Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about feeling excluded:
I have been at my job for four months now and have seen and heard it all. I know for a fact that my co-workers and supervisor talk about me behind my back. How do I know? An outsider who works for another company and who just comes in every two weeks to deliver items came and told me what they were saying about me. I don’t know why he told me because they have known him longer than I have. I told my supervisor about it and she took care of it.
Another problem is that for some reason my supervisor can walk by my desk and not even say one word to me or look my way. I have to say “Good morning”, “Hello, how is your day going?”Days can go by and I don’t even see her at all, even though her office is right down the hall. I just feel so left out because I am the only person at my job in their 20’s and everybody else is in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. I don’t know what to do.
I can’t talk to my supervisor. I really feel like I can’t talk to anybody. Everybody has been working here for 15 to 40 years so I feel like they can care less about me. Sometimes I cry to my husband about my job. He say it’s going to be OK, just find another job. But, what do you think i should do?
Signed, Out In The Cold and Hurting
Dear Out In The Cold and Hurting:
I’m sorry your work situation is like this. I can imagine it would be a lonely existence to feel left out all the time. However, quitting your job is only a good option if you know you can easily find another one right away. If you are not being actively treated rudely or meanly in an open way, it seems the best decision would be to stay and give yourself a bit more time to decide if you will ever become part of the group. Four months isn’t very long to fit into a place where people have been employed much longer. (Although I know it can seem like a very, very long time if you’re not happy.)
The person who approved hiring you thought you would fit into the work environment well enough and that you could do the job you were hired to do. Could you talk to that person about the situation? Perhaps they would have some insights that might be helpful. If your business has an HR section you might be able to talk to someone there, without complaining. Just ask for general advice. You may not feel comfortable doing that, but it’s a possibility. If even one person has been friendly, perhaps that person can give you some ideas or suggestions you can apply.In the meantime, let me share some thoughts based on having observed some similar situations and having been part of some of them myself.
1. The nature of your job and your job description may have something to do with the situation. If the others are professionals, technical workers, or have expertise in some area, they may simply not view you as part of their group. They may think of you as lower status than them. If they say hello now and then they may think that is enough. That seems rather snooty, but some workplaces are that way.Consider what they think your job description involves and what you were told your work would be like. It may be that there is a very big gap between your position and theirs.
2. You say it was reported to you that coworkers were talking about you, but you didn’t say what they were talking about. Seriously consider the remarks they allegedly made. Could there be some indicators of what they are actually thinking and could it be that you could do something about those concerns, as a way to get along better? Or, were their remarks so mean-spirited that it only reflects badly on them?I tend to think the person reporting the gossip to you didn’t do you a favor. If he had let it go the people might have changed their minds after getting to know you better and you would have never known. Or, they may have only been talking and not really meaning anything nasty by it. Now they probably feel awkward around you, so you may need to reach out a bit more so they are aware that you’re at least willing to talk in spite of what happened.
3. It’s time to ask your supervisor how you’re doing at work. Just send her an email and ask for fifteen minutes of her time to discuss how you’re doing and what you can improve. If she’s not happy with your work she may welcome the chance to talk to you. If she is happy with your work, she won’t mind telling you so. Then, in the meeting you could express your concerns and ask her if she has suggestions for how you can become more a part of the group or how you can feel that you are being accepted as part of the team. I do want to mention that her failure to talk to you very much may be caused by her own lack of social skills. Or, she may just be immersed in her work and trying to keep her head above water.
4. You mentioned the age differences, which certainly can have an impact–in some situations more than others. You didn’t mention gender, but that could have an impact too. If the group is all women they might be less likely to be friendly than if they were men. Sad but true.On the other hand, a friendly, competent, professional appearing and acting employee is welcomed almost anywhere. So, if a relatively new employee is being shunned or at least not included, the other employees usually think they have a good reason for it. Their reasons may not be valid, but they have them. Keep in mind that it may not be you, it may be them. They may have some biases or preferences that make them less likely to be warmly friendly to you. Or, you may have done or not done something that was a big issue to them. Time will help.
5. That brings up to what you can do about it all. First, if the job is OK for you and it pays well enough to get by for now, keep the thought that you probably won’t work there for twenty years (although you may). So, your goal will be to learn all you can, do your very best work and continue to try to establish a relationship with one or two people while keeping most of your relationships away from work. We had a message last week from someone who said she was tired of coworkers and supervisors trying to get her to be part of the group. She only wanted to come to work, do her job and go home without talking to anyone unnecessarily. So, that shows you the difference in people!
6. Consider these approaches: Have the tidiest, best looking work space around. Put a small bowl of individually wrapped candy on the side of your desk with a sign that says, “Enjoy!” Small Tootsie Rolls seem to be popular. Get and read a magazine (maybe one related to the work or related to a generally accepted interest but not a gossip magazine) and see if there is a place to have it where it doesn’t look as though you’re reading it all the time, but where others can see your reading material. Or, put a book on your desk (not a controversial one and not a religious one, since people often are made uncomfortable thinking they’ll be preached to.) Have an appropriate, loving photo of you and your husband, showing you in a normal, happy pose. Nothing wild or partying. Hold your phone out this weekend and take a photo! Present yourself in the most well-groomed way possible. You don’t have to buy new clothes, but check your clothes and accessories to make sure you aren’t seen as over the top for work, given the ages of many of the employees. None of this is phony. You want your coworkers to realize you’re just a good person with a nice family, doing your best to do well at work.Organize your work and make work your focus. You want to gain credibility for doing good work. If you do things for the other employees as part of your job, do it superbly so you have value for them. Continue to say appropriate greetings. They may not respond right away but they will eventually—at least some of them will. Someone described an employee to me this last week, in this way, “She’s different than the rest of us and it took a year or two to get used to not having Lynn at that desk. But, now we’re OK with her.” A year or two! But that shows you how many things can figure into behavior In their case, they missed the last employee and liked her style better than the new style. But, they learned to adjust.
7. Make sure the quality and quantity of your work is improving all the time. You only have a little time there, so you have much to learn, no matter what your job is. I also wanted to mention that I did a lot of editing on your letter to correct quite a few things related to grammar and overall style. It seems you could improve your written communications, even in informal notes. That may mean you need to work on grammar and style when speaking as well.Perhaps there are some issues related to work product that has caused some employees to not view you as part of their highly skillful an long-tenured group. There might not be, but that’s always something to consider. (That’s another reason why talking to your supervisor is a good idea.)None of these thoughts may directly apply to you and your work but I know they can be adapted. At least try them. This will also remind you, if you ever encounter a new employee, to go out of your way to support them.My final thought is this: You may find that if you can stick it out, you will become the solid, friendly presence that others depend upon. They may not feel as comfortable with you as you would like, but over time they may become dependent upon your openness, friendliness, good work and calm in emergencies. Give yourself time to develop the job skills you need. Work on your other skills and do your very best work all the time. Be the friendly face and voice. I’ll bet you’ll see a change over the next few months. At least give yourself until the end of Summer. Then you can decide if it’s worth leaving or not.Best wishes to you. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know how this worked out.
Tina Lewis Rowe