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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

Feeling Left Out? How to Handle FOMO in the Office

FOMO. Even if you haven’t heard of it, you’ve definitely experienced it. That sinking feeling in your stomach when you see that your friends are all Instagramming photos of their fun night out, while your only plans involve your couch and Ben and Jerry’s? Classic FOMO. It stands for “fear of missing out,” and it’s almost unavoidable in today’s connected, competitive, share-it-all-online society.

Unfortunately, FOMO can be even more painful when it strikes our professional lives. After all, while you can quell your fear of missing out socially by making new friends or finding new hobbies, you’re more or less stuck with your co-workers. The last thing that you want to do is watch from the sidelines while they get exciting opportunities, tackle the best projects, and make new connections at work.

If you’re worried that you’re being passed over for projects, excluded from meetings, or just left out of office events in general, its time to take action. We’ve created five simple steps to help you nip your FOMO in the bud.

Be Honest

Your first step in handling your FOMO should be to evaluate your skills and position. Do you really need to be included in a project that's being led by another department? Are you really being “left out,” or are you just excluded from meetings that are for more senior staffers only? Remember that in most offices, the prized projects go to those who have been around long enough to pay their dues, and that it's not particularly effective to have everyone in the office involved on every project.

So what if you’re being left out of things that you really should be involved in? Be honest with yourself and consider whether there’s anything in your behavior that’s making your co-workers hesitant to include you. For example, if you’ve seemed stressed and overwhelmed lately, your team might think they’re doing you a favor by not asking you to help on a project. If you spend lunches eating at your desk instead of socializing in the break room, your office mates might not think to include you when they’re putting together a new committee. Maybe it’s something as simple as the fact that you’re the new girl, and no one feels like they know you well enough to ask for your assistance.

Be Engaged

Once you’ve identified the reasons you’re being left out, it’s time to act. One of the best ways you can do this is to spend more time with your co-workers. Remember, the better you know your office mates—and the better they know your work—the easier it will be to ask to be included on projects. Make the extra effort to talk to people about their assignments, eat lunch with the rest of the crew, and work especially hard on the teams you're involved on. When the talk inevitably turns to that charity committee that you’re interested in being part of, volunteer to help.

Better yet, offer to take on a specific task. This shows your co-workers that you’re serious about helping out—and that you have something to bring to the table. “Hey, I’d love to help with the new advertising plan. If you’d like, I can bring an outline of something similar we did last year,” is much harder to forget then just a casual “Hey, email me if there’s any way that I can help with that advertising plan.”

Be Indispensable

Want to know the best way to get included in more meetings and projects—especially if you’re new on the team? Make sure that you have something valuable to contribute. This could be anything from a specific skill (are you a PowerPoint genius or a whiz at creating easy-to-use spreadsheets?) to a willingness to take detailed notes to a knack for thinking out of the box. Figure out what you can bring to the table, and then let your talents shine. Once your co-workers see how awesome you are, they’ll be all but begging for you to help on future projects.

Be Persistent

If you’ve tried these tactics a few times and you still feel like you’re being passed over for workplace opportunities, it might be time to approach your boss. He or she can help you take on new projects or make sure that you’re included in meetings and committees—or, on the flip side, explain why you’re not being included on certain projects (i.e., maybe he doesn’t want everyone on his team working on the charity event or doesn’t think it’s necessary for you to be spending your time on the social media campaign when someone else has it covered).

Of course, before you go to your boss with a request like this, make sure that you’re caught up on your work and excelling at your job. The last thing you want to do is volunteer for more responsibility when your current projects are falling through the cracks.

Be Realistic

If you’re still feeling like you’re on the outside looking in, it might be time to take a good hard look at your FOMO. Have you let it get out of control? After all, no one can be a part of every committee and invited to every single event.

If you notice that, on the whole, you’re a part of the office dynamic, getting new opportunities, and have a full load of work on your plate, let the occasional missed opportunity slide. While worrying about what you’re not doing, you might be neglecting the work you should be tackling.

Photo of office workers courtesy of Shutterstock.