ask the readers: socializing in a new job

It’s been a while since we’ve done an “ask the readers” post — where you give the advice and I just lounge on my couch doing nothing– so here’s one to tackle. A reader writes:

I left my job of six years recently and began working at Dream Job. At my old job, it was fairly easy to strike up a conversation and socialize with co-workers because we had a small kitchen area where we all had our lunches. The previous job before that required us to work late nights and staff often went together to have dinner around midnight, then returned to work; so it was also easy to meet during meals (plus, it was a fairly casual place).

In my new job, I work in a department where there are only two of us. Our department shares a number of tasks and space with another, much larger department. I’ll have to work with some of the folks from the other department and I am wondering about socializing and meeting people in this new place. There is no kitchen area where people eat. Most people have their lunches at their desk or step out of the office. Thus, even though I’ve been introduced to the people in the other department, the nature of the space arrangement makes it hard to talk to people unless you poke your head into an office. The organization as a whole is also a lot bigger than my previous places of employment.

I’m naturally shy, but I have learned through the years that it is best to be friendly and to a certain extent socialize with co-workers (not only for future references and networking, but because it helps knowing the people you are expected to work with). Though I’m not expecting to have drinks with my co-workers each Friday, I don’t want to be seen as anti-social.

I’ll also add the other person in my department has been very friendly and we’ve gone to lunch together twice. It’s meeting the rest of the folks I’ll be having contact with which is nagging me right now.

I’ve been thinking of buying a box of donuts and bringing it on a Monday and telling people to come to my office for them, but I don’t know if that’s a good strategy (I don’t want to commit a social faux pas!). Are there any techniques you would recommend for socializing?

What do you all say?

{ 69 comments… read them below }

  1. Laura*

    A lot of larger companies have a “social committee” or “welcome committee”. Sometimes it is through HR, but it usually has a few members from other departments. I always joined that committee and not only did it help me get to know everyone else, I got to plan events to make sure I got to meet others.

  2. Anonymous*

    I recommend e-mailing others once you’ve been casually introduced and ask them to meet for lunch – that can be to get to know them better and also learn about what they do for the company. Most people are friendly and like to talk about themselves, I’ve taken this approach and am new at my job (my fifth week). I’m also am intern, which is temporary. From my experience, people have been very nice an of you act interested and want to genuinely get to know them, they shouldn’t mind meeting.
    If there’s someone you respect, get a mentor at your company. It’s a great way for someone who has been with the company longer to help you but may teach you things about the company or industry you didn’t know before.
    Another idea is to ask around the office on professional organizations co-workers are involved in and see about attending a function with them.
    Lastly, if the gym is a large part of co-workers’ lives, see of there are classes done before work in your area or one a co-worker teaches at.

    1. anon*

      Unless a group of CWs go to the gym together, I would not try to tag along for someone’s gym time. Some people like to treat their gym time as private/me time, and others are not interested in running into CWs while sweaty and wearing ratty gym clothes.

  3. BCW*

    Maybe next time you go out for lunch with the other person in your department you can ask them to invite a few other people from other departments that you haven’t gotten a chance to know. That way its not you doing the inviting, but you can still get to know people.

    1. Jamie*

      Just remember that there are lovely people out there who make excellent co-workers even if they politely decline all lunch invitations.

      I think I’m missing something, but if these are the people you’re expected to work with won’t relationships develop organically as you work together?

      There also tends to be a different dynamic when people work nights for some reason. Getting together to grab dinner at midnight will always be different than the same at noon. Maybe it’s because options are more limited. You can’t really run errands or return personal calls on your lunch hour if that’s the middle of the night – and so unless you want to be alone your choice of companions is the small subset of people on your shift.

      1. jmkenrick*

        I agree that asking coworkers out to lunch might be a bit much. One of my coworkers, when he started, scheduled brief 20-minute meetings with a bunch of us, so he could ask us about what we did, how we generally felt about working together, what we expected from him.

        That seemed to work really well for him.

        1. Ellen M.*


          And this may be a workplace very different from your last one, where people just don’t socialize as much. And not everyone *wants* to socialize very much at work, have lunch with the bunch every day, etc.

        2. AD*

          Depending on your workplace, I think “wanna grab coffee?” is also appropriate here.

          1. B*

            This is a great idea! Going to lunch can be an intimidating amount of time to keep a conversation going for some people. But coffee is more casual and brief. And often (at least at my company) people love an excuse to leave their desk and get out of the office for a short coffee break. Since coffee is associated with increased productivity, people don’t frown on it like cigarette breaks.

  4. Another Jamie*

    I don’t think donuts are ever a faux-pax. :D Just as long as you don’t pressure people who politely decline to eat one.

    1. Jamie*

      I agree with another Jamie – and not just because my boss left a coconut donut on my desk this Saturday.

      Apparently Jamies as a collective are pro-donut!

      I have no idea if this would work or not, because I can’t imagine a question I am less equipped to answer than how to be more social.

      1. And Jamie Makes Three*

        I <3 donuts too, just saying. Especially fun ones. :D

        If you don't mind sending an email to the little department, you could say something like "I brought donuts! Come and get them!" and then sort of lurk around nearby and munch if you see people coming to get them. Then they're a captive audience… :D

        My coworkers do this too, which is nice… I work in a library but away from the main group of librarians and staff, so everyone comes out of the woodwork when the call of "bagels!" or "donuts!" goes out.

    2. mh_76*

      mmm donuts…though I’m not a fan of coconut flakes… but if you buy donuts, be careful that you don’t create the expectation that you’ll buy donuts every Monday morning… most workplaces will understand that it’s a one-off or occasional gesture of kindness but there’s always that one place that’s different.

  5. Elaine*

    I would just make it a point to invite out 1 or 2 people for lunch each week. In my previous job, I was very intentional about doing this to get to know people throughout the company and it was always very appreciated. Like you, I was nto very social, but this worked really well for me to develop good relationships in the company.

  6. Stells*

    Donuts and pigs in a blanket are always popular in the offices where I’ve been employed. Also a great piece of advice given to me was to ask one or two new coworkers out to lunch (even if it’s just for a quick bite) so you can learn more about their department/role etc. It’s worked really well for me.

  7. Bob G*

    I think my answer to this would depend on how recently you began working at this new job. If it has been a relatively short time I’d let things develop naturally as you meet new people on the tasks that you will be doing together. Once you’ve had the opportunity to meet many of the other people you will have a better idea who is more social and who is more reserved. If you have been there for more than a few weeks I think food is always a great way to meet people, I’ve never worked anywhere that people didn’t respond to free food.

    1. mh_76*

      Agreed. It will take time. People love being asked for their opinions so “where’s a good place to get lunch” usually gets at least one answer, if not a whole conversation and sometimes a group heading…or herding…out the door. Don’t be afraid to ask the follow-up question “Join me?” but don’t be offended if the person declines with or without an explanation and don’t be offended if you and that person never go for lunch…some people like to eat alone, some people like to work through lunch, some people will take a “raincheck” and you’ll go to lunch another time. And some people will say “sure, let me grab my wallet/purse and hit the restroom on the way out”. Be patient. And if you don’t make any lunch-buddies at this job, that’s OK too so long as you have a good working relationship with your colleagues*.

      *[to reference a prior debate, I use that to refer to anyone who you work with…co-workers, management, other departments, external non-client stakeholders…]

    2. Samantha*

      This. It will happen – let it evolve naturally. don’t ignore any opportunities that come up but don’t force them either.

      I’ve found that it takes at least 6 months to fit into a job “socially” and I don’t want to go for lunch/coffee etc with people. It just takes time. The more you force it the slower it will be.

  8. Lisa*

    I say ask the person you’ve already been friendly with if there are any groups in the office you could join to get to know people. There may be networking and social groups that you just haven’t heard about yet. If you watch closely which people are visiting each other’s desks, you’ll probably also spy one or two social butterflies who seem to make time to gab with everyone. If you invite them to lunch and get to know them, then by extension you get to know everyone eventually.

    Unique desk decorations (if the company culture encourages it) start conversations. I have some cute crocheted animals on my desk, and coworkers stop by to play with them or ask about them regularly. A bowl of candy on the desk also sends the message that people are invited to stop by, grab a piece, and chat. (I don’t see anything wrong with the donut strategy, but for the long term, a bowl of candy can become a perpetual invitation).

    1. AnotherAdmin*

      “a bowl of candy can become a perpetual invitation”

      Exactly! I came to my current job with a 3 lb bag of peanut M&Ms that my previous boss gifted me when I left that job. I setup a jar on my desk and my coworkers (small company of less than 10 people) annihilated the entire bag in less than a week. After that the company supplied the M&Ms and I got to know my coworkers pretty quickly. M&Ms are a HUGE icebreaker!

      1. AnotherAdmin*

        I should also note that I am an introvert, so the M&Ms helped bring the social aspect to me – I didn’t have to chase it down.

      2. Anonymous*

        Be careful with the M&Ms, though… let’s just say that one of my good guy friends at work informed me that the gentlemen who usually grabbed M&Ms by the handful out of my candy bowl was not a hand-washer after using the restroom… from that day on, I switched to Hershey Kisses.

        1. kewt*

          We all chip in for the candy owl – buy the bags with individually wrapped candy only. It works out great!

    2. Esra*

      Bowl of candy is key. I mean, everyone loves free food, but I was surprised at how much good will a bowl of sweets on your desk generates after I set one out.

  9. Anonymous*

    As an introvert and a shy person in general, I probably wouldn’t come to your office for a donut just to meet you and make small talk. I’d probably decline lunch too – it’s just how I am. You could try to let things happen organically (I think someone mentioned this above too). As you work on more and more projects with others, you’ll get to know people on a more personal level and maybe then you can move on to saying “listen, I’m going out for coffee/lunch, would you like to join me?”

  10. Quo Vadis*

    Since you already get along with the other person in your department, you might just ask his/her opinion on what to do. That person already knows the corporate culture at your place of work, and as BCW implied above, that person probably already knows some of the friendlier or more personable coworkers and might help you break the ice.

    Hope this helps!

  11. KayDay*

    Okay, full disclosure, I am very shy and don’t normally socialize much at work. However, my current (and one past) workplace where overall not that social in gneral…people were friendly in general, but except for one “couple” of coworkers who became good friends organically after working closely for a year, people almost never went out to lunch or drinks with each other unless it was a office-wide luncheon–in fact, most people ate at their desks and people did not socialized much by the kitchen/water cooler/k-cup machine. It might be that your new office just isn’t that social, and that’s just the culture there. I do tend to agree with you that’s it’s important to be friendly and well-known (and of course respected) by your colleagues; but if people don’t hang out a lot at work, that’s okay.

    That said, here are a few ideas to help get to know your co-workers better:
    1. Offer to get coffee with someone. It’s less time consuming and there is less threat of awkward silence over coffee vs. dinner. And I mean you can literally run out and get coffee; you don’t necessarily have to sit down with them (unless you live in France).
    2. If they don’t want to go with you, offer to bring your co-workers coffee or anything if you are going out. E.g. “hey, I’m running over to Starbucks to grab a coffee, can I get anything for you?” or “hey, I’m going to CVS, do you need anything?”
    3. Bringing food (and not forcing it on people) is always wonderful! (IMHO) but I think it would be best to wait until you’ve been there a month or two, or else it might seem a bit desperate….actually scratch that, if the food is good I won’t be thinking about it being desperate.
    As for bring food, I think the book “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” has a rebuttal argument, but unless you are a woman (I was picturing the OP as a woman…) and work in a male dominated or very conservative environment, I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

    1. mh_76*

      In my previous (contract) job, the person who was famed for bringing home-baked goodies was a guy. I’ve worked with other gents who have brought in food, even if it was just store-bought chips n salsa or name-brand donuts & a box of coffee.

  12. Laurie*

    I am introvert too, and as uncomfortable as I initially find accepting these lunch invitations, I’m always glad I did.

    So, flipping it the other way – grow the invite list organically. You and your department-mate should go to lunch one day, and invite one or two other people from that other department that your coworker knows well enough. Next time you ask those two for lunch, it’s not so weird to say, “Hey, you should bring some of your other co-workers too. We’ll make a thing of it.”

    Alternately, if you go over to ask one of those other department folks a question and you connect, just ask them to lunch on the spot. Just a casual, “Hey, we should do lunch sometime!” No need to suggest a place, time or occasion – if they’re enthusiastic, they’ll say “Yeah, we totally should!”. Then, go back to your desk, and follow up on your question with a non-threatening, ‘So, when’s a good time for you for lunch? I find that I never get to it unless I set the time down in my calendar’. Then set something up 1 or 2 weeks from now so that it doesn’t seem too sudden.

    And, next time they ask you out for lunch, GO! Same for breakfast, donuts, “I baked some cake”, “I’ve got extra lemons from my backyard” invites.. On the same token, bring some healthy, tasty bread stuff (personal suggestion – specialty bread from an organic store), send an email out to the people you do know, and ask them to forward it to others you may have missed.

    In conclusion – don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t connect with them in the first month, or even in the first 2-3 months. Connections happen slowly, but they will happen.

  13. Liz*

    It sounds like it would make sense to just walk over to the people you expect to work with in the other department and say, “I wanted to introduce myself because I am part of X project that we will be working on together….” Just be brief and friendly and let them know you’re open to hearing from them if they have any questions.

    When chimps make friends in the wild, they stand on the edge of the group looking cheerful and mimicking the things the chimps in the group are doing. People basically work the same way. Look like you belong. Look cheerful. Don’t over think or make any demands, and no one will want to push you out of the circle.

    Fwiw, I wouldn’t bring doughnuts to your personal office – unless that is something other people have done in the office.

    1. Liz*

      PS – It doesn’t actually make sense to me, as an extrovert, for someone to try to initiate a contact with another person specifically in order to make friends. The point of an interaction should be to interact, not to make them do something.

      When you talk to people just try to match them and let that be it – if matching them leads to friendship that’s nice, but friendship can’t be set as a goal because friendship requires positive and mutually enjoyable interaction, and you can’t control other people. So the goal has to be the interaction, not the friendship.

      I meet a lot of introverts and that’s just something I’ve noticed they sometimes do – you might not actually be doing it. It just seems sometimes they tend to reach for the goal rather than enjoy the process. It can actually make it harder to be friends because it feels awkward for both sides, and that short circuits the enjoyable interaction that makes someone a friend.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Interesting observation. Just guessing, but I wonder if that’s because to many introverts, pre-friendship interaction with people they don’t know well is NOT especially enjoyable, but rather is often experienced as stressful!

        1. Liz*

          I think that makes sense – I wish I had a tip to get around that problem.

          All I can think is maybe meditation could help with learning to just observe people without expectation? Because I know that I instinctively try to match the other person’s emotional and energy level, and if he or she seems stressed or uncomfortable then I feel stressed and usually try to leave quickly.

        2. Laura L*

          These are interesting observations. Talking to people I don’t know is stressful for me, but I also find it really uncomfortable when people are trying too hard to be friends with me.

          Although, that’s partly because I don’t know if I want to be friends with someone if I don’t get to know them a bit first.

          Although asking someone out to lunch or coffee isn’t trying to hard, so I’d just go with that.

          1. Liz*

            I would find it a huge turn off if someone read my friendly behavior as a request to be instant friends. Friendliness is just an invitation to be friendly in the future. You don’t have to decide whether or not you’re really friends the minute someone smiles at you. And if you act put out by being approached, I know a lot of people will not understand that you thought it meant more than a brief conversation and probably won’t try to be friendly in the future.

            1. Laura L*

              Well, that’s understandable and I don’t read friendly behavior as a request to be instant friends. Because that’s silly.

              But sometimes people will try to become instant friends by say, latching onto me, assuming that since we went out to lunch once that we’ll go out to lunch every day, or being way to open in their first few meetings with me.

      2. mh_76*

        It doesn’t actually make sense to me, as an extrovert, for someone to try to initiate a contact with another person specifically in order to make friends. The point of an interaction should be to interact, not to make them do something.

        LIKE…actually I like the whole comment but esp. the first paragraph. And now that you mention the tendency of introverts to focus on the goal, I realize that I see it not just in the desire to have workplace lunch-buddies or friends but in general, even in “networking”…

        I agree…enjoy the process…maybe process isn’t quite the right word…enjoy the present.

        1. Liz*

          Enjoy the present – yes, I like that! That’s what I was trying to get at… Thanks!

        2. Suzanne*

          Very interesting observation. I tend toward the introvert side of the scale. I’ve gone to networking events in the past year that really have nothing to do with my work, but I found them enjoyable. I’ve always worried that the other people will think I’m some sort of oddball because I’m not really there for a specific purpose, but just to meet some new people and get some exposure to the business world, which is not my normal thing. I guess maybe that is just the introverted me thinking there has to be a purpose to everything!

          I also think, Alison, you are only partially correct in observing that introverts find social interaction with people they don’t know well stressful. In my case, not stressful at all but energy draining. I actually enjoy meeting new people, finding out about their interests, their path through life, etc. But then, I need a quiet break to give my energy level a boost!

      3. HR Gorilla*

        Wow! Really like this. Makes total sense to both my extrovert and introvert sides (I have both, depending on situation). Very cool.

    2. B*

      I like your perspective. In terms of finding ways to connect, I think it also helps to watch for things you have in common with people. Maybe you ride your bike to work and someone else does too. Maybe you’re a fan of a certain baseball team or you both moved to from the East Coast. Use these as conversation starters. It will make the whole interaction seem more natural if you share a common interest and you’re just being politely curious and open to other people.

  14. Steve G*

    No donuts – you would just guilt people into eating, and they don’t promote socializing anyway. Plus Monday is a bad day – many people are “detoxing” from weekends of lots of food with their families and probably some drinks.

    I also disagree with the person who said email introductions. That is a little too forced.

    I would – in a completely calm this-is-so-normal-that-I’m-asking tone invite people from the other dept in-person out to lunch. I think people get that you only have one coworker, so even if you don’t work that much together, they understand why you are asking.

  15. Steve G*

    at my last job lunch requests were repeatedly rejected, but I did get an invite to join a group that went for walks – and the people changed every day. Mostly women, but it was better than being alone:-)

  16. Samantha*

    Bring donuts but leave them in the kitchen; don’t make people come to your office to get them. Send out an email saying that there are donuts available in the kitchen please enjoy blah blah. People will notice that your brought them and when they run into you in the hall etc they will say thanks etc. Or they may even pop into your office to thank you. I think having food in your office and telling people to pop by is kind of tacky.
    It’s a good icebreaker but leave the food in a common area.

  17. fposte*

    I’m staging a pushback against the “it should happen organically” notion. Sure, people shouldn’t force themselves on the unwilling, but “organically” usually just means that you were okay with the time the other person made the effort, not that no effort was ever made. I agree the OP needs to consider whether s/he’s catching a different workplace vibe rather than just a don’t-know-you-yet vibe, and to make sure not to trample the new colleagues, but the OP sounds pretty sane and is probably on top of those issues.

    1. JohnQPublic*

      I’m with you. For many extroverts, ‘organically’ or ‘naturally’ means how you normally are. For many introverts, ‘organically/naturally’ will mean nothing ever happens- because that’s not how we are. Even a garden needs tending, and for those of us who aren’t green thumbs we need some advice, because the only plants you can count on growing are weeds.
      I think both the bowl on the desk and the box in the kitchen will get you results, but you’ll get different ones depending. I’m more inclined to the bowl- they will come to you, you’ll be able to ask questions about the stuff in front of you, and it’s not as expensive. You did Just start, and who knows how long its been since you’ve been paid?

      1. Laura L*

        Yes, making friends always requires effort, for both extroverts and introverts. It’s easier for people to get to know people when they generally like (or don’t mind) talking to strangers, but it still requires effort to make and maintain a friendship.

        Regardless, if you want to make friends or acquaintances, you’ll have to make an effort to talk to people you don’t know, even if you don’t really enjoy it.

        (I’m in the middle of the extra/introversion scale, but I’m shy and get really nervous when I have to talk to new people. So, I know it’s difficult! But if I never did it, I’d never meet new people, so I just push through.)

  18. Kristi*

    I’m with the pro-donuts collective. Yes empty calories but a nice non-aggressive way to bring folks away from their desk and seek you out to say thank-you. Eventually fresh fruit would be better but baby steps.

    A former co-worker suggested a few of us form a potluck lunch once a month. This was based on her having dinner with neighbors once a month (a tradition her landlady started) and they became great friends.

    Lastly, I’m huge a fan of the weekly walk/run at lunch. I think we’d all be surprised who would turn out for that. Plus a calendar could be created of upcoming 5k/10k events to use as incentive.

  19. Lisa*

    At my former job, I had a little candy bag that I attached to the wall of my cubicle that was in reach of any/everyone that went by and filled it with bit sized goodies, like tootsie rolls or little hersey bars, etc. Little boxes of Dots were a big hit. It was a brief minute of socialization when they stopped to see what was in there and they were free to grab whatever they wanted and an every so brief moment to socialize. In return, a lot of the more thankful people would often replenish my little bag of goodies themselves! It gave me the opportunity to chat with them briefly and find out how their day was going or else get some grapevine of news I wouldn’t might have otherwise heard. Similar to kitchen talk…but it was very informal and no strings attached. It enabled me to “bond” with some people that I otherwise wouldn’t have had daily contact with.

    1. Tami M*

      I love Lisa’s idea. It’s a great way for people to see you’re friendly and therefore gives them an excuse or reason to open a dialog, however short it might be. AND, it’s non-commital. (some people need to get acquainted in small doses) As time goes by, the conversations may become longer or more involved. I’m just afraid I’d keep eating all the goodies. hehehe

      At one job I had, the company had over 60 employees, within 3 large seperate buildings. We all had cubicles, and as I walked from one area to another, I’d stop if I saw a cute picture of their kids, or pet, and comment on it. It always made them smile, and it created a way for me to become more personable with them, and when they passed my cubicle, they made it a point to stop, or at least flash a big smile and say hi! :) Come picture time at school, I’d usually get some pix of my own. :D (Still have them, too).

      Another way to let people know you are approachable and friendly, would be to post little comics, riddles, jokes or funny phrases on your wall. (If the company allows such things) Changing it every week will give co-workers a reason to stop by to see what’s new. :) And, if it makes them laugh, all the better, because now they’ve left your area/space with a smile on their face. As they say in Show Business…leave ’em laughing. :)

      Ultimately, it all depends on the work environment and how the each individual feels about socializing. Good luck…I hope you make some great new friends!!! :D

  20. Charles*

    OP, you don’t say how long you have been at this new job. But, since you’ve only gone out to lunch with your coworker twice I’ll assume that you’ve only been there a couple of weeks at most.

    If this is the case, I’d hang back a bit to see how things go and not fret about it. Just let things come about naturally, when you start a project with some of the folks ask about taking a coffee break or lunch together then.

  21. Adam*

    My department has “cookie time” which occurs regularly at a central table in the office at the same time each Friday afternoon. We stand around, eat cookies (or whatever’s available), and chat about whatever. We try to avoid work related subjects but sometimes that creeps in as well. It normally only goes on for 30 minutes at the most, but it’s a nice little reprieve and you’ll often see people you don’t interact with regularly.

  22. Marie*

    A couple of new people recently joined my office, and some of them sought me out to make friends. I was certainly not insulted that there was a point to the conversation beyond the immediate inanities. I like making friends and I’m glad they reached out.

    I noticed that they did it in different ways depending on their level of intro/extroversion. One girl reached out when she heard us discussing lunch places. We mentioned a sushi special and she promptly set a date in all of our calendars! It worked because she is quite outgoing and bubbly. Now it’s a regular thing and different people initiate each time. Another girl, who is quite shy, asked outright “how do you find people to eat with in the cafeteria?” I told her my strategies, and mentioned that it can be difficult because lawyers often eat at their desks, but pointed out which were the friendly tables where a new person could safely join. The next day she emailed me to have lunch, the day after that I invited a third girl who reminded me of the new girl, and now the three of us eat together regularly.

  23. Anonymous*

    I too just left a small, social environment for a big company–I went from 100 employees to 55,000.

    Because there is no social net, I set up meetings, coffees, etc. with key people to get to know their roles, ask them questions, talk about how we’d be working together, etc. It was a little more formal than I would have liked but it worked out really well, and the relationships are smooth and productive as a result.

    Getting to know your colleagues is a vital part of your success, and it doesn’t have to happen in a social setting. You’re not looking for friends, you’re looking to get to know people and build an effective working relationship. There’s no reason to be coy about the reasons behind getting to know each other.

  24. AnonEngineer*

    This questioner could have been me… except that where I am most of employees of the other department have been here for 3+ years and I feel decidedly “on the outside.”

    I was hired when a group of 4 went down to a group of 2 – the three people I replaced are all in the other dept and good friends. I’d hoped that they could bring me up to speed (socially and professionally), but I’ve gotten nothing but coldness.

    They go out to casual, local, lunch together (and when I’ve asked one to go with me, they say they’re going together and then don’t invite. I wasn’t aware the sandwich line was exclusive, but, oh well) or bunch up in one of their teeny offices when they brown-bag it.

    To make up for this lack of organic connection (no kitchen, everyone eats out/at desks) the umbrella department has many (1 or more/month) “social” events, usually with drinks. As an introvert (and a lightweight) I can’t stand these and feel even more isolated. …

    Any advice?

    1. Marie*

      Engineering environments seem more prone to this, unfortunately. My husband is an engineer and he regularly comes home with reports of totally antisocial behaviour. It helps to think of them as amusingly socially inept, rather than thinking that there is something wrong with you. It sounds like there will be no joy from these particular rude individuals, though – are there any other people, maybe in a different department, who you could reach out to? It can also be worth psyching yourself up to go to drinks – not every time, but now and then, and then forcing yourself to talk to people.

      1. Two-cents*

        That engineering environments are less social sounds right to me, both from my own experiences with those teams and from my husband’s experience as an engineer. I’ve done training and consulting with teams of engineers and they are very much quieter and more thoughtful (slower to respond as they consider their response) than people from other types of departments (thinking sales and HR in particular). My husband has mentioned that most of the offices he’s worked in over the years (all engineering departments or firms) seem particularly non-social. (I say non as opposed to anti; I think they are just not as motivated to be social.) He’s been fortunate enough to find one or two people in the office who are a little more out-going and be able to build relationships from there. In his office, he’s the one who brings chocolate and keeps it on his desk. Everyone drops by for chocolate and he gets to socialize more with his coworkers.
        Perhaps the OP can try a candy dish along with other suggestions for presenting herself as friendly and interested in others and how they will work together. As she/he begins to work with more people on projects, s/he can invite them to the office for a chat or a meeting to discuss an upcoming project and offer candy and coffee, or she can bring a few pieces to share during a coffee or a meeting. Even people who won’t drop by or take something from a dish in your office are more likely to partake when it is delivered to their office or to the meeting. It’s a friendly gesture and lets people know you are likely to be open to friendly gestures from others. I’m currently working in a friendly team, but we don’t socialize much and no-one goes our for lunch together. This is very different from previous places I’ve worked. I’ve adjusted. Keep in mind that you are fairly new at this company/department. It is hard being the new person because you’re not only learning the particulars of the job, you’re also learning a new culture . It takes time and during that time it can feel especially lonely when you’ve come from a team that shares much more camaraderie. Be open, “enjoy the present”, (excellent advice from a previous commenter!), and make friendly gestures to others and you’ll eventually find a few kindred spirits and feel more comfortable in your new environment. Good luck!

    2. B*

      That sounds like a huge bummer! I think it’s really important that you make a friend outside of your department. Or if that doesn’t seem likely either, try to set up lunch dates with friends you have nearby in the area, if they can break away from the office. It really helps to have some friendly interaction in the day, so don’t give up yet. Maybe you could join an outdoor bootcamp or take a class or joing a meetup group to do something that gives you regular social interaction during the week so your work situation doesn’t weigh on you quite so much.

    3. Laura L*

      Try getting to know people other than the three that you replaced. I’m assuming there are other people in the office.

  25. Andrew*

    At least you will have the opportunity for social interaction, even if asking friends takes time.

    I worked off and on (contract employment) for 4 years at a very small company (6 people) where no one ever talked. Ever. All contact, down to the most trivial, was by email. I eventually stopped even saying “good morning” because it was clear that it was not welcome.

  26. Rachel B*

    I’ve always had good luck asking co-workers out for coffee. It feels less formal than a sit down lunch. Even folks who normally eat at their desks can usually be persuaded. Another option is asking people if they’d like to a quick breakfast or bagel run. Kinda amazing how often people run out of cereal or want something more substantial after their long commutes.

    I would recommend leaving food in the common areas only, if you choose to go that route.

  27. Malissa*

    A candy dish on the desk does wonders. Just leave it in a visible place, you’ll have visitors before you know it. It also sounds like a lot of people in your area eat at their desks. So I would ask someone about ordering in lunch on Friday. You’ll get plenty of suggestions and I’ll bet that more people will join in.
    Having lunch in the office on Fridays has become a thing in my office.

  28. Shelly*

    The idea of leaving out a candy dish is probably the missing ingredient for me! I moved to a new cubicle (same company, same department) less than 1 year ago, so the traffic I used to see no longer happens. Hmmmmm…… Now if only I won’t be tempted to eat it all!

  29. DeNic*

    You could also order take out and invite others through email to order as well. Something like, “I’m ordering lunch from Burger Shack today and wanted to see if anyone would like anything. I have the menu at my desk if you want to take a look.” Then if interested, they’ll come to your office for the menu and you can strike up a conversation. I also think if you’re working on a project with others, offer to have a working or brown bag lunch where you can eat and disucss the project which will make the atmosphere more casual and a little more social.

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