The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Fitting In At Work
So you just started a new job and are trying to fit in? Maybe desperately trying to fit in? How’s that working out for you? I hope its going well. Could you use some advice for fitting in? Well, read on.
Remember that you spend about 40 hours a week at work. That is around 160 hours a month, almost 2,000 for the year, and in the long run, you will spend over 90,000 hours working in your lifetime – not including the commute. The people you work with are like your second family. The problem with family is that you are born into it. You don’t choose. You either get along or you don’t. You either tolerate or you don’t. You either make peace or you don’t. That is family.
Your job is no different. However, this is not your family, so you must be careful and wary of who you trust, especially because – even when it comes to family and money, there is the possibility of someone stabbing you in the back.
At work, you are coming to know complete strangers. You hardly know anything about these people, but you see them everyday, eventually learn about them, and eventually learn what they do and the skills they possess. You also see some of their habits, which probably exist in their personal lives as well. So how do you fit in?
- Let it happen naturally. Seriously, just be yourself. Getting to know people should a natural process. If you don’t already have one, get a personality that is likeable. If they don’t like you, that’s their problem, not yours. If you struggle to talk with a co-worker, move on and talk to another. You won’t connect with every single person. And remember, don’t be the life of the party – you are still at work!
- Learn how to joke and laugh at yourself. If you can’t take a joke and are serious all the time, no one is going to want to be around you.
- Learn how to joke and laugh at others. Everyone has their own personality. Don’t jump right into the water, but definitely feel people out and joke with them lightly. Don’t be offensive, but make a joke that you know wouldn’t hurt someone’s feelings. If you do hurt someone’s feelings by accident, apologize and tell that co-worker you are very sorry and you were just trying to joke with them.
- Develop some interests of your own and also find out about the interests of others. Whether it is computers, swimming, hunting, fishing, or watching a television series, find out what your co-workers are doing when they leave work. You can find this information out casually by asking what someone did last night or what their plans are for the weekend, or what they did over the weekend. People love to talk about themselves and their lives. Don’t just ask, but show that you’re genuinely interested. Show sympathy when necessary.
- Go out for Happy Hour with everyone. If all your co-workers are having a party or going to the bar, feel free to hop aboard, just to see what it’s like and show everyone a more social side of you outside of work. Remember, don’t let anything slip that shouldn’t be out. Even if you don’t plan on drinking, ask for a glass of water with some ice or get a non-alcoholic drink if you don’t trust yourself. If it’s not happy hour and someone is having a BBQ at their house and invites you, go!
- Co-workers are your other family but they aren’t your family. Trust them to be respectful, but don’t trust them with your secrets. You can easily joke around or tell your co-workers about your hobbies and your life, but do not talk about another co-worker to a co-worker or your boss to a co-worker. Do not leave yourself vulnerable. The last thing you want to do is make your work miserable, especially if another co-worker or your boss finds out about something you said.
- Send out a friendly email. If you come across a funny picture or a YouTube video, share it with everyone. Don’t overdo it because then someone is likely to assume you have too much free time. One a month should be plenty, but if it is relevant to office conversation, than send it out.
- Share Breaks or Bring in extras from dinner or extra food, period. Sharing breaks will give you a chance to talk to people. Whether they smoke or not. Even if you don’t smoke, it will still be nice to take a break with the smokers because they will open up to you and talk to you while standing outside. Make casual conversation about the office or life in general. Don’t be a prude and mention their smoking habit: they made a choice. It’s not yours. As for bringing in extra food:
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made extra food for the office just so everyone could try something I cooked or baked. Make sure you know how to cook or bake! It is very rewarding to share with people in the office and they will love you for it. Encourage others to bring in something if you can. I encouraged the Indian guy in the office to make extras and bring in lunch for everyone one day. He made a ton of extra and we all had Indian food that day. It was awesome. It really does help the office environment, especially if someone forgot their lunch that day. I had noticed that my co-workers would go out and buy peanut butter and jelly because they were waiting until payday to eat good again. I had run into some extra peanut butter – someone offered it to me – it was still good – over 6 jars of it. There was no way my family or I was going to eat it all. I brought it into work and it serves as a snack for when I’m hungry, and for when everyone else is hungry. No one starves where I work because they always have a snack. If you can afford, bring in coffee or milk for the office at least once a month. Everyone will remember you as the person who does that little extra and it does go a long way.
- Have your co-workers back. If a co-worker needs some extra help finishing up a project, offer your help. You will likely get the same help in return. Don’t get taken advantage of though and be sure to make sure your favors are returned.
- Compliment co-workers or ask them what they are working on. No one gets told enough they are doing a good job. Most hardly get any recognition for their work. Why should the boss be the only one to do it? Compliment someone on their work or try to understand what someone else is working on – especially if they are in a different department than you. They probably won’t mind spending a few minutes to take a breather and talk to you. You also might learn something new.
As an additional piece of advice not in the list: make sure you DO NOT get ahead by throwing others under the bus or backstabbing by being a sycophant or brown nosing everyone who you think can do something for you. You may get what you want, but you will end up with a lot of people that dislike or even hate you.
Honestly, you might not care, but the power means nothing if no one has any respect for you. There are plenty of bosses who have power, are feared, and feel as if they are in control, and this is a specific leadership style that can work in certain situations, but it is hardly the best, and it is not the best leadership style to use in the workplace. Those who work for you, under you, and with you, will not respect you and the casual and professional relationship will suffer, as will the business. I had worked for a boss who tried to get me to spill the gossip on everyone. He wanted me to be the spy of the office and report back to him with anything and everything I heard, yet still do all the endless tasks he had for me. I did not bother to report back anything because I knew it would not lead to any raise. It would only make my co-workers think I was a snitch and also the fact was that I respected my co-workers and they respected me. So the boss had to go around the office and get his own gossip elsewhere.
This also relates to money and a pay raise as well. If you were the only one to get a higher position, a raise, because you threw everyone else under the bus, than you may be able to pay all your bills and get all the things you want, but unless you’re sharing the success with others, and having others share their success with you, you will find that the work atmosphere is not as great or fun as it could be.
As long as you be yourself and are courteous and friendly with others, you should have no problems. Remember that co-workers are like your second family, but there may be some who will try to stab you in the back, so be careful and wary. Feel your co-workers out and figure out who you can trust. You spend a good majority of your life in the workplace, so you may as well try to develop friendly relationships and get along with everyone.