Many of us spend at least 40 hours in the office each week. Some of us spend even more. Even though we are constantly surrounded by the same people, or perhaps because of it, many of us struggle to meet people at our jobs. Knowing that you have to see the same people everyday can make you anxious about making a bad impression. It becomes easier to focus on work. The more you avoid opportunities to meet new people, the more you worry about not fitting in if you do try. Work can become a place where you feel isolated and lonely.
If you’re socially anxious, it can be tough to feel like you’re the only one who doesn’t fit in at work. While others naturally share stories at happy hours and tell jokes at team lunches, you find it difficult to even introduce yourself. If you do end up at work events, you hope that the focus doesn’t turn to you. Social anxiety can also make it difficult to meet new people at work if there are new folks at the company or you’re new yourself. You worry you’ll seem annoying if you give advice or ask questions. Instead you hang back and try to get the hang of things on your own, which can cause you to lose valuable working time. Social anxiety about meeting new people at work can be detrimental to your work happiness. Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re looking to meet someone new at work:
- Kindness is appreciated. When there are new folks in the office, you might worry that you’re bothering them by being the 5th person to introduce yourself. Remember, when people are new, they are probably also worrying about meeting new people. Others will be grateful for your warm, welcoming personality. Speaking of personality…
- Professionalism and personality can mix. You have likely created a work persona who is professional, which is great. You should be professional at work. That said, you shouldn’t sacrifice your personality completely. If you’re feeling anxious about how others will see you if you let the professional guard down a bit, remember that while people value your work ethic, they also will feel more comfortable with you if you are able to be more personable.
- Questions are important and helpful. If you’re at a new job, you might feel anxious about asking too many questions. You’ve already asked Susan about how to connect to the printer and where to find Conference Room C, so you worry that she’ll feel annoyed when you ask her what the Wi-Fi password is. Even though you need internet to work, your anxiety holds you back from asking. Instead of guessing, remember that when you’re new to the office, there are many things you don’t know. People will expect you to have a lot of questions and they will want to help you.
- Professional relationships can grow gradually to friendships. Meeting new people at work can be scary because you’re worried about seeming cool and funny. Instead of worrying about impressing your coworkers with what you did over the weekend, it might be easier to show that you can be a reliable colleague first. Then, as you develop a professional relationship, it could feel more natural to get to know them better as a friend.
- Small interactions come first. If the thought of getting trapped at a team lunch or a 1:1 coffee makes you feel nervous, remember that you don’t have to start there. You can start with, “Good morning!” and move to short conversations about the weekend before heading into things that make you feel more anxious.
- Your team hired you. Often people feel something akin to an imposter syndrome when they start a new job. You might think that the people around you think too highly of you, which causes you to worry about proving them wrong. Remind yourself that your team asked you to join because of the skills you bring to role. Even if your qualifications don’t match the job description perfectly, your colleagues are excited to see what you can bring with your experience!
Having social anxiety about meeting new people can make you leave your charismatic, personable self at home. Although you’re excited to get to know your coworkers better, you find yourself choosing to work through lunch and go straight home to avoid interactions. Don’t let your social anxiety keep you from finding camaraderie at work. Learn more about how Joyable’s online program can help you use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques to meet more people at work.