Feeling excluded is pretty terrible.
That goes double for feeling isolated at work. Loneliness in the office can impact everything from our work performance to our professional development.
If you’re feeling this way, it’s important to figure out why you’re not meshing with your co-workers. Are you just in a bad environment? Or could you start doing things differently?
Below are eight possible reasons your co-workers are hanging out without you:
1. It’s simple oversight
Jason Hanold, the founder of executive and board search firm Hanold Associates, tells Business Insider that there’s rarely ever any serious cause for concern when you don’t get invited to hang out.
“Sometimes it’s a simple oversight; a couple people started hanging out, and then individuals joined in without a broad invitation,” he says.
“In this scenario, extend yourself, be willing to be vulnerable, and express an interest in joining in next time,” he suggests. “Usually this is all it takes for inclusion.”
2. There are social boundaries at play
Most of the time, Hanold says you’ve just got to take the time to get to know people. In other cases, obvious dynamics might be at play.
“Are they all single and you are married with five kids? They may not even think about asking you out but still think highly of you,” Hanold says. “If you are the boss or team leader, respect that social boundary.”
3. Your co-workers don’t like you
Of course, there are other reasons you’re not getting invited that should worry you.
The worst case scenario is that your co-workers don’t want to hang out with you because they don’t like you.
If you feel like you’re being ostracised and avoided rather than simply forgotten, it’s probably time to reflect on your own behaviour in the office.
Have you done anything to alienate people? If the answer’s yes, it’s probably more important to work on yourself a bit before attempting to branch out to others.
4. You’re coming across as desperate
Befriending people can be complicated: You don’t want to come off as too uninterested. But at the same time, you don’t want to appear too desperate.
It’s important that you don’t come on too strong. Don’t blast people with social media requests; don’t get wild at the office holiday party; and don’t invite yourself to activities without asking, Hanold says.
Basically, be nice, don’t force things, and stay open-minded. Things usually work themselves out.
5. Your colleagues are cliquey
Office cliques happen, and you shouldn’t spend too much time attempting to insinuate yourself into a group that simply isn’t interested in including you. That’ll just make you look desperate.
“If the group appears to have established walls around their circle, it’s time to look to find another social outlet, create your own relationships, and follow your passion,” Hanold says. “It’s highly unlikely you would find deep enjoyment and an intrinsically rewarding experience from hanging out with a group that did not organically grow without you as a part of it.”
6. You’re giving off a cold aura
Hanold says that it’s important to consider how you come across in the office. It’s possible that your vibe is a bit intense or intimidating. It’s not that people don’t like you — they just assume you’re not interested in hanging out.
“Are you ‘all business’ at work and share very little of yourself personally? You may be subconsciously closing social doors,” Hanold says. “Remember, the doors to your head and heart open outwards; you have to let others in before they invite you out. People trust who they know, and maybe you haven’t shared much about yourself for others to get to know you.”
Some people prefer to keep things strictly professional in the office, and that’s fine. But if you’re upset about feeling left out, maybe it’s time to tweak your image.
7. Your office is not a social environment
When it comes to feeling lonely in the office, it’s actually possible that it’s really not you — or even your co-workers. Perhaps you work at a company that just has a rather anti-social climate. For some companies, encouraging positive relationships between employees simply isn’t a major priority. If that’s the case, it’s even possible that some of your colleagues feel the same way as you do.
8. There’s some workplace drama going on that you’re not aware of
On the other hand, maybe you work in an office that’s practically drowning in scandal and conflict. If you feel excluded in such a drama-prone environment, it’s possible that the constant gossiping and fighting is to blame. Maybe you’ve been included in the latest rumour. Or, if you’re the sort who swerves away from drama, perhaps avoiding the rumour mill is causing others to stay away from you, in turn.
If this sounds like your workplace, you’re probably better off not hanging out with your colleagues. That’ll just end up ensnaring you in all the unprofessional drama.
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