You’ve just relocated to a new city and started a new job there in a small company where everyone has worked together for years. You’re feeling a little like a party-crasher and having a difficult time fitting in. Your job is not the problem; it’s your co-workers. It feels like they are shutting you out. You are lonely and a bit sad.
Don’t misinterpret the group’s hesitation to welcome you with open arms or take it personally.
Nothing feels worse than having your most important animal instinct denied: the need to group and belong. Every social mammal on the planet, if they are to survive, finds a home in a group of some sort; the group is their bedrock and their security. Lions have their pride, antelope, horses and cows their herd, dogs their pack and humans their family or group of trusted friends. In this case, however, remember that you are walking into an established group, whose initial instinct is to distrust outsiders in order to defend and protect their precious “tribe.” It’s not personal. As it was for our ancient ancestors, the instinct to preserve and protect the group is strong and it runs deep. Those in your new office feel the need to protect their group just as you have a need to belong to it.
Don’t misinterpret the group’s hesitation to welcome you with open arms or take it personally. If you do, you’ll be tempted to isolate yourself and avoid your new peers because you feel disliked. Remember, integration into a group takes time. After all, to know you is to love you, right?
Obviously, pouting to your friends or your boss that nobody likes you and developing a resentful chip on your shoulder is not the way, either. Sometimes acting like a victim turns you into one. Those that seem to have a chip on their shoulder are often avoided intentionally, in an ironic self-fulfilling prophecy.
Integrate the animal way. Believe it or not, the “animal way” of being accepted into any group is being friendly, patient, and easy-to-get-along-with. It sounds too simple, but savvy animals foster friendships and intentionally make themselves predictable allies. Newcomers to an animal grouping that are pleasant and cooperative are generally accepted into the fold. That’s the way it has worked for centuries with animals, and I’ve seen it work for the human animal, too. Here are three nature-savvy tips to help fit in more quickly with your new group:
- Study your new co-workers and notice what they have in common. Groups attract and accept others with characteristics similar to their own because of our universal Similarity Attraction Do the women dress in a certain style? Does the staff seem to watch the same shows, see the same movies, like the same restaurants? Try dressing in a similar way, bring yourself up to speed on their favorite shows and movies so you can be conversant about them. Tap into the Grouping and Similarity Attraction instincts of your new workplace, and above all, be friendly.
- Earn trust by laying low at first. (No one trusts a kiss-up or a show-off.) Be sure to show up on time for every meeting and contribute in small ways but otherwise go about your business quietly. By doing this you begin to demonstrate that you will be an ally and an asset to the group. Offer to help when appropriate and volunteer for the jobs no one else wants to do.
- If you need help from a co-worker, ask for advice rather than a physical effort. By doing this, you’ll implicitly show that you respect their time as well as their expertise. When you see a co-worker that needs help, offer it before you are asked by rolling up your sleeves and physically pitching in. Say good things about other people and never complain. You will become known as someone with a positive attitude. Positive people are easy to trust. Friendships also develop in positivity and trust, so a positive attitude can open the door to good connections at work. As time goes on, you may benefit from those connections by getting more of what you want from those that like and trust you.
- Include others. When you do, they are more likely to include you. It might be less obvious, but although you are the “new” kid on the block, there may be others in the organization that have been there longer but feel like “outsiders” as well. You’ll notice them if you pay attention. Maybe it’s the person in shipping who always eats lunch alone. Or the one in accounting who always stands at the edge of the group. Say something nice. Make them feel accepted and connected to a larger group than before– even if it’s only larger by one. This selfless act of kindness will do more to prove to the group that you are genuine and trustworthy than anything else. It can quickly pave the way for your inclusion into the larger group.
As always, taking our cues from Mother Nature can be a way to help us live more harmonious lives with each other, whether it be at home or at work. Give it a try, and check out my other life tips at www.camillagraynelson.com.