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I work as a programmer in the information technology area. A new employee was hired to be a manager of an adjacent department, where the department is a 'customer' of my work. They request various projects/fixes and I am the 'grunt worker' who delivers.

I have a pretty strong college background and I have participated in competitive programming as a student and later a coach. I also tend to keep to myself and don't talk to many coworkers outside of immediate work duties.

The manager employee in question, (call him B) came a few times early in his hire, in retrospect, I think to socialize, and he noted my background as impressive and expressed his praise at how smart I am or must be and how great it is to have me available to the team. I normally just listened and nodded and said thanks, but beyond that I did nothing.

During a few moments I felt like perhaps I needed to return the favor, and return similar banter to Mr B, which in part may have required researching his background, but I never did so. I was never interested in that or him in particular, and rather wanted to avoid interacting with people in general as a whole.

Recently [after a couple of years working in the company] I've learned that B is leaving the company for his own reasons. My question is - do I need to do anything at this time, like come and praise B for his work and contribution to the company, and his background, or express any other communication, while he is still employed at the company? I feel like I had to do something before which I never did, and hence wanted to do a last ditch effort while he is still employed at the company.

My questions are:

  • Do I need to do or say anything to B now, after learning that he is leaving when I never extensively interacted with him, except those instances I described, and occasional work projects?
  • If this situation happens again with anyone else, do I need to do anything in particular or do I just smile and nod and say thanks?
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    Never miss an opportunity to be nice. – Old_Lamplighter Jan 21 at 17:48
  • What was your relationship over the years? Did you just greet, did you talk? Did you work together on the same projects? – Bernhard Döbler Jan 21 at 20:18
  • we said hi to each other in the hallways. We had a few meetings, where most of them B was just sitting in either observing or working on his laptop, while I was collaborating with other members of the team. We never collaborated directly in an extensive manner. We had a few conversations about i.e. my trips I took during PTO. – Chris Jan 21 at 22:30
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    If I were you, I'd tell him he was a good asset to the team, you're sorry to see him go, and you wish you had told him this earlier, but felt it was inappropriate to say this to someone who outranked you at the company. I'd you ever need to leave your company, he could be useful. Always be on good terms with coworkers who go to another company. Connections make or break your career. – user1713450 Jan 22 at 1:42
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from your post, emphasis mine:

do I need to do anything at this time, like come and praise B for his work and contribution to the company, and his background, or express any other communication, while he is still employed at the company? I feel like I had to do something before which I never did, and hence wanted to do a last ditch effort while he is still employed at the company.

I think you answered yourself here.

If you feel like thanking this person and bidding them farewell then do it. You don't have to, but if you want to I would do it.

If you are thankful that he was welcoming and kind to you in the past tell him that. No need to background research and come up with something witty. These things have to be honest and come from within.

If this situation happens again with anyone else, do I need to do anything in particular or do I just smile and nod and say thanks?

If anybody praises you it is professional and polite to thank. No need to give presents or something like that; a simple thank you can go a long way.

Again, you are not forced to praise them back. In fact, praising them back without an actual reason can come up as empty and superfluous.

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Do I need to do or say anything to B now, after learning that he is leaving when I never extensively interacted with him, except those instances I described, and occasional work projects?

You could write him an email saying that you enjoyed working with him, and wishing him well in his future career.

You weren't close and don't have to pretend to be, but it's good to acknowledge things that go well, like a pleasant cooperation. You might run into him again some day - maybe he'll be looking to hire someone with your skills.

If this situation happens again with anyone else, do I need to do anything in particular or do I just smile and nod and say thanks?

You shouldn't stalk your colleagues of course, but it's good to take a bit of an interest. Listen to what they say about themselves and what they're doing, that's your cue about how much of their personal life they want to bring to work.

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