, but she also knows you to be .

      should actually be

      She hasn’t experienced issues of your being rude. She knows you to be shy, but she also knows you to be (fill in the blank with all the great attributes you bring to your role).

    2. River Otter*

      (Note: as someone who much earlier in my life, and before I gained essential emotional intelligence, thought people who were shy were being rude — I can tell you it helped ENORMOUSLY for someone else to check me on my faulty perceptions. That is a role your boss could play for you here!)

      Don’t you mean that this is a role OP could play for their boss? Bc their boss is the one with the faulty perceptions regarding shy people.

      I agree that Boss needs someone to help her with her perceptions, but I don’t think OP will have much luck doing so. I suggest OP find someone else who has standing with their boss for that.

      1. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

        I’m not sure if the boss has a faulty perception or is pointing out where others might/do see something as being rude. Maybe I’m reading too much into the acknowledgement that it’s unfair to be judged for being shy, but that led me to believe boss is relaying feedback she’s heard and coaching OP on how things can/would be perceived. It’s entirely possible (though impossible to know for sure) that one or more team members in that group of people chatting found the behavior rude and that’s why the boss brought it up (e.g., “we know you aren’t a morning person but…”).

        Regardless, I meant my comment how I wrote it. The boss could absolutely become the advocate here.

        1. River Otter*

          OP quoted the boss’s email (emphasis mine):

          My email is an effort to help your improvement by communicating my perception of our interactions in case they differ from yours.

          Boss is definitely relaying her own perceptions, not someone else’s. Perhaps one day she can become someone who advocates to others to change their perceptions of OP. However, before that can happen, she needs coaching herself on how to change her own perceptions.

  31. lilsheba*

    WHY can’t extroverts just leave introverts/shy/neuro divergent/etc people ALONE. And let them go about their day in peace, without criticizing it. It just causes anxiety.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Oooh can we not lump neurodivergency in there please. You can be both extroverted and neurodivergent and the broad brush of ND folks as antisocial can be not great.

      1. lilsheba*

        I’m just trying to cover a broad base of people. I’m not saying everyone is but it can include all those things.

  32. Dark Macadamia*

    So your boss was either having a work conversation and didn’t feel it was relevant to you, or socializing and chose not to include you. And then wants you to interrupt a conversation you’re not involved with in order to tell people you will … be even less involved? And then conveys this “problem” via email instead of having a conversation about it. And then tries to frame HER personal perception of you as some unfair thing that is just “happening” to you, but also expects YOU to fix it despite acknowledging that it’s not actually your fault or even a tangible issue?

    You’re not the problem here, LW.

    1. Gumby*

      Really good point at the end there. I was so caught up in the start (interrupting only to say you are leaving) that I missed how the response of “that is so unfair to you” framed it as some sort of societal or uncontrollable external problem when really, this is something the boss can change! She can choose to see shyness rather than rudeness!

    2. nom de plume*

      Yeah, really side-eyeing the boss on this. The whole thing sounds meddlesome and like a whole bunch of unnecessary drama.

  33. desiree*

    i suggest you read about social anxiety, take any one of the on-line quizzes and see if any part of the diagnosis fits you then use that information and talk to your primary care provider for an ‘official’ diagnosis if applicable. Social Anxiety Disorder (social phobia) is covered by the ADA. Your boss should not be able to judge your personality based on her personality or what she thinks is an ‘acceptable’ personality or put you on a PIP based on your ‘shyness’ if you have a diagnosis of social anxiety. I’ve been through this with my own supervisor.

    1. River Otter*

      That won’t work at all. Accommodations have to be reasonable, meaning not placing an undue burden on the company. The company can make the argument that collaboration of a certain type is a core part of how they do business. I mean, it’s your money, go ahead and hire that lawyer, but expect this to go nowhere.

      Signed,
      been there, done that, did not get the tshirt or the accommodation

      1. desiree*

        i handed my (at the time) supervisor printed material about social anxiety and told her it was covered by ADA – she backed off on her comments about how ‘stand-offish’ i was, that’s all it took. She’s no longer with the company, I still am.

        1. Willow Pillow*

          I did the something similar at multiple jobs and it was, in effect, ignored. I’m happy this worked for you, but your experience isn’t universal.

          1. allathian*

            I guess it depends on how crucial that social side actually is to the core business. In some jobs, crippling social anxiety would absolutely be a problem that couldn’t be accommodated, but in others, it might just allow the manager to see that they need to accept that not everyone is going to be comfortable with their interaction preferences and back off.

  34. Mewtwo*

    This letter literally describes something I’ve experienced my whole life as a painfully shy person.

    I feel like the earlier movement to bring visibility/awareness to both introverted and reserved presentations (btw there is a difference between being an introvert and being reserved – one can be both but not necessarily) was with the intention of disarming people like the OP’s boss, aka people who adamantly believe that everyone should operate and act like them or they are WRONG.

    Unfortunately, these efforts have since been appropriated by people on social media to justify asshole behavior and being a recluse, and to shit on extroverts, but the issue wasn’t all extroverts, just people like this boss.

    1. Mewtwo*

      That all being said, I don’t actually understand the issue with the situation OP described in the letter? People do this all the time IME regardless of shyness. If the conversation wasn’t relative to the OP anyway and she had a standing obligation, it’s not rude to decide. Its not rude to not join the conversation and leave.

      1. Mewtwo*

        Argh sorry for the botched sentence. It’s just supposed to be “it’s not rude to not join the conversation and leave”

      2. Andy*

        It is not rude to not join the conversation. But the polite thing to do is to say “bye” or “see you later” as you are leaving the room. I am surprised this is controversial. The more I think about it, the less I am able to recall a place where saying good bye was not normal expected behavior.

        1. Mewtwo*

          Maybe I’m envisioning a very specific situation, but in my experience, people don’t say “bye” every time they leave the room. I work in a cubicle farm, but if two people strike up a conversation in the cubicle next to me, I don’t necessarily acknowledge them or say “bye” every time I step out to get coffee or use the bathroom. That being said, I am pretty friendly with my coworkers and have been known to join the occasional water cooler chat. Or if they notice me as I pass them to go to the restroom I will say a quick “hey”, but it’s not all of the time.

          1. Andy*

            I work in offices not in cubicles. They would not say good good buy in a room with 80 people or something large like that. They would not say buy when going to wc or whatever for coffee.

            But would say it when going out of work or when in room with 5-10 people in the room, you throw bye as you are leaving. I mean, people say bye when leaving their own houses, when leaving friends group or as finishing statement in administrative office. Some say it even when leaving communal kitchen.

            And that is across cultures, I had colleagues form multiple nationalities routinely doing exactly that.

            1. Mewtwo*

              Ok sure, but would NOT bye warrant the extra response by the OPs boss? It seems like an overreaction.

              1. Andy*

                Based on post and email, they had some discussions about roughly the same topic before. Boss makes it clear this is concrete example of larger issue or repeated behaviors that were already under discussion. The framing of “bye was missed once and boss reacted to one missed bye” is imo incorrect.

                1. Mewtwo*

                  I still don’t think it’s a big deal. And I consider stepping out for an errand in the same category as getting a coffee. The expectation is that you will return to the office to finish our your day. This is just a weird level of nitpicking someone’s behavior.

            2. Just Another Cog in the Machine*

              I share a room with one other person. He has to walk past me to leave the room. The only time he says anything is when he has to leave early and he forgot to tell me or if he’s leaving for the day. Otherwise, he just leaves. We also have a white board where we write down where we’re going if we’ll be gone for a while. If he said something to me every time he left, I would be really annoyed. He certainly wouldn’t say anything if I were in the middle of a conversation.

        2. Chilipepper Attitude*

          I’m more extroverted than my current team, they almost never say hello or goodbye. I’d prefer that they said goodbye when they are walking past my office and are leaving for the day, but they don’t. To them, they would be interrupting me.

          But when they just get up to go to a meeting or the bathroom, it is not necessary to say goodbye.

          Overall I would prefer more interaction and I just want to know who is still here (it’s a small team). But I don’t think they are rude if they don’t say goodbye at the end of their day. Oh, we are pretty flexible and don’t work the same hours so we are not all leaving at the same time.

          1. allathian*

            Yes, even I as an introvert would feel very lonely if my existence wasn’t acknowledged by others at the office. That doesn’t mean that I walk around the office saying good morning when I arrive, or bye when I leave, although I will greet those I see just walking around, unless they’re deep in conversation with someone else. But even then, I’ll nod a greeting if they’re looking at me.

            We’re also very flexible and don’t work the same hours. But because we’re hybrid, we can always see if someone’s left for the day or not by looking at their Teams status.

        3. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          I find that so hard to believe that I think you may be seeing it through your own filter. Lots of cube farms maintain a sort of polite fiction that they’re actually offices. If someone is working/facing away from the hallway, saying “goodbye” is interrupting them. Interrupting someone’s work is rude. Having 8 people saying “goodbye” every time they go to lunch or the bathroom means getting your work interrupted with “goodbye” 40 times a day.

        4. Burger Bob*

          I would think it was very weird to interrupt to say bye if people were having a conversation that did not involve me in another part of the room, I did not need to pass them, and I was only leaving briefly (which is what happened in the scenario OP has described). And I would think it was equally strange if I was one of the people in the conversation and someone in a different part of the room that we weren’t talking to felt the need to interrupt us just to say bye because they were stepping out for a couple minutes. It’s far from being a universally Done Thing.

      3. shy or retiring*

        I have to admit, if she was sitting right there, I’d probably have expected at least a little wave or something.

  35. River Otter*

    How is HR? Or how is your boss’s boss? Or is there any other person you can think of to act as an ombud of sorts between you and your boss? Bc your boss needs some development here. She has choices about how to interpret your behavior. She knows you are shy. She has the choice to interpret your behavior as part of your shyness and to learn how to interact with a shy direct report. Instead, she makes the choice to interpret your behavior as rudeness.

    And make no mistake, it is a choice. It may be an unconscious choice, but it is a choice nevertheless. Recognizing her choices is the first step in changing her perceptions. That’s where the HR partner or grand boss (or lateral boss or esteemed colleague) can step in a say, “Hey, Lucinda, you are being really unfair to OP here, and your relationship would really improve if you would think about making a change.”

    Or you could say that all yourself, but man, that will be a painful conversation. It would be better if someone with some standing with her would help you out.

  36. CTA*

    LW, I’m sorry your boss treated you this way. It’s pretty passive aggressive for her to put it an email. I am also a shy person. I had a terrible experience with a female extroverted classmate who thought I didn’t care about our group work because I said “Hello” in the morning instead of “Hello, how are you?” This classmate did try to gaslight me and lie about me when I asked a teacher to mediate. You’re probably wondering how this is relevant to you. Well, this group project was intended to simulate real-life work. So if this classwork was a real-life job, I’d be considering talking to a boss or grandboss because I wouldn’t want to work with this person anymore. I’m not saying that’s what you should do, but I do agree with other commenters that you should consider finding a new job if you can’t be supported at your current one.

  37. Andy*

    I am surprised on answers. In environments where I worked, saying “good bye” or “bye” when leaving the room was part of expected politeness. And that is what manager seems to want “you could have said ‘good morning, ‘I’m leaving,’ ‘Be right back.’ Instead you chose to leave without saying a word. “. I am programmer, it is job biased toward introverted people. Saying good buy really does not strike me as something biasing toward extroversion as some suggest.

    The manager is not asking the letter writer to completely change personality. His/her request does not come across to me as request for extraordinary unusual behavior. It is feedback about extremely normal interpersonal expectation.

    Saying bye when leaving seems to me to be in same “expected by politeness” category as stuff op says he/she already does. I am mostly surprised over rejection of the idea that this could be valid feedback and valid example of social issue.

    1. Mewtwo*

      It doesn’t make sense to me in the situation described in the letter, though? I work in an open office, and it’s common for people to stop and chat with people in other cubicles. However, the people sitting in nearby cubicles don’t necessarily acknowledge them when walking away from their desk (for whatever reason – to go to a meeting, use the bathroom, whatever). Part of this is due to not wanting to interrupt the flow of conversation. Now, if OP never says hi or acknowledges her coworkers, that can seem rude.

    2. River Otter*

      Even when doing so would mean interrupting a conversation? And even when she is only stepping out and will return later? When I leave for the day, I say goodbye to anyone who is paying attention to me. I can’t imagine saying goodbye every time I get up to go to a meeting or to the restroom or to make tea, and I certainly can’t imagine interrupting a group of people to tell them I am doing any of those things.

      1. Mewtwo*

        Exactly! Saying “bye” to my cubicle mates literally every time I leave my cubicle is not typical in my part of the world.

      2. Andy*

        Genuinely, it is not interrupting conversations. Leaving person says bye. Other people respond with smile and “bye” or “see you”. The conversation continues exactly as before.

        OP was not going to rest room or short meeting, I really doubt they have to write on glass “went to toilet”. OP went for errand that is long enough to require writing on glass.

        The boss is not asking OP to tell them “I am going to toilet”. The example put by boss are “be right back”, it is same category as “bye”.

        1. River Otter*

          When leaving person (LP) is not part of the conversation, inserting themselves into the conversation to say “bye” or “be right back” is interrupting.

          I feel like this is a coaching moment for you. If you are not part of a conversation, you truly do not need to tell the conversers that you are going anywhere. If Bob and Shirley are talking about TPS reports in your general vicinity, the social contract does not require you to inform them that you are leaving your desk. Truly.

          1. Antony-mouse*

            I think this is where there’s big differences in play of who is ‘in’ the conversation. From my perspective and at my previous work, anyone who could hear the conversation was generally considered ‘in’, even if they weren’t speaking. We had an office with about 5 us in, if anyone in it was speaking whether or someone who had come in, it was understood we were all ‘in’ the conversation. If it was a conversation we weren’t to be in, it went to a private meeting room

          2. allathian*

            Yes, I must say that I agree with you. In every office that I’ve ever worked, butting in on a conversation that you aren’t already a part of just to say something like BRB would be rude.

        2. Burger Bob*

          Boss pretty much IS asking OP to do that though. OP was not part of the conversation. OP did not even walk past the conversation. OP just happened to be in the same room. Saying anything to people who weren’t talking to her (and probably weren’t even looking in her direction) would have been interrupting. Not offensive interrupting, but just kind of weird interrupting. I certainly don’t need my coworkers to tell me every time they step out for a few minutes, and I don’t tell them either. I would assume they were doing their thing and I was doing my thing and they did not need to hear from me that I would be back soon, especially if I left some clearly visible note saying where I was going.

    3. Irish Teacher*

      For me, the issue isn’t with what the boss asked but how she asked it. I may be reading this in light of experiences I have had, but…honestly calling an adult forgetting to say goodbye “your behaviour,” really sounds like somebody telling off a five year old. “Your behaviour is just a habit” sounds a bit like “I know you didn’t MEAN to be naughty, but…” to me. It’s just not how I’d speak to another adult.

      To me, the whole thing reads a little like a storybook kind but firm nanny correcting the token naughty child, not a manager dealing with a performance issue with an employee.

      There are ways of saying things and while I may be misinterpreting her…well, she is telling the employee off for acting in a way that could be misinterpreted as being rude by…writing an e-mail that can be misinterpreted as being rude, which seems ironic to me. Given that she is speaking about the need not only to be polite to coworker, but to take care to avoid anything that could be misinterpreted as impolite…I kinda think she should take care to avoid writing the e-mail in a way that could come across as impolite and terms like “I challenge you” and “your behaviour” and “no doubt this e-mail is a shock to you” (which she cannot know) and even the “we all need to be courteous and professional,” which implies the LW did not realise that courtesy and professionalism was required at work.

      She could have simply asked the LW to speak up and say she was leaving without phrasing it quite as she did. And as others have said, it would likely have come across better if she just said it rather than e-mailing it. A “hey, just a heads up. We were talking about your engaging more with the team. Well, in line with that, in future when you’re leaving, could you say something to us. I know you wrote it up and that’s great but I’d prefer you also said goodbye to us.”

      Again, it may be my reading of the message, but…to me, it’s less what she said and more how she said it.

      1. Andy*

        I interpreted it as boss giving feedback about communication, while taking a lot of effort to let recipient know that he/she is not interpreting it as bad intentions. This was rude, I think you did not meant to be rude is not childish. It is soft – boss was not dealing with fraud or permanently lazy employee, so softer approach is to be expected. Boss was dealing with employee that comes across differently then he/she intends to.

        The OP response came across to me as aggressive/passive aggressive – while also confirming the underlying “this was not meant badly” as important point of op. Op in fact does not mean to be rude.

        I do not know why it was in email. But if saying “bye” is hard to cross and saying “good morning” right under shyness limit, the in person feedback wont be easy either.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          I see a difference between “I know you didn’t mean to be rude but it could be misinterpreted as being” and “I don’t believe your behavior is based on anything other than habit.” The term “your behaviour” is more one that gets used when telling off children than when implying something an adult said could have come across badly. Honestly, I don’t see anything soft about “your behaviour.” That comes across as very scoldy to me and even to my students, I would never term something like not saying “goodbye” “your behaviour.”

          It’s the specific wording that would annoy me and certainly, it seems like the boss comes across differently than I presume she/he intends to, at least to me. I don’t know whether the employee also did or not.

          1. nom de plume*

            Agree so much with this! The boss sounded like she was scolding a child. It came off as patronizing and honestly overblown.

    4. (Not So) New Here*

      I agree and am surprised at the responses here. Certainly, the boss should have given the feedback live rather than send an email, but my read of ‘cube farm’ was that it was one of those large ones where each worker has a corner and the other three coworkers were chatting w/the boss while OP was present and not speaking. I was envisioning OP actively stepping into/around the chatting coworkers to leave without a ‘be right back’, which could be considered a bit rude. If, however, each is in a separate cube, the comments make less sense.

    5. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

      I am really surprised by this too, though I admit I am an extrovert and have struggled with seeing shyness / reserved communications as being chilly or downright rude in the past.

      I do understand why OP didn’t want to interrupt. That’s actually a very considerate stance to have — but it can sometimes be out of touch with norms, whether those are broader social norms or specific norms within an office or team.

    6. Sunflower*

      But the OP *does* say good morning, hi, and chat with coworkers. In this instance, she didn’t want to interrupt. I don’t know how many people are in her office but it would be odd to announce it every time one steps out of the office, go get coffee, or go to the bathroom. At least in my office.

      1. Anon all day*

        But those aren’t the situation presented here at all. Commenters here are acting like people who think OP should have said something are saying that OP must stand and proclaim to one and all across the cubicle farm that they’re going to take a piss or grab a coffee. No, OP’s letter reads like her boss and a group of coworkers were all gathered right near OP’s cube, and OP stood and left without even acknowledging them. (And left on an errand, not just to “step out of the office” briefly.

    7. Anon all day*

      I think I’m siding with you. I wouldn’t expect OP to say goodbye to each individual person sitting in their cube, but I’m picturing the boss talking with a group of coworkers right next to OP’s own cube. I would find it weird for OP to not even acknowledge the group standing there.

    8. Harbor Seal*

      As a millennial introvert who hates interrupting, I think OP’s way of leaving was fine and probably would have done the same. However, the boss’s viewpoint is also understandable if they are used to different norms within the workplace (which can vary among generations and cultural groups.) Or, it might just be the manager’s extrovert bias showing. It sounds like you are already stretching a lot as a shy introvert to meet social norms within the office, so I empathize with your frustration on receiving this feedback. It might be helpful to frame this to yourself as a matter of making further adjustments to your office culture, which is shaped by your manager, to help your career. Don’t force yourself to become bubbly and outgoing or to interrupt; I don’t think that is a reasonable expectation. But, since your manager has shared this feedback, the next time a similar situation comes up, wave goodbye at least. That way, you can show you are making an effort to meet the office’s (and/or manager’s) expectations about office culture.

    9. Sindy*

      Why are you so desperate for OP to walk into another cubicle and announce “hi everyone, I’m just going to go use the restroom now, good bye!” and walk out again? Especially since OP communicated with them by writing on the dry board.

      This is weird. Leave people alone.

  38. Jamie*

    I am feeling an immense amount of relief this fall that I no longer work with the colleague who would remind herself, out loud, that she should not be biased against introverts, and then carry on with her anti-introvert bias. The four-month period in which she was my direct supervisor caused me so much unhappiness. I don’t think I could have stayed here if she had remained in that role. Good luck to you, OP.

    1. Shy, quiet, and NOT in fact plotting to overthrow the boss*

      Oy, I don’t know which would be worse, a colleague who acknowledges she dislikes introverts but can’t stop herself or one who keeps insisting she doesn’t hate introverts (that she has lots of friends who are introverts) while yelling at you over and over about classic introvert behavior.

  39. idwtpaun*

    I am not at all shy, but this specific complaint from your boss makes no sense to me. Interrupting the flow of an existing conversation in order just to say goodbye is what’s rude, in my opinion!

    She is, indeed, being “so unfair” and should actually reflect on what that means.

    1. Just Alma Now*

      I can certainly imagine worse coworkers from P&P, lol. Comments like this make me wish there was a like button on AAM! :)

  40. Former Retail Lifer*

    No advice here, but as a fellow introvert I can sympathize. I’ve often had people ask me what’s wrong or if I’m OK because I’m quietly working and not engaging in loud talk with the rest of the group. No one ever told me I was acting rude, but their reactions to me being quiet implied that they thought I was.

  41. Nora*

    I am the most talkative person in the office, possibly the person someone else would write to AAM to complain about, and at most I might wave when leaving. But it sounds like OP was just stepping out for a second – I definitely don’t do it for that.

    My office is the place where the entire office says hello and goodbye to each other every day, but unless they’re inviting folks on a coffee run no one says anything if they just step out for a second during the day.

  42. My Useless 2 Cents*

    I feel like I could have written this letter if life had turned out just a little differently! I am very shy with a lot of social anxiety that makes it hard to start or interrupt conversations, but I think I come across welcoming and friendly when someone else starts the conversation. A time or two, it was brought to my attention that my quietness made people uncomfortable but that was in my personal life not work life. (One memorable occurrence, my brothers friend was over and they were talking. I was in the same room watching a tv show. I wasn’t a part of their conversation. Yet for some reason my brothers friend was uncomfortable because I was so quiet. ??? I’m still don’t get it.)

    I would think it extremely rude *to* interrupt for the sole purpose of saying “I have an appt.” I may give a little smile and wave if someone in the group made eye contact as I was walking by but it would cause me a *lot* of stress and anxiety to interrupt a conversation like described. I’ve never really figured out what I can do about it either.

    I’m in my forties, my personality is pretty much set. I’m never going to be a social butterfly. And I will not be looking for a job in sales of any kind. I have worked on being more assertive in meetings and I refuse to let others take advantage of me. But being shy and being a doormat are different things.

    1. Nora*

      Re: your brothers friend I probably would have wondered if you didn’t like me or didn’t want me there or wanted privacy to watch your show etc. But if none of those are the case then it shouldn’t be a big deal.

  43. Alexis Rosay*

    Was your boss telling you to *interrupt* a conversation in progress to say good morning or mention where you are going? Because to me, it sounds like they are actually telling you to be rude, rather than telling you to be courteous.

    It’s good to greet colleagues and it can make a difference to the working environment. But it’s super odd to tell you to interrupt others to do so…

    1. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

      “Hi! Just interrupting your conversation that I’m not part of, to let you know I’ll be stepping out and continuing to not be part of the conversation.”

      1. Goldenrod*

        “Hi! Just interrupting your conversation that I’m not part of, to let you know I’ll be stepping out and continuing to not be part of the conversation.”

        Bawahahahahhahha! I hope she says that next time!

        1. Antony-mouse*

          I read it as the rest of the group assumed she was in the conversation and just listening. If I was near a cubicle of someone I was friendly with at work chatting, I would think of them as ‘in’ the conversation even if they were just listening. So yeah, from everything OP has said I read it as it was assumed she was in the conversation and that’s why it felt rude to them for her to just leave

      2. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yeah, exactly. From the commenters here I get that some people would expect that, but it would never occur to me to do what they are suggesting because this is how it would feel to me.

  44. Springtime*

    I’m very shy, and although I manage it better now, I know that it has often made me seem rude. Arguably, at times I WAS rude because I was shy. It actually is rude if you never speak to anyone unless they take the initiative first.

    I often don’t know how to insert myself into a conversation, or at least not how to do it smoothly, and so I really sympathize with the OP. But it sounds like this is a case where the boss was deliberately making an opportunity for employee conversations and the OP deliberately snubbed the opportunity. Yet the boss had the kindness to understand the reason and reached out by email rather than putting the OP on the spot in front of others. The situation is difficult, but I really don’t see that the manager is doing anything wrong, either. Shyness never goes away, but for me, recognizing the ways that shyness affects my worklife has helped a lot in making it less of a hindrance. For example, realizing when I’m procrastinating about making a phone call because I’m shy makes it easier to also realize that I can do it anyway.

    1. anonforthis*

      I actually think the boss sucks. It’s totally legit to flag to an employee when their behavior is off putting or not in line with office norms, but the way this boss did it is NOT it.

      First of all, it definitely should not have been an email, but in person.

      Second, you don’t just huffily criticize one random interaction you had with an employee where you expected them to read your mind, but point out that there is a general pattern of avoidant behavior (or whatever), and the OP needs to more interactive/communicative/engaged/whatever.

      Third, it doesn’t hurt to be kind. This boss was judgmental and an asshole. And I think this is where things like diversity training, if done right, can be valuable. People don’t choose to have social anxiety, it’s an affliction. They aren’t doing it on purpose to annoy people. It ALSO doesn’t mean they aren’t accountable for adjusting their behavior for the people around them, but there is no reason to be rude about it.

      And example of this done right, my current manager asked during a performance review encouraging me to participate more in staffwide discussions. She correctly acknowledged that I probably held back due to feeling intimidated, but told me I “had good ideas” and should share them. This definitely encouraged me and made me more comfortable speaking up in group discussions despite my discomfort. It doesn’t hurt to be nice.

      1. Springtime*

        It does sound as though the boss had met with the OP in person about the general pattern and then followed up with this email to flag a specific incident to help the OP recognize the pattern. So we probably still disagree overall, but it doesn’t sound like this was out of the blue, based on only this incident, or raised for the first time by email.

    2. Joielle*

      Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of comments saying the boss absolutely should have had this conversation in person rather than via email, but I think if the boss had done it in person, people would be saying that was unfair and they should have done it in writing so the OP would have time to process the information alone and not be put on the spot.

      It’s like every time we talk about job rejections – for every person who thinks it’s rude to email and not give a personal phone call, there’s another person who would hate to be given bad news over the phone and would much rather just read it.

      1. The Real Fran Fine*

        I absolutely would not have said it was rude for the manager to give performance feedback or coaching face to face – that’s typically the expectation. Email is for quick summaries of discussions or providing clarity around a work-related task or, heck, even letting people know you’ll be offline/away from your desk on vacation/for an appointment/etc. Tone is so hard to gage in print and comes across way more serious than a quick chat, so if the manager was genuinely just trying to flag an instance of where OP’s communication fell short and wasn’t trying to make a big deal about it – well, she failed because now, to OP, it is a big deal.

    3. OP*

      She actually came over to talk to a specific coworker about a specific work thing and then another person joined in. She did not acknowledge me when she walked past me to get to said coworker. My cube wall was blocking me from the group. I was not snubbing a an opportunity for conversation.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Oh. Wait. She walked by you and did not acknowledge you, yet if you walk away from a point say with in 5 miles of her, you have to acknowledge her on the way out?

        WIERD.

      2. Springtime*

        I apologize because I think I was harsher than necessary. The larger context I was thinking of is that what is rude is always a social negotiation. Good intentions on one side are still only one side. And now I am in the same trap!

  45. Ann Ominous*

    LW, I agree something doesn’t add up here. Your boss sounds off.

    I have been sitting here wondering what you could have done differently. I am introverted but not at all shy, and I would absolutely not have interrupted people in a conversation to tell them I was stepping away. That would have felt rude to me. I personally would have smiled at them and maybe waved as I wrote on the glass.

    You could respond to your boss and say “In this scenario, I thought it would have been rude to interrupt you and others who are deep in conversation just to tell you that I was stepping away, but in the future I’ll make sure to say something. I also did some soul searching and I [give the examples you listed here about how you interact]. Is there any further context you’d like me to have as I continue to shape my interactions with others? Thanks for your mentorship!”

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I have to be honest, I’d be tempted to some malicious compliance and interrupt people every time that kind of situation arose and say, “boss said I have to interrupt people every time I leave my desk to tell them I’m leaving.”

      I don’t like the “soul searching” line but I like saying, “is there further context you would like me to have?” But only after you say, here is what I see about my interactions with others.

  46. Purple Loves Snow*

    Oh, I find this to be quite an intriguing letter and there are so many ways it could be answered or interpreted, depending on where you fall on the introverted/extroverted meter.

    If I were in your shoes, I would have responded differently from the start. You responded with “Sorry, it’s good to know my shyness is misconstrued as rudeness so I will work on it.”

    I think I would have replied with “I wasn’t meaning to be rude, just didn’t want to interrupt the work discussion to let you know I was leaving as all that info was on my board. Sorry for the misunderstanding.”

    Then I would have seen what she said to that. I truly hope you aren’t being coached or maneuvered out because she is an extreme extrovert, and you are an extreme introvert.

    Please provide an update if you have one, I would be interested to hear of other situations or resolutions that arise based on the differences between introverts vs extroverts. People fascinate me, hence why I went into social work, lol.

    Caveat, my answer is heavily dependent on the relationship I have with my supervisor so that is colouring my response. My supervisor and I have worked together for 6 years and get along like gangbusters. I can easily joke with her, give her clear constructive criticism when something she does isn’t working for me/the team, and she easily provides the same to me. Heck, I have days I hiss at her when she tries to assign me work, we both laugh as she knows I will do it despite my hissing protests.

  47. Chilipepper Attitude*

    OP, you have my sympathies!!
    I’m like your boss, very extroverted. I used to work at a place where everyone was very introverted. At that place, a question was an act of aggression, saying hello before someone had a chance to put down their things and get ready for the day was rude, and pretty much anything I did was pushy.

    And, like your boss, my bosses could not ever explain what I was doing “wrong” or how to fix it! They all knew I was coming from a good place, but could not explain the problem. Their examples were not usually work-related and made little sense. So I know how frustrating it is for you even though we are opposites.

    I now have a job with a team that is more evenly mixed and guess what, I’m no longer a problem!! Same person, same behaviors, now I’m valued.

    So I agree with Alison’s advice and with those who suggested searching for a new workplace. But the trouble with that is, the current boss at a new place might be great for you, but they can always get a new one who is super extroverted and equally unable to recognize their own bias or explain what they want to change.

    I’m so sorry and I hope that you are able to work it out with your boss.

  48. irene adler*

    I’ve been a party to both sides of something similar.

    My take: there needs to be mutual understanding of what constitutes politeness in these situations. Although I’m with the OP: I wouldn’t want to interrupt a conversation either.

    My example:
    I was in mid-conversation with Kate, when Helen walked into Kate’s office and quietly placed some documents into Kate’s IN box, turned and left.

    Kate then said to me, “That Helen is so rude! She didn’t even say “HI!” when she dropped off those documents. Can you believe that?”

    Later, Helen commented to me, “I hope I didn’t distract from your conversation with Kate when I dropped off those documents earlier today. I didn’t want to walk into her office while you two were talking, but she said she needed them right away. So I did.”

    From that point forward Helen and Kate didn’t get along too well.
    FYI: Helen reported to Kate.

    I wish Kate would have had a conversation with Helen over this. Not to chastise but to understand. See, Helen is all about politeness and respect. These two just have different ideas of what that entails.

    Seems to me the OP’s boss is trying to impart an understanding but isn’t listening to the OP’s take on interactions like this. And that’s important.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      I think it’s a good example, but would say that it’s not impolite or rude to toss out an “Excuse my interruption, Kate here are those documents you were waiting for. Oh hi Irene” I mean, chances are everyone is going to stop talking to watch Helen wander into the room and won’t resume until she leaves.

      1. irene adler*

        Sure. But for Helen, respect is shown by keeping silent when the boss is conversing with others. Kate never sat down with Helen and asked why she didn’t greet her or comment as you wrote (“Excuse my interruption, Kate here are those documents you were waiting for. Oh hi Irene”). It falls into a similar dynamic as with the OP. The boss suggesting that respect or shyness is seen as rude. There needs to be an avenue for the boss to understand how OP (or Helen) views the interaction.

        (FYI: There are cultural differences at play with Helen and Kate. )

        1. The Real Fran Fine*

          Exactly. Which is why the manager emailing OP was all kinds of wrong – she turned this into a one way conversation where she got to lecture OP about her perceived personality flaws while not allowing for OP to respond or provide a counterpoint to the interaction.

  49. Hi! Hello! Good morning!*

    Maybe it came off as you were leaving because of them? How long between the beginning of the meeting and your leaving? Maybe they were like “oh geez she’s snubbing us again”. Do you leave whenever spontaneous meetings occur? How long to do you talk when you bump into some one and they say Hi or stop at your desk with a question? It could that this really was nothing, and nothing wrong with your actions, but it’s become perceived as such because of past interactions. Not quite BEC, but more like and eyeroll with “there she goes again, purposely avoiding us/ignoring us/fill in the blank”.

  50. Why Can't Y'all be Lions?*

    Oh dear, this boss sounds like she could have worked at a previous employer of mine that did an in-office seminar to give everyone that lion-otter-beaver-golden retriever personality test (if you’ve heard of that). Not sure this was the best use of everyone’s time, but the saddest part was that it was followed by a discussion of the personality types that was focused on lions and why they’re great and why you should be one and even if you have a different personality type now, you can – and should! – teach yourself to be a lion. Lion, lion, lion. (Subtle hint of what they were looking for in employees?) This was a group of scientists, so 90% tested as beavers. The company acknowledged that made sense, but the message was, really, you should try to be lions. And, naturally, the couple of people that tested as lions were lauded and discussed. (In case you’re wondering, the couple of golden retrievers in the room were outright insulted and the otters were not mentioned at all.)

  51. Lunachick*

    The way the boss reacted to that situation reads odd to me. Someone else mentioned this already in the comments and I agree that it’s a control issue with the boss and a culture mis-match. OP, I’d search for another job if I were in your shoes. It doesn’t seem like a good fit, and that is OK. Happens all the time.

    This reminds me of a time when I answered phones at a job over 10 years ago, and my boss gave me feedback that I wasn’t professional on the phone. I was puzzled because I always thought I was professional on the phone. When I asked for examples, she said I use casual words like “gotcha” and “no problem.” I took the feedback and tried to sound more professional the way they wanted, but I started looking for a job quickly after that interaction. I understand where my boss was coming from, but I knew that I wasn’t going to be what they wanted–I’m professional, but there will always be a “casualness” to me so I had to find a job that embraced that more. It just wasn’t a good cultural fit, and this doesn’t sound like it is for you either, OP.

    There are plenty of jobs out there that’s a good fit for everyone, shy or not. Good luck!

  52. Sunflower*

    I wish being quiet is normalized but it seems we make people uncomfortable because they don’t know what we’re thinking. I actually *do* chat with coworkers and say hi and good morning and talk about the weather/current events, but I’m not some class clown who is “on” all the time. I just want to do my job.

    When I was in the office, I wanted to be in some basement like the guy in Office Space only surrounded by my office supplies (red swingline). For me, the only good thing from the pandemic is working from home. The office was just so full of extroverts and many of them are Loud which cause my stress to flair up.

    1. Sylvan*

      I actually find that being quiet can make people more comfortable. They feel listened to. My quietness only causes a problem when it comes off as shyness or nervousness.

  53. Melanie Cavill*

    I think an important part of management is understanding that people come in a variety of personality types and will sometimes behave in inoffensive ways that may not make as much sense to you. It doesn’t seem like LW’s manager is very solid in this regard.

  54. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    If nothing else, this demonstrates that your boss has some VERY questionable judgment. You may be a less than ideal fit in this environment, but for her to use this incident of all things as a coaching “opportunity” says to me that she is clueless at best, and at worst an actual menace.

    You might consider going over her head with this, and frame it as having serious concerns about her judgment and priorities. That’s what I would do if I were in your situation. And I agree with the other commenters who said to start looking for something else that’s a better fit for you.

  55. Curmudgeon in California*

    Grrrr. I am an introvert and not a morning person. I got let go from one job because I didn’t “cheerfully greet” my coworkers every morning. This pissed me off, until I realized that they did me a favor getting me out of that overly extroverted environment.

    You may wish to look for another job that is more tolerant of your introversion and shyness. Because that feedback is BS.

    1. allathian*

      I’m somewhat introverted, but a former coworker was extremely introverted. She never greeted anyone at any time unless the other person greeted her first, and she’d literally growl in reply, even to our boss, if anyone dared to greet her before noon. She was very good at her job, and we work for the government, so getting fired was never a real risk for a soft skills problem like that. People respected her a lot professionally, but I don’t think anyone really liked her. I never talked about things like that with her because we weren’t that close, but my guess is that she didn’t care, being liked by her coworkers wasn’t important to her. When I was hired, many people came to talk to me first because I was so much more approachable, even if she could probably answer their questions faster…

      At the time, we didn’t have as much flexibility as we do now. Eventually she left for another job, and from what I hear, she usually works 10-6 now.

  56. NNT*

    Not sure if this 100% applies to this situation, but I wanted to weigh in about how to manage these relationships as an introvert.

    I’ve had moments in the past where co-workers have perceived me as stuck up and/or rude for being a naturally quiet and shy person. To be clear, I never ignored anyone and would say hello, but my job was stressful, I was great at it, and often would get so caught up in my own world of looming deadlines and the constant swirling of ideas in my own head, that I did not always reach out to people. I’m a young woman, and in a lot of ways that criticism felt gendered- that I was supposed to perform some sort of peppy ritual to set people at ease, when a lot of the men I worked with who were just as quiet were labeled as “reserved.” It’s utterly exhausting to deal with people who are convinced that you must hate them if you don’t meet their greetings quota, so you have my sympathies, OP.

    What worked for me, as time went on, was to make a real effort to put deposits in the banks of my work relationships on those days that I had less to do and had the bandwith to do it. Ways to do this included greeting people first where possible in the mornings, offering to bring back coffee occasionally when I was going to the store for myself, and yes, making an effort to at least wave goodbye when I was leaving for the day, or for a couple of hours. Consider making those deposits when you’re able to- it’s going to feel really awkward at first, accept that, because those relationships truly are the currency you’ll need later when it comes time to spend political capital. And frankly, the things we find to be awkward are seldom as excruciatingly noticeable to the other person.

    And finally, where possible, name the thing. You don’t need to tell everyone you are shy, but when it comes up naturally in a conversation, consider telling people that you are- in my experience, it humanized me to a lot of my co-workers, and that human connection is the foundation on which we could begin to form a genuine friendly relationship, which in turn made these greeting rituals far less arduous. I’m not sure if you feel this way, but for a long time I felt that I needed to remain this buttoned-up professional who would never dream of confessing to a weakness like being shy to my co-workers. Being willing to be vulnerable in even that small way really helps build those relationships.

    Ironically, I recently left that job and those co-workers who once found me to be standoffish organized a wonderful send off for me that I found incredibly touching, and I may or may not have shed the tiniest, most professional tear.

    *I also wanted to say, in case this comes off condescending- I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being introverted, and I think it’s nonsense that we’re expected to do this whole song and dance. But we have to live in the world as it is, not as we wish it were. Sadly. lol

  57. El l*

    A common problem I’ve seen very frequently in boss types is that they assume that successful people are all just like them. Especially, that all people BEHAVE just like them. That’s because they assume that their own experience and how they did it is the best way. When in fact what works for you won’t work for someone wired differently or in a different situation.

    The other general observation (because you’re not in the wrong in this particular instance) is that useful feedback is sometimes badly delivered. It appears to be about one thing which doesn’t scan – but if you stop your thinking there you’re missing a deeper truth. So the challenge/lesson for you is to learn to separate the wheat from the chaff in this feedback.

    For instance, I could see some useful lessons that she was trying to impart: Is she saying that you need to (at least appear) more confident at work? Is she saying that you should learn to advocate more for yourself and your ideas? Or speak up more in meetings? Because all of those are good things to know, even if she hamhandedly delivered notice of that.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Agreed. The boss is handling this WRONG, but I see an undertone of good intentions. That doesn’t mitigate the impact or OP’s justified frustration, but unpeeling the onion a bit might help figure out what’s triggering the feedback.

      1. El l*

        Yeah, and after reading OP’s details below, I echo the comment that she should take it as, “Develop a work persona.” Speak up and give pleasantries a little more often than she’s normally comfortable with.

        She should not try to become an extrovert like her boss, or feel that she has to dominate meetings or small talk people to death.

        Rather, sometimes the spirit of professionalism means saying little things to make others more comfortable. Nothing less, nothing more.

  58. Alex (they/them)*

    People seem to be finding reasons to justify the boss’s reaction, but like:

    1. The Incident here was that OP didn’t interrupt a conversation they weren’t involved with to say “goodbye” when they left for an appointment
    2. OP checked with a coworker who agreed that OP does not come across as rude
    3. the boss wrote a long, passive-aggressive email about The Incident

    This really seems to be the boss having an unreasonable issue with OP’s personality type.

  59. Goldenrod*

    “But I’ve got to say, it sounds a lot like you have a very extroverted boss who thinks everyone else should function like she does and is “correcting” you based on that when it’s not relevant to how well you’re doing your job.”

    I 100% agree with Alison here! It sounds to me like your boss has a personal style that is different from yours, but not better. She has decided that her subjective preference is “correct” and that yours is “wrong.” This is not true!

    From my perspective, I actually think you were being MORE polite and considerate by leaving a note rather than interrupting their conversation.

    I think it’s very offensive when managers make their personal preferences into the “right” way to do things. You are allowed to have a different personality! To me, this shows her lack of sensitivity to issues of diversity.

    Diversity isn’t limited to discussions of race, gender, religion…There is also such a thing as diversity of work style. I don’t think you need to change anything. Your boss needs to work on being more inclusive of people with different personalities than hers! Not everyone approaches work situations in the same way, nor do they need to.

    1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I know. Someone I know insisted I was an extrovert. It was because she understood introverts to be shy and quiet and maybe timid. Any attempts to explain to her that I am definitely an introvert were met with scoffing! (She was a nice person, but did not always listen very well, and it was not worth trying too hard).

  60. Amber Rose*

    I feel like I can’t be the only one who was taught that interrupting people is rude? I don’t understand at what point in the transition from child to adult a bunch of people just decided that, actually, if you’re over 18 then interrupting is no longer rude, it’s required socializing.

    Sometimes I swear I’m an alien because people are so confusing.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      Talking over people and cutting them off is rude. Interrupting them doesn’t have to be rude. Not to mention children and adults have a much different dynamic than adults and adults.

      There was a great example upthread about about an interruption. Essentially 2 people talking and the 3rd comes into the office, doesn’t say a word, drops off papers. In that case it’s not rude to interrupt as the 3rd person, conclude business, then leave.

      The OPs case was a little different, but it’s still not rude to get up and yell out (figuratively) “Bye” as she was leaving.

      In both cases the length of interruption is what is key. Both interactions would likely to be seconds. If the OP were to walk over the group who is talking about basket weaving and suddenly interject her monologue on the mating rituals of the Keel-billed Toucan then yes, that would be rude. But it’s perfectly fine to see someone you’ve been trying to talk to for a couple of days in a conversation with someone else and say “Sorry to interrupt – Fergus can you give me a call later on when you have some free time? I wanted to go over the paperclip sorting results. Great thanks bye”

    2. OP*

      Right. I actually thought I was being polite. I think that’s why the “professional and courteous” comment stung.

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        You were being polite. Interrupting when it is not necessary is a far ruder and less professional behavior!

  61. OP*

    So some context and a little update:

    I am shy but I am also more comfortable around people when I get to know them. I am quiet but then have moments where I come out and say what I think. So I make jokes in meetings sometimes and have no problems talking to my coworkers about work or otherwise. (I’ve been here 4 years). I’m like the quiet person who pleasantly surprises people by making jokes or comments sometimes if that makes sense. I am also introverted so being in social situations is draining but I don’t necessarily dislike social situations. As long as I know the people.

    I sent this right after I received the email and I was feeling upset. I was surprised because like I said I have been here 4 years and usually leave without saying anything and it’s only NOW an issue?? Also 90% of the office also leave without saying anything. At least if they are coming back, which I was. My response was passive aggressive and not my proudest moment, but also I knew my boss wouldn’t take it that way and after talking to her, she didn’t.

    I am a team of one in my function in a corporate office. By team my boss meant the corporate office as a whole (15 people). In fact, the meeting she referred to was a corporate all hands meeting where we each shared a goal. Mine was to be more engaged, but I meant with my work, not interpersonal relationships. So she must have misunderstood what I meant. It was not something we talked about or she coached me on in a one on one.

    For a better picture, my boss and coworkers were talking to the right of my desk while I was sitting at my desk. No one was facing my direction and it was clear that I was not part of the conversation. The door is to my left so I did not walk past them when I left. Also, I made a point of smiling as I was writing where I was going and grabbing my keys and stuff so I didn’t think I looked mad or stoic.

    I took a day to calm down and talked to my boss about it today. I actually was worried that there had been complaints about me so I asked and she said it was only her. I explained I didn’t want to interrupt so as to be polite and she told me she actually WANTS me to interrupt her if I have something to say. So ok…very counterintuitive but I guess that’s her style. She told me she emailed me so I would have time to process it, and honestly I did need time. I have that annoying trait of crying no matter what emotion I feel (anger, embarrassment, happiness, etc.) so that’s why I waited a day to talk. She also kind of back tracked and said that I don’t actually have to change anything if I don’t want to which is weird cause its obviously an issue or nothing would have been said. Anyway, she mostly said that everyone in the office knows I’m quiet but she wanted to say something so that in the future I am aware that it can seem rude. So not a performance issue, just a piece of general life feedback.

    I am job searching for a lot of reasons, but this did kind of make me ramp up my search.

    I still find it weird but I am just going to make sure I say goodbye now and try to put on some more performative socialization, especially around her!

    1. The Real Fran Fine*

      Lalitah‘s comment right below this one pretty much sums up how I feel about this situation now that you’ve provided context and the follow-up. Your manager wants you to be more like her, but then gives you the conflicting feedback that, “Oh, but it’s fine if you don’t want to be like me!” (“But really, you should strongly consider it.”)

      I wish you all the best in your job search. She sounds highly annoying.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, I like Lalitah’s comment also.

        I’d like to add that your boss can’t teach. Teaching requires a goal and a map to that goal. She has neither.

        It’s not you who is failing to understand, OP, it’s her who is failing to teach effectively.

        This one is really not hard. I worked one place where signing in and out was a big deal, in case of fire. I made sure that everyone I supervised knew this. And I said, “It would be a good idea to say good-bye to a few people as you leave so at least one of them will remember you are not in the burning building.” If they did not want to do that they could just tell me or my immediate boss.

        Barring the fire safety, the same explanation could be offered in the context of “in case we are looking for you”. But you wrote on the wall. And others do not have to say good bye AND write it. Which makes the whole thing bizarre.

        I think you are on target about your statement of being more engaged. Engaged to her means something else I guess. Maybe you can develop a different description of what you mean by engaged. If you do go back in on this one a second time, avoid the word engage and use different words to describe how you want to connect to your work better.

        FWIW, you sound very nice and I think you probably do good work. I’d work with you any day. So would lots of other people and none of us would ever complain about not communicating enough.

        1. The Real Fran Fine*

          I think you are on target about your statement of being more engaged. Engaged to her means something else I guess. Maybe you can develop a different description of what you mean by engaged. If you do go back in on this one a second time, avoid the word engage and use different words to describe how you want to connect to your work better.

          This is good, actionable advice for the OP. I wish the manager had bothered to tell OP this though.

    2. OP*

      I also wanted to let everyone know I am reading every comment and very much appreciate all that is being said :)

    3. MicroManagered*

      Your update sounds like how I interpreted your boss’s email. I don’t think she is trying to change or scold you or be unreasonable… but more like she sees a development opportunity and is trying to encourage you.

      I am an introvert with a side of misanthrope, so some little pleasantries like saying hello or good morning to my team are learned behaviors for me. I have to be intentional about doing them, even though I still internally roll my eyes when someone good-morning’s me in a way I find too cheerful.

      Can I not do the little pleasantries and keep my job? For sure, I can! But those little touches really matter to some people and it goes a long way to build relationships and rapport, and those things often decide promotions even if maybe they shouldn’t.

      Personally I think developing a certain “work persona” (which is very different from my outside-of-work persona in many ways) is a skill that has served me well. To me it sounds like that’s what your boss was suggesting.

      Glad you talked to her and it turned out ok. :)

      1. What a way to make a living*

        Nah, leaving a room when people away from you are talking to each other without going over to tell them you’re leaving isn’t about having a “work persona” or doing the basic pleasantries of office life.

        No one else does it and it doesn’t sound like anyone else but the boss cares. Or even notices.

        In fact, it would be quite weird to come over, interrupt, and say “by the way I’m going out now”, to a LOT of people.

    4. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      Ug. Sorry, OP. Glad to hear you are job searching. In my opinion, your boss is out of line and off target. She basically called you discourteous and unprofessional over a nothingburger. I empathize since I am both shy and introverted, and I don’t go out of my way to greet or address every co-worker in sight as I happen to pass by. Sheesh. I would have responded to this email differently, but that is just a function of my personality and not any sort of recommendation. I would have waited to cool off before giving any response. Then, I would have told my boss, in person, that her email was not appropriate – telling me when to say hello and goodbye is not appropriate, that there was nothing unprofessional in what I did, and that I have good working relationships with these co-workers. I

      And I mean it – that’s what I would have said, and I recognize this will be an outlier in what you read in these comments. But I put up with that kind of stuff for decades at work, especially when I was younger and a doormat. But no more. I may be shy generally, but I am also opinionated, direct and too old to put up with that type of patronizing and inappropriate micromanaging.

    5. Mewtwo*

      I relate to you so much, OP. I’m also someone who is shy and quiet until I get to know people, and then I can be quite outgoing!

      Unfortunately, it looks like your boss sucks and isn’t going to change, so it’s good that you’re job searching.

    6. Good Enough For Government Work*

      Ugh.

      OP, I am a massive extrovert and maybe the least shy person on the planet, but I would still have behaved exactly as you did. It is RUDE to interrupt a conversation you are not involved in for no good reason (such as having a relevant point to make or needing to communicate something urgently). Just saying ‘bye’, especially when you were also writing it down somewhere publicly, is not a good reason.

    7. Sindy*

      Your boss probably feels like she messed up since you followed up with her face to face and for a second time, especially since you specifically asked her if anyone had complained about you. Or at least I hope she feels like she messed up, because she messed up and is going to lose you to another job sooner or later.

      I can’t comment on whether she’s a good manager or not since I’m not there in that office but for this specific issue between you two, she is the master of the mixed message. If it wasn’t actually important and if you don’t need to change anything than she should not have sent any emails at you. You haven’t done anything wrong and despite what your boss might think you do not need to loudly narrate every single action that you are doing so that you’re not perceived as “rude.” Although you might consider doing that for comedy purposes.

  62. Lalitah*

    This is management by pet peeve, basically, which is essentially bad management. It’s sad to see people who are doing good jobs and peaceable with their coworkers getting shafted by the proclivities of their boss. She’s not a good manager if she’s picking at this if there isn’t a pattern of OP messing up in their regular job duties. Introversion and extroversion are largely genetic tendencies that are amplified by environment, none of which any of us have control over.

    OP, start looking for another job. You work for a persnicketty extrovert.

    1. The Real Fran Fine*

      She’s not a good manager if she’s picking at this if there isn’t a pattern of OP messing up in their regular job duties.

      It’s worse. According to OP’s comment above, the manager has had no direct feedback from coworkers that OP comes across as “rude” and she completely misinterpreted OP’s own stated work goal of being more engaged, didn’t bother to follow-up with OP to clarify exactly what the latter meant by that, and is now chiding OP for not behaving the way she sees fit – regardless of the fact that OP’s been at this company for 4 years and has been doing just fine.

      The manager needs management, and communications, training her damn self.

      1. Lance*

        I do hope all the people that have gone on above about, basically, how OP should follow the advice, speak up more, should have said something while passing by, etc., read OP’s update just above, on this general point. OP specifically says in the letter alone that they speak to people, but apparently that’s not enough for a lot of folks?

  63. Pink Marbles*

    I started a job about 2 months ago, and one particularly clique-y department seemed to interpret my initial quietness as standoffish. My boss proactively noticed this, assured me that being their friend was not necessary, and noted that one of my greatest strengths is the ability to read people and empathize (a massively important skill in my role). He said he knew that being initially quiet is a natural part of that for many people, and that he respected how well I’m acclimating to the culture.

    All that to say, there are managers who will not only accept a quiet demeanor, but also recognize that it can indicate skillfulness.

  64. Anon for this*

    I’m going to assume that the LW is a woman or female-presenting person, because I’m getting strong “you should smile more!” vibes from this manager. Ugh, ugh, ugh. LW’s level of interaction with their team seems fine to me; I think the manager is way off base and possibly targeting LW based on her own extroverted nature or maybe some subtle, internalized misogyny.

    1. Lch*

      I got called into HR once because someone high up complained that I didn’t smile enough. Like… when? I was an admin working at a desk and sometimes walked to the bathroom. I was not client facing nor in meetings. Anyway, I perfected my crazy clown smile.

    2. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      In my first job out of college (a shy, introverted 22 year old women), I was put on probation by my law firm employer, and two of the four stupid reasons I was given for that probation were: (1) you don’t smile enough as you walk around the firm, and (2) you don’t project that you are enthusiastic and happy. It makes me sick just thinking about it. I still live with the psychological fall out from that.

      1. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

        I feel like my response to “you don’t project that you are enthusiastic and happy” would be akin to the Office Space – Jennifer Aniston “You want flair, well here’s your flair” reaction.

  65. Burger Bob*

    My sympathies, OP. I am also a generally quiet person, and I have also had (extraverted) people tell me it makes me seem rude, even when I’m not doing anything rude, I’m just not talking ALL the time. In fact, one person actually introduced me to strangers (in writing) this way: “She may seem rude, but she probably doesn’t mean it.” I was mortified and felt like my relationship with the strangers I was to meet had been sabotaged before I’d even had a chance to say hello. I will never understand why some people insist on reading quietness as an insult. I have no great fix for you, but I agree with Allison that you don’t sound rude and your boss is being weird.

  66. Magiggles*

    I’d like to recommend the book “Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking” by Susan Cain.
    Reading this book gave me the confidence to be an introvert in the work place knowing that the way I operate in the world is valuable. I felt validated and was able to navigate my workplace better after reading it. It is so GOOD!

  67. Michelle Smith*

    Your boss seems exhausting. There are people I have said good morning to that do not speak back. That’s rude. Interrupting me to speak to me when I’m engaged in another conversation just to say good morning is not necessary though. I’m not shy, at all, and in the situation you described I would not have said anything and walked out exactly as you did. Your boss seems to be overreacting.

    I would not have apologized though as it lends legitimacy to her weird complaint about you. My response probably would not have worked for a shy person, but I likely would have asked for a meeting and said something along the lines of “It is correct that I am not a morning person, but I am not likely to start interrupting others’ conversations just to state the obvious (that I’m leaving the room) at any time of day. I am always polite and courteous to my coworkers and this type of feedback is extremely frustrating and discouraging to me. I do not believe I did anything rude or unprofessional by not interrupting your conversation. Can you please help me understand why you feel differently?” and “Is there anything specific about my communication on projects or assignments that you find needs improvement or is it more that my personality and level of talkativeness are different than your expectations?” And if it’s the latter, I’d thank her for being honest, say that I don’t expect my personality to change, and I’d start applying for other jobs.

  68. Shy, quiet, and NOT in fact plotting to overthrow the boss*

    LW, your boss’s emails to you were rude, not your initial behavior. It is not rude to notify your coworkers in a non-invasive way when they’re already engaged in conversation. Some people would find it rude to interrupt a serious conversation for something so trivial that could be conveyed without interrupting.

    This boss sounds like a toxic boss I had, who demanded extroverted behavior from her direct reports, and called it “insubordination” if you didn’t cease being shy & quiet.

    1. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      Yet I’ll bet that when you DID speak up, your toxic boss rudely interrupted you. Which would keep any sane person from speaking up.

      I have one manager who is not toxic overall, but he’s a chronic interruptor. If you try to take control of your presentation or train of thought again, he goes with the “let me finish” mantra. The only way to get him to stop is to ask for all questions/comments to be held to end.

  69. Ambivert*

    There’s a great book called “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain (I believe this was an expansion on a journal publication of hers too, which also highlights the main points). I found it very powerful for illustrating how much value people place on extroversion in the workplace, but how that’s a completely unbalanced view. Not saying OP should passive aggressively drop a book on on the boss’s desk, but…

  70. Maude*

    Years ago I came across a great article that changed my life and from which I learned to embrace my introvertedness and not be ashamed of it. The article was in The Atlantic, called “Caring for your Introvert” by Jonathan Rauch. I suggest printing out a copy for your obviously extroverted boss, to give her some perspective from your side. Good luck!

  71. Mother of Cats*

    Okay, this is confusing as heck to me. They have glass windows that they specifically use to communicate if they’re leaving their desk for a short time… but the boss wants that AND verbal confirmation? Why? If this were my manager, I’d be very annoyed, because I’d see it as being criticized for following prior instructions.

  72. SMarie*

    I experienced something similar at work. I’m quiet and reserved, and it seems to rub some people the wrong way. One of whom was my boss. She implied that I was being both rude and that I was withholding information from the organization by not speaking up. I took her words to heart and it changed my life. I spent two years working with a communications coach at monthly coaching sessions (which my employer helped to pay for). While I’m still an introvert, my shyness slipped away and now I have no problem speaking up. Coaching was one of the best things I’ve done for my personal and professional development, and I’m so glad I followed my boss’s advice. OP’s boss maybe didn’t communicate it in the best way, but it is possible to move past shyness if you want to do so!

    1. No thank you.*

      I just wanna do my fucking job and go home. I don’t want to climb the ladder, and I’m not working at the U.N. That level of influence on one’s life is not what I want in work and I resent the idea that one’s mission in life should be optimizing oneself for their employer. They get the 8 hours they pay me for, and if they want that to change they know the price.

  73. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    Tip for your boss: if someone is painfully shy, berating them in an email for NOT interrupting a conversation that they had no part in is not going to help them overcome that! You DID say something: you wrote on the board. Why is your boss insisting on verbal confirmation as well?

    I don’t think you did anything wrong. I think there is a culture mismatch here (you are never going to be the perky extrovert your boss envisions) and you should start looking for another job where your personality and contributions are appreciated instead of criticised.

    1. Mewtwo*

      This. As someone with social anxiety, getting an email like that would make me even MORE self-conscious and timid. I would start second-guessing everything I did.

  74. Tussy*

    I was honestly ready to be on the manager’s side but I’m pretty extroverted and I wouldn’t interrupt a conversation I wasn’t a part of to say “good morning” or “be right back”. That seems super awkward to do. I might smile in acknowledgment of them but that’s it.

  75. Frog*

    Always astonishing to me when someone encountering another a shy/reserved/anxious person decides the best way to “help” them “overcome” this is to draw attention to every micro-interaction and offer feedback on it. (A long time ago now but when I was in college I had a manager in an internship who stopped me everytime I used a verbal tic. Unsurprisingly it just made it a lot worse. I quit the role quickly and unceremoniously.)

    Anyway, Boss sounds like a drain, and getting out from under her would probably be for the best.

  76. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

    Sometimes at work, it feels like you just can’t win.
    You didn’t want to interrupt a conversation so you quietly disengaged and wrote on the board. Yet that was construed as being rude. Likewise, if you HAD interrupted a conversation to excuse yourself, someone would’ve construed that as being rude too.
    Can’t win!
    And I personally don’t think what you did was rude at all. If you don’t want to interrupt, it’s pretty natural to walk away. I mean, perhaps you could do a little nod or wave before you go, but I wouldn’t jump to “rude” if you left.

  77. Database Developer Dude*

    I speak, to some degree, five languages and a smattering of a sixth, and there’s not enough profanity in my vocabulary to properly register my displeasure at the actions and words of OP’s boss.

    Kick rocks, OP’s boss!

  78. Just Alma Now*

    Nominee for worst boss of the year anyone?

    The manager’s response was bizarre the first time I read the letter, and it was bizarre even after OP clarified the situation in the comments.

    Glad OP is job searching, but in the meantime (if possible) I would bring this email up to someone above their manager. The manager’s reaction seems so overly aggressive and condescending, especially considering that sociability (or lack thereof) is not a major part of OP’s job and, as per their previous comment, has never been an issue before in the four years they’ve worked there, that I find myself questioning their judgment when it comes to making decisions regarding OPs position at the company. I would hope the higher-ups would be concerned to hear that one of their managers was making this an issue for a longtime employee.

    OP, you have my sympathy, I hope everything turns out well!

  79. Is it Friday yet?*

    I can SO relate! My last boss (who fired me but it was a blessing in disguise) considered me rude because I didn’t interrupt her conversations to tell her (or other coworkers) Good Morning. She also didn’t like that I was quieter than others in the office and thought that if I wasn’t an open book and loud that I’m not a good communicator. Ironically, I’m an extrovert (just not the stereotypical ones). I always thought there was something wrong with me.

  80. A Shrimp*

    I’d find it way more rude (and pretty strange) for someone to interrupt my conversation, that they weren’t part of, to tell me they were leaving. That’s just… weird. I’ve met a lot of extroverts, but never one who would randomly announce that they were leaving a conversation they already weren’t involved with! That would come across as bizarrely self-centered rather than friendly or whatever the goal is supposed to be here.

    1. A Shrimp*

      (maybe the manager wants that Goodbye Song from that recent letter about going away parties?)

  81. J*

    My sense is the manager has received feedback from others re: the LW’s shyness coming across as rudeness and is trying to provide actionable feedback. (It sounds like this example may be the manager seizing something as part of a larger pattern).

    A few commenters read the managers email as condescending but I actually read it from a place of kindness. I would rather someone shed light on the things I am doing that my team may find cold than be passed up for promotions and not know why.

    Early in my career I focused a majority of my conversations on only work related items. I would say hello and goodbye and go to lunch with team members but I tried keeping things very separate. I received similar feedback from a manager (but the feedback was packaged as, “When you’re able to connect with people on a more personal level they feel they can trust you more and it helps open up new opportunities/helps the working relationships.”) This is how I read this letter.

    And opening up *did* help my career. But if that isn’t something you can do that’s something you can’t do. But again, I would rather know and make the conscious decision than be penalized for something I was unaware of.

    I could also imagine a letter written from a co-workers side who may interpret this shyness and coldness. We have seen so many letters where people describe rude co-workers or cold co-workers.

    1. Willow Pillow*

      OP said at 4:40 that there was no feedback from others, it was just the boss. Addressing things like this can help one’s career, sure, but that doesn’t preclude them from being biased and discriminatory.

    2. Mewtwo*

      Fortunately, the OP has clocked that this work environment is not for her and is looking to move.

      And I’m sorry, but speaking of work cultures, I find the feedback you also got very odd. I’ve never worked somewhere sharing stuff about your personal life was a prerequisite to being successful at your job. That may be important to some organizations but it’s not universal.

  82. I Faught the Law*

    I got so angry and anxious just reading this! I agree with so many of the comments, but want to add that I absolutely HATE when managers frame their personal perception as a widely held one. I had a boss a number of years ago who would constantly say, “there’s a perception that you…” when in fact no one else thought that and it was just her own warped perception. It always had to do with things like this, too – she thought someone needed to be more extroverted, or she somehow got the idea that someone didn’t like working there, or didn’t want to do aspects of the job, or whatever, and she would insist that it was how everyone else saw things. I am still traumatized by working for her, and I’m not the only one. When someone tells you repeatedly that “everyone” sees you in a negative way, it can be incredibly traumatic.

  83. MomQuestAnon*

    Ugh this happened to me too, sorta. At work, brushing past the front desk lady who was talking to someone else, then that “someone else” came over to my desk saying ‘front desk lady’ ranted how rude I was and wanted to give me a heads-up about how (unintentionally) rude I was coming across. I’d had a bad morning so after they left I cried at my cubicle. Luckily, teleworking means I never have to run across front desk lady. And I can feign sociability over Zoom well enough.

  84. Still Queer, Still Here*

    I have this boss, and I am an introvert for sure. I’m quiet, have good boundaries at work, and don’t feel the need to be bubbly. I’ve been in this job for a year, and until recently, was constantly on the receiving end of feedback from my boss about being “disengaged” and “hard to read.” She has ZERO boundaries and does not understand introversion at all. She reads it as sadness at best and rudeness at worst. It’s been really frustrating for me, because my coworkers all give me great feedback and consider me a great team member!

    Recently, 2 things changed: firstly, I went from being moderately plus-sized to very much an average sized person. Basically, I lost 65 pounds over 6 months and just recently it’s gotten to the point that people notice (I’ve finally gotten comfortable wearing clothes to work that make the weight loss visible). Anyone who’s lost significant weight like this knows that it can make people suddenly much nicer and more understanding of you as a human. Because fatphobia is so sneaky in our culture. Suddenly this boss no longer thinks I’m disengaged or need to be micromanaged! So that realization sucked. The second thing was that we had an office re-structuring that meant my boss is no longer directly managing me and my coworkers. We hired a new person who is a great manager, really open to my feedback about the introvert thing, and is herself pretty introverted! Old boss is still trying to manage us though, so it’s all very stressful.

    All this to say, OP, this attitude from extroverts is really common in my experience, especially old-school corporate-raised extroverts. There are bosses out there who are great and not like this! Take a look around!

  85. Lara*

    Most of the comments in here are saying the boss is in the wrong, and certainly their tactic of writing an email to the employee is not great.

    However, I will say that being shy can be confusing or off-putting to people if they don’t know you at all. It can read as stand-offish, dismissive, haughty or even “creepy”. There are a few little things people can work into their daily interactions at work. In this situation actually saying out loud “sorry I don’t mean to interrupt but I’m heading out to a meeting. Hope everyone has a good day!” or doing a silent wave goodbye, pointing to your watch and the door. You could catch 1 person’s eye and silently mouth “I’m heading to a meeting” and wave goodbye…

    As someone that is fairly introverted and lost in my own thoughts (I’m an only child, I’m single etc) I had this called out a few times where people thought I was a huge snob but I was just quiet. You don’t HAVE to be more outgoing but you could also see it as a Career Limiting Move if you don’t develop some strategies.

  86. But what to call me?*

    Oh the condescension in that boss’s email. The context OP provided in the comments just makes it worse, but the email alone reads like every ‘smile more’ piece of advice out there. Calling not announcing that you’re leaving to people who weren’t even talking to you ‘your behavior’?

    I can believe that it might have been well-intended, but something can absolutely be well-intended and still be completely unjustified and patronizing.

  87. Introvert Teacher*

    I once sat in on a conversation between other teacher colleagues about how only extroverted teachers are actually good at their jobs. I struggled for a long time and forced myself to be peppy — then my teaching partner changed and she was an introvert, like me, who had lived in Europe for decades and was used to a quieter culture than Americans. She was comfortable in her own skin and had no apologies. Everyone thought she was kinda icy and cold for about a year. Then they learned how effective she was as a teacher and she grew on them. She would definitely initiate conversation with others but didn’t need to be loud and exaggerated and adding exclamation points to her personality. I think shy people can grow themselves into “confidently introverted” and be really happy. I know that may not help with this boss, who sounds like an introvert’s nightmare. In this case I agree, find a new fit, or perform the extrovert around her as needed.

  88. stelmselms*

    OP, if you’re still reading the comments, I hope you see this. As I was reading your letter, I immediately felt a wave of PTSD on my husband’s behalf wash over me. It’s not that you’re quiet/introverted, it’s how your boss called you out on what they saw as rudeness. I think they literally called you out for simply existing. My husband’s boss was the same way. He could do no right. As soon as he “corrected” one thing, she found fault with another. Please watch for patterns. If this is the only thing, this is just your boss’s issue and it sounds like you interact with your co-workers and colleagues just fine. But if you start to see a pattern, recognize it quickly, and know that your boss sucks and is not going to change. Your boss will always be “right” and you will never be. Protect yourself and do what you need to do to stay emotionally healthy. Good luck!

  89. DJ*

    It was your manager that was rude not you. If she had concerns or felt she needed to give you feedback she should have met with you face to face to express these. That would have given you a chance to respond and explain and for her to clarify i.e. OK to butt in to say heading off somewhere and you could have said didn’t want to interrupt or stand there for a few minutes waiting for a break in the conversation (which is more of a waste of your work time). And would have educated your manager around differences in how people operate. A good manager can then counteract comments from others by advising people operate in different ways and why i.e. can’t focus and chat at the same time, don’t want to interrupt etc.

    I’m softly spoken so get written off as “quiet” when I’m actually very social. Word retrieval and articulation is not my strength so I find it hard to jump in quick enough when there is a lull in the conversation so end up speaking at the same time someone else starts speaking. I also have some facial recognition issues and many times in the past have mis recognised people to my embarrassment so I’m cautious about referring to people by name in case I’ve mixed them up with someone else.

    If people aren’t joining in in a conversation rather than deciding they are “quiet” or “rude” why not ask them a question to include them. It cuts both ways.

  90. HR has left the Building*

    Holy crap this message got under my skin. I have been a people manager for over 20 years and if there is one thing I have learned and embraced, is allowing people to be as they are and let them shine in a way that is true to them. This ‘lack’ of judgement allowed me to build incredible relationships, loyalty and trust over the years all because I ‘demanded’ was that they be their authentic self. I never reprimanded anyone for being rude and have certainly not sent an email such as the one the LW received (never mind the manager had to dig a little deeper with the ‘unfair’ comment). Geez! You will never win her over no matter what you do as she is set in her ways of how YOU should be. (Gawd, I am riled here LOL.) Get out – transfer to a new department or find a new company that will embrace the wonderful person I am sure you are. Shyness is difficult and you shouldn’t be shamed for it. Good luck, dear.

  91. What a way to make a living*

    She sent an EMAIL with all that in it?
    She sounds rude and… I don’t know, weird?
    You sound lovely LW! The fact that you have enough of a relationship with even just a few colleagues that you can talk about things like this, and know they’ll be honest (and the advice from your colleague does sound honest) suggests you’re not seen as rude in general.

    I know this can be hard if you’re shy but I wonder if it is worth digging into this with her. She says her door is open, so you could consider asking her for a bit more information about what the impact on work could be here. Not just this incident but the wider “issue” she thinks she’s identified.

    If she didn’t give them before, you could ask for examples of how your shyness is impacting work. You can ask politely, professionally, and with genuine curiosity, of course. She may have good answers!

  92. What a way to make a living*

    Honestly I don’t think this really about shyness, or introvert/extrovert differences.

    Your boss is wrong. There is absolutely no social convention or reason why you would be expected to interrupt a conversation to announce leaving the room. That isn’t a thing people do, and your colleagues seem to agree.

    She’s decided it is a thing you’re doing out of shyness and that it needs correcting. You are behaving in a normal professional way.

    This isn’t an extrovert thing, it’s a terrible manager thing.

    1. CLC*

      Yeah I agree with this. The manager has labeled her as “shy coming off as rude” and decided that this is going to be her development project. Now everything she sees from this employee is going to be “shy coming off as rude” and every interaction is going to be a problem she needs to correct. The poor LW is apparently under a microscope now and can’t just live and do what she needs to do. It is infuriating that the manager called her getting up to leave as a “missed opportunity.” Just let people be and do what they have to do.

  93. LondonLady*

    Honestly what you are doing sounds fine!

    I worked with someone with the opposite behaviour, they constantly told colleagues exactly where they were going in the moment, “I’m going to the storeroom”, “just getting a coffee”, “got to phone my mechanic, won’t be more than 10 minutes”, “I’m getting a printout”, even if we had no need to know and it meant interrupting people. It might have been unconscious habit or intended to be helpful, but quite often it was disconcerting and came across as insensitive or attention-seeking. Don’t be that person!

  94. CLC*

    I hate stuff like this. There is a manager I work with who is similarly unaware that humans are different and they can still be effective employees without putting on an act to be exactly like you. Hard to believe in 2022 there are people in positions of power who still don’t get that.

  95. Not rude at all*

    I have walked up to coworkers who are talking to interject a quick something. “Going to lunch now.” And can’t get a word in edgewise for 5 minutes as they ignore me and continue their chat. Unless I do the, “Sorry to be rude and interrupt, but …” I’d have done the exact the same thing, especially if you signed out to take lunch, you don’t want to use up your time to wait to be able to say, “Hey I’m taking lunch.”

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