We spend an awful lot of our time there, so it’s important to feel you fit in at work. Everyone has a part to play in ensuring members of a team feel like they fit in, and that they are working together well.
It starts with the individual – when you arrive at a new job, switch to a new role or department, or find yourself working with new colleagues, it’s ultimately your responsibility to try to make an effort to start fitting in.
It might not be easy. You may feel a little shy, or a little awkward that everyone else knows one another well while you’re still finding your feet. Or you may feel there’s some other kind of inclusivity issue – maybe there’s something of a language barrier, or a company culture you’re not familiar with. But in order that your time at work is happy, successful and productive, you must make every effort you can to fit in.
On the other hand, when you’re the one welcoming new colleagues or bringing a team together for the first time, it’s to the benefit of everyone if you can help newcomers settle and fit into their new roles.
The benefits of making sure everyone, including you, are fitting into their job include:
If it feels like you’re struggling to build relationships with your colleagues and need to make extra effort, start with simple things like making sure you greet them with a cheery Good Morning when you arrive, or ask if you can get anyone a cup of coffee.
Maybe try to engage with one person, to begin with. Invite someone to have lunch with you or meet outside work for a drink, to strengthen those individual connections. It could be that the people you don’t feel you connect with are also struggling to make that first approach. You’ll often find that this one simple step leads to an easier atmosphere and that more people gradually move into your ‘circle’.
Suggesting a group activity – a night out for a meal, a quiz night or just drinks in the pub - can help bring everyone together. Socialising in a relaxed atmosphere helps people open up and get to know their colleagues a little bit better.
In the workplace, and if you can, try to offer to help colleagues out if they’re particularly busy or struggling with a task. It doesn’t mean you have to neglect your own duties, but if you’ve got the capacity, it can be a real boost to someone’s day if there’s someone to take some of the load off them.
But what happens when, despite your efforts, you simply don’t feel you fit in? It’s important to take stock and think seriously about the ways in which you feel like you’re not fitting in. Is there someone, or a group of colleagues, who make you feel excluded?
If you feel that’s for a specific reason – language or cultural difficulties, or a disability, for instance – speak to HR about your concerns. Your colleagues or managers may not be aware of their actions and how they make you feel, or they may simply need to be reminded about the importance of ensuring everyone is made to feel they belong.
Of course, it may simply be the case that the job is not fulfilling your expectations or career plans, in which case you may well feel you don’t fit in. If you aren’t connecting with the tasks and projects you’re working on, then maybe you need to accept that it’s not the right job for you and consider looking for new opportunities.
We mustn’t underestimate the importance of why it is important to fit in at work. Careful assessment may well find a solution – so think about, and discuss with your manager if you can, what’s working and what’s not working and try to find solutions to issues that are affecting the way you do your job.
It takes effort to create a happy and inclusive environment. We spend a large proportion of our days with our work colleagues, so it makes sense that it’s far better if everyone fits in.
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