The feeling of being excluded can affect us more than we expect. As much as we may want to deny or downplay the pain of exclusion, it can knock your self-esteem and affect your relationships with the people around you. This feeling can sometimes arise in the workplace, where productivity is often tied to how well we socialize with colleagues, even if they aren’t friends outside of the office.
When coworkers organize an event or activity but leave you off the guest list, it’s natural for hurt feelings and anxiety to arise. You can’t change the actions of others, but there are things you can do to manage the situation and your own FOMO.
Here are some tips and tactics to help you work through these feelings of being left out, whether the exclusion is accidental or intentional.
Before getting too upset, take a beat and consider the circumstance. Workplace ostracism happens, but it can be unintentional. Often, the exclusion is accidental or based in affinity bias — the tendency to congregate with people like ourselves — may be in play. Other times, the group already had a pre-existing commitment or live close enough to each other that they carpool together, for example.
There are many reasons as to why a group is together without you, especially if this is the first time you’re experiencing this. If this is a recurring situation, then maybe it’s time to talk to your coworkers. Remember that you have to work with your colleagues every day, so a tactful approach is your best ally and it’s important to process your emotions before you begin the conversation.
Birthday and holiday gatherings are just two reasons to party at the office, many of which turn into post-work happy hours or celebratory dinners. Many workplaces these days have social coordinators to plan these types of events. To involve yourself more in the social goings-on in the office, consider joining this group to get closer to your coworkers and become more proactive with your social schedule.
Some coworker activities occur after hours, so if you want to become closer to your colleagues, get acquainted with a new coworker over lunch or coffee. If you’re newer to the office, you may not immediately be in the know about all of the unofficial office activities. Often things like happy hours, lunch runs, and the like are traditions that don’t require an invite anymore — your coworkers just know to go. In these situations, speaking one-on-one with a colleague to establish a closer relationship can also expose you to these office traditions and outings that didn’t make the official orientation docket.
Although social connections are important, the first goal in a workplace is finding people who will help you do your job more efficiently and effectively. Some of the best friendships at work arise because the individuals work well together or spend a lot of time working on similar projects. New friends are always welcome, but in the workplace, focus your attention on connecting with supportive colleagues. More personal friendships will likely fall into place.
If you’ve considered all your options and still feel that you’re being excluded from workplace conversations or activities, speak to a trusted coworker or HR representative and share your concerns. Be sure to share your feelings clearly, without placing blame. Simply explain that you’d like to be more involved and would like to attend the next gathering. Be specific about the exclusionary behavior so your coworkers know exactly what actions impacted you and can work to not make the same mistakes in the future.
While it may be difficult, do your best to center yourself in the conversation, not the exclusionary coworkers. Instead of naming and blaming those who aren’t bringing you into the social fold, focus on how you feel isolated and want to be more involved. As we mentioned before, sometimes people don’t know they’re acting exclusively until the behavior is brought to their attention.
Feeling left out is a very lonely experience. However, advocating for yourself in a healthy and honest way can ensure your feelings are heard. You don’t have to be friends with your coworkers, but everyone in the office must treat each other with respect.
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