How to Get Past “Fitting In” at Work

Many career advice columns will tell you how important it is to stand out at work. But what if all you want to do is fit in?

There’s nothing like feeling you belong, especially at the place where you spend most of your time. Instead of standing out at work, you want to be one of the gang. When you walk into the staff kitchen on Monday morning, you want people to excitedly greet you. You want to gab with your colleagues while sipping your coffee. You want to be invited to grab lunch with a group of work friends every Wednesday. You want to feel the connection, confidence and motivation that comes from having a peer group you can relate to and rely on at work. But what if that isn’t coming naturally? What if things just aren’t clicking with your colleagues and you feel more and more like an outsider at work?

Fitting in isn’t always easy, and building strong, friendly connections with your colleagues can take time. And, sometimes, despite your best efforts, you just might not click with the people around you at work at all. It happens! So what can you do about it?

Well, you can always try to make yourself fit in, attempting to force those strong bonds to happen. You can drag yourself to activities that don’t interest you, engage in conversations on topics that don’t light you up, tone down certain parts of who you are, and be something you’re not. While these tactics might work in the short-term, trying to be someone else will leave you stressed, drained, and dissatisfied.

The better way to do it? Letting go of the need to fit in at work at all.

Although it’s nice to have friends at work, it’s certainly not essential. What’s more important is whether you are comfortable with who you are and whether you value yourself. Do you feel good about the person you are? Are you effective in your role at work? Are you delivering valuable results for your company? Do people generally listen to your ideas? Are you treated with respect? Are you learning from the people around you, even if you’re not socializing with them? Are you helping your colleagues wherever and whenever you can? If the answer to most of these question is yes, you’re doing well and you are on the right track to forming healthy and productive working relationships with those around you.

Still feeling lonely at work? Consider helping other people feel like they belong. Instead of waiting for someone to invite you, be the one to do the inviting. See a colleague who looks out of place? Why not say hello, have a quick chat, or invite them to join you for a virtual coffee or lunch break? Small exchanges can lead to meaningful connections. Putting yourself out there—even just a little bit—can open many doors and you may find that you do, indeed, belong.

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