It’s easy to say that work lives and social lives should be separate entities. In reality, though, many people find their closest friends while on the job.
However, if you work in a highly-social environment but don’t feel like an active participant in the evolving friendship dynamics, that can result in a sense of alienation that affects overall happiness and job performance. If you feel socially excluded at work, the good news is that you can take active steps to improve your situation. Read on for seven tips on how to deal when you feel left out at work.
1. Focus on finding “allies” rather than “friends”.
It can seem ideal to work alongside your dearest friends...but an overly-tight personal relationship can ultimately compromise efficiency and effectiveness in the workplace. But seeking an office ally (a colleague at your same seniority level who’ll have your back on work-related issues and concerns) rather than a best friend can improve your job satisfaction.“If we can find that one ally who is an informal person looking out for our best interests, then that can help us become more visible, both formally and informally. Allies are willing to include us, bring us in, recognize that we’re not part of the conversation, and draw us in,” Rutgers University associate professor of human resource management Jessica Methot tells The Cut.
2. Plan your own social gathering with your colleagues.
If you feel out of the loop on social opportunities within your workplace, the most direct solution involves planning your own outing and inviting your colleagues to participate. Scope out a great new happy hour spot and invite your coworkers to join you there at the end of a long day. Touch base with HR and suggest an office outing, like a picnic or a group dinner. If you take the lead on putting together a social situation, you’ll automatically become a crucial part of the gathering.
3. Sharpen your skills until you become indispensable.
It’s a regrettable truth that social relationships between coworkers can have major career-based implications. For example, if you’re friendly with the boss, you’ll probably have a better shot at a promotion. If you’re not naturally engaged in the friendship aspect of your workplace, you may feel that you’re missing out on valuable opportunities...but if your skills speak for themselves, then you’re less likely to be overlooked on the basis of your more-introverted tendencies.
4. Tune in to the preferred communication methods of your workplace and figure out whether you can adjust your approach.
Intuition can prove highly valuable to an employee struggling with social exclusion in the workplace; if you can ascertain the patterns and flows of inter-office interactions, you’ll have a better chance of fine-tuning your own communication style to better suit your work environment. Small adjustments can go a long way here; for instance, if your company favors in-person dialogues rather than email conversations, switching over to that approach will present you in a more approachable light, which can carry over into your social relationships with your coworkers. Also, if you’re comfortable with a direct approach, asking your colleagues to loop you in on social gatherings will provide clearer results than silently stewing.
5. Resist the urge to take these situations personally.
Of course, it can be challenging to separate workplace exclusion from your own self-perception. However, the Harvard Business Review explains that the first step to handling these social challenges involves recalibrating your thought process “Challenge any assumptions that might lead you to blame yourself for the situation. Understand that the extent to which you’re hurt by an episode of ostracism depends entirely on how you perceive the situation and its threat to you,” HBR recommends.
6. Don’t turn your feelings of exclusion into a self-fulfilling prophecy by withdrawing any further.
When you feel like your coworkers are intentionally leaving you out of social opportunities, you may feel tempted to remove yourself from the fray entirely, staying in your office or workspace and avoiding unnecessary interactions with colleagues. Ultimately, though, the decision to further withdraw can alienate you even more, increasing the likelihood of reaping social benefits at work (up to and including advancement opportunities). You certainly don’t need to force a falsely-extroverted image, but keeping yourself open and approachable while in the office generally proves useful.
7. If your current workplace culture doesn’t suit you, explore your options.
At the end of the day, the cliques and social dynamics of a workplace are a product of company culture; if you’re working for a business that often makes personnel decisions on a personal basis, but you’d rather work for a company that bases important choices on performance alone, then you’re dealing with a disconnect that probably won’t ever be resolved. In this case, it makes sense to look elsewhere in an effort to find a workplace that better suits your social and professional needs.