Ask The Insider columnist Ashley Lutz answers all your work-related questions, including the awkward, sensitive, and real-world ones. Have a question? Email [email protected]
I’ve been working at a clothing store for about six months in a department that is mostly women. At 25, I’m the youngest person by about 10 years. I started out at the job excited to befriend my coworkers, but so far it hasn’t happened. There’s a group of four women at my level who frequently go to lunch, happy hours, and dinner together, and I’m never invited. When I try to talk to them, they tend to act cold and distant.
I’m never left out of important work discussions and meetings, just social stuff. But the feeling still nags at me. I often feel discouraged at work.
How can I get my coworkers to like me?
The Odd Woman Out
The theoretical luxury of graduating from high school is entering a more inclusive world, where you don’t have to obsess about cliques. Unfortunately, that’s not always the reality.
As the new girl and by far the youngest person, you’re already at a disadvantage when it comes to being accepted socially, but I have some ideas.
You say you “try to talk” to your coworkers. Are you telling stories about yourself? Are you (inadvertently) trying to prove yourself, showing how much you know? People can sense insecurity, and most find it grating.
I would scale things back from the mission to impress and ask an open-ended question like, “How was your weekend?” If your coworkers are aloof, take the hint and don’t keep talking. Keep small talk sparse while occasionally showing interest in their lives.
It’s also possible that your bad mood at work is rubbing off on them. People can sense unhappiness in other people, and it can rub off on them. Try to stay positive and upbeat. Listen to your favourite songs before going into work or treat yourself to a latte to boost your mood.
Because you’ve hit a wall, you might also want to try some proven psychological techniques to get people to like you, as pointed out by my coworker Shana Lebowitz. These include mimicking the other person’s body language, selectively revealing your flaws, and seeing the person how they want to be seen.
I don’t think you should take this too personally either.
The first thing that jumped out at me is that you’re much younger than your coworkers. They’re probably married with kids (or at the very least, thinking about it), while you’re still at an age where going out five times a week is normal. They’re at a different place in life and might think hanging out with someone so much younger in a social setting could feel forced.
So I don’t think you should be too concerned with getting them to “like” you as a friend, considering you’re able to do your job and aren’t being overtly bullied. If this were interfering with your ability to be successful at work, I’d suggest more extreme measures.
But I get it. You’re only human, and everyone wants to be liked. Ironically, it may be that once you stop trying to get them to like you, your coworkers will open up.
Ashley Lutz is a senior editor at Business Insider answering all your questions about the workplace. Send your queries to [email protected] for publication on Business Insider. Requests for anonymity will be granted, and questions may be edited.