I have a question regarding two situations I encounter at work: greeting new starters and talking to colleagues from other teams.

I work for a software house who are recruiting a significant number of new developers. Typically, on their first day they will be shown round the floor and introduced to each member of the team. I've noticed that the majority of others stand up to greet them. This is the first scenario.

Secondly, the working relationship between teams tends to be more formal than intra-team as it were, so some colleagues stand up.

My question is: is it perhaps rude, lazy or improper not to stand up in these situations? As for higher-ups, I never get approached by them directly; orders are delegated and assimilated down.

  • Where are you located? This seems like it may vary from culture to culture.
    – djohnson10
    Aug 3, 2015 at 17:38
  • I'm in the United Kingdom.
    – Doddy
    Aug 3, 2015 at 17:39
  • 9
    How hard is it to stand up? Stand up and shake their hand.
    – paparazzo
    Aug 3, 2015 at 18:43
  • What do you do in other settings such as a diner party? Anything about your company that makes you think those social norms don't apply there?
    – user8365
    Aug 3, 2015 at 20:01
  • 2
    Eager? It is just common courtesy. You stand and shake their hand. Just as you don't take a seat until invited. You stay standing to mean in polite way you don't want an extended conversation.
    – paparazzo
    Aug 3, 2015 at 20:41

2 Answers 2


There is not really a set standard of how you want to deal with greating someone. Instead consider how you appear to them.

When you standup and great someone you make it clear to them that you are focused on them and their issue. If you stay seated they do not know for sure, and if you continue working while talking with them it gives the appearance that either you do not care about their issue or you are too busy to give it proper attention. So even if you stay seated stop working on your task so that they know you are giving their issue proper attention. At the same time if someone is constantly interrupting with inane and off topic chatter staying seated and working is one subtle way of indicating you do not appreciate their interruptions.

If you stand up to address people when they come over you also demonstrate to them that you are willing to be slightly put out for their needs. A considerate person will consider this before interrupting your work for trivial or lesser needs. In the end it might save you some interruptions.

For superiors, especially executives, the proper professionalism is to stand to greet them and remain standing and focused on them until they leave. If they come with instructions for your work, then it is fine to pick up a pen and paper to write it down but not proper to sit and type it in while they wait. If they ask for some data that is simple to retrieve while they wait you can offer to get that for them right now, but if they say just email it to me then accept their preference and retrieve and email the information after they leave not before.

Some people will say this is not really necessary in many of the new and more informally run companies. But unless directed specifically not to, I have found that acting professionally like this is appreciated, sometimes especially in more relaxed environments. Keep in mind "You don't have to stand for me." is very different from "Please don't stand every time I come over", or "We are a more casual company and it would probably be better if you didn't take a formal posture all the time." The first is just an acknowledgement that you are going above and beyond expectations. The later two are requests to discontinue the activity. Unless directed not to I prefer to err to the side of professionalism.

  • On the flip side of that coin, letting people loom over you does impact the dynamic of the conversation. Consider "talk down to" and "look down on". We have padded 2 drawer file cabinets that we can pull out for those occasions where someone needs to drive the computer with someone else looking on, so our environment tends toward both sitting or both standing. It just makes for better communication.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 3, 2015 at 21:39

The traditional rule is that a man should stand up to shake hands, while a woman should remain seated. In practice, if the other person is walking up to your desk or wherever you're seated, it's common to just lean forward and maybe raise yourself a bit from the chair, like you were about to stand up, then sit back down.

If you're really unsure of the etiquette rules of your workplace, look at what others are doing. If everybody remains sitting when shaking hands, then apparently that's accepted.

I think that's a good general principle. If everybody calls each other by their first names versus last names; or if everybody wears suits and ties versus sweatpants and sandals; etc. When in doubt, err on the side of slightly more formal. If some of your co-workers wear suits while others wear business casual, wear a suit until you figure out what's expected of you. But don't go too far beyond the norm. If everyone else wears a sport coat but no tie, you won't look all that out of place wearing a tie, but you will surely look out of place wearing a tuxedo. Etc.

  • 1
    Comments removed Because there were a lot. And they were noisy. Play nice.
    – jmac
    Aug 5, 2015 at 14:03

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