When the CEO walks past without even glancing your way, the logical inference is that you aren’t very important.

Share story

Q: The CEO of our company only speaks to a few employees. Whenever he visits our department, he says hello to one of my co-workers and completely ignores the rest of us, even though we’ve all worked there for years. You would think someone at his level would have better manners. Doesn’t this seem awfully rude?

A: Like many executives, your CEO apparently doesn’t realize that everything he does sends a message. Because they have so much power, high-level managers are always closely monitored by employees who interpret their actions in various ways.

When the CEO walks past without even glancing your way, the logical inference is that you aren’t very important. The fact that he speaks to only one co-worker reinforces that message. In reality, however, he might be quite surprised to learn how you feel.

All top executives are extremely goal-oriented. They often shift quickly from one task to the next without taking time to consider the impact on others. Being so focused on work, many of them are also somewhat socially inept. They can talk all day about business, but chatting informally makes them uncomfortable.

While the wisest managers eventually understand the importance of being friendly, your CEO apparently hasn’t learned that lesson. However, one simple way to encourage communication is to stop waiting for him to speak first. If you smile and greet him by name whenever he passes by, I can almost guarantee that he will begin to reciprocate.

Q: I have a new co-worker who often makes inappropriate remarks. “Rhonda” doesn’t seem to think before she speaks, and her nonverbal reactions can be rather strange. She makes me uncomfortable, so I have tried to avoid working with her.

Recently, Rhonda exhibited this odd behavior while we were meeting with a client. Because I was embarrassed by the way she represented our company, I reported her offensive conduct to our manger. However, he didn’t seem to appreciate my sharing this information.

Instead of saying he would talk with Rhonda, he said I should be more open to different approaches. He seemed to feel that I was the insensitive one. Should I have kept my opinion to myself?

A: If you suspect a client may have been offended, informing your boss was the right thing to do. However, the problem may not be what you said, but how you said it. If your comments sounded like an attack on Rhonda, he may have written it off as a personality conflict.

Because your manager recently hired this woman, you should also remember that criticizing her competence automatically calls his judgment into question, which might make him slow to acknowledge her deficiencies. So if Rhonda continues to be a problem, keep your feedback focused on the business issue.

For example: “I thought you should know about a potential problem with the client meeting yesterday. Mr. Smith might have taken offense at some comments Rhonda made about his company. I just didn’t want you to be surprised if he should happen to mention it.”

Having provided an appropriate warning, you will have done all you can do. Following through is your boss’ responsibility.