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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

The Quiet One

Dear Sue: I started a new job about one and a half years ago. I work in a big call center with about 250 people. I am the quiet person in the department. Everyday I try to be myself and be assertive, but I feel as though I am not interesting enough for my co-workers. I really wish I could take my mask off and let go, but canít seem to do it. We have to be professional in the office, so maybe that is what is holding me back; itís not easy to be goofy and joke around in a professional environment.

I feel as though I am in my own little world. I am starting to notice that people don't talk to me very much. I wish they would give me a chance because they donít even know me, yet I realize I donít let them. What is wrong with me? Ė The quiet one

Sue Says: I donít think anything is wrong with you Ė you are simply quiet, and probably more introverted than a lot of the people you work with. You have really given this some thought, and I commend you for taking such an honest look at yourself, which you may not have done if you were always involved with others.

Try not to be so hard on yourself for your lack of connection to others. Your coworkers bear some of the responsibility too. Reaching out shouldnít be one sided and they could do more to reach out to you too.

Donít feel as though you have to wait to be approached to approach others. If you find that people donít initiate conversations with you, why donít you initiate conversation with them?

While a professional environment neednít be rigid or stuffy, you are wise to maintain a level of decorum in your conversation and behavior.

My advice for you is to try to let go of worrying about being interesting enough for others. You donít need to joke around or goofy; if you try to be someone you arenít it will be evident to others and you risk appearing phony.

Be yourself Ė no one can do it better than you!

Dear Sue: I work with a terrific guy; he is nice as can be, and is liked by everyone. He is a class act except for one area: the way he talks. He says things like, How ya doiní? Where ya goiní? Whatja do last night? Iíve noticed that everything he says is spoken in this kind of slang. It is so noticeable to me that I assume others notice too. I doubt he is even aware that there is anything wrong with his speech. I donít know if it will hurt his career or not, but for all the people who donít speak that way, I am sure it is noticed. I donít know if I should I say something to him or mind my own business Ė does it matter how he talks? Ė Coworker

Sue Says: It does matter how people talk, yet I think people are more tolerant of differences in dialects due to the increased diversity in most workplaces.

Without knowing what this person does or whether his job requires a lot of communication, it is difficult to know how much of a problem the way he talks might be. It may not be a problem at all; perhaps his casual conversational style is what makes him so endearing to others. However, in certain environments his speech could be distracting, and has the potential to undermine his credibility.

Only you know if your relationship with him is safe and close enough to say something. Sometimes humor can be used as a vehicle to broach sensitive subjects, but you need to be delicate whenever you attempt to offer unsolicited advice.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
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