This is my first time to work, having graduated in October last year, I’ve been working as a specialist for the past five months in a good company but I don’t feel a sense of belonging to our section. I like my job but I think the people I work with, my peers, don’t show to me that they welcome me and that they like me. I’m OK in my physical appearance and I speak good English. My boss, a motherly lady, gave me an orientation and introduced me to my peers the first week on the job. Since then she has not taken steps to integrate me into her section. She is very busy attending meetings practically the whole day. Nobody talks to me. I eat alone in the pantry with no one bothering to talk to me.
On Friday evenings, every single man and woman in our department and in our office go out to have fun. I wait for someone to invite me but no one does. I am sad and lonely. I feel ashamed that no one seems to like me.
Ms. Sad and Lonely
Obviously you are an introvert and are not disposed to initiate social interactions. You are uncomfortable and feel isolated being on your own and are waiting for your peers to make the first move so that you can feel welcomed. You want to be befriended but you don’t want to initiate making friends. If you just wait for your peers to come to you or for your boss to put you in touch with others, you are going to continue feeling sad and lonely. And this will only make you feel miserable. You will also be perceived as a loner. Organizations nowadays value teamwork; they want their employees to coordinate and collaborate with one another and to network within and outside the organization for better quality of work and improved service delivery.
How about taking a proactive, rather than, a reactive stance? This means that you are the one to initiate social interactions with your co-employees.
You can start by changing the following mindsets which I can infer from your email: “People here don’t like”; “No one likes to talk to me”; “I don’t belong”; “I am sad and lonely”, etc. Change these into the following positive affirmations: “People here like me if I make myself likeable”; “I like myself and can make others like me”; “I like my job and my company and I will exert my utmost to remain here”; “I will smile and talk to people so that they can smile at and talk to me, too”.
Set as your daily objective to talk with at least two co-employees from 8 am to 5 pm every work day. You can increase the number of social interactions after a record of success. “Success” here is defined as your ability to meet your daily quota of social interactions which you initiate.
When you see people along the corridor, in the ladies room, in the pantry, etc., establish eye contact and smile at them. To the person who will sit beside you, whether male or female, young or older, initiate conversation with a “What department are you in?”; “How long have you been here?” etc. Listen with interest to the answers to your questions. Answer the questions they also ask of you about you. Do this with every person you sit with over lunch at the pantry. Each time you initiate a conversation, give yourself a “pat on your back”, which means, you smile to yourself, feel good about yourself, and say to yourself “I did it!”
Have a good working relationship with your internal customers. These are your co-employee(s) who need or wait for your output, and your boss to whom you report. To the former you can ask feedback about your work. Then ask “How do you want my work/report improved?”, then paraphrase what they say. To your boss, ask to see her before the workday ends, then ask for feedback and suggestion on how she would want you to improve your work. Share with her what your co-workers suggest, and ask for her agreement.
Use the lunch break to socialize with co employees. Don’t always stay in the pantry since traffic there is fast with fewer seats to accommodate the number who come to eat. Go to the canteen or cafeteria and sit with employees you see in your section or department. Go with your peers who take lunch outside the building. Once you start making friends, you will be invited to go out for those Friday nights out.
You may have an introverted nature but you can overcome your tendencies to behavior by behaving positively. One of the important one-liners that the famous Dale Carnegie has given is: “Like people and people will like you”. Have positive expectations of others and they will behave according to your expectations.
I suggest you also invest in a good book like Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, John Maxwell’s leadership books, Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, among others. Read them, reflect on the concepts and apply these concepts in your dealings with people. I also suggest you read the editorial pages of newspapers, listen to the news over the radio and watch TV for current events so that you will have something to talk about rather than the usual “chikahan”.
God bless you.