I like to keep my personal life completely separate from my work life. To that end, I do not make friends at work and I do not socialize with people from work. I come in to the office, do my job and go home. My supervisor tells me all the time that I do great work and that I am dependable. Despite my recognized good work, my supervisor gave me a “Needs Improvement” ranking under the “Staff Relations” category on my annual evaluation. I was stunned. Every other ranking, including all of the ones related to my actual work, were “Outstanding”. This is not a meaningless concern on my part because, where I work, a single “Needs Improvement” puts me on a performance plan and limits my eligibility for bonuses.
My supervisor said she is giving me the inferior ranking because I am not “friendly enough” toward my co-workers. She would not tell me who complained. In fact, she tried to make me think no one complained. She said she has seen my interactions with co-workers and is basing the ranking only on what she has seen, but I think she is protecting someone. As examples, she said that when people say good morning or hello to me that I often do not respond. That is not true. I always make eye contact or a brief wave to the other person. I just don’t want to get bogged in needless conversation. I feel as though I am being penalized for not playing a social game. It is so much like high school – why can’t employers focus on the real work and my results rather than my popularity?
— Super Frustrated
Dear Super F:
[Insert eye contact and a brief wave here.]
Frustrating, isn’t it?
— Evil Skippy
You need to grow up. It’s fine to have a personal policy of not making friends at work – that’s your business. It’s not fine to behave like a rude jerk. Responding to a courteous good morning or hello with eye contact or a brief wave is tactless. Would it kill you to just say good morning? That would not mean you are asking the person to be your BFF or even your lunch companion. Part of working in a group setting includes engaging in a civil manner toward your colleagues. You are not doing that and need to do better.
You also might consider therapy for your paranoia. Why do you think your supervisor is lying about the fact that no one complained to her? It sounds as though your conduct is obvious. Your supervisor is doing her job. I would only criticize her if she hadn’t counseled you about this before the evaluation. She should have talked to you as soon as she realized there was a problem.
Do yourself a favor and just say hello, good morning and — if you want to really make an effort to impress your boss – ask someone how they’re doing. You don’t even have to be sincere. Just act sincere. Fake it if you have to.
You don’t have to be friends with anyone. You do have to be courteous. So do it. It will make your workplace better for everyone else and won’t hurt you a bit.