Fellow Employee Will Not Say “Good Morning” to Anyone

Reader’s Question

We work in a 911 Center with 10 employees. One employee will not say good morning to anybody but the boss. I work at a position other than that of a dispatcher so am here with all dispatchers as they rotate shifts and days. Since there is only one dispatcher on at a time in the morning, it is very discomfiting to walk into a room with her in it. I feel rude when I walk past her without speaking, but frustrated when I do say good morning and she ignores me. One dispatcher will even go so far as to e-mail her in the morning to be briefed instead of talking to her and taking the chance of being rebuffed. What’s her thought process? What should we do?

Psychologist’s Reply

Her lack of common social courtesy can be related to a variety of factors such as she’s:

  • an introverted and shy individual,
  • a disgruntled employee,
  • an individual who doesn’t enjoy “small talk”,
  • an individual who wants no friends or socializing at work,
  • a depressed, anxious or socially phobic individual,
  • an individual with a very private life and she knows that being friendly in the office leads to normal questions about a person’s life/relationships/friends/home,
  • an individual who has been upset by co-worker relationships in the past and has decided to have no friends in the workplace, or
  • an individual going through a difficult emotional passage with only enough emotional energy to interact with the supervisor.

In all possible explanations, the lack of social courtesy is related to the employee, not co-workers.

The fact that she speaks only to her supervisor tells you that the problem is hers and not related to individual co-workers. It’s nothing you have done. There are several approaches to this type of behavior:

  • Greet her each morning with a “good morning” not because she will or will not reply — but because you are a nice person.
  • Recognize that she has made a choice, for whatever reason, to remain detached from co-workers. That’s her right in the workplace. However, continue to send her emails as you would all co-workers, with the understanding that she is unlikely to join in.
  • If her behavior becomes a problem in the workplace — such as not responding to work-related emails or not providing necessary information — then bring the situation to the attention of the supervisor. While she is within her rights be a “loner” on the job, she is not permitted to hinder the flow of communication in your office or create problems for other employees.
  • It’s probably most important to recognize that she “needs space” for some reason unknown to co-workers. Co-workers often accept these situations when fellow workers are experiencing a difficult time as in a divorce, bereavement, etc. In such cases, concerned co-workers are friendly but keep their distance socially and emotionally until the individual shows signs/behaviors that invite more contact and conversation. That “good morning” each morning tells her that you are acknowledging her presence in the office, you are not rejecting or angry with her due to her behavior, and that you are accessible — if she decides to respond.

The fact that you’ve asked the question suggests that you have concern for her well-being. Treat her as a 911 call where the individual is unable to provide a lot of information for whatever reason. Say on the line and remain accessible.

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