How do I be friendly at the office without giving mixed signals, i.e. getting unwanted attention.

I've been through a rough patch this year, and my immediate co-workers suspect it (abusive ex-husband). I barely say "hi" to anyone for the past several months, but I am still able to do my work, and collaborate with others as needed.

Even thought I don't say "hi", and I dress quite conservatively, and don't wear make-up, etc I get one or two males still saying "hi" to me first. One of those people seems more enthusiastic with his "hi" that I now avoid the area he is in.

Perhaps I am over-reacting.

My question is, how to set workplace boundaries to be friendly and professional, and leave it at that?

  • Sexual harrasment at work is both very real and terrible, but to clarify, you're avoiding a man because his greetings are a little too enthusiastic for you?
    – Dan
    Oct 5, 2014 at 21:16
  • @Dan yes, I am. Perhaps it's an over-reaction, or maybe 6th sense is telling something else. I edited post to focus question better.
    – Glowie
    Oct 5, 2014 at 21:50
  • 2
    You have done a pretty good job of building a high wall around you. You're basically asking us "How can I build it to be higher without creating the impression that I am walling myself in?" I don't want to second guess you, but I am not sure that us advising you how to do that is the right thing to do by you. Oct 5, 2014 at 22:05
  • @VietnhiPhuvan I just marked Philip's answer as a solution ....
    – Glowie
    Oct 5, 2014 at 22:06
  • 2
    What I do is I simply tell the guy "You are just like my brother making sure there are others to witness".
    – cartina
    Oct 6, 2014 at 7:28

1 Answer 1


Based purely on the information you have posted, I do think it's possible you are are over-reacting: I don't see anything unprofessional about saying "Hi", even somewhat enthusiastically.

Personally, I always try to greet everyone who I see around - I hope people think of me as a helpful, approachable kind of guy who they can feel free to come and ask for help, and being casually friendly is a way to build that kind of professional relationship. To be clear though: the casual friendliness is something I'd try to do with everyone, whether they be male, female, junior, senior, on the up and up in the organisation or having been in the same role for the past 10 years. If the colleague in question is behaving differently with you than he does with other people, then that's potentially significantly different behaviour.

  • I'll try the casual friendliness. I guess the person is not behaving any differently
    – Glowie
    Oct 5, 2014 at 22:04
  • 1
    +1 Would it be fair to also suggest that the same strategy would work the other way? If Glowie were to enthusiastically say 'hi' to everyone, would that not also help others avoid getting the wrong idea?
    – jmort253
    Oct 6, 2014 at 7:05
  • 4
    @Glowie something to try is to smile every time you look at someone, whether it's forced or not. As soon as you seem more approachable, anyone that may be being "too enthusiastic" to "bring you out of your shell" may tone it down. Oct 6, 2014 at 12:21
  • @Raystafarian Wow, I never thought of it that way .... I'll try this ....
    – Glowie
    Oct 6, 2014 at 15:54

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