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I've experienced this once and lately someone told me something like this too.

For example, someone you work in a project that you have frequent discussion with, let's say they are in a different department and you really think that their team and your team is cooperating well, like they give good feedback and approves/disapproves stuff openly, good discussion flowing. But then when there's a meeting they suddenly act like a stranger, acting like cold and distant, but then after the meeting they acted normally again like the meeting never happened.

In personal matters I kind of understand that this thing is kind of normal.

Is this kind of act normal, like accepted as acting professional?

Maybe on lower level this thing is more personal, but what about when you are acting in higher level management, like say you're a head of x department, have a good relationship with y , in meeting you acted coldly against y , but then outside meeting it's all good again.

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  • 2
    Yes, it may simply be their way of acting "professional" in a formal setting and / or in front of their boss - it's common in asian culture to compartmentalise in such a manner but it also depends on the work culture of the organization. As long as they are otherwise polite, helpful and not taking advantage of you in any manner, ignore it and don't think too much about it. But if you think they are being nice to you to make use of you (you end up doing more work for them), recognize this behaviour as a red flag to be wary of the person.
    – sfxedit
    Sep 14 at 22:11
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I have a different opinion than the other answer by fraxinus.

While I understand this might not be the behavior you expect, but let me ask you one thing:

when there's a meeting they suddenly act like a stranger, acting like cold and distant

Does that affect the meeting / discussion outcome or impact the overall meeting environment in a negative way?

Remember: everyone has their own notion of professionalism, and that tends to be different for different people. While this does not mean that they get to act rude, impolite or in general unacceptable manner, it neither means they will be acting the same way that they would do outside a formal setup (meeting/discussion etc.).

People tend to keep a separation between personal and professional space, and for some that difference is too apparent. In a formal meeting/ discussion (even if 1:1, or 1:many), as long as their behavior is not creating a negative vibe - you should learn to avoid the emotions and get to the business.

You can continue having that informal and friendly watercooler-side-chat as usual.

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  • True, I need to learn to not take everything personally. Sep 15 at 2:56
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This can happen and can be normal, depending on the person, the company, the meeting, who else is in the meeting, etc. For example, if you are having a serious interdepartmental meeting with management to discuss some project, you don't want to be all buddy-buddy with other people in the meeting, because you want to keep the meeting on topic and on track. Also, if there are a lot of people in the meeting and 2 people are acting like that and everyone else isn't, that's jarring for other people.

Of course, there are companies that are not like this, where employees who are friends can act like friends all the time, but some companies are like this. It depends on the circumstances. As long as the person isn't acting hostile to you all the time or even acting hostile during the meeting ("cold and distant" is not "hostile"), then just drop it. Maybe the person is just trying to act professional.

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There is a word for this.

hypocrisy

Normal, yes. Professional, it depends. Ethical, it depends as well.

Depending on the relations with other people involved, it may be a self-defence or it may be in your best interest. It may as well pretty much not be.

edit: A typical business-related meeting attended by a lot of people by definition needs to be more formal than one-to-one. Some people just don't get the degree of formalism right. This can be especially visible if there is a personal attraction or if the communication between the departments is closer than the corporate culture or some management tension dictates.

On the other hand, it may be a pure hypocrisy.

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  • I agree with your answer. Since someone told me like this in a casual way like, this is normal, I suddenly question if I'm being too naive or something. Sep 14 at 13:41
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    A typical business-related meeting attended by a lot of people by definition needs to be more formal than one-to-one. Some people just don't get the degree of formalism right. This can be especially visible if there is a personal attraction or if the communication between the departments is closer than the corporate culture or some management tension dictates. On the other hand, it may be a pure hypocrisy.
    – fraxinus
    Sep 14 at 13:53
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    I think this is jumping to a conclusion without proper background. In many places/ cultures, a formal meeting / discussion is taken very formally, and people behave as such. Ad-hoc discussions, casual chat - that's more informal way of communication and people may be more relaxed about formal nuances. Looks like we're trying to solve a problem that is not there. Sep 14 at 14:28
  • A word without a definition or clarification is a dangerous thing. Hypocrisy is not different behavior in front of different people. Hypocrisy is when you hold others to a standard that you don't expect from yourself.
    – Edwin Buck
    Sep 15 at 1:30

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