Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

What to Do When You're Not Fitting in With Your Co-workers

people in office
PeopleImages/Getty Images

For the most part, your job is great. Your manager is supportive and encouraging. Your work is challenging—in a good way. Your voice is heard, you’re inspired by the company mission, and the culture promotes awesome work-life balance.

There’s only one complaint you have: For one reason or another, you aren’t really meshing with your co-workers.

Your attempts to join in on conversations in the break room usually end in crickets or awkward pauses. While everybody else heads out for a happy hour, you decide to either stay back at the office or skip out and head home. You feel totally out of the loop on other people’s celebrations and personal milestones.

While getting along with your colleagues definitely isn’t the be-all and end-all of career happiness, there’s no denying that it helps. But, if you’re struggling to form friendships with the people you work with, it’s easy to get discouraged.

Rather than writing the whole thing off as a waste (or jumping to conclusions and putting in your two weeks notice!) give these steps a try to strengthen the relationships between you and your co-workers.

1. Analyze the Problem

First things first, it’s time to turn a magnifying glass on the situation in attempts to determine why you’re struggling to connect.

Be honest with yourself—have you really put yourself out there? Have you attended events and social gatherings? Have you attempted to engage in friendly conversations? Or, are you keeping to yourself and silently wondering why people aren’t leaping at the chance to get to know you?

If you feel like you've been nothing but warm and friendly, it's likely that the issue is bigger than you—in which case you have a few options. If you enjoy everything about your job and the fact that your co-workers are a little cold is just a minor flaw in an otherwise ideal situation, then you can spend time investing in relationships outside of the office.

On the other hand, if friendships at work are important to you or you feel like you're stuck in a toxic culture, you might want to start looking for a team (or even work environment) that's a better fit for you.

Or, if you realize you haven't been as proactive as you could be in getting to know your co-workers better, it might be time to step up your game and interact a little more. Which brings us to the next tips...

2. Be Authentic

We’ve all fallen into this trap more than we care to admit: We adjust aspects of our personality in order to better fit in with a group of people. It often feels easier to be inauthentic than unlikable.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with opening yourself up to new interests or ways of thinking (in fact, that’s encouraged!). However, it’s always better to resist the temptation to shift the entire foundation of who you are in order to make your work life easier.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to be genuine while also forging better bonds with your colleagues. Maybe you’re passionate about workplace diversity and want to head up an office committee. Or, instead of jumping in on existing conversations at lunch, you’re going to start one yourself about a recent trip you took or a thought-provoking article you just read.

Using your own passions and experiences to fuel different discussions and opportunities gives you and your co-workers the chance to uncover any shared one interests—while being genuine and honest about the things you hold dear.

3. Broaden Your Horizons

Ask yourself this: Do you really not fit in with anyone in the office? Or, are you just assuming that simply because you didn't immediately mesh with one specific group of people?

There's nothing wrong with getting out of your comfort zone and interacting with some new people at work—in fact, it's encouraged!

Sit with a new group over lunch in the break room. Join a cross-functional team to not only meet some more of your colleagues, but also to learn about other aspects of the business. Or, switch your goal from forming bonds with absolutely everybody, and instead try to find one person that you really connect with.

Office environments can easily become filled with cliques. And, while continuing to hang around the same group of people might feel safe, it's hardly inclusive. So, get out there and interact with some different colleagues. You might be surprised by the friendships you form!

4. Rise Above

Unfortunately, sometimes no matter how you try, not everybody will be receptive to your efforts to be friendly. It can be disheartening—but, don’t let it get you down too much.

The most important thing you need to remember here? You should still be the very best version of yourself. Even if your workplace feels anything but inclusive and welcoming, it’s on you to continue to bring your empathetic and positive attitude to the office day in and day out.

No, maybe you won’t forge lifelong friendships in the office—and, if you’re happy with every other aspect of your career, maybe you’ll determine that you’re just fine with that! But, as always, that age-old advice of treating others the way you’d like to be treated is crucial. Implement that and—even if you’re not everybody’s best friend—you’re sure to at least be respected.

For some of us, fitting in well with our co-workers is imperative. But, for others, the actual work is far more important than who they do it with.

Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, attempting to improve the relationships you share with your colleagues is never a bad thing.

Even if you can’t dramatically shift the atmosphere of your workplace or how your team members interact with you, these tips will help you rest assured that you’re always your best and most inclusive self in the office.