I work for a U.S.-based fully remote software startup. Except for my boss, I have not met any of my coworkers in person. Most are in India, a couple in Europe. We use Slack for communication.

If it's the first time I am contacting them on Slack on a given day, I always ask 'hi, how are you?' first, before proceeding with my question or other business. If it's the first communication of the week and it's a common channel, I always send my wishes for a productive week.

However, I am the only one. No one else practices this behavior. As an example, my boss was away for couple of weeks, and when he returned, he contacted me with a question, without saying 'hello' or asking how I have been.

Meanwhile, the company tries to maintain the semblance of a real workplace, and has 'fun Fridays', Halloween events, held over Zoom calls. But in my opinion, they fail in the simplest of civil conduct in every day transactions.

Is this normal? Am I expecting too much in this day and age? Thanks.

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    I didn't downvote, but this topic has been covered many, many times since the beginning of the pandemic; one of the reasons for a downvote is "this question does not show any research effort" - what research did you do before posting this question? Commented Feb 20, 2023 at 9:24
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    nohello.net/en Commented Feb 20, 2023 at 11:14
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    @SrEngineer: No, not on its own, but the existence of a website about a question means you should probably read and understand what the site says, and incorporate that into your question. That saves everyone's time and improves your Q.
    – sleske
    Commented Feb 20, 2023 at 11:34
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    Your co-workers are probably reading this question and applying it to you.
    – brhans
    Commented Feb 20, 2023 at 14:03
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    @SrEngineer Two of your replies right here seem to lack the "basic politeness" which you are seeking. If you ask a question on a StackExchange site, why would you immediately out-of-hand reject comments or answers which you get? If you believe so strongly that your viewpoint is right, why are you asking the question in the first place - why not just be satisfied that you know best?
    – Stewart
    Commented Feb 20, 2023 at 22:40

16 Answers 16


I have mixed feelings on this.

On the one hand, it is a pet peeve of mine for someone to say 'Hello, How are you' without asking a question - you can ask the question as well.

However, on the flipside - if I've got something Urgent - I'll often ask 'You available?'

Because if you aren't, I'm going to ask someone else in the team and send them a bunch of urgent info.

That said - even for accounting for the asynchronous nature of Teams/Slack etc. I'm still a big advocate for basic politeness.

"Good Morning, I'm looking at XYZ and wanted to know if you can please do ABC."

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    I'd change the "You available?" with "Are you available? I need to xxx (all relevant context here), but if you don't answer within 5mn no worries: I'll also ask [person1] and [person2]" : that way the recipient has the reason behind your question, and not just a vague "are you available?" (for lunch ? for an IRL meeting ? to discuss something in 1mn ? for a 3h online meeting? for a month-man work?) Commented Feb 20, 2023 at 17:17
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    @OlivierDulac - Fair points - in the context though - it's normally I've got an outage of some description and don't have the time to put all the relevant context in - so it's 'you available?' and whoever replys first gets the info - Commented Feb 20, 2023 at 17:47
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    To be fair @TheDemonLord, saying "I'm dealing with an X outage and need help with the Y, are you available?" will probably take you 7 seconds longer than saying "you available" and will produce better results. And once you type it out, you could copy & paste the message if you really have to. Commented Feb 20, 2023 at 18:59
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    @AllanSpreys - I hear you - the danger is (in my line of work anyway) - is when you do that, if you've pinged 5 people (which isn't uncommon for reasons ) and they all have the same info - they start investigating and this can cause unintended consequences during the resolution phase - so it's best to ask if they are available then divulge the info so as to not risk someone coming in halfway through the troubleshooting process and making it worse. You are right in one sense though. Commented Feb 20, 2023 at 20:04
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    @TheDemonLord I agree, there are no passively-perfect solutions: they all require active communication to work, which can be fraught when trying to put out a fire at the same time. Commented Feb 21, 2023 at 1:30

In async communication like Slack, saying hello and, I infer from your wording, waiting for a response before asking your question, is inefficient (for both parties) and annoying (most often for the person you're contacting, because now they are going to get interrupted twice, once with the greeting, and again when you ask your actual question). It will also delay you getting an answer to your question.

Asking the question directly is better. You may want to read https://nohello.net/en/ for some thoughts on this subject. In other words, in your example, your boss is doing what a lot of people consider proper and efficient use of async communication channels like Slack, with respect for your time and attention.

I think you will need to change your expectations about what is proper and civil conduct when it comes to async communication. And if you want to greet someone, do it immediately before your question (so it is sent together with your question, not as two separate messages!).

Also, things like "I always send my wishes for a productive week" in a common channel sound very odd to me (I'm Dutch, and I'm sure this can be a cultural or personal style difference though). If anyone would send such a message, I would sooner expect it from a manager, and not from a normal co-worker. What especially makes it odd is the use of "productive"; to me that gives airs as if you feel you lead or are above your co-workers and are therefor interested in their productivity. If your co-workers have similar sensibilities as mine, you could rub them the wrong way.

  • Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on The Workplace Meta, or in The Workplace Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Feb 21, 2023 at 8:54
  • Notably, the OP implies that coworkers do not say "hello" in chat, wheras nohello.net/en implies that plesantries are still encouraged, as long as you don't wait. So what the boss is doing is not necessarily "what a lot of people consider proper" Commented Feb 21, 2023 at 18:47
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    @MooingDuck There seem to be two aspects here. The waiting would be the kind of thing that really annoys the recipients. But the OP seems to be annoyed that he isn't receiving thes ame the same pleasantries (I assume that the issue is that the OP receives no pleasantries, irrespective of whether or not waiting is involved).
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Feb 21, 2023 at 20:35
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    @DKNguyen one possible explanation is that the others intentionally don't do pleasantries in an attempt to teach op not to do them or at least not to do them alone. Alternatively they could be annoyed that op is doing it so responding by being slightly rude.
    – Aequitas
    Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 3:17
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    What's even worse is if they after the hello first ask "Can I ask you a question?". Meaning they will interrupt you three times
    – Ivo
    Commented Feb 23, 2023 at 7:46

I really hate it when people open a conversation with "Hi" or "Hello" as a first message. That takes me away from what I am doing, but there is nothing useful yet for me to contribute to the conversation. What's worse if the message "SrEngineer is typing" keeps popping up, but it takes a long time for the actual question to come.

If you want to say hello, make it part of the main message. Say your hello, type in your question (in full, not each sentence a different message), then send the entire message.

Leave the "hellos" to your (internal) team channel, for when you're back from a three week vacation, or a longer sick break, just to let people know you're available again.

As for people wishing a productive work week in common channels.... I have currently joined over half a dozen channels with over 1,000 participants (and I could easily join a few dozen more). Relevant messages would drown in a sea of noise if everyone started the week with sending out wishes. Besides, if you do so every week, it becomes mindless protocol, devoid of any meaning. My advice: stop doing so.

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    the 2nd paragraph is the appropriate answer: ask the question and in the same message precede it with the greeting, so that the receving person sees: "hello, I would like to discuss [all context necessary for an answer]" and not just "hello" Commented Feb 20, 2023 at 17:14
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    "If you want to say hello, make it part of the main message" -- I have a cheat there. Type the actual question first, then cut it, send the "hello", and then paste the actual question in a different message half a second later. Avoids the downsides but helps if you feel you need to be polite and start with a greeting...
    – ilkkachu
    Commented Feb 20, 2023 at 18:31
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    Isolated "Hello" is a total anti-pattern.
    – 0x1mason
    Commented Feb 21, 2023 at 1:56
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    On Slack, you can also type your "hello" greetings, press shift-enter twice to create a paragraph break, type your question, and then send both parts as one single multi-paragraph message. This means the recipient only gets one notification and one message, and your question is visually separated from the greeting so it stands out more Commented Feb 21, 2023 at 8:26
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    @ZachLipton Exactly what I do in Teams.
    – SiHa
    Commented Feb 21, 2023 at 16:32

Is this normal? Am I expecting too much in this day and age?

Yes and Yes.

You are expecting electronic "conversation" to be the same as face-to-face conversation. It's not.

And clearly it's not in your particular workplace. As you wrote: "I am the only one".

It's important to understand the culture of your organization before attributing malice ("fail in the simplest of civil conduct") to their actions.


(Disclaimer: This is not an alternate answer, it is another piece of information. The answer about no-hello still applies)

I always ask 'hi, how are you?' first, before proceeding with my question or other business.

I know as an American, you mean to make some amount of meaningless, superfluous small-talk as a polite gesture. Basically, you expected me to answer with "good, how are you?" as a formulaic answer to this non-question. But please take into account, that other cultures don't do that.

In my country (right in the middle of Europe), if you ask people "How are you?", they will take that at face value.

They will either tell you it's none of your business, or they will tell you how they are. In detail. You will get a list of all their ailments, their last doctors appointment, the doctors opinion on their problem and the fact that the pharmacy had to order that medicine they were prescribed and they have to go again later and pick it up. Too much information? Well, you asked for it, didn't you?

The other answer will tell you that greetings and then waiting for a reply isn't a productive method of async communication, but if you want to, then make sure you send greetings. Say "Hello" or "Hope you have a nice day". Don't send a question, when you don't actually mean to ask or care for the answer.


One of the wonderful things about an asynchronous method of communication like chat applications is that you don't have to wait for an acknowledgement to your greeting, should you feel inclined to send one. (Or, indeed, any other messages.)

If you feel that a "cold open" is too brusque, you can obey your inclination to politeness by sending a "hello" message, then following immediately with your request.

You 8:38:04 AM: Good morning Jane

You 8:38:06 AM: Do you have the URL for the 9:00 meeting?

Sometimes, If my question is particularly wordy, I'll even type out the question first, cut it, type the greeting and send it, and then immediately paste and send the question. I feel that this is both respectful of their time and of their humanity as something other than a resource to be interrogated.

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    You can also just send both in the same message, no need to make it two. Commented Feb 21, 2023 at 1:11
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    Don't send it in 2 (or more) separate messages, period (unless you cut-and-paste it, but this is unnecessary). It can be quite irritating to open the app after getting a notification, but then still have to wait for some actionable message to appear (or getting multiple notifications when busy with something). FYI: you can add line breaks within the same message in pretty much every IM app (Shift+Enter or Ctrl+Enter are common shortcuts for this), so separate messages doesn't even really have the advantage of looking pretty.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Feb 21, 2023 at 12:18
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    @PaŭloEbermann I think sending it in a separate message is a significant difference. Commented Feb 21, 2023 at 12:50
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    I would caution that sending multiple messages at once is frequently interpreted as an increase in priority by the receiver.
    – David S
    Commented Feb 21, 2023 at 18:37
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    I may be wrong but I feel as if the crux of this answer is the cut and paste aspect, which avoids the "SrEngineer is typing..." message, which can incur an irritating (especially when you are busy) delay. Even though I agree with the "This could be sent as one message (with or without line breaks)" comments, maybe you could edit your answer to emphasise that the cut and paste avoids the recipient having to see the annoying "X is typing..." message. Commented Feb 23, 2023 at 10:30

I'm Assuming...

To preface, I understand that this is a fully remote position. I assume that this means your only opportunities to be social with coworkers are scheduled video/phone calls or text chat. I'll assume at least some desire on your part and the part of your coworkers to engage socially. As @NotThatGuy points out, this isn't true for everyone; if a coworker doesn't want to engage socially at work, that should be respected.

Do Not Do This

I personally would be quite annoyed with the practice that you've described - it comes across as disingenuous and at best wastes both our time.

DON'T chat in a way that demands someone's immediate attention. The big advantage of text chat as an asynchronous communications mechanism is that you can juggle dozens of conversations at the same time without interrupting your productivity (like a meeting or a phone call would).

Being Social on Slack

If you want to interact socially with your coworkers on Slack so that it's not a totally transactional relationship, there are plenty of opportunities.

First, there are likely one or more Slack channels for your team that are entirely dedicated to social interaction, often named #random (see here). This is the right place to talk about the movie you saw last week, or your plans for the weekend, or maybe drop some memes.

Second, many teams end up accumulating interest-specific public/private channels for casual conversation about sports/bitcoin/hobbies/etc. This is a good chance to become better acquainted with coworkers who have shared interests.

Third, if you want to chat with a coworker you have developed a relationship with, then definitely do so. Ask them how their day is going or how their husband/wife/kids are. But only ask them if you are genuinely interested in knowing.

Finally, directly after you have asked a question and had a good back and forth discussion is often a good time for social interaction. Presumably by then you'll have a pretty good idea of whether they're busy or not, and you can easily transition from "thanks for the help!" to "did you have a good weekend?"

Do This

If you need to ask a work question, just ask.

DO Explain your whole question at least in summary and leave it for the coworker to respond when they have a chance.

Hopefully you've taken some of the many opportunities to engage socially, so by the time you need a question answered there's no need for a rote formality.

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    I would consider this very rude.
    – MikeB
    Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 8:36
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    Trying to make small talk after asking a question is not much better than trying to make small talk before asking a question.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 11:10
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    @NotThatGuy My point is that by the time you've conversed back and forth about a work issue, you should have a good understanding of whether the person in question is busy or not, so you will know whether it is appropriate to continue the conversation socially. This is in contrast to the "cold call" social message where you are demanding the attention of the person without knowing their availability.
    – Blackhawk
    Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 15:42
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    @Blackhawk The issue with making small talk over IM tends to be less about people being busy, and more about people not wanting to make small talk over IM. (I'm also doubtful whether you'd really know much about how busy I am after I help you with an issue - unless I say "I'm really busy, can we do this later", my responses tend to be similar regardless of how busy I am.)
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 15:48
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    @Blackhawk If anything, it would help to point out that not everyone has the same desire to make small talk (over IM or not), and to not try to force it. Whether and how much you make small talk should be based on how the person you're talking to feels about it, not just whether they're busy nor whether you want to. Fully remote employees are probably less, not more, inclined to want to make small talk, because people who like small talk tend to prefer working in an office.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 16:14

If you really feel the need to say "hello", many Slack (and other) online communities have a specific place where you can introduce yourself, once when joining. They also often offer a profile mechanism where you can post a more official/permanent self introduction.

Once either or both has been done, you have fulfilled any social obligation for a greeting.

It may help you to think of this as a single ongoing conversation rather than a bunch of separate conversations. It would be weird, and annoying, to say "hello" every time you pause or change subject when talking face to face; the same applies here. Just make your statement or ask your question.

This is especially true when dealing with engineering types, including programmers.We tend to value efficiency, and unnecessary social noise is not efficient. Save it for live interaction where it functions as a "can I interrupt you?" signal.


Cultural Differences

What you have come across is one of the many cultural differences between the US and more socially conservative countries such as India and the various components of the EU.

Speaking generally, as this is more of a spectrum (and there are exceptions to every rule), what you are experiencing is normal and should not be taken as either rudeness or representative of others opinions of you as an individual.

Outside of the US, it is often commented upon that Americans come across as being overly familiarly, overly friendly and as prefacing everything with pleasantries. While the inverse is also often true. Americans often see overseas business partners as being rigid or unfriendly.

You see your colleagues and being cold or rude, while they are probably somewhat irritated that you're using a business communication channel for what seems like personal chat.

Imagine that you were a police officer taking over a radio about a serious crime, and another officer started talking like a trucker and intermixing the conversation with references to their pets.

It's nothing personal, it's just how things are in some places. Greetings and pleasantries for the people that you are closest to, or those who return them, and you should be OK.

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    I would say that compared to Europe, it is the US that is "socially conservative", or maybe you meant something else. And from my perspective, the American behaviour is not (or not only) "overtly friendly", but generally also feels fake or disingenuous. Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 10:11
  • @Mark Rotteveel, I've lived in half a dozen European countries for various lengths of time, and when it comes to things like greetings they're much more reserved. For example, stores don't have greeters, and their checkout assistants don't greet each guest and say "have a nice Day" or repeat the store's moto. Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 13:48
  • I guess you apply the term "socially conservative" for the more hesitant, not exuberant behaviour of Europeans when it comes to greeting. I was more thinking of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_conservatism. The fact stores in the US have greeters is largely alien to me (and to be clear, there are stores here where employees greet you, but they are normal sales personnel, not specifically hired to "greet" people), and to be honest, I think that is an example of labour being far too cheap in the US, causing these types of fake jobs. Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 16:59
  • @Mark Rotteveel, yes, they are "socially conservative, rather than "A social conservative. They are more conservative about how social they are. My personal experience is that Americans tend to be far more exuberant with their greetings, and that Europeans, Africans, Indians and Asians tend to see Americans as being too familiar, too chatty and it irritates them somewhat. It's just a cultural difference that you need to get used to. I've had the same problem. Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 17:14
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    I agree about greeters, but in the 1990's it was the Germans and French who always entered online discussions with a greeting -- the same way they would do when entering a shop. (Bonjour/Hello), because in those cultures it was the responsibility of individual to greet, not the shop assistant. I guess that's changed?
    – david
    Commented Feb 23, 2023 at 8:26

There are some excellent answers here that I heartily agree with. I will also add this, which I didn't see covered but also boils down to the general point about Slack being asynchronous: pretty much anyone can respond to a greeting, regardless of how busy they are. But they might not be actually able to respond to your real question depending on how complicated it is.

When you start with a pleasantry and wait for a response, you're essentially forcing someone to start a conversation without knowing whether or not they'll be able to continue it. This will sometimes put them in a somewhat awkward position of needing to either ignore your question or explain to you why they don't have time to answer, since you're already aware that they're online and have seen your first message. If you just include your greeting with the actual body of the request, the recipient can consider how much bandwidth the conversation will take, and can respond when they have appropriate availability.


I'm fine, thanks. How are you?

(Or to phrase it another way: why did you ask a question here, and not merely greet us with the question "Hi, how are you?"? Your answer to this question may highlight the disconnect in expectations between you and your colleagues.)

Comments were deleted, so to summarize:

without this question being answered, it's difficult to figure out the OP's disconnect is, here. There are various possible ways they may be misunderstanding the purpose of Slack, and their answer to what they see as distinct from SE should highlight that. These might be things like:

  • "Unlike SE, Slack is realtime comms medium, so requires a handshake to be sure the other participants are present, akin to the MIME format's HELO." (could highlight a belief that Slack messages must necessarily be read and responded to in realtime.)

  • "My Slack greetings are essentially a ping to see which of the team are online and available for pairing or discussion. I wouldn't need to know that about strangers on SE." (would highlight a couple of serious problems; is ensuring team members are online their responsibility? And is this an appropriate way of doing it?)

  • "... and the 'how are you?' is not a literal question, but an indicator that the greeting requires a response." (could highlight a belief that 'how are you' carries some meta-meaning that is universally understood).

  • "My Slack greetings are a way to see who's online, but avoid getting colleagues in trouble if they are AFK, which could happen if I just asked who was available." (could highlight team/management problems, or a misunderstanding of team dynamics).

  • "Unlike SE, Slack is for chat. It's literally a 'chat client'. By asking how people are, I'm chatting, which is what it's for by definition." (a lack of understanding of the purpose of the software, conflating purpose with category name).

  • "Unlike SE, Slack communications are ephemeral. So I can ask 'how are you?' at the beginning of every day, whereas SE is a permanent record." (Could highlight misconceptions about how others use Slack; particularly in a quiet channel, a screenful of one user saying howdy every morning for a week would just be plain weird.)

  • "Imagine if everyone did that in SE!?" (Would highlight that they have not asked themselves the same question about Slack.)

  • "Unlike SE, Slack is informal."

  • "On SE, a greeting would be off topic." (Could require further drilling down to see why they feel a morning greeting would be on topic in Slack; perhaps asking in how many Slack channels they might feel it would be appropriate for one person to greet people each morning, whether they'd do it on a 15,000-person #general channel, etc)

... and so on. But it's likely to be NONE of these. I certainly can't guess. And without knowing why the OP feels that it'd be appropriate in Slack but not in a Q&A forum like SE, I'm not sure this question is answerable in a way that addresses the specific case.


It depends on the audience.

  • When messaging a co-worker that you talk to all the time: It's unnecessary to add any mindless pleasantries to the beginning of work-related comms, no matter how long it's been since you messaged them last
  • When messaging your boss: If it's been a while since you've contacted them (in a meeting, email, Slack, etc), then it's fine to throw out a pleasantry first
  • When messaging someone higher in the org than you, who isn't your direct supervisor: It might be appropriate to start your message with something equivalent to "I need a bit of your time," but pleasantries come off as pandering, so it's better to not use them
  • When messaging anyone else: If you've never contacted that person (or if it's been a long time, like 6 months), then here's the best place to add those how do you dos that you've been missing from the days of in-person

Remember all those business communications tips from the 90's? Throw those out. The world doesn't do form letters anymore.

Source: I'm a geriatric millennial software engineering manager who's worked at companies of all sizes in the modern business world, from a 25-person startup to a 10,000+ employee fortune 100. I've been a consultant, data processor, software engineer, IT guy, and manager. Remember, we're all still working out the norms of this new, internet-connected world. Just 5 years ago, parents were giving their 8 year-olds smart phones, but now that's frowned on in most circles. Keep asking questions!

  • You say "this new, internet-connected world". The world has been internet connected since 1995. If you'd said something about Slack being relatively new, I'd understand.
    – user85709
    Commented Feb 21, 2023 at 8:30
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    If I don't want to tell a coworker I interact with frequently how I am over IM, why would I want to tell someone how I am if I've never spoken to them before, or spoken to them months ago? This makes far less sense to me than just asking "how are you" consistently (but it's better to just never ask "how are you").
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Feb 21, 2023 at 13:09
  • @NotThatGuy "if I've never spoken to them before" ??? You're not making sense.
    – user85709
    Commented Feb 21, 2023 at 13:19
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    If you've never contacted someone before, if applicable, I think it's perfectly fine to say e.g. "Hi. We haven't spoken before, but I have a problem with X and Y told me to contact you about that. My issue is..." - this also serves a functional purpose of telling them why you think they're the right person to talk to, so if they aren't the right person, that gives an easy opportunity for them to just point that out, and they can potentially do something to prevent being contacted inappropriately by others in future. I would not, however, say "Hi. How are you?".
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Feb 21, 2023 at 13:27
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    @SrEngineer When I say "this new, internet-connected world", I mean new in the sense that the internet hasn't been around long enough for wisdom to pass between generations. Most social conventions take decades to work out and get passed from parent to child, and many have regional quirks. The internet breaks all regional bounds, and the way that we interact changes on the order of years, not decades. It took a while for people to figure out social norms with cars, planes, phones, movies, and TV. Many people in the world have don't have or use the net, including my grandma. Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 18:06

I created an account here specifically for this question.

I think what puts most receivers of such a message is: "Hi how are you?". "Fine, how can I help?". (10 minutes of typing) followed finally by "can you help me with xyz?"

There's nothing wrong with a small probe to make sure the recipient can help. Type the entire opening question offline first, and paste it in immediately if the person is ready to help. A little preparation ahead of time makes the whole interaction less off-putting.

  • 1
    What puts me off is when people ask me "how are you" over IM (unless I can just ignore it because it's part of a bigger message). Don't ask a question you don't want an actual answer to. Not that the subsequent waiting for them to actually say what they want to say is much better. I can't say I'm a particular fan of "can you help with X" either - unless they've got completely the wrong person, I'll probably just respond with "maybe", and we wouldn't be much closer to solving anything. Of course don't dump a few paragraphs immediately, but at least summarise what you want in a sentence or 2.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 0:02
  • Yes, 'off-putting' is an excellent representation of how I felt when my boss contacted after a week long hiatus without a hello. Made me feel as if I was working at a sweat-shop.
    – user85709
    Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 11:05

As someone (an engineer) who is personally annoyed by this practice, I took the unusual step of asking someone (not an engineer) why they did this. I was surprised by the answer!

It turns out people who are not me are very often in meetings -- and not only in meetings, but very often screen-sharing in meetings. The "hello" message, followed by silence, prevents (a) a zillion slack notifications bothering them while they're presenting, and (b) potentially embarrassing or private information getting shown to a broad and unintended audience, including external people, executives, etc.

Why they don't just turn off notifications, I have no idea, but this is why this practice arose for that group. I will say that within engineering nobody does this, it's definitely group / subculture dependent. Also in concept I mostly agree with all the upvoted answers on this question, but sometimes if you talk to a person who is different from you, you might learn something.


I think the answer boils down to what you really want to achieve. I agree a cold question might not be the nicest interaction, but so is a pointless "how are you" just to introduce the question - in the end, you don't care about a well being discussion, you just make small talk.

What I find that works the best is to add greetings or impersonal remarks, of the kind "Hello X, I hope you are well". This does add some level of personal interaction, while not wasting time waiting for a reply that is just small talk in the end.

  • Yes, in fact that's what I do: "Hi Joe, hope you're doing well. I have a quick question if you have time." All of this is in one message. 9 out of 10, they answer right away. 1 out of 10, it's "I'm on a call I'll get back to you." I don't expect this from my boss. But after a week of being away, he contacted me without any of this, with a direct question. That's what upset me.
    – user85709
    Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 20:07

I think you are overthinking this.

If you are worried about being impolite, you could just say something like this.

"Hey Billy (or whatever name),

I hope you are doing well. My name is (insert name here) and I work with (insert team name here). I had a quick question regarding (insert topic). Would you mind advising me on how to (insert request here).

Thanks and have a nice day,

(insert your name)"

Obviously adjust this based on if you know the person already or not.

You might also want to get out and socialize more. By practicing in real life, you learn these basic communication skills that are useful in the real world. Hope that helps. I agree that it would be weird and annoying to be indirect.

  • You say: "You might also want to get out and socialize more." Are you serious? Legit question.
    – user85709
    Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 21:24
  • 2
    I don't think I've ever seen anyone send such a verbose message via IM (with particular reference to the "Thanks and have a nice day, (insert your name)" part). Over email, sure, but not over IM. That'll come across as somewhat odd.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Feb 23, 2023 at 16:09