Social Etiquette and Good Manners/rude and gruff coworker


Hello Cynthia,

I am normally a polite and cheerful person at work and also find this helps make work a pleasant experience on a daily basis. I have had a background in foreign relations and so I guess I have been trained to be cordial, at the very least, with everyone and even if I don't especially like someone I can always be at least polite and respectful. I realise that many people are not like that and tend to make it pretty clear when they like or don't like someone.

I work next to a younger woman who is unfriendly (except to a couple of female coworkers), and brisk to me on a daily basis. My greetings of "good morning" are more or less ignored and over 6 months I have never heard her exchange any real pleasantries with me. I have discussed this confidentially with another member of our team and he said that she is a very difficult person, so it seems as though it is not just me. My impression is that this person has some quite deep seated emotional issues as she cried during a training course recently during a presentation course. I also think she has very poor social skills. During a slow period at work recently I actually did some work for her and completed a task she has not had time to do. I have never been thanked by her and she is still as unfriendly as ever. It seems like there is nothing I can really do here to improve her behaviour.

I am a little uncomfortable with this but I am now resigned to accepting this situation - but just keen to explore with you whether there is anything I can do to make this situation a bit more cordial.

Many thanks for your assistance.


Dear David:
Thanks so much for your question.  Your co-worker is indeed lacking social skills that would allow her to get along better with those with whom she works.  My suggestion is to "kill her with kindness".  Keep up your friendliness.  Smile when you see her. Compliment her when she accomplishes something that deserves it. If possible, do your complimenting in front of others.  Ask if she had a nice weekend. Tell her you hope she has a nice evening when you leave for the day.   Even if she responds with gruffness, try to keep it up.  You will be doing the right thing.

If she continues to respond with negativity , ask her, "Is there something I did to warrant such negative responses from you?"
Many people like her have no idea how they come across to others.  If you do ask her this question, make sure you do it away from other people.

If none of this works, just be civil to her and realize it isn't you - it's her.

Social Etiquette and Good Manners

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Cynthia W. Lett


Proper manners with friends,family,colleagues,neighbors and everyone else you know.


I have been an etiquette expert teaching and consulting on the subject worldwide since 1983. I started and serve as the Executive Director of the International Society of Protocol & Etiquette Professionals and am considered a leader in the field of etiquette and protocol training and execution. I edited "Etiquette for Dummies" and have recently written "Lett's Talk - Everyday Etiquette Dilemmas and What to Do about Them". My book, "That's So Annoying:An Etiquette Expert on the World's Most Irritating Habits And What To Do About Them" was published in 2009 and is available wherever books are sold. I taught the Business Protocol class to Master's level students at the George Washington University, Washington, DC for seven years I served as Chief of Protocol for MCI Telecommunications for three years.

International Society of Protocol & Etiquette Professionals, ASTD, PCMA, National Speakers Association

I have been quoted over 700 times in the past 5 years worldwide. Publications include Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Washington Times, NY Times, Washington Business Journal, USA Today, Associated Press, London Times, Newsweek Japan edition, Newsweek US edition and many many more.

I am a Certified Etiquette Professional (CEP) and Certified Protocol Professional (CPP) earned by examination through ISPEP. I have a Master's degree in hospitality law and undergrad degrees in Restaurant & Hotel Management and Public Relations/Interpersonal Communications from Purdue University.

Awards and Honors
Who's Who Worldwide,Who's Who of American Women, Distinguished Darden Professor (Purdue University).

Past/Present Clients
World Bank, United Nations,US Dept. of State, US. Dept. of the Army, Pentagon, Barclays Global Investors,Accenture,Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, The White House, Dept. of State, AT&T,Bank of America,American Association of Clinical Pharmacies,Ritz Carlton Hotels, Hilton Hotels, Marriott Hotels,Starwood Hotels,and many more.

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