The Office Clique

30 Apr

Dear LetterBalm: I work in an office with 20 others. It’s a pretty easygoing environment, and we have a lot of fun as we work. But lately I’ve noticed that the six women in the office have begun to spend a lot more time together. They’re forming a book club, and they’re socializing away from work. This shouldn’t bother me except I’m the only woman left out! I genuinely like my co-workers and wouldn’t mind spending more time with them. But right now, I’m feeling a little insecure. How can I approach the group? What do I say?

–Alone at the Dance

In so many ways, the office is an extension of the grammar school playground or the high school cafeteria, only with paychecks. We never forget those schoolyard slights or the rigid pecking order that sometimes made our lives miserable. First, take inventory. Examine your own behavior to see if there’s anything that could alienate your co-workers and cause them to avoid your company. How’s your hygiene? Are you bossy, rude or loud? Overly critical or whiny? Do you monopolize conversations? Are you a team player? Do you miss deadlines or take credit for the work of others? Ms. L.B. realizes that it is often difficult to see one’s faults objectively. Call the friendliest member of the group at home and have a little chat. Be aware she will share your conversation with her circle. You want her to level with you:

Hi, Christine. It’s Amy. I’m sorry to call you at home, but I just need a few minutes. I’ve noticed that the women in the office are forming a book club and a power walking group and that all of you are spending more time together outside work. I’m wondering why I haven’t been included. Please don’t feel uncomfortable telling me the truth – I really want to hear it, and I won’t be mad, I promise. I just need to know. If it’s something I can fix, I’d like to be part of the group because I like you all. If not, I understand, and I won’t let it interfere with our good times at the office.

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