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Introverted coworker won’t even say ‘Hello’

Dear Office-Politics,

I work in an international environment and predominantly work with Finnish people. I am English. Their culture, as such, is very quiet and introverted. I have no problem with that.

However, my colleague with whom I share an office never ever says ‘good morning’ and completely ignores me all day long unless I say something to her. It is not because she isn’t nice, but rather I am not Finnish and she has nothing to say to me.

She was off for eight weeks sick leave and during this time I looked after her boss. When she came back, I did a good handover and for 3-4 weeks it would seem that she was relaxed and we chatted and laughed alot. It was really lovely.

The problem is that she is not talking again and I find this extremely uncomfortable. I am an outgoing person and feel that the bare minimum of courtesy is required. However, knowing that it is not personal – I’m quite confident of that – I do not know how to confront the situation to let her know that by not talking all day long is intimidating me and that I find it quite uncomfortable that when her finnish colleagues call or are around, she talks, has coffee with them but otherwise she does not exchange one word with me, or even our two bosses. (That’s how I know it isn’t personal)

I appreciate that it is her space. (My problem…)

But, at the same time I really feel that ‘good morning’, or ‘did you have a nice weekend’ is the bare minimum that can be expected when you share an office with someone for 10 hours a day. What I feel is that she really doesn’t ‘consider’ me because she really really is locked in her world and isn’t interested in anything other than coming to work to earn a living to get on with her lown life. This is fine, but she shares an office.

I do not have the courage to confront this. How can I in a polite way confidently deal with this?

I really do not wish to offend – or make her feel uncomfortable in any way, but I don’t even have the courage to say ‘ have I upset you?’ (especially when I am sure that I haven’t and because I am sensitive, I would know!) – this doesn’t come into it – she is just phenomanally quiet and introverted outside her ‘own’.

Can you help? Do you have any thoughts that can put a different perspective on it for me because we are both in our mid 40s and I don’t think either of us can change our characters at this stage!!!

It is bringing me down..

Outgoing Not Introverted

christine comaford-lynch

Dear Outgoing Not Introverted,

My concern for you is two-fold: first, you are suffering because she is simply who she is. You cannot change her, so your judgments about how you wish she would behave causes you pain. Second, you are co-officed with her for what I assume will be a long-term arrangement. Which means this situation may not change any time soon.

When dealing with difficult people or situations I practice the “3 E’s”. Here’s how they work:

1. Equalize yourself with others: They are not above you, they are not below you. You were both drooling babies, you’ll both grow old and one day die. It doesn’t matter that she is Finnish and you are English. You are made of the same stuff.

2. Exchange yourself with others: Your office mate doesn’t feel a bond with you because she chooses to bond with people who are Finnish. Think about the ways that you both discriminate based on your ‘understanding’ of your cultures. Look at the things you both have in common. (Both female, both 40’s, both office workers.. etc.) There are probably many more things you have in common if you’ll just open up a little bit.

3. Embrace others: You cannot change her, and as soon as you embrace, or accept, her exactly as she is, the more good feelings you will have toward her. I’ll wager that she’ll feel this kind energy and will become more receptive in time.

Next I’d try appreciation. As human beings we’re all wired up for it. Try the following: Once per day appreciate something about your office mate. Verbalize your appreciation every other day (so as not to be overwhelming) by telling her something you genuinely appreciate about her, such as how clean she keeps your collective space, how nicely she dresses, how nice and quiet your office is which helps you to focus on your work. Have fun with this!

The bottom line is that you are suffering due to your judgments about a person you cannot change. If you enjoy your job, then the sooner you accept your office mate the better.

Thank you for writing to Office Politics.

Best regards,

Christine Comaford-Lynch, Author, Rules for Renegades

cover of Rules for RenegadesNew York Times bestselling author Christine Comaford-Lynch is CEO of Mighty Ventures, an innovation accelerator which helps businesses to massively increase sales, product offerings, and company value. She has built and sold 5 of her own businesses with an average 700% return on investment, served as a board director or in-the-trenches adviser to 36 startups, and has invested in over 200 startups as a venture capitalist or angel investor. Christine has consulted to the White House (Clinton and Bush), 700 of the Fortune 1000, and hundreds of small businesses. She has repeatedly identified and championed key trends and technologies years before market acceptance. Christine’s popular column on www.BusinessWeek.com/SmallBiz launched in January 2007.Christine has led many lives: Buddhist monk, Microsoft engineer, geisha trainee, entrepreneur, and venture capitalist. Her triumphs and disasters are revealed in her New York Times (and USA Today, Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, and Amazon.com ) bestselling business book: Rules for Renegades: How to Make More Money, Rock Your Career, and Revel in Your Individuality. The book is available at all major retailers, the Office-Politics bookstore, or via www.RulesForRenegades.com.

Christine has appeared on CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, FOX Business Network, PBS, CNET and is frequently quoted in the business, technology and general press at large. Stanford Graduate School of Business has done two case studies on her and PBS has featured her in three specials (Triumph of the Nerds, Nerds 2.0.1, and Nerd TV ). CNET has broadcast two specials covering her unconventional rise to success as a woman with neither a high school diploma nor college degree. Christine believes we can do well and do good, using business as a path for personal development, wealth creation, and philanthropy.

(Video bio at: http://www.mightyventures.com/bio.php )

  1. 2 Answers to “Introverted coworker won’t even say ‘Hello’”

  2. Missing the point here. The finn is not communicating, because to her unnecessary communication disturbs the private space of the other. Saying hello is invading the persons privacy and causing disturbance. She is being respectful according to the finnish culture.

    By Susanna Rantala on Nov 25, 2014

  3. I consider it impolite. In what kind of culture they do not say hi to a coworker because they want to respect their privacy? Sorry I think it is so racist.

    By sara on Jul 4, 2017

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