I still remember when a workplace mediator told me many years ago, “Hello is huge.” What did she mean? She meant that when employees are upset that someone, especially a superior, doesn’t say hello to them, it’s important and shouldn’t be ignored.
The issue can come up in a variety of ways. An employee may complain about it explicitly. Or, more commonly, HR or management may hear grumbling about a particular supervisor or co-worker’s unfriendliness or complaints about the supervisor’s inaccessibility. It’s easy to think: “That’s just her personality” or “I can’t regulate social interactions in the workplace” or “It’s not intentional – he’s just preoccupied.” But that’s not the correct response.
It’s easy to think: “That’s just her personality” or “I can’t regulate social interactions in the workplace” or “It’s not intentional – he’s just preoccupied.”
The reason? All human beings need to feel acknowledged. When a supervisor, manager, or co-worker greets an employee, the message being communicated is that the employee has value and importance. When there is no greeting, the opposite message is communicated. And the employee feels it, particularly if it’s a pattern. This feeling in turn may lead to resentment, conflict, sensitivity to slights, and in some cases, discrimination or other complaints. I’ve worked on discrimination matters that partially involved this very issue.
Fortunately, this problem is easy to solve. People who don’t greet others are usually not bad people – they’re just not aware of the impact of their inaction. Some brief coaching as to why it’s important and when it’s called for should be sufficient.
This may sound like advice for teaching kindergarteners. And it is. But as we all know, employees often trip over each other by failing to observe the basics of successful human interaction and communication.
Next time: apologies! ~AS