You’re sitting at your desk, minding your own business, and working your way through your to-do list for the day.
At the next desk over, three of your colleagues are chatting. You don’t mean to eavesdrop, but you can’t help but to overhear their conversation about something ridiculous that happened when they were all out for drinks and appetizers last night.
“Wait a minute…” you think to yourself, “They went to a happy hour last night? Why wasn’t I invited?”
It doesn’t take long for you to spiral into a total emotional frenzy. You’re convinced that your colleagues hate you and that they undoubtedly spend all of those bonding sessions gossiping about you. This is it — you need to change jobs. Actually, you might even need to change states.
First of all, I’ve been there. I know that it stings to hear that your coworkers spent time outside of the office without you, and it can quickly inspire feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.
But, here’s the thing: it happens. Much like in your personal life, you aren’t going to be included in every single outing and get-together.
Fortunately, there are some ways that you can deal with these sorts of situations — and they don’t involve packing up and moving on to another job. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Diagnose the situation.
First things first, resist the urge to panic immediately and instead see what you can figure out about this specific situation.
Was this just a one-time thing? Have you been invited to plenty of other outings, and perhaps this was some sort of happenstance encounter where they were all leaving the office at the same time and decided to head out together and unwind?
Or, do you get the impression that this is a more persistent problem and that you’re constantly and purposely being excluded?
If you fall into that first camp, there’s likely nothing you need to do (and, honestly, speaking up or assigning blame at this point will only make you look a little insecure).
However, if you think you have cause to believe that you’re intentionally being cut out of social events, moving forward with the following tips can help you forge more solid relationships with your team members.
2. Address their outings.
Let’s say that you hear them discussing a recent get-together in a place where you’re obviously within earshot — like around the break room coffee pot, for example.
The fact that you weren’t invited might inspire you to bite your tongue and slide out of there feeling totally dejected. But, why not just address the elephant in the room head-on?
No, I don’t mean that you need to do so in an accusatory way by crossing your arms and huffing, “You all hung out without me?!” Instead, chime in with something positive like, “Whoa, you all did an escape room? I’ve been meaning to check one of those out! What did you think?”
That can spark a conversation about their outing rather than leaving it as this unspoken point of contention. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to wrap up that discussion with something friendly like, “I’d love to join if you decide to do that again!”
The fact that you weren’t invited might inspire you to bite your tongue and slide out of there feeling totally dejected.
3. Set up your own social event.
Do you know one surefire way to be included in things? Plan them yourself.
If your team is about to wrap up a major project, send out an email to organize a happy hour where you can all get together and de-stress. Or, when the weather’s nice, invite everybody over to your place for a barbecue.
You can’t always expect that other people will put in the legwork for these social events and then bring you into the fold. Putting them together yourself sends the very clear message that you’re interested in hanging out with your coworkers outside of the office — especially if you’re new to your team and people don’t quite have a read on your interest in that sort of thing yet.
Plus, chances are, once they get the opportunity to know you away from the normal office environment, you’ll establish an even friendlier bond — and you’ll be invited to more things in no time.
The above steps can help you forge better friendships with your colleagues. But, what if you put them all into play and you still feel like you’re the target of unjustified rudeness? Well, that’s a sign of a toxic culture—which is a problem that’s far too large for you to fix with a few well-planned happy hours.
In those cases, it might be time to hit the road to find an opportunity and a team that’s a better fit for you.
You deserve a work environment where you feel respected and valued.
No, you’re not entitled to constant adoration and everybody wanting to hang out with you at all times. However, you do deserve a work environment where you feel respected and valued.
If you aren’t getting that — despite your thoughtful efforts — then likely no amount of complaining or initiative on your end will fix that problem. At that point, it’s time to cut your losses and move on. Trust me, you’ll be much better off for it.