Disliked In My New Job

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about being disliked: I get the feeling that they want to get rid of me.

I am really worried about my job. I am permanent. I have been there for about 10 months. I am a very shy and quiet person, finding it very difficult to even say a mere hello to work colleagues or look at anyone in the face. I get the feeling that they want to get rid of me.

Back in January, I used to hear them say things like “don’t bother coming back” and “she sacked”. This was really stressed me out. I wasn’t eating or sleeping and felt like I didn’t want to go to work.I am a very weak and sensitive person. I cry at the stupidest things. I try to be strong and stop myself from crying in front of people, as I don’t want them to see me unhappy. I then thought maybe it was to do with my work and they were going to sack me.

I then asked to speak with my manager and he said, “You have nothing to worry about, trust me.” In some ways, I want to leave the job but I am also worried how it will be perceived on my resume’ as this is my first perm job. I had been temping for 3 years in different places ranging from 1 to 6 months. I also don’t want to give the satisfaction of them making me leave. Please advise me ASAP. Thank you.

Signed, Disliked

Dear Disliked:

You have been on this job for ten months and your manager has told you that “Your have nothing to worry about.” You were wise to speak with him. His assurance was good to receive. Right? Yet you worry about whether you are seen as unhappy and in some ways you want to quit. Might the reason for this anxiety be because it is your first “permanent” employment after temping for three years? Might it be because you worry that it will not last? That could be a natural worry for you.

You say that you are a shy person and find it difficult to even say “hello”. Consequently, in addition to the worry about whether you are doing the job well enough to not be fired, your stress undoubtedly is linked to feeling that you are not wanted by coworkers. As yet, you don’t feel like you really “belong” in this “permanent” workplace. My advice will address the topics of uncertainty of employment, fitting in, and personality.

Uncertainty of employment: You have experienced the uncertainty of temporary jobs and now are experiencing the uncertainty of so-called permanent employment. Your anxiety about being fired might be higher than others who are not shy, but in this country almost everyone employed must face the possibility of being unemployed some time in her/his career.

Job security is rarely, if ever, an unbreakable promise. Especially in this difficult economy, many people wonder when the ax will drop, if they will be among the unemployed. How do you live with this worry? My answer is simply that you live with it. You don’t lose sleep over the possibility that you might be fired. Obsessing about being fired won’t prevent it. As someone once said, “I was so worried about giving a speech that I didn’t eat.” After listening to the speech, a listener said, “You might as well have eaten.”

Rather than worry, you just do the best work of which you are capable. You get to work on time or a few minutes early and you do your share and more. What other choice do you have? The only other sensible action I know to improve one’s job security while still employed is to increase your skills by taking additional training and/or to be active in an association in your field. Then if you are one whose job is cut, you do all those necessary things that one does to find another job. Is not the most important thing you can do just now is to learn all you can and to find ways to make what you do meaningful.

Ideally, each of us will find a job we love. Practically, that is not something that comes heaven sent. Rather we do all can get the education and training needed for the kind of work we think we will love. And even then, sometimes once in a job we find that that training was not enough, or we don’t like the field we for which we have trained, or we can’t find a job in that field.

Soooo we do the best we can until and if we can find a job that we love. Fitting in: Ten months of wondering if you might be fired is a long time, but it is not a really long time when it comes to feeling like you belong. It takes time to learn what is expected. It takes time to feel you are accepted whether that is entering a room in which other people are conversing, moving into a new community, or beginning a new job.

Fitting in is easier for some people than others and one is lucky when others make a special effort to welcome a newcomer. Apparently, there was no special effort to make you feel welcome in this workplace. Most workplaces are not very good about that. Some don’t even show new hires where to find a restroom. One of the best bits of advice I ever got was “to give it time.”

Assume that you will gradually learn the ropes and that will find one or more individuals in your work area whose names you get to know and who will answer back if you get up courage to say, “Hello, Sally, it’s a good to come in from the cold” or “Good morning, Dan, does it look like rain. In spite of the rain, I like to see the trees full of blossoms?” Or “Hi, Jane, “I’m not very good about remembering names. Please tell me if I have made a mistake.”

Personality: Very few of us get much if any training in social skills. Only a few of us are trained how to talk and walk as are contestants for Ms. America. Most of us just grow up and learn how to interact with others by observing. Some thrive and score high on extroversion. They are elected as cheerleaders and Ms. Congeniality. Others get by. They learn how to shake hands and look others in the eye and make friends. They have never read How To Win Friends and Influence People, but they get by.

In your case, some much-needed social skills, for some reason or another, do not come naturally. Can you develop them? That will depend on how much you want them. People, who stutter, can learn to manage that problem. People, who do not know how to dance, can sign up for dance lessons. People, who have not learned to cook, can take a course in cooking. People, who don’t know which end of a trombone to blow into, can take lesson.

Obviously, I don’t have enough knowledge about you to make recommendations about transforming your shyness, but I know that shyness is not a permanent unchangeable trait. And I predict you can find some help in gradually expressing yourself naturally and pleasantly. Each of us has a lot we can do to improve both our job and on-the-job interpersonal communication skills. I suggest that you read more Q&As in our Archives. Especially read the answers of my associate Tina Lewis Rowe’s answers. I know of no one else more helpful on interpersonal matters than she, from questions on bad breath to verbal abuse, from mean bosses to gossiping co-workers. Also click her name to access her site. There you will find a wealth of advice on how to manage your working life.

You asked for our advice ASAP. What really is the hurry? We do our best to reply quickly, but although we would like to think our advice could be a quick-fix to almost any problem, rarely can say solve long-standing personal or workplace problems. So remember that the best advice probably is “to give it time” when coupled by a determination to rebound from bad things. Bad things will happen and we can survive. That is the attitude embedded in my signature statement: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Think about that and, as you understand its meaning, I predict you will do more than just survive. I hope these thoughts help you. Do feel free to let us know if any of them make sense.

William Gorden