We spend one-third of our day at work among our coworkers. For many of us, the coworkers are closest to whom we have as a friend. The quality of interactions with them is important to us. Exchanging pleasantries break the ice. It makes the interaction easier and builds a workplace relationship. But to many of us, these exchanges do not come naturally. Some will train themselves to do it because that is the expectation in general. They will smile, take part in small talks about sports, weather, pets, and kids. By doing so they would try to belong. Then there are some of us, who do not see the need to change how we interact with people because others are expecting so. Their argument is “I am doing the job I was hired to do”. I am not here to make friends with others. And it is true, we do not put it on job descriptions that this job requires you to smile and say Good Morning.
Then there are other reasons as well on why one cannot take part in the water cooler conversations. As a newcomer to a country, I found it difficult to talk about sports or TV shows. I could not take part when my other colleagues were discussing those. I had to either move away from such small group discussions or stand there and keep blaming myself for being so ignorant. I also could not take part in conversations about children or pets, because I had neither. Sometimes, a kind-hearted colleague would notice my silent, discomfort look. They will try and talk about things that might make me feel included. But by doing so, they would make me all the more aware that I am different and I do not belong. If the flow of conversation is not natural, but more calculated, then it loses its purpose.
The way we communicate with others is based on our personal preferences. It is all good until someone takes offense and complains. Employees complain when they have interpersonal conflicts. Among other things, one of the concerns about the co-worker is that they do not say “Hello, Good Morning”.
As an HR or a people leader, you can further enquire. Find out whether there were any inappropriate words or behaviors exchanged. The absence of pleasantries does not mean that the person was aggressive or harassing. It is important to establish this difference. If there is any verbal abuse or inappropriate behavior involved, then it is a violation of respectful workplace requirements. But, if there were no such things, then there is no violation of company policies. In such cases, a discussion with both parties might help. Help them see the situation from each other’s perspective. Explaining the issue and how it is impacting the other person helps. It is important to remind the two parties involved that the expectation to maintain a respectful workplace. They need to collaborate and work as a team. It is okay if one does not want to make friends at the workplace. But they still need to collaborate with coworkers on a day-to-day basis. Also, the friendly co-worker needs to remember that not everyone communicates the same. And they need to respect the personal preferences of others. They should not expect everyone to follow what they expect.
It is important that as HR or a leader, you should keep your personal communication preferences aside. You should not be seen or heard giving preferences to one over the other. Also, avoid making comments like “I say Hello every time I see someone, it does not cost me anything”. What you do or prefer to do, is not relevant in this discussion. The discussion should focus on the people involved and their preferences. The purpose of the conversation is to find a way to respect an individual’s preferred communication style, while maintaining a respectful and collaborative work environment.

If you need help with your policies and processes, please contact us for a free consultation.