Ask A Boss: "Help! I don't know how to say goodbye in meetings"
Welcome to Ask a Boss (Who Is Not Your Boss), a column where our editor-in-chief Jennifer Romolini answers all of your awkward, painful, and just plain weird questions about work life. Have a burning workplace or career question? Email AskABoss@hellogiggles.com. Please include your first name or nickname and where you are from. Questions may be edited for length and clarity.
This is going to sound like such a silly question. I started in a new position about a year ago and it’s my first time doing staff work. As such, I go to a bunch of meetings with higher-ups. Usually there aren’t a ton of people in attendance, maybe around six or ten. I always feel so awkward at the end of these meetings. The person who called the meeting oftentimes says “thank you” to everyone for joining. I don’t want to just dash out of the room (which I’ve also tried), but a “thanks” in response feels wrong. I’ve tried to say, “have a great day!” but I worry people will think I’m some kind of Pollyanna rube.
Silently Suffering Staff worker
Dear Silently Suffering,
This is not a silly question. In fact, it might be my favorite question ever because it gets at the core of a challenge many of us face about a million times a day: HOW DO I SEEM NORMAL IN THIS SITUATION and PLEASE DON’T LET THEM KNOW I’M WEIRD.
I feel you on this “goodbye” dilemma, girl. I have a similar awkward-person problem with my hands. When I am standing with a group of business people or when I am giving any kind of presentation, I do not know what to do with them and so I try them in different positions (pockets, folded in front, all casually on my hips, behind-my-back joined in a kind of yogic pose). I do this until I’ve over-thought my hands so much that they feel foreign to my body and I may as well be Kristen Wiig in that SNL skit where she has the tiny baby-doll hands and is flying the highest freak flag, which is how I feel a lot of time walking around the planet. And which is a little how I imagine you are feeling at the end of these meetings. Vulnerable and strange.
Let’s put aside how weird everything about a meeting is, because we could discuss that for hours and this is about you and your feelings and how to quell self-consciousness and the voice in your head that tells you that saying “thanks” at the end of a meeting is wrong.
It’s not. You are cool. You are totally fine. You are good. When your boss says “Thanks, everyone!” Take a deep breath and respond with: “Thanks, guys!” or “Cool, thanks.” or “Thank you!” All of these are completely appropriate responses and will be heard as professional by your peers and higher ups. And the more you try them, the more normal they will sound and seem. Just be gentle with yourself: You’re in a new situation and right now everything feels foreign, but after like a dozen more of these, you will leave feeling more like a #boss.
Also—and this is super-important to realize as you enter more and more business situations—no one is really paying attention. Short of saying, “Thanks and now let’s burn this m-f-er down!” Or jumping on the table and performing your best “Whip/Nae Nae,” pretty much any polite parting phrase will work. The reason for this is everyone wants to get out of that meeting and the moment the meeting leader has said “thanks” to signify their release, they’re thinking about their next meeting and kicking ass so hard or picking up their Telltale-Heart-beating phones or wondering what exciting/not exciting thing they are going to get for lunch. They’re not worrying if your meeting sign-off was weird. And, if they are, honestly, they have the problem and not you.
I hope this helps!