I am an Indian female working in an IT industry, India. Women workforce in this office is 10%.

Usually there are meetings that happen once in a month and some of us attend it. It could range anywhere from induction to townhall. I dress up particularly well to the office and since the women workforce is quite less, I get a little attention during these meetings, viz the meeting host turning his gaze towards me more than the rest or addressing only me during small meetings. I understand that this is a natural phenomenon and I let it go.

Problem is when these meetings end and the hosts that try to exchange casual greetings with me the next day onward. Whenever we pass by each other's desks or meet in the aisle/cafeteria, they expect me to say 'Hi'. But, I don't want to. I don't want them to say that my certain accessories are good or that I look good. And this happened.

Though we are in the same office, they are not my teammates. I might not even recognise them if I meet them outside the office.

When I say they expect me to say hi, I mean they do not cross the path as a stranger.

All said, I move quite well with my teammates, mainly because I work with them and that communication is essential.

I understand that these should be accomplished through body language, but I am stuck up here.

What should I be doing to avoid these casual greetings and conversations with whom I do not want to. What non verbal cues should I be practising?

I have observed that many women lower their face whenever they want to avoid these awkward moments. I don't want to do that.

  • 7
    What is the cultural expectation (regardless of gender) around greeting coworkers from different teams? Where I am, for example, not greeting people would be considered rude, or weird, at best.
    – jcm
    Commented Mar 27, 2021 at 4:55
  • I guess there is no cultural expectation as such. The way these people look at me, I understand that it is merely to strike a silky conversation or crack a stupid joke and try make me laugh. There are genuinely well mannered people who do not care when we pass by each other. Commented Mar 27, 2021 at 5:00
  • 1
    I'm afraid, there is no easy solution. Sometimes, you just have to be cold and off-putting with your eye contact and body language, and even tone of voice, especially if they make it obvious that they have no business reason to be talking to you in the first place. Commented Mar 27, 2021 at 8:04
  • 4
    I'm a bit confused, you're asking for non-verbal cues to avoid conversation, but don't want to do the most common one, and that is to lower your face/eyes. Commented Mar 27, 2021 at 12:50
  • 2
    "I dont want them to say I look good" This is a fair point, as such comments if unwelcome, could be harassment.
    – Anthony
    Commented Mar 28, 2021 at 15:51

6 Answers 6


I am from the United States, so there could be a cultural bias in my answer.

When you are the only women, you may be getting more attention as people are not used to it. However, it is not very clear from your post whether their expectations of you to say hi and acknowledge them are in the context of a regular, professional interaction of colleagues, or to acknowledge the gender hierarchy due to you being a woman or perhaps of a sexual nature due to comments that you look good. If the latter, then you absolutely are right to feel uncomfortable if such comments are demeaning and devalue your skills as a fellow colleague.

If you are uncomfortable in how you your colleagues are treating you or think something more may be under the surface, I strongly recommend you let them know. Where I am from, assertiveness is valued, along with honesty in communication. Be forthright, as if these interactions, are harassing, you have the right to have them stop.

  • Yes. There have been instances of gender hierarchy and this is one of the reasons that I do not want to exchange casual greetings with such people. I think I have not been that assertive w.r.t such incidents. I need to improve those skills. Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 10:18
  • workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/170551/… This is one of such incidents where Paul was constantly expecting me to greet him. Thankfully, this was taken care of. Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 10:21

The difficulty here is that (my understanding is) Indian culture is very patriarchal and Indian guys (my understanding is) aren't good at receiving social cues from women and taking them in a non-aggressive way. Meaning, if you are to overt or forward with a negative reaction to this sort of thing, it might hurt your professional life in this company. Whether or not this is a risk worth taking is up to you; are you prepared to potentially get passed over for promotions and so on due to having "communications problems" with your coworkers?

(Note: I am not saying the above is a good or valuable thing, rather it's the opposite, but reality has to be taken into account in any valuable answer and so I'm simply taking reality into account, unfortunate as it is. And while the company won't overtly say "you are being passed over for promotions because you won't make small talk with your male colleagues who think you're pretty", they will give other reasons to pass you over in order to brush that under the rug, when it really is the main issue. Again, this is certainly not a good thing, but it is a thing, and my understanding is it's especially bad in Indian culture)

Now, I'm going to assume that this is not what you want, and you want a way for them to leave you alone in terms of personal relationships while also maintaining a good professional relationship with your coworkers. So here's what I would suggest:

When they say "hi" to you, just say "hi" back. If they try to engage in any other conversation more than "hi", just try to brush them off as best you can. For example, if you're at your desk, such a conversation might go like this:

Them: Hi!
You: Oh, hey!
Them: Nice weather today, huh?
You: Yeah, I guess. Sorry*, I can't chat right now, I'm busy working on something.

(* cultural note: I am Canadian, we say "sorry" for everything, so I would say "sorry" here, you may not in your culture; it's not an apology "sorry" like you're actually sorry for anything, but just a colloquialism which may or may not be Canada-specific, not sure)

And then turn around and go back to whatever it was you were doing.

This is a tenable response assuming the number of such incidents is low; you can't do this all the time for everyone who passes by you in the hallway or passes by your desk or walks through the kitchen while you're getting a coffee. If it becomes untenable, this might be an issue to take up with your manager and ask them for advice as to what you should do. Perhaps your manager can talk to their manager(s) and get them to lay off, or your manager will direct you to talk to HR (I wouldn't go straight to HR in the male-dominated tech sector in patriarchal India, that could land you in hot water, although if your manager directs you to HR or your manager won't help you otherwise then by all means go for it), or something like that. In this case, it would be actively affecting your productivity as you would have to be constantly fending off these guys in addition to doing your normal work, and in this case it's your manager's job to get it to stop.


In these kind of situations in my life, I use my face without mimics. If they joke, I won’t laugh and smile at all. You can seem always busy as well so they can’t have a chat with you. If they compliment you, don’t say anything and don’t use any mimics again. But I think you can’t have all you wanted at the same time. You might have to divert your eyes from them away or lower your face time to time.


I often at days don't want to say hi to someone and prefer to just walk past. Best thing to do is look at the ground I guess. I am also far less likely to say hi to someone if our eye contact didn't meet.

If you do make eye contact with someone (by accident) just smile. Avoids you from having to say hi and talk about the weather (avoids small talk).

Worst case if someone does say hi, reply with a hello. Any compliment you get, say "thank you", short and snappy, avoids you from having to explain where you bought it blah blah. If anybody asked "how's the day going" reply with a "going great" and leave it at that. Don't say "I'm great, how are you?" because this leaves a door open again for small talk which nobody wants. It'll escalate to really random stuff like "my dog did this and that" or "my favourite colour is blue" or "the weather is nice today". Makes things so awkward and annoying at the work place


I am from the United States, so the culture may be different.

Perhaps try looking straight through them, as you walk forward. Do not change your facial expression as they try to get your attention. With your body language, act as if they are not there. You might come across as snobbish, but this can be an effective approach in getting people to leave you alone.


One thing I do not like about this site is everything comes down to culture very fast which does not make sense to me for few reasons:

  1. I have worked with people around the world in person and also remotely. Work place cultures are getting more and more similar to each other because how we are connected with each other. There might be few differences but basic etiquettes and challenges remain same everywhere.

  2. Even it is about culture, there is no rule book for it. Company culture may have some rules but country/location culture does not. From clothes to addressing people, idea of culture itself is changing fast and is very individual choice even among the people of same location.

  3. Even if it is company culture, just because it is there, does not mean it is right.

Now, with this rant, for your specific query there are two things which you can do

  1. Like others mentioned, if you do not want to greet someone you just met in a meeting, just show it with your body language (like a very disinterested hi without smile so that they get the hint and most people will)

  2. If they continue, complimenting on your looks or accessory, crank it up a notch and show some surprise with level of discomfort. If they repeat, report to HR.

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