Professional courtesy or lack thereof

Q: I’ve been at my present job for just over 5 years. My issue is this: my boss never talks to me. I realize this sounds strange, but other than “good morning” she says nothing. She’ll make a point of saying “good night” to people in the office, by name, but walks right by my desk & says nothing. I’m 48, and have been in the workforce for well over 25 years, and don’t want to sound paranoid, but it makes for an uncomfortable situation. Should I read more into this, or just chalk it up to the fact that she doesn’t like me and try not to care?

A: Good grief, as Charlie Brown would say. Generally, employees in the working world understand that the exchange of basic greetings are a professional courtesy and almost expected. Greeting others is a professional norm.

Your question raises more questions for me, rather than one single answer. My questions are as follows:

1. Do you make an effort to say “Have a good evening?” or “How was your day off?” After all, building a rapport is a two-way street.
2. Has your boss always been like this? Or is this behavior new?
3. What about during the day? Is your boss more responsive or friendlier? Or not?
4. When you are in meeting with your boss, does she treat you differently or the same as others?
5. How is your performance? Has she raised concerns about the quality or quantity of your work?

My guess is that your boss is probably an introvert. Communicating pleasantries is probably difficult for her. She may find it difficult to engage in even the most basic “small talk.” It is probably not directed at you personally. You do want to ensure though that your boss’ behavior is not a smoke screen for her inability to confront concerns about your performance. A lot of managers struggle with how to confront performance issues in a tactful and professional manner. So… I would ask her in a private conference room or office. “Hey Mary, how do you think I am doing in my role as accounts payable specialist?”

Assuming there is no performance issue raised, it sounds like you need to make a decision. Can you tolerate this behavior and her work style? Or is it so difficult that you will decide to look for other opportunities? We all have different tolerance levels for impolite behavior. Some of us can live with more of this than others.


A note to supervisors and managers: your employees notice the efforts you make (or don’t make) in connecting with them. The exchange of basic pleasantries can build a culture of collegiality and acceptance. It is an easy way to make employees feel welcome and valued.

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