Workplace Distracted

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about feeling isolated and disliked:

I work in an office where I am support staff with many others. However, unlike many of my peers I have a college degree, much work experience, and I work very hard and long hours. The reputation of the support staff was not regarding highly as I was told when hired. My work ethic has been at a high standard; I am a positive person and keep a good attitude even in rough times.

My counterpart in the department and her cronies are beginning to alienate me, whisper when I am around and most recently said a vulgar word in front of me pertaining to me if I took it that way. I have been dealing with this for a while now pretty effectively though it has gotten a bit distracting. In addition, every single person that I do become friends with is soon taken in by my counterpart who starts going to lunch with my friend, talking with them at length and they eventually are not close with me anymore. Work is work so I use the term “friend” loosely here, meaning friendly with. How can I best focus on my work with all of this going on around me? Thank you for your help.

Signed, Distracted

Dear Distracted:

You want to be liked and are feeling excluded. Why? You may never know. It might be caused by the snobbishness of coworkers or it might be your inability to fit in. From what you say, it’s impossible to know. The important thing is how to cope when it hurts. The fact is that you are doing your job and you are coping despite of feeling rejected, so the thoughts I have are meant to deal with the hurt.

1. Focus on what you can control and influence. Apparently that is what you have been hired to do. You have been hired to do a job, but I challenge you to approach it as a one step in a career, not just a job. By this I mean to shape your performance as though you were a part of making your work organization survive and thrive. It might even help to realize that many a company has not been successful and had to cut its workforce and even to shut down. Now with this mindset. Think of what you might do to serve your internal and ultimately external customers with the highest quality possible. What might do more to satisfy and delight them? What might make your supervisor’s job easier, more effective, and make her/him look good? Don’t stop asking such questions as: How might we cut wasted supplies, wasted time, wasted energy, and money in my work area? If I owned this place what fat would I cut so that we might run a lean operation?

2. Focus on career will occupy your time and mind so much that you will think less about coworker snubs. It will also entail study of your work organization; its goals, strategy of operations, finances, sales, and profit if it is profit-making company. A focus on career will include learning what other positions and divisions might interest you and what skills you have and/or would need to qualify for them. It would also motivate you to make connections beyond your immediate work group. How? By being your own recruiter. Acquire information about and from other areas. Acquaint yourself with others. You don’t have to make friends, but you do need to introduce yourself. Volunteer for corporate projects such as clean ups in the community, serving as a big sister/brother, or tutoring. Almost every occupation has a professional association. Join and build a network. You presently should focus on a career within your work organization, but that includes staying on the cutting edge of its technology and business.

3. You will notice that so far I haven’t address directly the incivility of your coworkers, or more specifically an individual you refer to as “my counterpart”. You probably have wondered if you should confront the ill will that you have observed or if that would make it worse.

My associate Workplace Doctor, Tina Lewis Rowe, often provides examples of the language that one might use to stop offensive speech and action, and you might scan some of her Q&As to learn from them and also read from her attractive site, for example, see her post Say what needs to be said, why don’t you? In case of hearing another hurtful slur, you might candidly and coolly confront those who utter, listen to, or pass them. Or you might make civility a topic on the agenda of a staff meeting. Or you might take an indirect tact, urging your superior to engage your support staff as she/he would if he/she were a coach who was committed to transform your support staff into a high performance team.

4. I’ve also not told you to look in the mirror and to reflect of how others see you and how you come across. You no doubt already have done that and if not will know that such an eye-to-eye time out session with someone who knows or works with you can help that, such there be personality or grooming matters of which you are unaware. Nor have I suggested that you get a live outside your workplace; singing in a choir, zumba, walking with a neighbor, joining a reading club, etc. You also no doubt know that you need to pamper yourself from time to time and you probably know that giving of yourself to a worthy cause is more enriching than searching for personal happiness. Do any of these thoughts speak to you? Do they make sense? Will you evaluate and act upon those that do or allow them to spur you to other more creative coping? If any of them do, please let us know what you choose to do. I sense you are an educated, hard-working and sensitive soul. Finally, do you see the meaning in and how might you apply my signature: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS?

William Gorden