I am a huge proponent of nohello in the workplace - I get way too many Slack messages and other interrupts to waste time on pleasantries. I keep my Slack status set to "nohello.com" as a way to remind my coworkers of this, and generally don't respond to Slack messages unless they contain something I can respond to. Most of my coworkers are fine with this, and many do the same.

However, I have one coworker who doesn't seem to notice or care. Her messages to me always look like this:

Her: Good morning!

Her: How are you?

Then silence until I answer her and engage in pleasantries, after which she'll finally get to the point. This can occupy several minutes or more as I answer her, go back to what I was doing while waiting for her to respond, then get interrupted again when she responds a few minutes later with another pleasantry, etc. I've tried ignoring her until she asks an actual question, but she'll just wait (possibly assuming I'm busy/afk?), meaning her question doesn't get answered.

How can I politely inform her that I need her to get to the point immediately and not waste my time on pleasantries? Ignoring her means her question doesn't get answered because she won't ask it until I respond to her pleasantries, and also means I am constantly low-level aware of her hanging ping, which makes it hard to concentrate on my work. But if I don't ignore her, I waste a bunch of time engaging in meaningless "hi, how are you, how was your weekend, what are you up to?" back-and-forth in Slack that constantly interrupts my flow. This also encourages her to continue opening with pleasantries, further interrupting my flow later.

To be clear, my issue is not with pleasantries qua pleasantries. I don't mind chatting with coworkers around the lunch room or in the halls, or in the general-chat Slack channels. The issue is that when a coworker sends only pleasantries instead of asking their question in their first message, it repeatedly breaks my focus (one interruption per pleasantry exchange, often spaced out over several minutes to hours depending on when we're each next able to respond on Slack) and delays me from answering the question.

Just saying "hey stop with the pleasantries and get to the point" is likely to come across as rude to her. Her job is focused around people management and contractor interfacing, and I suspect some of the disconnect comes from the fact that her job normally requires her to be extra-pleasant and friendly, while mine is all about speed and getting to the point.

What is a polite way to make clear to a coworker that I will not respond to empty pleasantries in Slack, and she needs to ask her question up front before I will respond?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Sep 13 at 21:10
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    I only ask because noone seems to have asked so far: does your company require you to be on the Slack system all day long? I tend not to touch chat systems if I can humanly avoid it, preferring email. Yes, there will be some things we need to interact about; but I prefer to use email to schedule a phone/chat session, to avoid exactly this sort of behaviour. If your company doesn't require you to be on a chat system continuously, then it opens up some other possible answers. – MadHatter Sep 14 at 7:16
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    @MadHatter Unfortunately, yes, it's a company culture expectation to be available on Slack. – thatgirldm Sep 15 at 19:08
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    This question really needs a location tag. In my local culture, forgoing on minimal niceties like saying hello or thanks is called "going short with someone" and unless you are this persons superior (and have a genuine reason to be upset) you're not helping your career by doing this. – Douwe Sep 17 at 13:24
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    @Douwe I think that concept is true in most regions, however the the friction comes about when trying to apply in-face speaking norms on text-based instant chat. I doubt OP would fault anyone for small talk in the break room, but IM etiquette is not nearly so well-established. – user30031 Sep 17 at 16:43

23 Answers 23

up vote 122 down vote accepted

It's important to remember that other people can't read your mind. It's perfectly fine to have ways you prefer to do things, but you need to let people know what your preferences are before you expect them to respect your preferences.

Along these lines, ignoring your coworker's pleasantries in the hope that she'll jump into her question for you isn't going to work. By ignoring her, you're not giving her any indication why you're not responding. It could be that you're busy with something else, away from the keyboard, or just being rude. She's not going to guess that it's because she broke an unwritten rule you haven't communicated to her.

(You have put a link to nohello.com in your Slack status, but that's an ineffective way of communicating something you really want people to notice. I know that I never pay attention to Slack statuses myself. The only thing I want to know is whether someone is available or not, and Slack reports that automatically.)

What you need to do is tell your coworker what your expecations are. I suggest going along with her pleasantries the next time she reaches out to you. Then, after she gets to her question and you finish helping her out, you can end the conversation by asking her not to spend so much time saying hello the next time she talks with you. Be very polite and pleasant when you do so - you haven't communicated this to her before, so she hasn't yet done anything wrong.

If she continues to try to say hello before getting into the point, you can be a little bit more direct. Don't be rude, but you can respond to her saying "hello" with, "Hi! Do you have a question? Like I said last time, I appreciate it when we start conversations by getting to the point - I think it saves us both time :)"


In the grand scheme of things, spending 5 minutes going back and forth chatting with a coworker is not the worst thing that will happen to you. It's fine for you to prefer a more direct style of communication and to ask others to communicate with you that way. But at the end of the day, you have to choose your battles. Do stand up for your preferences, but keep in mind that this isn't something worth being confrontational or rude about.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Lilienthal Sep 17 at 21:40
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    While I also like @Carcosa's answer, I accepted this one because the coworker did it again after I posted here, and commented about not wanting to disturb me and how long it takes to get an answer. That gave me a perfect opening to follow this answer's script and explain to her she'll disturb me less, and I can answer much faster, if she leads with the question instead of just "hi!". She was very receptive and seemed to take it well, so hopefully it sticks! – thatgirldm Sep 18 at 5:42

Respond politely by asking them what they need from you.

Your co-worker likes to begin conversations with small talk, which is a style of communication that some people prefer. They find it necessary or comfortable to engage in warmup dialogue before stating their intent. These preferences are developed over time and are hard to unlearn. So let's assume that permanently changing your co-worker's communication habits is not a feasible option.

If you respond to her small talk with your own small talk ("How was your weekend?" "It was nice, how was yours?") then you're prolonging the conversation and delaying the point.

Avoid saying "get to the point" or telling the co-worker to stop the pleasantries. That would likely be seen as rude, and could sour your professional relationship with your colleagues, especially if small talk is normal for the office culture. While I'm not suggesting you confirm to social norms that make you uncomfortable, I do recommend partially adapting to the social expectations of your workplace, as likeable employees tend to cooperate and advance better.

Therefore, make a compromise between your and your co-worker's preferred styles. Respond politely, maybe with a brief greeting to match theirs. Then immediately follow up by asking them what they need, because they probably need something from you. If communication involves a messaging service (like Slack) then you may want to combine them into a single message.

For example:

Her: Good morning! How was your weekend?
You: Hi, I am doing well, thanks. How can I help you?

Minimize your own small talk, and prompt your co-worker with a direct question, so that her next response should get to the point.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Sep 13 at 21:10
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    "Small talk" here also serves to check that you are actually there and responsive, which allows coworker to better prioritize her search for whatever answer she needs. if here questions are low priority, that's a different problem. – fectin Sep 14 at 3:27
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    I like this answer better, as it tries to get to the point rather quickly – LocustHorde Sep 14 at 8:03
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    I routinely do this - but with just the "How can I help you?" The formality of the phrasing acts as minimum required politeness for most people, and it shifts them directly into the mode of telling you what they want from you. – gowenfawr Sep 15 at 17:14
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    Good answer. I find it looks a little nicer and more friendly separating the smalltalk "...thanks for asking" stuff from the getting-to-the-point "How can I help?" stuff with a new line (shift-return on slack), or, type once then cut and paste half into a second message. Looks less like you're shutting down the chit-chat. You don't dislike this person, you might resume chat about the weekend while not in deep focus, but first, you want to know how big, serious or urgent what they're going to ask is (things you could gauge from body language in a face-to-face conversation) – user568458 Sep 17 at 11:32

If someone simply saying “Hello!” or “Good morning!” to you in chat is so upsetting, that is a symptom of another problem and it’s not your need to “train” someone to never say “Hello!” or some similar pleasantry.

Lots of other answers here, but let me focus on this one thing and expand on an earlier comment I made:

“How can I politely inform her that I need her to get to the point immediately and not waste my time on pleasantries?”

Do you get paid by the hour? By speed of response? Is the speed of your response connected to your salary?

Look, if you work in an environment where you are expected to be immersed in code as well as be available in chat, that is the deal: You are expected to code and you are expected to be available to others regardless of how they interact with you.

Your bosses, managers, etc… are expecting you to code as well as be available for consultation via chat. If this somehow annoys you, you need to bring that up with your boss, manager, etc… But the reality is you cannot control how other humans will interact with you. And yes, loss of focus due to context-switching might be annoying… But guess what? That is the deal of working in a situation like that.

At the end of the day I am reading you saying this, linking to that ridiculously overwrought “No hello.” site and have to think: You utterly cannot be frustrated at a simple, basic and universally expected human pleasantry?

In my mind—as someone who codes and works in tech—there are too many ways of avoiding human contact out there and too many nonsense excuses for not saying “Hello!” or “How are you!” or “Hey! You busy?”

I am not a robot or a piece of machinery. If someone just sends me a blunt chat message saying, “I need your help.” without a basic intro text, either the sky needs to be falling or that person is Chicken Little (aka: Henny Penny). And in the world of faceless communication—like chat—that will only wear me down more and make me more bitter.

That said—and looping back to the beginning—I sense something else might be an issue and the solution to that is not something anyone here can recommend. Perhaps your organization needs a ticketing system of some sort. Perhaps you need to walk over to talk to someone instead of being in chat because sometimes people in cubicles right next to each other avoid doing that. Perhaps it’s something else.

But at the end of the day, if I were told I need to adhere to some “No hello.” policy, my response would be to invoke my “Goodbye!” policy and walk out the door.


UPDATE: Two people in the comments (that have now been moved to chat) have stated the following so I am addressing this stuff head on. This is from the original poster:

“I lose 10-15 minutes of work every time she asks me something…”

And this is from another commenter who disagrees with his answer:

“It’s something of an axiom in software development that it takes approximately 15-30 minutes to refocus on work.”

I have been doing software development for years. While it can be frustrating to stop your workflow, there is no “axiom” specific to software development that states it takes 15-30 minutes to refocus. That claim—as well as the one that states “I lose 10-15 minutes…” sound so incredibly exaggerated it’s laughable.

So again: If your job involves interacting with human beings, you cannot expect them to be able to read your mind and provide you the exact question that you can answer in less than 5 minutes. If you are dealing with human beings, you need to deal with social pleasantries. If not, are you really telling me that someone just blurting out, “This specific thing needs to be done. Do it!” is actually more pleasant?

You can utterly not “train” someone (aka: another human being) to bend over to your hyper-specific mind reading interaction needs like this. The only person who can be “trained” is you. You need to stop being frustrated and realize nothing will change the fact that human interactions are not a clean and perfect.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Sep 13 at 21:11

In the companies I work or worked in, the initial "hello" was less of a chit-chat and more of a way to poke someone and check whether they can freely read the IM.

The idea being that if someone does not respond to the initial "hello", it means that it may not be the best moment to send them something which they may not want to see displayed (presenting, someone is watching the screen, etc.)

You may consider this in your "nohello" approach, and take into account that aspect of the "hello" too.

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    Even this situation would be more effectively handled with "Hi, can I send you something sensitive?" which immediately makes it clear what's going on. When it comes to a presentation, you don't want to see a "Hi" pop up either, so both sentences are equally annoying (and you should really mute chat when presenting). – Erik Sep 13 at 12:05
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    @Erik: from experience, it all depends on the culture. Where I work now a "Hi" is a test on whether the discussion can continue. Presenting is one example, having someone looking at your screen is another one and not everyone want to juggle with switching the IM on and off. – WoJ Sep 13 at 13:29
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    This. For me an hello is a way to see if I can engage the other people or if she is busy. – Rui F Ribeiro Sep 13 at 19:32
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    I will reply to a hello even if I am busy, in order to get the interruption over with asap. So this is a poor assumption. If you want to know if someone is busy, it's best to explicitly ask them: "Hi, free to chat about X for a few minutes?" – Dewi Morgan Sep 13 at 20:08
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    Upvoting this. Basically, the more interactive a communications mechanism is, the more "handshaking" is necessary. EG: The "Hello" when you pick up the phone performs the same function as a CTS signal in RS-232: I'm listening and it is now your turn to talk. Without some kind of RTS/CTS handshake on a chat, the person on the other end doesn't know if you're actually there, or if they will have to physically come look for you to make sure you got the message. – T.E.D. Sep 14 at 11:58
up vote 27 down vote
+400

Back in the day, I worked in an environment where I managed a lot of people remotely, and had to deal with many of their issues as soon as possible, so couldn't just check messages periodically: they needed to be able to interrupt me.

At the same time, I had to program and debug, holding large and complex data structures in my head, only to have them destroyed by greetings.

I had an away message auto-response something like:

"Please don't ask to ask: just ask! Asking your question in your first message means I can triage it correctly. Otherwise, I might assume you're just chatting, and leave off responding until I have time."

And I was ALWAYS marked as away.

A goodly proportion of people thought it was funny to say "Can I ask you a question?" at least once in response to that, but I would just reply with "Heh - sure, whatcha need?" or something. Everyone gets to make The Joke for free. I considered it a tax I had to pay.

Some small proportion of people - maybe one or two percent - just would not get the idea. They would exchange pleasantries and stuff first, even if they were on fire. I put it down to a cultural thing, and treated handling that minority of people as another time-tax.

The vast majority of people "got it" and even appreciated the sped-up comms.

A few needed a little gentle poking, which I did by making fun at myself:

"/me flails and froths and screams 'Don't ask to ask!' as his head explodes :P Hey there, whatcha need?"

To pleasantries, my first response always ended with something like "whatcha need?" - I picked that over "what's up?" (because some places that just means "howdy"), and over "can I help with something?" (because that's way too formal, so I saved it for strangers randomly messaging me). This breaks out of the pleasantry-loop as fast as possible.

Ultimately, you will save yourself a certain amount of time with a nohello, or don't-ask-to-ask policy. Past that point, you have diminishing returns, and it's best to eventually give up on people as lost causes. By reading the posts in this thread, you've already likely lost just as much time as you would've saved by forcing this one holdout to learn messaging etiquette.

As others have suggested, a ticketing system, or just periodically checking your messages at scheduled times, can also help reduce this problem, though they are not always feasible.

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    Up the joke for the regular players: "Can I ask you a question?": "You just did. Who's next?" – mcalex Sep 14 at 4:00
up vote 24 down vote
+200

I work for a small/medium sized company. When we grew from just being one office, where almost everything could be discussed face to face, into a much larger one, with offices in multiple time zones and countries, this issue was brought up.

In a company wide event, where everyone was present, we discussed ways of how to improve communications and we agreed on few things:

  • Go straight to the point when using online collaboration tools, no hellos
  • You are allowed to ignore chat/email/calls if you are busy
  • You need to be available on certain times, to prevent you from becoming the bottleneck
  • You can put a "do not disturb" note on your desk to notify others that they should avoid disturbing you or having a random chat near your desk/room

And I think the key point was to have this discussion without pointing any fingers. It was done in a neutral and constructive manner and without naming or shaming.

We didn't enforce any of these things, they were more a sort of soft guidelines, but they worked quite nicely. Now, a couple of years since we agreed on these rules, they have become somewhat forgotten so it might be a good time to bring this topic up again.

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    A set of communication guidelines sounds like a perfect solution. Trying to enforce something like nohello will inevitably come off as rude if you're the only person doing it. But, if it's folded into a larger set of guidelines for using the chat software effectively, then that gives you something to point to. – Maxpm Sep 14 at 5:11

Get a ticket system. You seem to be annoyed that people are using a chat system for chatting and you would like them to use it for sending you tasks. I think it's unreasonable for you to expect 1) people to just change their nature like that 2) expect people to use a system that encourages chatting and informal communication in a way it wasn't really intended without a (real) explanation. You can't just dictate how people behave like that and frankly if you go on like this I think it will hurt your career.

You're really looking for a ticket system where people can put in tasks, you can prioritize and do them when you see fit without the chit chat, but I would still recommend using Slack in scheduled blocks throughout the day to answer peoples' questions.

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    not sure why this got a downvote, it's a perfectly reasonable answer – Aaron F Sep 13 at 9:49
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    Because a ticketing system isn't an alternative for asking a question over a chat system. – Erik Sep 13 at 11:58
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    @AaronF i don't think OP can just "get" and make someone else use a ticket system. those things cost money, and a good, rational argument for a ticket system definitely isn't "because i don't like small talk" – bharal Sep 13 at 12:56
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    A ticketing system won't solve the issue - we have one, but it's for tasks. My workplace uses Slack for non-task questions, such as "how do I X?" or "are you the right person to help with Y?" My chatty coworker's questions are valid questions, not tasks - the issue is that she wants to engage in empty pleasantries that take 10-15 minutes to complete before getting to her question. – thatgirldm Sep 13 at 14:20
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    @thatgirldm If you're engaging in 10+ of smalltalk that's an entirely different issue to someone saying hello. You only asked here about saying hello, so don't bring that other problem into it. – curiousdannii Sep 14 at 6:46

Use Slack's auto-reply features

You mention that you are using Slack. I've never used it, but it seems to have a feature called Slackbot which you can configure to automatically ignore the "hello"s while still being polite.

Setup and use auto-reply on Slack
To get started, open the group on Slack. Next, click the group name and select Customize Slack. It will open the Customize Your Workspace page. By default, it will open Emoji tab. You need to switch to Slackbot tab.
Here you can setup keyword-based auto-reply. For example, you can send a particular text, when someone says “Hi” or “Hello” (...)

Emphasis mine. Source: https://www.thewindowsclub.com/set-up-and-use-auto-reply-on-slack

So just configure an auto-reply for messages containing "Hello", "Hi", "Good morning" etc. and have the Slackbot reply with something simple that hints for them to go straight to the point:

Hello there! How can I help you?

Or, if you want to be more explicit:

Hello there! I recently started following the "nohello" rule for Slack conversations, I hope you find it as useful as I do :) How can I help you?

That way you don't have to waste your time replying to the "hi"s and "howdy"s, and hopefully the first message you see will be the actual question.

Even if this kind of configuration falls short of your needs, there probably exists some kind of plugin that fits the bill.

EDIT: Some actual Slack users are commenting that Slackbot does not work for one-to-one messages. What a pity! The answer still applies in a general sense, though: use Slack's features and/or plugins to detect and auto-reply to generic greetings. If you manage to do so, you'll save yourself some time, and your coworker will eventually learn to avoid that kind of chit-chat and get straight to the point to avoid the canned response.

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    Wouldn’t this kick in when someone starts the conversation with the message proposed by nohello.com? Hi -- I'm working on [something] and I'm trying to do [etc...] – Melebius Sep 13 at 9:07
  • @Melebius As I said, I'm not a Slack user, so I'm not sure how finely grained Slackbot's configuration is... but I wouldn't be surprised if you could tell it to only auto-reply to messages that contain nothing else but the configured words. Even if that kind of configuration wasn't as simple, I think letting Slack take care of this for you (via Slackbot or some other plugin) is an option worth exploring. – Luis G. Sep 13 at 9:13
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    Slackbot is a server wide bot and cannot be set up for individual use so having it setup for individual users when they say "Hi" probably isn't a good idea.. Having said that, I had Slackbot respond to "doesn't work" with a link to How to Ask which was pretty successful but I wouldn't want to have it respond when someone is just trying to greet a person. – Sayse Sep 13 at 12:22
  • Also, in my experience, Slackbot doesn't do these responses in person-to-person chats, but only in channels. – Deolater Sep 13 at 15:00
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    I'd strongly recommend making sure it's explicitly clear that the response is automated. Otherwise people saying hi to judge whether you're available will be misled and potentially have their time wasted. – trichoplax Sep 16 at 20:18

One common option I've seen in companies I've worked in was to have multiple Slack channels, one for work and one for general chat. You can then enforce a strict nohello policy on the work channel on the understanding that the general-chat channel may not receive priority response.

This can be explained in the header for the channel as a rule, and therefore not be considered rudeness.

You can enforce it with a Slack bot scanning for keywords and short messages as other answers here have suggested.

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    That, plus a company-wide policy to use appropriate channels instead of direct messages. The ratio of issues for which direct communication is the way to go is very low, at least in large companies. – Roman Odaisky Sep 13 at 22:22

One way I used to get around this was to set an away message.

In some chat clients, you can use a setting or plugin to automatically reply when a new conversation starts. So if you set this message to something generic like "Hi, how can I help?" you don't have to write it yourself.

This does have the potential to not make much sense if they either jump straight to the question or say something that doesn't quite flow with this response, but if this cooworker is predictable enough then it's an option.


An alternate way I have dealt with it is to reply to their greeting, and immediately close the window.

It'll pop back up again when the person has an actual question, and given that it takes less than a second to do (HiEnterAlt+F4) you haven't really lost any time. They get their greeting, and maybe afterwards you could hint that they could merge the greeting and the question if you get a chance to. In my experience they will ignore you though...

The other answers in here are fantastic but I still wanted to add another option, just reply back with nothing more than a simple acknowledgement:

  • Hi.
  • Yo.
  • Hey.
  • Oiy.
  • What's up?

Your coworker clearly prefers to communicate using a chatty protocol by default but I've found that most humans don't mind switching to less chatty ones when prompted to do so. It definitely helps to sprinkle in some pleasantries, at least every now and then, to appear approachable.

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    OP’s main complaint isn’t the chattiness per se, it’s the interruption and pause implied by the greeting preceding the question. They need to context-switch away from what they’re currently doing in order to go to the chat, and (in their opinion) waste time waiting for the real question to arrive. Your answer is probably what OP is already doing at the moment, and doesn’t solve their problem. – Konrad Rudolph Sep 13 at 9:36
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    Except that the OP explicitly stated that the strategy they've been using is to just leave the other individual hanging. Being silent clearly won't ever solve the problem because the other individual is likely following a protocol where they don't waste time describing their issue unless they know someone else is at the other end listening. Giving a terse acknowledgment might not immediately solve the problem of being interrupted but will likely prompt his assailant to get to the point. – Kittoes0124 Sep 13 at 13:33
  • @Kittoes0124 The OP mentioned that ignoring was one approach, but also described how the conversation went when other the above-described approach was taken: "I answer her and engage in pleasantries for a few minutes, after which she'll finally get to the point." – Dewi Morgan Sep 13 at 19:43
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    @DewiMorgan My suggestion is to ignore the pleasantries, not the entire individual, as there is quite a large difference between acknowledging someone and not responding; I read the OP as doing the latter. – Kittoes0124 Sep 13 at 20:42
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    "won't waste time on a question unless I know someone is there to answer me." I don't have a solution, but that's the heart of the problem. One party wants the conversation to be asynchronous, while the other wants it to be synchronous. Maybe it would be best if the OP asked this person to call instead? – employee-X Sep 14 at 22:09

It doesn't help to ask them "What's your question/can I help you?", because there is still some time lost from typing that, and even more from waiting for the other person to type out the question (if they have chosen to stop the pleasantries).

The better way is to assume that the other person(s) will never change and to find a balance between what is comfortable for you and the other person. In this case it's twofold:

  1. Always be the role model and type out your hello+pleasantry+question/information in the first block (I don't see a problem in adding a pleasantry if it's all in that first block)

  2. Don't check your Slack channels. Disable the text popups if you have to stop it from distracting you (but still keep the number notifications to know if there are any). Then respond after finishing off your task or after 15-20 minutes from the first occurrence of messaging.

Number (2) will have one of two results: either you will have more comfortable working conditions (indefinitely), or someone will complain about your slow responses, in which case you reply that you don't like getting distracted at work (avoid details), however you might respond quickly if you see something that is important to respond to.

I believe this solution will get you to where you want, keeping in mind that you can't change people, but you can make your life more comfortable (without offending anyone).

Nohello is similar to Crocker’s rules - the basic idea of both is to optimize conversation for information flow, not for pleasantries.

An important attribute of Crocker’s rules has always been that they are advisory, and do not place an obligation on anyone else. You can’t force someone to reciprocate.

It’s nice that you give someone license to get their answer faster, but you are crossing a line if you expect others to adapt their norms to your norms.

There are a lot of answers already, but I think there's a point that merits mentioning here.

You have your expectations about communications. You have your reasons for those expectations. However, you appear to be ignoring or dismissing your coworker's expectations about communication.

It is possible (perhaps even likely) that your coworker values team relationships more than you. Some people find that social interactions between team members is beneficial to their productivity, much the same way that you feel that getting a question at the start of an IM communication is beneficial to your productivity.

While you could argue over who is "right", the reality is that everyone has their own particular style of communication. Note that there are lots of different ways to categorize these communication styles, so take any specific descriptions with a grain of salt, but the idea that individuals vary in how they communicate is pretty easy to verify through observation.

With that in mind, you may want to consider whether it is truly worthwhile to try to get your coworker to adhere to your own communication style when messaging you, rather than her own.

If you sent her an IM asking a question, adhering to your "nohello" policy, and she replied with this...

It makes me uncomfortable when you start off a conversation without a basic greeting. I'm a person, not a computer, and it feels disrespectful when you can't take a few moments to send me a simple greeting.

...would you adjust your communication preferences to meet her expectations?

What about coworkers who know that she prefers a more social beginning to communications, whereas you are bothered by them? Are they expected to remember the social requirements for each individual coworker, and abide by them? What happens when they initiate a group discussion, and different members of the group have different expectations?

My advice is to adhere to your "nohello" policy with her when you initiate conversations with her, but to respect her own communication preferences when she's initiating the communication. In the grand scheme of things, having to reply back with "hi" to one coworker's messages may be slightly frustrating, but it isn't going to have a huge impact on your productivity. Be glad that the rest of your coworkers appear to be on board with your "nohello" policy.

It's not ideal; neither of you get what you want 100% of the time. Realistically, though, it is easier to try to control how you initiate communications, rather than to try and get each of your coworkers to remember your specific communication preferences, and how they may differ from other coworkers, and apply them as appropriate.

No matter your reasons for your personal preferences, they are just that: personal preferences. Trying to tell someone else that their personal preferences are objectively wrong will only hurt your professional relationship with them, and even if you don't value that, others do.

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    Overall good answer, but regarding the last paragraph: When personal preferences interfere with company time, then there's a good argument to favor less chit-chat. – user30031 Sep 14 at 17:53
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    @DoritoStyle We're talking seconds per communication. If the company policy is "no socialization", then I'd agree. I'd also not want to work there (and I am not a particularly social person). – Beofett Sep 14 at 18:11
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    @Beofett the actual cost of interruption, slow conversation, and regaining momentum of a task is much higher than "seconds per communication"; no person is a perfect machine which instantly goes back to work with maximum efficiency. The culmination cost of all such distractions over the course of a day becomes minutes & hours. – user30031 Sep 14 at 18:14
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    Note that this isn't about interruptions reducing productivity. In the scenario the OP is describing, there will be an interruption regardless of whether the coworker starts by saying "hi". The issue is the 10 seconds of additional time required for the brief exchange of greeting. – Beofett Sep 16 at 1:00
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    @Beofett Asking any sort of non-trivial question probably doesn't take seconds, though, so we're not talking about "seconds per communication" - that's the whole point of nohello. Instead you're talking about sitting and waiting patiently for maybe a minute or two while the other party composes their question. That's not "socialisation" in any meaningful sense; rather, it's regularly being expected to sit still and do nothing for minutes at a time for no good reason. The "10 seconds of additional time required for the brief exchange of greeting" is not at all what nohello is about. – Mark Amery Sep 18 at 13:50

Don't enforce, simply don't engage

Her: Good morning!

Her: How are you?

You: I'm fine, thanks for asking. Hope you are ok, too. How may I help you?

And that's is.


With this you:

  1. Complete the pleasantries for both sides;
  2. Cut the back and forth;
  3. May ignore her until there is a message that you can respond to.

In person you may talk to her and say about you IM preferences. But I suspect, from experience, that a "greeting person" will remain like that. So it's up to you to conduct the conversation in a way that does not waste your time.

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    Yes. My response to "How are you?" is "Busy but I'll make time for you :) How can I help you?" That both emphasizes that she is interrupting and cuts through the pleasantries, but also includes the willingness to help so stops it sounding rude. – Dragonel Sep 13 at 19:26

It's not entirely clear in your question if this greeting is part of the preamble to a question, or a default reaction which blocks questions.

Assuming it is the former, it suggests that your opposite number isn't really adjusted to the asynchronous nature of instant messaging (IM). You can possibly improve this by injecting more away-from-the-keyboard (AFK) time within a 'conversation' than you would normally. This could be either making a short, non committal response or just adding some delays into the middle of a conversation (this may depend on if your IM app is your primary task, or if it's a secondary function). Treat it as a reminder to get up and stretch your legs maybe.

As a way of responding to an 'are you there' ping, you can also consider a more neutral response, along the lines of :), ... or ? - these might be too abrupt to throw in 100%, but they are worth considering as a way of replying without consuming too much effort. You shouldn't feel that replying like this, then going AFK is a bad thing.

  • To clarify, by "AFK time" you're just referring to dropping a neutral response like "?" and then not engaging until the other person reacts, hopefully actually explaining what they need? So it's a way of reinforcing the asynchronous nature of the communication by not letting it become a conversation? – Lilienthal Sep 17 at 21:53

It is not impolite to simply answer as follows, even a canned response: I appreciate your pleasantries, however, as I am almost forever extraordinarily busy I would appreciate it if in future we could get directly to the point without any of that. You may notice that my status is nohello.com which has some explanatory notes.

Of course, depending on all circumstances, it may be that your co-worker is pleasantly interested to know you.

What would you do if you met her in a meeting, the hallway, outside of work, etc? And she said 'hi' to you in those cases. Would you do the same passive-aggressive actions if meeting in person? If not then why is an IM conversation different?

We have lost much of our inter-personal skills with the modern communication methods (and I work in technology so I'm guilty of this). We're losing the ability to actually talk to others. This goes for both business and outside of work. Things we would not do in person are though of as OK when communication electronically.

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    This is missing the whole point of "nohello" which is that if you meet someone in person your communication is way faster than over IM, where it becomes waste of time. If you want to share pleasantries, by all means, drop by someone's desk. – Erik Sep 13 at 20:16
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    Walking in the hallway isn't really the same as being immersed in a task within your office. not at all. – user30031 Sep 14 at 17:53
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    "If not then why is an IM conversation different?" - quantity; there are many more of them with many more people, and it's not realtime, messages stay on screen. And people do other things at the same time. "We have lost much of our inter-personal skills with the modern communication methods" - citation needed, and explanation for implying it's bad. "Things we would not do in person are though of as OK when communication electronically." - and? Different things are different, electronic chat is not the same as talking in person, why mandate that we act as if it is the same? – TessellatingHeckler Sep 15 at 6:19
  • .... walks into operating room: "Hello Surgeon!" ... waits for response ... – GG- Sep 17 at 15:37

I think this problem comes from the lack of understanding instant messengers. Your view of Slack (and maybe other similar tools) is very pragmatic, that is, the no-hallo policy (which I like too).

Solving this is not about trying to read anybody's mind. To me your colleagues just don't know yet how to efficiently use such tools and need to be educated.

It's not about what you or they like. It's about how these tools are supposed to be used. You as a more experience user are doing this right whereas some of your colleagues not (yet).

I'd have a chat about this issue in your team-meeting so that everybody is aware of the purpose and usage of instant messengers.

All the workarounds with automatic answers or tolerating "Hi"s anyway are wrong. People should just learn how to work with Slack, etc.

There might be a technical solution to this human problem. I would look into creating a slackbot that if a message is from her, and it's the first message in a while, and it contains a white-listed greeting word, automatically messages her back something like "hey, what's up?". That way you don't confront her and you don't waste your time.

You want to minimize conversation time and interruption from you work flow and concentration. If you maintain this No Hello policy you will quickly become known as a curmudgeon and be pushed out of the flow of communication and engagement. People don't like anyone who considers their time or self inviolable. In order to both save time and conform to societal norms (in order to stay in the loop and enhance your perceived value), on the initial Hello, anticipate the routine and respond with more than is requested, such as:

"I'm great today, Suzie. Went kayaking this weekend and feel refreshed. Are you enjoying your day? Working on XXX and in the zone, so I really need to get back to it, so how can I help you?"

This will let your coworker know you're available for necessary communication but don't want to waste time, will eliminate your waiting for responses to meaningless back and forth - thus getting you back to work sooner, and prevent a reputation that will do you no good.

A simple response of:

Hi, what's up?

Is all that's needed to get the conversation flowing.

You're getting bogged down thinking this coworker is genuinely asking how you are doing in life/work/spirit, etc... They may simply be checking that you're available to talk - hence, when you don't respond they don't continue sending information...

Even if they are genuinely asking - by skipping a response and only soliciting what the coworker needs from you, you'll get to the point a lot quicker.

Asking people to not say hello or some sort of greeting is only going to come off as strange (at best), or hostile (at worst).

Just tell her, every time. Be polite at first and over time get more to the point, until you stop answering the initial pleasantry. However, make sure everyone knows that this is how you need to work (and you've communicated this with your manager).

protected by mcknz Sep 13 at 17:56

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