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Dropping in Just to Say ‘Hi!’

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2024-07-08 20:30:04

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I work in a very fast-paced, fairly large (over 500, under 1,000 people) work environment. Most staff are in person five days a week, with the exception of some specialist staff who were hired in a remote capacity. We use an in-house office chat function similar to Slack for communication (in addition to phones, email). There is remote team member who comes down to the office perhaps one or two times a month for a couple of days. When this colleague reaches out to team members via the Slack platform, he will frequently just say “Hi <Name>” with no follow-up. And then, the “Hi” just sits there, and languishes. And it freaks people out! And confuses people. And is deemed as not a great mode of communication. And everyone talks about it! But no one provides him with any feedback! How can someone deliver the feedback that he would benefit being a little bit more forthcoming? Or are we all just obstinate and are not being understanding of a different communication style?

This sounds annoying and weird and, yes, confusing and bizarre and off-putting. It makes me feel crazy, and I’ve only just read your email! Also, I have questions! For one thing: Is he saying “Hi <Name>” as a way to start a conversation about work with the colleague to whom his “hi” is directed? Or is he, uh, just saying “hi”? Anyway, if it makes you feel any better, it’s not you, it’s him. It’s definitely him. And though I can think of a few very passive-aggressive ways you could respond to creepy salutations, I’m not going to share them here. However, it’s interesting to note that neither you — nor I, at least at first — seem to have considered that one option may be to simply, and straightforwardly, tell this co-worker to cut it out. Except it’s not that simple. Delivering feedback about a person’s personal — or, in this case, professional — communication style requires a light touch. It’s a tricky situation: You want what you say to be understood by your colleague without being overshadowed by his potential embarrassment or defensiveness. In other words, you want to be clear, but kind.

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