Just say hi

As of this writing, I have worked in a corporate environment for just over four years. My colleagues are great and I (usually) like my work. There’s something missing though. A pervading miasma of human frigidity saps the friendliness out of the air. Teams don’t really talk to other teams, let alone between departments.

The sad truth is we form cliques and this will ruin creativity. Innovation will then only come from ideas within the clique, and let’s face it, one can only come up with so many ideas in isolation. With my main job role as a programmer, this “island clustering” means I’ve got few people to bounce ideas off of.

How do we bridge the gaping maw present in corporate human interaction?

Just say hi.

I read about this advice from New Rules @ Work by Barbara Pachter. She wrote a short chapter about it, covering topics such as the greetings used (“hi” or “hello”) and at what distance between you and the other person you meet should you say or do anything (5 feet minimum and you must say something).

The experiment.

So I tried it. Several weeks ago, on one blustery morning, as I was walking along the side of a row of cubicles, someone was also walking towards me. I quietly cleared my throat, looked her in the eye, and said “Good morning”. She just breezed right by me without giving me a look. Oh this is gonna be hard…

For the next few days, I tried really hard. I said “Hi” or “Good morning” to anyone I met. Along the cubicle aisle. On the way to the pantry. Not one single person responded. Then something magical happened. Some of these people started noticing me, that I’ve been greeting them. They turned and looked at me when I greeted them, but still they said nothing.

Then one fine morning, as I was walking back from the pantry after getting some water, I greeted another person. I was pretty much discouraged by now, and my heart wasn’t really in it. There came a feeble “hi” from that lady. I nearly jumped for joy. I got another person to respond! It was unbelievable. I walked back to my seat, smiling all the way. I could have clicked my heels in the air, but I thought that’d look ridiculous.

It’s still hard now. Sometimes. Sometimes they are looking away from me. Sometimes they have a scowl on their face, and I was afraid they’d bite my head off if I waved and said “hi” to them. And sometimes, I just plain forget. And sometimes, some of them says “hi” or “Good morning” to me first. That’s just awesome.

Do not discriminate. 

Let me give a piece of advice. Greet everybody. I don’t care if the person is your boss or your boss’s boss. I don’t care if that person is the cleaning lady. Greet everyone. Especially the cleaning lady. You do not want to slowly find that your trash bin is almost always never cleaned out, or your desk not wiped.

Now go say hi to your boss.

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