saying hello and goodbye to coworkers: distracting or polite?

A reader writes:

I was hoping that you might be able to help me out with an etiquette dilemma.

I’m currently in a graduate program, and for the last year, I have been employed on campus as an office clerk. I usually work three or four hours a day, covering lunch for the regular staff. My shifts begin at 10 or 11 and finish at 2. Because of the timing of my arrival and departure, I generally only say “hi” or “goodbye” to the people I share an immediate workspace with (about 3 out of 10 people). If I see the rest of the office staff during my shift, I of course say hello and chat briefly. My reasoning is that I don’t want to distract other staff when I come and go, given that it’s the middle of the workday. Do you think this comes off as rude? Should I be making the rounds each time I come and go?

What you’re doing sounds fine: saying hello to the people in your immediate vicinity but not seeking out others.

For people who have jobs that require focus and concentration, even if only sporadically, it can be really distracting to have someone interrupt you with a greeting (which requires a response) just when you’re in the middle of focusing on something. And yes, that might sound grinch-like to people who aren’t that way, and indeed everyone is not that way, but enough people are — and have work that requires them being that way — that it’s worth being cognizant of it.

And anyone who’s going to get bent out of shape for not getting their very own greeting or good-bye has issues that are about them, not you. You’re there to do a job, and you’re pleasant to the people you encounter while doing that job, but there’s no need to seek people out specifically to toss pleasantries at them.

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