“I recently started a new job, and I want to make a good impression. However, I really feel left out. Not only am I overwhelmed with all my new responsibilities, but I feel like all my co-workers have a special bond. I’ve made an effort to be outgoing, but they still exclude me from their lunch dates and after-work parties. What can I do to fit in?”
Being the new kid on the block is never easy. It certainly wasn’t easy when your family moved out-of-state and you had to change schools or when you tried to penetrate the fortress of the cool kids clique. Starting a new job can bring exactly the same anxieties as the first day of school did.
And even though we can all agree that it’s strange how even as adults, playground politics persist, believe that you are good enough, you are smart enough and doggone it, people will like you.
Here are some tips to keep in mind:
Be courteous and conscientious – Remember the names of your co-workers and details about their lives. If you hear someone talking about their kids or a team they play on, use that jump start a conversation. Be complimentary about the work you see them doing. Ask them simple, non-invasive questions about themselves like what their plans are for the weekend or how their latest project is going.
Don’t try too hard, it makes people suspicious – There is nothing worse than being the person that everyone has decided is too much, too friendly, or too eager. Friendly is good but you don’t want to come across as desperate or needy or insincere. As you watch groups of people leave the office for lunch or go grab coffee and you haven’t been invited just be hard at work in whatever you’re engaged in. Be busy and interested in your life and people will soon become interested in it too.
Resist the urge to gossip – this is a fast track to “being completely ostracized-ville.” You never know who knows who and how far your comments can travel or be distorted. The politics of work life and the water cooler have been the downfall of many good people who mistook a catty person for a confidant.
Give – This might sound crazy, but it’s really hard to not like somebody who brings deliciousness into the office with them. Put a container of homemade cookies or some really scrumptious specialty cupcakes in a communal office area, maybe near the coffeemaker, and let the magic begin. Your co-workers will quickly begin to buzz, “Who made these? Did you bring these in?” sparking some casual conversations about how you made them, where you got them, or where they make the most exotic donut. Never underestimate the power of pastry.
Be good at your job – No matter what your workplace, nobody likes to have to pick up the slack of others, so if you do a job that in any way provides support to other people, do everything you can to make their lives easier and go the extra mile without expecting recognition in return. Being good at your job also means knowing when you’re in over your head and you need help. Don’t be afraid to ask questions so that you don’t create problems later. Your co-workers will admire your foresight and humility and people always appreciate an opportunity to show you their skills and how good they are at their job.
Get involved – If there are outside work activities, participate. If it’s a big office, there are usually extracurricular things you can sign up for like a bowling team, or some kind of fundraiser for a charity. Get out there, participate, and let people see who you are outside the office. If these outside-work events don’t exist, make them happen. Find a local charity event you can enter a team from work in, put a sign-up sheet on the wall and ask if anyone is interested in fundraising for a good cause or start a food drive during the holidays. There is sure to be somebody you work with that will be directly affected by the cause you are working for and they can then help you recruit others.
Listen – People love to talk about themselves and they like it even more when the person listening is genuinely interested in what they are saying. Be sincere in your efforts to get to know the people around you and remember the things they tell you so you can build on those conversations the next time you’re sharing an uncomfortable silence in the elevator together.