How Can I Feel More Included In My New Assignment?

Question:

Hi – I think your website is incredible. I came from a branch where I knew everyone within the same company to a new branch where everyone is new (I’ve been here with the company for 18 years) that is veeeeery snobby – people ignore me in the hallway etc…I am 6’4 so I am hard to miss. I pretty much have to jump in front of someone to get a hello out of them. Dan

Signed,

Excluded


Answer:

Dear Excluded:

Thank you for sharing your concerns with us. Work groups can certainly vary in culture and habits! We get letters from employees about those differences, from every perspective. But, nothing is more frustrating than attempting to become part of a new group that seems to shut you out.

Some general thoughts might be helpful for you, or you may be able to adapt them.

1. Look at the dynamics of the workplace and see where the networks and connections are. Consider if you are being treated differently than others. Is it that no one talks to you, but they are chatting happily with each other, or is it that they pretty much focus on work all the time? Do they talk to each other but stop talking when you come in the room, or do they seem to generally keep to themselves, even though they have known each other for some time? When other people walk down the hall, do they get greetings and smiles, or is it only you who is shut out?

It may be that you are not being accepted, or it may be that the culture of that work area is simply not a overtly friendly one.

I know of an office where everyone seems to exist in a bubble of their own thoughts! It would bother me! But, at least I would know it wasn’t directed at me personally, which might help some.

2. It always is worthwhile to do some self-evaluation. Some traits and characteristics are more “attractive” than others and that can make a difference in inclusion of new members into a group. Among the things that are evaluated by coworkers and others, are: Clothes that are appropriate for the setting and that fit and look well; grooming and cleanliness, posture and demeanor. The way one talks, laughs and responds to others can be attractive or unattractive. The way one approaches people and stands next to them or interacts with them can be attractive or repellant!

So, consider all of those as you try to figure out what might be causing the situation. If anyone has ever “hinted” to you about some issue, that is one to consider. Ask a friend from your former workplace if they can think of anything that might have an impact on this situation.

3. Talk to your new supervisor or manager and tell that person what you have noticed. Ask if he or she has any advice or has heard anything. You can do that in a more casual way, or you can make it a serious question, and ask for advice. Not all managers would be caring and concerned as they should be–but if you have a good relationship with that person, you will at least have shown them your interest in being fully included in the group and the larger work community.

4. If there are other employees who are new there but they seem to be fitting in, consider why that might be different than your experience. Or, talk to that new employee about his or her feelings. If there are newer employees in your same situation, seek them out and offer your support and encouragement.

5. Build relationships based on your good work. As you work with others, support them, respond to their issues, request things from them and thank them for their help, interact at meetings and in business settings, you will likely find that you are valued and appreciated for what you offer, and work friendships will follow.

6. It seems that surely there would be some friendly and open people there, even if the overall culture is not as welcoming. If you are friendly without being excessive, you can build good relationships one at a time. That is how networks work. Even if there are not a lot of active, friendly exchanges in hallways or break rooms, a feeling of belonging to the group can develop that way.

7. Let me present the other view as well. A younger friend of mine works for a large company and is very focused on her career. She is friendly and outgoing, but not likely to seem that way at work unless the setting is relaxed or casual, like lunch.

She often comments on how she avoids making eye contact in the hallways because she gets tired of the incessant “Hi!” “How are you?” “How are you doing?” “How’s it going?” greetings. She says it is particularly bothersome when she’s seen the same person ten times already. She once said she found it incredibly fatiguing to try to be friendly to everyone as she went around the building several times during the day. So, she started acting like she was reading a text message on her Blackberry, to avoid talking to anyone!

She likes to come to work and start working immediately and so does everyone else in her work group–except one. That one person wants to chat for a few minutes every morning. The more restrained employee has had to force herself to spend a few minutes in friendly conversation, so she doesn’t appear snobbish or remote.

When she has discussed her frustrations about some of the people she considers to be intrusive, I have smiled because I know that I would probably drive her nuts with my style!

I mention her to point out that introverted people, or people who are preoccupied with work, may not mean to be rude. They just don’t want to get involved in conversations, friendships at work or anything that is a distraction to them. In those cases, the more a new perons tries to be friendly, the more the other person draws away. It is likely that time and situations will take care of this issue for you. Every new employee or new transfer into the area will give you a chance to reach out in a positive way. And, over time as you prove to be a valuable team member, you will be asked questions, included in more meetings and discussions, and become more fully included in the team.

Focusing on your own work and being well respected for your contributions is usually the best way to gain a reputation for dependability and value. Combine that with traits that are acceptable and attractive and you gain influence–and that leads to a high level of inclusion. It’s a process!

I hope this is useful for you. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens over time. Best wishes!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.