I'm 22 years old and I got my first job a couple months ago, the workplace is very informal, even with bosses, we have coffee breaks together, we discuss and joke about things that come up at the time, but sometimes I find myself in an awkward situation.

When we leave the office we usually say "bye" to everybody in the other offices if doors are open. We have 3 offices of 5 people each and one office each for the boss and his brother which is the co-boss.

Sometimes it happens that the boss' door is open so I say "bye" without thinking too much and then I see he's on the phone, so I feel a little awkward and walk through.

How shall I act? Maybe looking inside first and only say "bye" if he's not on the phone? What shall I do if he's on the phone instead, like some gesture or some sort of smile?

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    What's wrong with simply nodding your head as you walk by if he happens to notice you? I'm not sure if this is really a workplace-specific question.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 8:31
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    Usually when you are about to depart from a place you would say something like "goodbye" or "see you tomorrow". Saying "hi" would seem a lot more applicable to the encounter for when you first arrive. Commented May 18, 2017 at 11:19
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    I'm italian, so translation may not be the best, sometimes we say "good morning" to the boss, but sometimes we just use the equivalent for "hello", it really is very random. Same for the evening, I usually say "hi, see you tomorrow" or "hi, have a nice evening", but in a really informal way. @MichaelKaras, as you may understand english is not my first language so it's kinda awkward to find the right translation for this particular situation :) Thanks everybody!
    – GiLA3
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 12:49
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    Forgive my poor grasp of Italian, but are you by any chance referring to ciao? If so, then the proper translation to English depends on how you are using it; we generally understand the word to mean either "hello/hi/greetings", or "goodbye/bye", depending on whether you (or the other person) is coming or going. It does sound like "bye" would be a better translation than "hi" in the context you're using.
    – Beofett
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 13:17
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    This is probably the most casual workplace issue I've ever seen on this board, and it makes me happy :)
    – gardenhead
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 14:52

4 Answers 4


If it is just a casual 'hi' that doesn't require a response, I wouldn't worry about it. A single word is unlikely to disrupt a phone call, and it's a polite and social thing to do. If in doubt, you could always fall back on voiceless gestures of greeting instead (a.k.a. a quick wave).

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    I think that's the confirm I was looking for, I usually say "ciao, buona serata" which translates to "hi, have a nice evening", but if I see him on phone I might just do a quick wave gesture
    – GiLA3
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 9:46
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    I disagree a little with this. If I were on the phone and someone stuck their head into my office and said a single word to me when I'm not expecting it, it would interrupt my attention to whatever was on the phone and I would probably ask for whatever was said to be repeated because it would not have registered. If you said a word and then disappeared, I would spend the rest of my phone call trying to figure out what you said and if it were important...maybe even who you were if it was very fast. I would suggest a wave, or just pass by someone who is busy.
    – bluegreen
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 16:17
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    @bluegreen I agree, someone stuck his head in your office, said a word an left. You didn't register the word. Could have been "bye". Could have been "meeting". Coud have been "email". Could have been "fire".... Now there you are, wondering, checking your many email accounts and looking for flames with the corner of your eye...
    – xDaizu
    Commented May 19, 2017 at 7:57
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    @xDaizu he's doing the same thing at the same time every day. If it's 5.30 and he says a single word and disappears without waiting for a response, it going to be "goodbye". Commented May 19, 2017 at 9:08
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    @bluegreen, @ xDaizu In my experience you get used to a daily quick "hi"/"bye" very fast and can ignore it quite easily even when in a phone call. So is this a real problem for you or just hypothetical? Because the same argument could also be made about someone sticking their head in saying nothing. Wouldn't you wonder who the person was and what they wanted? The only solution would be to not greet you at all then, since even a quick wave could be misinterpreted as any hand sign - maybe they signed to follow them or flipped you the bird?
    – kapex
    Commented May 19, 2017 at 10:20

Observe your seniors, is there a pattern there? You might wish to imitate them.

Ask your seniors. Use an informal setting, like a coffee break, to relay them this question. You will get answers tailored to your place rather than a best guess by some random Internet stranger like myself. And you improve your work image by showing that you care about fitting in.

  • That's a good point, I'll do that too :)
    – GiLA3
    Commented May 19, 2017 at 6:39
  • "You might wish to imitate them." - Except for the ugly tie. They only wear those because their children bought them as a Father's Day present. Commented May 19, 2017 at 16:39

You seem to have a more informal relationship developed so in your place I would do the following: Door closed: absolutely no disturbing Door is open: check inconspicuously if your boss is busy on some paperwork and or computer/on the phone/has clients or other employees with him, in which case you absolutely dont disturb him. If he doesnt seem busy or handling any task at the moment feel free to greet him.


If I were your boss and you came to my office every day to tell me bye I would be very irritated and probably think something is wrong with you. Just the thought of someone telling me bye every time they left for the day is irritating me right now. Clearly you don't need permission to leave for the day so just go home. Say "bye" to the people working around you and leave. Stop being a 'doofus' and just say "hi" and "bye" when appropriate. Don't make a special stop at the bosses office just to say bye. That's just weird. The fact that you're even questioning whether you're saying "bye" to someone is causing awkwardness should be enough of an answer already.

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