Sometimes it’s good to go back to the basics. Today I’m feeling particularly interested in unpacking something that continues to crop up across the work that we do with our clients – which is the “hello”, or its first cousin, the “good morning”. Don’t worry, we won’t spiral into the “how are you?”. That requires its own dedicated conversation.
In my previous life as a workplace investigator, often there would be allegations of being ignored, or not spoken to, or not greeted, or not greeted the same way other people were greeted.
It’s easy to categorize these allegations as silly or people being overly sensitive (I’m not sure what that even means). However, the exchange of greetings, or the lack of greetings, can amount to a profound experience that changes behaviours, relationships, and becomes either a unifying or divisive force on your team.
Let’s play it out.
You are at work, and someone walks by and says hello or good morning to you. You have options:
1) You (legitimately) do not see/hear them.
2) Pretend you do not see/hear them.
3) Look at them, but do not respond.
4) Look at them, respond.
5) Do not look at them, respond.
These are all accompanied by your body language (eye rolling vs big smile). Further, for the options where you are responding, what are you saying in return? Is it a simple hello back, or the invitation for a conversation?
All of these create different pathways of experiences for your colleague. These pathways can range from someone feeling included and seen, to someone simmering about your disrespectful behaviours and likely venting to others (“They never say hello back to me? Ever!”)
Now let’s turn it around so you are the impacted human.
You always say hello/good morning to someone. They don’t reply. You assume they see/hear you and are choosing not to respond. This is irritating, or worse, feels dismissive and degrading. You decide they don’t deserve your greeting and stop acknowledging them.
I call this taking the bait.
Someone else’s lack of greeting (which you’ve made a story up about) is now impacting how you show up. Sound familiar?
So, what to do about it? Saying hello will not be codified as a “must do” in a policy/procedure. However, ignoring someone is unprofessional and could amount to harassment (yup – true). Further, your organization likely has core values like respect and inclusivity etc., and so these situations certainly make a muck of those aspirations.
I suggest it’s straight forward. We all need simple and repetitive ways to form relationships. Building relationships requires connection and the “hello” is a request for connection. To offer it is to understand the power of the greeting and to reciprocate is to participate.
It is the most basic of interactions and it forms the basis for relationships.
I understand we all can’t be walking wonders of etiquette every day, all day. However, the scale needs to tip in the direction of signaling that you are a seasoned greeter participator. (There’s a reason the “greeter” is a bona fide occupation!)
Now, get up, walk around your space (or reach out through your online channels) and find someone to say “hello” to. It matters.