You had me at ‘Hello’


Sonya Oberstar, Davidson Technology

Would you like higher engagement in your team? Would you like trust? Would you like honesty? It’s not as hard as you might think to foster these positive attributes, says Sonya Oberstar.

We are all responsible for creating the environment around us; however, it is a common misconception that people who work in the tech industry think that because their work often involves looking at computer screens and thinking about what goes on behind those screens, personal relationships aren’t as important. Of course, that is not the truth.

Humans are strongly motivated to have relationships. According to a landmark paper by psychologists Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary, it’s because of a fundamental “need to belong”. The “belongingness hypothesis” states that people have a basic psychological need to feel closely connected to others, and that caring, affectionate bonds from close relationships are a major part of human behaviour.

So why then is the most common thing I hear from my contractors: “Wow, it’s a bit weird here, no one says hello, they don’t say goodbye, they just get up and leave”. Frankly, I know there is not one human being that would say they enjoy that kind of environment.

When I first started in recruitment all those years ago, I vividly remember one of the C-level managers coming down from head office to visit us. As a young girl in her first corporate role, I thought he was very important indeed (and he was), and certainly wouldn’t have time to chat to the likes of me! Well, do you know what this amazing gentleman did? He went up to every single person in the office, said hello and had a quick chat. How kind and thoughtful. Do you think this behaviour cemented my commitment to this company? You can bet your bottom dollar I did. He had me at hello.

Every time this particular manager came to Melbourne he would spend 20-30 minutes saying g’day to everyone. He would even remember what you spoke about last time. What an example he set! We felt that we mattered and we belonged.

Now, we’re not all going to have such a great memory, but we are all capable of saying hello and spending a couple of minutes engaging with our teams – in fact, engaging with everyone at some point (ever seen Undercover Boss?). Do you ever walk past reception and not say good morning? Do you ever leave the office and not say goodbye to the team sitting around you? Do you ever walk in and sit down without a smile in the morning and not say good morning to the people who are already in the office? How do you think the people around you felt? Included, important? I doubt it.

So I’m going to set you a challenge: I want you to be aware of your behaviour all this week. I want you to walk into the office with a smile and say “Good morning” to everyone you come in contact with. I want you to identify someone you regularly see – maybe a truck driver, regular delivery person, the cleaner, someone new to the office perhaps and introduce yourself, have that conversation with them, engage.

You will be amazed at what you learn, at how you feel and the effect it will have on those around you.

If you would like a copy of the Baumeister and Leary report, contact me on

Sonya Oberstar is Davidson Technology Practice Lead ERP/SAP. Sonya has been recruiting in the Melbourne market since 2006, initially developing the RDBMS sector she soon branched out to also specialising in PMs, BAs and SAP among other specialty IT requirements. Bringing this diverse exposure in several technical skill-sets, Sonya is a leading specialist for Davidson Technology in the SAP space. Sonya has strong, long-standing networks across the SAP and the non-SAP project space within both contract and permanent realms.

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