Lonely at Work / by Anne Kreamer

Dear Anne,

I've been working at an office for a year now, and haven't made any close connections with my coworkers. It feels a little bit like I've passed the point of no return -- how do I reopen the possibility of friendship?



Dear Margaret:

Your question resonates deeply with me.   It is so hard to charge into a new working environment and establish relationships with people who may have worked in the company for a long time.  Particularly if you’re younger than many of the other workers who may have families to which they dash home every day.  And now that you’ve been at your company for a while, any effort you make to reach out to your colleagues may feel awkward and forced.  And if you’re shy, it’s a double-whammy.

But there are a few things you could try.  First, as painful as it may feel, I’d ask the person or two you feel closest to join you for a drink one night.  Generally people relax more when they’re away from work.  Find someplace near the office that’s doing something fun – mixing new cocktails, having a poetry reading or trivia game, anything that gives you a pretext for the invitation.  And if they say no the first time, try a second time.

If you’re a cook, you might try baking cookies to bring in some day – don’t make it seem like you did it just for the office, so as not to feel too goody-goody, maybe say you something had a pot-luck dinner party the night before and had some leftovers that were terrific and you thought your colleagues might like them.  Or you could notice a fellow worker likes a particular kind of clothing and note a nearby sale and suggest that you could stop by together.

There’s also the possibility that you give off the kind of laid-back, don’t-need-anything kind of vibe that has communicated to your fellow workers that you don’t really want friendships.  And given that you’ve felt a bit isolated you might have reinforced that perception in a stiff-upper-lip way.  If you think that might be the case, try and loosen up a bit and seem a bit more outgoing.

And if all else fails, and the cultural norm of the company is unfriendly and if you really like friendly environments, begin looking for a new place to work.


Please send your questions to askanne@annekreamer.com.