I’ve found 2 use cases for the “how’s it going” question. The first use case involves an asker who is moving at speed. This is just the workplace hallway equivalent of “what’s up?” No response beyond a smile or some equivalent greeting is expected or required.
The more interesting use case is when the asker actually pauses to hear what you have to say. The general expectation is to hear that it is either a good/bad/“crazy” day.
And, this typical answer points to something fascinating about our default setting – our need to label and judge things.
The challenge with labeling days is that we never know if a good day is a good day. A day that seems good may be a disaster a few months later. And, a day that we thought was bad may seem like a blessing in retrospect.
Work relationships function similarly. It is always tempting to start out with a sweeping first impression judgment of your new manager or colleague. But, in truth, we never really know until we’ve been in the trenches with the person. Folks you never thought you’d like may end up shining in tough situations and vice versa.
So, my takeaway over the years has been to delay the labeling process – both with events and people (this is harder) – as it is just a waste of time. My best response to the “how’s it going” question is, thus, to respond with – “It’s going.” I don’t know if it is going good or bad. But, the best I can do is to keep plugging away with my best effort.
In the long run, things have a way of working themselves out. Doing the work will help that process. Labeling decidedly does not.