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I noticed that in my current company, there are several people whom I don't work with regularly (often senior, no matter how much) who just look on or look away when I say "Hi", "Hello" or "Good morning" to them, no matter how I intonate it, if I say it loud, smile, with a professional tone, etc. every day it repeats itself.

I personally find that utterly rude, but I wonder how it is perceived on the other side of the story. At the same time, there are other people who greet back, as one would expect in standard good manners.

I don't know of any possible conflict between me and the non-greeters, but I wonder what causes this kind of attitude.

I don't want to educate anyone, but am just curious as to why some people disregard good manners.

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closed as off-topic by ReallyTiredOfThisGame, CMW, RWY, jcmeloni, enderland Mar 24 at 18:55

  • This question does not appear to be about the workplace within the scope defined in the help center.
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I like the question but I honestly don't see why people aren't complaining that this is encourages opinions. Without even knowing these individuals of course answers will be opinions? I mean take this question for example and @CMW's comments. –  bobby Mar 20 at 3:46
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I work with people that can't talk with me socially without a family member present. Nothing to do with me, just the society where they are from. The workplace is so mixed with cultures and personalities, that you can't expect anyone to conform to what you think is normal or polite. What may be rude to you could be the pinnacle of politeness to the other person. –  Adam Zuckerman Mar 20 at 4:03
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If everyone started helloing and good-morning in the morning it would be quite annoying. Better to kill it in the bud. –  user13107 Mar 20 at 5:48
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For some people, looking up and nodding or raising the head slightly is acknowledgment to an essentially meaningless social noise like "hello", especially when they're busy. And some folks really would rather not be interrupted when they're focused on a problem... so they may be suggesting that they'd consider it polite if you stopped greeting them unless you actually need to speak to them. –  keshlam Mar 20 at 12:44
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This question appears to be off-topic because it is about general manners and respect not specific to the workplace. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Mar 20 at 13:56

11 Answers 11

I work with a lot of engineers, programmers, IT people and for some reason, many people in these groups tend to have slightly different social norms than the rest of society. Some are clearly on the autism spectrum, some may have social anxiety or similar, some are simply a bit "awkward" or "strange". This is definitely not something limited to the technical types I've specifically mentioned, but does seem to be more highly concentrated there in my experience. Nor does it apply to all of them!

So this means some people in the workplace often don't quite act in the socially "normal" or "expected" or "polite" ways. Some people find it hilarious, some people find it really awkward, others find it jarring or even rude.

Thankfully, perhaps because my own workplace is majority engineers/programmers/IT, this isn't an issue for managers/employees here. There may be the odd comment about how someone reacted a bit oddly etc, but there's a much higher threshold for what is considered "rude" or "bad manners" as far as simple social behaviours go, compared to a lot of other social situations. Even people who really struggle to work well with others have a place here, but that is probably more luck than attitude (since we have a lot of small projects, many which can be done solo).

So without knowing the individuals you're talking about, all I can say is maybe they don't conform to your idea of social norms, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're intending to be rude to you—they might just be a little socially "weird". And I don't mean that in a pejorative way at all (we're all a bit weird/etc), the only place it'd really be a problem is where the job specifically requires someone to conform with social norms (like a TV personality, someone dealing face to face with lots of clients, etc).

So if you don't know them very well, give them the benefit of the doubt; they might just not fit your model of how humans should interact socially, and it's not necessarily a sign of rudeness.

As a final point, it occurs to me I don't know if you and/or your colleagues are male/female/straight/gay/etc, so this can definitely add to any awkwardness—extroverts are often mistaken as flirting when they're just being friendly, and introverts are often mistaken as being rude/cold when they're just not feeling sociable.

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+1 I've noticed this with a lot of engineers and IT people too and believe it is sort of a self-perpetuating stereotype in the sense that they think this how engineers and IT should act therefore they do so. For example I had a boss who knew IT people used a lot of jargon, therefore he purposefully used it even with nontechnical people. –  bobby Mar 20 at 3:48
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Could be that they mentally acknowledge your "Hi", accept that you have greeted them, and simply see no particular reason to respond (e.g. its a greeting, not a question; what's the point of greeting's anyway?; they don't do small talk). Could be a lot of things going on in their heads. Possibly fear/anxiety, so they simply clam up and feel bad for their inability to respond, maybe look away out of embarrassment. They might have been deep in thought and either totally missed your "Hi", or saw it as an interruption, or not processed it immediately, only later to realise you were saying hello... –  drfrogsplat Mar 20 at 7:37
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+1 Being too shy to respond, being ashamed of hearing own voice, feeling uncomfortable when noticed by anyone (what's a pity I need to use corridor, couldn't we have some teleporting device here?)... welcome in IT world... –  Lukasz Mar 20 at 11:16
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Please don't make the assumption that awkwardness/shyness is a general rule in the IT world. In my experience as a software engineer, awkward/reserved behaviour has been the exception. –  Nobilis Mar 20 at 11:29
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I have to disagreeeeeeeeee, I'm working in IT and I'm a IT engineer and I rarely meet persons that are rude or unfriendly in IT, I tend to have the same opinion of marketing guy, I think it's really just a matter of culture –  Kiwy Mar 20 at 12:32

How well do you know what is going on in the other person's mind? Do you always say "please," "thank you," and "you're welcome" with perfection in all circumstances? I know I'm human and so sometimes I may not always return a greeting.

Imagine if you have an urgent problem that you have to discuss with someone and are heading to their office to resolve matters quickly. Do you even notice others that may say things to you every single time?

Imagine if you're heading to a meeting or appointment late and are concerned what you are missing so you don't even notice those around you. Slightly different than the first in that it is just a meeting or appointment but for some people this may be enough to keep them in their mind rather than be courteous to others around them.

Imagine if someone just got a phone call saying that they have a sick relative in the hospital with a major illness where they may not have long to live. Wouldn't you run to get out of the office to go say good-bye? Would you stop to acknowledge every single person you meet in a hallway?

This is without bringing up other issues such as Social Anxiety that some people may have which could also be a factor.


In some places I've worked, there would be a crisis everyday as there would always be fired to be put out. While you may think these shouldn't be common, in some places it is very common.

There can also be social cliques in some workplaces where while this may seem like high school, it is how some people handle social situations.

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OK, I can understand about specific events and scenarios; I was talking about more regular behaviors, i.e. I notice they would ignore me, but then happily greet someone else. –  RonCarl12 Mar 20 at 0:03
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They're just not that into you? –  mxyzplk Mar 20 at 0:49
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Why would they be when they don't even know me yet? –  RonCarl12 Mar 20 at 7:18
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@RonCarl12 That's the way people are. Some people may just need to look at your face to come with opinions, prejudice, or simply aversion to you. Sometimes, it's nothing personal. Humans are complicated beings. As you grow older, perhaps you will be able to understand such behaviors. It's wise to understand others point of view about the situation. Try to look in the bigger picture. I would say it's unwise to put yourself in their place, because you're not them. You don't know them, as they don't know you. Just try to move on, and learn as you go with them, and by them. –  Hugo Rocha Mar 20 at 13:37

Often people in senior positions feel that they need a certain professional distance. It's likely not personal, they just don't want to start getting pally with everyone.

Edit added: e.g. they want to be able to take business decisions without friendship getting in the way of those decisions. By "professional" in this context I do not necessarily mean "respectful", rather I mean, "operational", or "functional". The intention is not to show distance or superiority. Usually, it has nothing to do with showing anything. The idea is simply to maintain relationship distance. They just don't want to be your friend, probably not because of anything about you, but simply because of where they find themselves.

Given that goal, the alternative (if they actually begun interacting with you), is to get to a point where they verbally reject you, which they don't want to do. So this choice (being aloof) is the least bad for them.

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You show distance and superiority by not greeting first, less noticeable smile, body language. Not responding to greeting is no way professional and it's 99% that what @drfrogsplat described. –  Lukasz Mar 20 at 11:13
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@Łukasz웃Lツ Please see my edit added in response to your comment. –  Brad Thomas Mar 20 at 12:19

Many employees have Ego problems, by the virtue of which they feel that their status or reputation may not be justified if they get on equally with everyone in the office.

As per my experience, some seniors don't even mingle with their junior colleagues, and some even hesitate to talk with freshers. The common sense or good manners comes second for them, the first priority is only their Status.

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Different people have different communication styles, which includes different levels of comfort speaking with people they don't know. You may find it helpful to learn about the DiSC model of behavior. Searching "DiSC Model" will turn up a lot of links, some better than others. http://recoveringengineer.com/disc-model/the-disc-model-of-human-behavior-a-quick-overview/ is a good place to start, in my opinion.

Briefly, humans can be divided into those that are people focused and those that are task focused. They can also be divided into those that are high energy and those that are low energy. Those divisions define a 4 quadrant system that turns out to be very effective in identifying the way people prefer to behave when they haven't thought about their behavior ahead of time. DiSC is not written in stone, it only identifies preferences. People can change their behavior, if they have a reason to change and think about it first.

In the case of a morning greeting, someone who is high energy and people focused is very likely to greet everyone they see, and expect other people to be just like them and greet them back. Someone who is low energy and task focused is the opposite.

The "why" of your question is often a difference in DiSC styles. You can't change their style, but you can moderate yours. A "High I" (high energy, people focused) greeting a "High C" (low energy, task focused) will get best results with a simple and low toned "Morning", with a neutral facial expression. A "High S" (low energy, people focus) greeting a "High D" (high energy, task focus) will get better results with an energetic "Good Morning" and a smile, and not asking how they are today. A "High I" greeting another "High I" can go to town with fist bumps and "Good Morning! Awesome day! Did you see that sunrise - really cool!"

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To have an interaction, you have to have a persons attention. It may be that you just don't have their attention in that moment. Sometimes, when I am in a rush or focused on a problem, peoples' attempt to get my attention (even just to say hi) just don't register or force me to break my train of thought. Of course, most of my problems don't involve $100,000 decisions like the guys upstairs. Perhaps they are just focused on a decision that could cost the company an average worker's yearly income.

Also, many managers have been through situations where a smile and a handshake have lead to deception and loss. Managers play a different game than the rest of us, one with higher stakes.

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A deeper question to give you a sense on what's going on is whether the seemingly rude people are responsive and helpful in work matters. If not - this probably worth discussing with them or your manager. If they are helpful when directly approached, then you know they aren't all bad.

I'll second the idea that in many technical environments there seem to be enough impediments to the normal types of greetings that my first instinct is that this is not malicious. The cornucopia of reasons include:

  • Autism spectrum - can't perceive the greeting and/or don't realize that the correct response is a social requirement that has a value.

  • Very focused - wandering around thinking deeply about a problem.

  • Electronically engaged - listening to a hard to see earbud

  • Just Deaf - seriously hearing impaired, or having problems hearing over the noise in the location

  • Quirky or clueless - maybe suffering from something we haven't figure out yet, maybe just an odd duck.

I had a problem in college that I was both hyper focused and not readily able to hear my own name. A big part of that was that was that my name - "Beth" - actually sounds like many of the vocalizations made by people who learned to vocalize, but who do not hear well. I went to a school that was colocated with the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, so we had a higher than normal number of hearing impaired people with a variety of communication skills. In a campus with a lot of "live" areas of flat echoy surfaces, I had learned to tune out anything remotely "Beh" sounding.

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I have noticed that when for some reason there have been some awkward moments between me and a colleague (e.g. my attention is drawn away to something at the same time when he/she says hi and when I turn back they've already passed). It can happen that in next encounters they're not sure anymore whether to greet me or not or how to respond.

What I usually do if for some reason there has been an awkward moment between me and a colleague that I don't know that well. I try to find an opportunity to "make it up". So when I meet them at for instance the coffee machine, I'll engage them more specifically with some idle comment or a question. That usually clears up any awkwardness in the future.

If the reason is because that person is in a higher position than you, then I can't help you. I've never encountered that. I think it's rare in Dutch culture.

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There are just plain rude people, and you can try and reprogramme them this way. Being nice is just as infectious as being nasty, so keep it up and the world will become a better place, albeit very slowly.

Then there are people who are totally focussed on what they are thinking about, or they are hurrying to the bathroom, or they haven't had that first coffee yet and they are hurrying towards it... they may be deaf - whatever, they didn't notice, and it makes you feel a bit foolish because you got no noticeable response. Maybe they did and just lifted a hand or gave a brief smile and you didn't notice. Catch up with them later in the coffee corner.

And then there's me. If someone I don't really know, especially someone big and bouncy and cheerful, greets me unexpectedly in the corridor, I assume they meant the guy behind me, and by the time I want to respond properly the moment has passed, and I feel like an idiot. Just keep trying, but don't overdo it, don't be loud or insistent, next time I'll probably do better. Catch me in the coffee corner later on, but be consistent and don't be oppressive, I like a bit of space around me.

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I think the OP is correct to call this behavior what it is: "utterly rude".

Assuming that we're talking about high-functioning professional people in typical corporate environments (eg NOT jail or mental-ward), there is no excuse for such behavior. Being in "IT" is especially not an excuse.

That said there is nothing that can be done about it. You can't force an adult to have proper manners, and if you somehow manage to "force them" to do that, the lack of authenticity will be even more offensive that the initial rudeness.

The best thing you can do is to continue behaving in a warm and congenial manner. Say "good morning" to whomever you want. Some will say "good morning" back, some will nod in acknowledgment, others will hide under a rock. Whatever the case, be nice and don't act on your judgement of rudeness.

The important thing here is to not let the rudeness get to you. By doing so, you demonstrate that you're able to get along with all kinds of people-- and that is incredibly valuable to you and your organization. By the same token, those who choose not to be polite are, in varying degrees, damaging their reputation in the workplace.

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I especially agree with the last paragraph. I wouldn't call it utterly rude though. –  Matthijs Wessels Mar 20 at 22:46
    
I would like to know where people are getting that it is OKAY to deliberately ignore people when they say hello. If you're a surgeon in the middle of surgery, yes. If you're an airline pilot landing a plane, yes. If you're a cubicle worker on the way to the break room-- no, it is NOT OK, sorry, but you aren't doing such critical stuff that being rude is excusable. –  teego1967 Mar 21 at 18:41
    
I think there can be a rude aspect, but also a social awkwardness aspect. Don't write them off too soon (ps: I didn't downvote you, I actually upvoted :) ). –  Matthijs Wessels Mar 21 at 22:13
    
Yes, I know. :-) –  teego1967 Mar 21 at 22:33

In my experience this rude, non-communicative style you describe can be attributed to either

a - some kind of autism like another commenter describes b - the person(s) in question are trying to assert some kind of hierarchical superiority, again as another commenter describes, or worst of all c - they have a problem with you

If you're an easy going person like myself, and expect good manners from everyone, it's time to wake up and smell the coffee. People can be rude, full of crap, and the higher up the food chain they go, the more full of crap and more rude, manipulative psychopaths also. In many companies it's a requirement for being a manager. It's important not to lose your rag with these people. In the case of possibilities 2 or 3, the only answer is to play the same game. Speak softly, or like them don't speak at all unless you need to in order to perform your daily duties. Instead of saying good morning, give them a light sneer, an almost indiscernible nod, but be reserved and wary. They will soon recognise you for a "player" like they believe themselves to be. People you work with are not friends - and the corporate environment is generally a jungle on some level. I hope this helps you. It has taken me many years to figure out. The important thing is not to let this stuff destroy your soul, or how you are otherwise i.e. your humanity. With the passing of time, it's also possible to "mold" unpleasant work colleagues into how you want them to be, not how they really are i.e. twisted up, miserable corporate drones. Good luck!

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this does not seem to add anything substantial over what was already posted in prior 9 answers –  gnat Mar 21 at 12:07

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