I’m having a hard time getting to know my co-workers. They all have known each other for a long time and it’s hard to feel included in casual conversations. How do I get to know them better? – Mona in Tuscaloosa, AL
TINA: Mona, this used to be very difficult for me. I felt that my personal life was personal and my business life was business. I didn’t know how to engage the two. Trust is the first step. Remember, it’s just a conversation, it’s just coffee, it’s just drinks…it’s just a book club, it’s just sharing information or finding common ground. Particularly when we are entering a new work environment, it can be daunting to get to know the dynamics.
I have found that it is easier to watch the interactions among my co-workers. It helps to get a sense of their personalities and you may find yourself gravitating to one or two at first. A simple hello in the morning, easy questions about what project they are working on. Monday mornings and Friday afternoons are always great ice breakers: “How was your weekend?” or “Do have a nice weekend planned?” Rapport can be developed one question at a time. When it feels right, ask them if they would like to join you for a coffee, lunch, etc. Once that initial connection is made, it will be easier and easier to create a supportive network within your work environment that quite possibly could extend outside the workplace. One word of caution: avoid the office gossip pool! Do not limit yourself to petty chatter.
LYNN: While it can be more challenging to join an established group, time and patience will win the day. Try starting with individuals. If you are going to get coffee or lunch, ask the individuals working near you if you can pick something up for them. Better yet, ask them to join you. Ask them questions about their interests. Be genuinely curious. People love to share their passions to active listeners.
See if there are company-sponsored activities or committees you can join. Find something you like or are interested in trying. You’ll meet your co-workers in a more relaxed setting. At work, remember to be welcoming, smile, make eye contact, and ask how their day is going. As you get to know individuals, you will naturally feel more included and part of the group.
Lynn Whitbeck is the co-founder and President of Petite2Queen. She is focused on identifying and evaluating opportunities for women at work, helping them define their personal roadmap. She dedicates herself to delivering tools and insights, embracing visualization of the big picture, and identifying and implementing the minutiae of detail. Lynn aims to share lessons learned along her journey and enable positive uplift for women.