Ask The Experts: How Do I Make Friends At Work?

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(FastCo. article) You’re going to spend a third of your life here, so not having any friends can make work pretty lonely.

You don’t have to go out for happy hour with the whole office every night, but having no friends at work can make the cubical farm feel pretty lonely. But making friends at work isn’t the same as making friends in college. Here’s where to start.
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Dear Experts,

I’ve been at my job for about eight months and I like most aspects of it. However, I feel like I don’t really have any friends in the office.

I’m shy initially about approaching people and asking them to lunch for instance (I fear that people will say yes just to be polite when they really don’t want to and the whole thing will be awkward). I open up once I get to know people and I’ve made good friends with colleagues at past jobs, but it’s usually been in smaller offices or because they made the first move.

In the whole time I’ve been here no one has made much of an effort to get to know me, and I feel like there are all of these little groups of friends and I’m just by myself.

What can I do?

Thanks,

K.H.

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Dear K.H.

It is hard not to have friends in the workplace. After all, you are going to spend over one third of your waking life each week at work. You don’t want to be socially isolated during that time. Indeed, studies of employee engagement demonstrate that having friends at work is one of the most significant factors that helps people to be happy at work. And the happier you are, the more productive you are.

It is too bad that the culture at your new office did not work to integrate you into the social structure. Because connections at work are so important, some companies create a “welcome wagon” in which a few people in each group take responsibility to help new employees to get connected socially. They take new people to lunch, grab a cup of coffee and suggest other options like walking or fitness groups.

Unfortunately, your workplace doesn’t have that kind of culture. And that means that you will have to overcome your natural shyness. One fear you express is that you are worried that if you invite people to lunch that they will go only out of obligation.

As it turns out, it is never a bad thing when people do the right thing for the wrong reasons. You have to get to know your co-workers in some way. And even if they only come to lunch initially because they feel like they have to, that will give them a chance to get to know you. From your note, it is clear that you have confidence in your social abilities once you have gotten to know people. So, ramp up your courage and organize a few lunches to get to know people.

In addition, find out whether there are any other social groups at work. Many workplaces do have groups that get together to play sports, watch sporting events, go to plays, do fitness activities, or read books. Sometimes, it can be easier to join one of those groups than to set up individual times for lunch or coffee. The groups are ongoing and their focus is on another activity.

You should also make an effort to have smaller social interactions at the office. Keep a smile on your face. Greet the people you work with as you pass by. Become a familiar presence. The more that you reach out in these small ways to your colleagues, the more opportunities they will have to include you in any other events they have going on.

Finally, after you develop some friendships in the office, start your own welcome wagon. Now that you know that your workplace can be hard for new people to enter, make an effort to help other new employees to get connected to the group socially. Taking on that role also ensures that you will have a continual supply of potential new friends in the workplace.

Readers, do any of you have other suggestions for connecting with colleagues at work? …. By Art Markman

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