Wednesday, January 17, 2007


I'm sitting here at work, and I'm wondering "when does being polite at work go too far?"

"What?!" I hear you ask, "How could you be TOO polite at work?!"

Here is the situation that prompted this: a colleague sent me an email me to say "Please update this information". I responded with "Sure, to do that I will need you to provide this other information". Colleague A promptly replies "I can't do that, I'll get Colleague B to do it". Colleague B sent me an email saying that he can get the information, but it might take a few days. I say "that's fine, whenever you get it is OK with me, but the information can't be updated until I have it".

That was last week. This week Colleague B dutifully sends me the information he has so far so I can make a start on this information. I respond, being polite, with a quick email saying "Thank you". He replies, saying "You're welcome".

Now, here's where my musing takes off. Should I, to be polite, send back something in my turn? Something like "No problem"? In which case, should he, then, respond with some other banal nicety? I know, this is taking things a bit to the extreme, but it does beg the question: where do you stop?

Me, personally, I'm happy when someone tells me 'thank you', regardless of whether it's face-to-face, via the phone, or by email (which is why I sent the email to say thank you!), but I don't necessarily feel the need to respond to those thanks, if or when they're received. Actually, now I think about it, if the person is right there in front of me I normally mumble something like "s'ok" (keep in mind, I'm a shy person, don't take well to praise or compliments).

But via less personal means - where's the cut-off point? If you get a couple of complete idiots (I do work with public servants, after all) they could quite possibly be there thanking and responding and responding and responding and responding and responding for a goodly while.

So - can you be too polite, or do I just think too much?

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