How to Break Into an Office Clique

In order to make your time at the office more enjoyable, it’s a good idea to get to know teammates personally.  However, this can be intimidating and even somewhat difficult if your office is full of cliques.  It’s possible that a group of your coworkers will go out to happy hour and leave you sitting in your office feeling like the new kid in third grade all over again.  You might feel that as a manager, you should be over it, yet it still bothers you.

The One-on-One Approach

The only way to break through work social groups is by one person at a time. Zero in on the most approachable person in the group, find out what interests him, and then weave these things into a conversation. For example, if you see that your next-door neighbor has Red Sox ticket stubs on his bulletin board, you might ask him if he caught the game last night.

People love to talk about themselves, so encourage potential friends to tell you about their lives. Listen to what they say, and talk about yourself only if asked. Doing someone a favor is also a good friend-making strategy. Suppose one of your teammates is frantically looking for a last-minute pet sitter while she goes out of town on business. If you live in her neighborhood, graciously offer to feed her cats. Your teammate won’t forget it and will be likely to view you favorably in the future.

If Efforts Fall on Deaf Ears

Sometimes team members will be nonresponsive to your gestures of friendship. Don’t take it personally. Your organization’s culture might encourage people to keep to themselves, or you and your coworkers might not have much in common. If this is the case, expand your search to the rest of the company.  Maybe you could get to know the woman you interface with in accounting a little better. What about that guy who always rides the elevator with you in the morning?  And don’t forget about participating in work-related extracurriculars, like volunteer initiatives or the softball team.  These activities provide a terrific opportunity to meet friendly people you wouldn’t run into otherwise.

Alexandra Levit

Alexandra Levit’s goal is to help people find meaningful jobs - quickly and simply - and to succeed beyond measure once they get there. Follow her @alevit.

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