You are great at your job, you’ve worked hard to get there, your family couldn’t be prouder of you, it’s what you’ve always wanted to do but something still isn’t right. You head to work every day and when you are there you feel like you either stick out like a sore thumb or blend so far into the background you match the wallpaper. Many people feel different or an outsider at work, I’ve definitely felt it in the past and here are a few tips to deal with that.
Are you bringing past experiences along with you
Ask yourself is it true? Am I really being treated differently. Sometimes we can take experiences from the past, from school, home life, people we’ve dated and impose them on a situation. People remind us of people that have been mean to us in the past and we can project those feelings of hurt and anger towards people simply because they may look or have similar characteristics to people we have known. Are we incorporating this outsider status simply because that’s what makes us most comfortable. That might sound a bit weird but if we are used to never being part of the cool gang there can be some sanctuary in not even trying. “They won’t like me” “I’m not like them”. I’ve seen it in the work place before and people can be painted into villains simply by not being over friendly or too busy. So put yourself out there and be friendly and professional before you make a snap judgement. You may be right about that person but you also may be wrong about them.
Do you feel a pressure to change ?
The new company you’ve joined is so trendy.. Everyone lives in shore ditch, gets their lunch from a vegan deli and all their clothes are vintage.. You squirm as you sit there with your boots meal deal in your favourite Primark Cardigan. Thoughts race through your head about how you even got to work here, and automatically you make yourself inferior and think I definitely won’t have chips for lunch tomorrow. You start then to change, the over whelming desire to fit in takes you back to your 14 year old self. You take up yoga lattes or whatever the latest exercise trend is because everyone in the office does, you go to see obscure synth bands when in your heart you’d rather be making up dance routines to Little Mix. I’ve seen strong accents melt away to almost non recognition just to fit in and get ahead. How tiring eh? Remember though love what you love and don’t feel the need to morph into someone else. You may find that people are threatened by your confidence and security with whom you are, but that only highlights their insecurity.
Is it the right company for you
Interview stage is a great time for you to really suss out a company. Look around when you are in reception, are people stressed, is it a bitchy environment, does everyone look and sound the same. What does your gut tell you. If it’s saying I feel comfortable and I like it here then brilliant but if it says this is not me then acknowledge that. I know you gotta get a job and actually for short term contracts you’ll put up with more shit but listen to your gut reactions and you can then deal accordingly. Listen to the questions that are being asked of you, and think what type of person do they mean here. Trust your initiative. I was at an interview for a company that was near a theatre rehearsal space, it was summer and the windows were open. The sounds of beautiful gospel music could be heard everywhere. My interviewer said “what a racket” I said “oh my goodness it’s the cast of kinky boots rehearsing such a good show” he looked at me, gave me a weird “oh right” and practically through his demeanour i felt judged. I didn’t get the job. In my current role which I love I was asked what tv programmes do I watch and I said amongst others rupaul’s drag race which my interviewer loved.. I felt confident to be myself. Daft examples but it is so important to feel that you can be yourself at work whoever yourself is.
Focus on your work
It can be so easy to focus on feelings of not being part of the gang that you lose sight of the fact that you are there to do a job. You’ve been hired for a reason. You are the best person for the job. If you perform well and deliver that is what is important. Cliques fall in and out of favour and it’s better to be known for your great work than being the most popular person in the office.
The advantages of being an outsider
Outsiders have empathy and see things differently from other people. They can see the bigger picture and don’t need to feel part of a group to know their self worth. You treat and see people in a more kind and empathetic way because you don’t want them to feel left out or different. That is a wonderful trait to have. It might unnerve people that you don’t look or like the same things as them or they may project stereotypes upon you.. They may see you not as an individual but as a mix of stereotypes based on your race, sexuality, disability whatever.. It continually surprises me when people categorise in this way.. Yes I’m gay but that doesn’t mean i fit into your perceptions.. Think about what positive change you can make in the company even if it’s tiny and being a supportive ear to someone that really helps.
You might want to tell the mean girls or the pretentious hipsters exactly what you think of them which may make you feel good in the short term won’t do you any good long term. Be professional, focus on your work, rise above it all. Think about all the positive things going on in your life, embrace that you are doing a good job and this is the career that you want. I remember a previous boss saying to me “those people treated you appallingly but you handled yourself with dignity” now I shouldn’t have been treated badly in the first place but the way I handled it, reflected well on me. It’s really tough but focus on you..
Make notes of bullying behaviour
If you feel people are being unfair, you are being left out, everyone is out for lunch together and you are sat in the office with a BLT then make notes of the behaviour. You might not actually be bothered but if you are make notes of bullying behaviour. Bullying doesn’t have to be just someone being mean to your face, a lot of office bullying focuses on exclusion. Makes notes of incidents and chat with someone you trust about it.
What would Beyoncé do?
This sounds strange but think of people you admire be it Oprah, Beyoncé or whoever. How would they react in your current situation . What hurdles did they get through and how did they find their inner strength.. Some of the worlds most successful people have been outsiders and have had the drive and passion to change things up.. So ask yourself “what would Beyoncé do”.