I haven’t made friends at my new job

A reader writes:

I started a new position at a wonderful organization four months ago. Previously, I was in a nonprofit position with unrealistic expectations, long and stressful days, and low employee morale. But in the 1.5 years I was there, I developed true workplace friendships that I still cherish today.

My new organization is the happiest place on earth. They treat the employees well, health and wellness is encouraged, and retirement is great. I love my job. The only issue: I don’t fit in.

There are true friendships all around me. People go to lunch, hang out outside of work, go on bike rides, and are social with each other’s families. In large group meetings, we all get along, but then I feel like I get left behind when the meeting ends. I want to stay here for the long haul, but I can’t imagine not having a work buddy/buddies to lean on. Should I just be patient? I’m an extroverted introvert, so I tend to be happy in social situations but fear initiating them. I also don’t want to seem like I’m intruding or encroaching on others.

Recently, I had a family emergency, and I was upset not only because of the family situation, but because I had no where to go and no one to talk to. In my old office, I would have walked across the hall to a number of coworkers to seek help. What can I do now?

Yes, be patient! Four months isn’t very long; you’re comparing your relationships to those of people who have worked together much longer. It’s likely that your bonds with at least some people will deepen with time.

Also, initiate! It’s very normal to ask a coworker to get a coffee or grab lunch with you or even to say “I’d love to tag along the next time you go to that pizza place down the street.” When you’re someone who doesn’t like to initiate, it can feel scary and presumptuous to do it … but consider that by not doing it, you’re putting all of that burden on to your coworkers, which isn’t fair either. It’s true, of course, that it can feel harder when you’re the new person — but you also have a lot more incentive, because you’re craving more connection. If you’re uncertain about how to say it, bridge the gap by making it semi-work-related, like by saying “I’d love to learn more about the work you do. Would you be interested in getting coffee one day this week and talking more?”

And initiating doesn’t just have to be about making plans; it can also be about initiating conversation. Ask about people’s weekends, comment on photos they have on their desks, pick up on any mentions of common interests. And ask for advice, too — most people love to be asked for advice (whether it’s something work-related or about whether they know a good nearby dry cleaner) and those types of conversations will usually engender good feelings.

Also, figure out if there’s a connector type in your office — the social director sort who’s friendly with everyone and seems to be at the center of the hub for making plans — and make her one of the first few people on your coffee list. If you mention to that person that you’re eager to get to know people better, you might find that she’ll take you under her wing and help you do it.

Last, remember have a job that you love with an organization that treats people well. That’s huge. I don’t want to discount the importance of having work friends; there are loads of studies that show that having at least one friend at work makes people happier and more productive. It matters. But for now, can it be enough to enjoy working in such a happy place, focus on being a good coworker, and let yourself trust that the relationships will come in time? (I don’t want to sound too much like the smug people who tell unhappily single people “it will happen someday when you’re least expecting it” — but I do think that in a social office full of what sound like nice people, if you show an interest in people and make a few overtures, you will indeed get to know people, and a year from now your bigger problem will be that they keep bugging you for bike rides.)

{ 143 comments… read them below }

  1. Dawn*

    I’ve been in your shoes recently, and if everyone is as outgoing and friendly as you say they are then I’m sure it’ll get better with time.

    The thing that I’ve learned that’s surprising about other people is that *most* people are pretty shy around new people, and want to take their cues from you as to how much interaction you want. Which can be kinda hard to overcome when you’re feeling shy too, and then throw in that it’s a new job and you’re trying to put your best foot forward and be professional… oof! So don’t feel bad that you haven’t been invited along with other people’s plans or that you’re not the social butterfly of the office. These things take time, and they take sticking your neck out a little bit and overcoming your own natural shyness by being the first to say hello, or invite someone to lunch, etc.

    1. OP*

      Thank you for the comments! I completely forgot to think about it from their point of view. That really helps.

      1. MommaTRex*

        Even a simple comment like, “Do you recommend that restaurant?” will probably get you a response like, “You should totally come with us next time!”

        I’m an extrovert who still worries about intruding on other, but a casual opener like the one above or “Do you have any suggestions for a good Thai (or insert your own thing) place around here?” is another opener I like even better. That might be the number one opener for getting an invite back.

  2. Former Retail Manager*

    Just seconding Alison…hang in there. My first 6 months at my current job were very quiet, with me only speaking to the other trainees. If there hadn’t been any other trainees, then I wouldn’t have spoken to anyone as this job is very isolated and there is no need for teamwork or collaboration to get the job done. People eventually came around and my workgroup is very much like the one you describe at your old job. I asked people why no one spoke early on and some people said they didn’t want to get attached to someone who wasn’t going to be around very long (this position only has about a 50% retention rate) and others just said that many of the prior new hires were a little crazy and they didn’t want to get embroiled with a nut and were just “feeling me out” from afar. I’m sure you’ll find someone you connect with eventually. I too am also an extroverted introvert. While I never invited myself along for lunch, I would comment on a TV show someone was discussing that I liked or some fun weekend activity they had planned that I was also interested in. It took a while, but I now have a great rapport with virtually every member of our 12 person workgroup. Just give it time….they’ll come around. And congrats on scoring the great gig!

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      Oh that is funny, because I’ve heard comments just like that from coworkers before. I’ve also been told, after getting to know coworkers, that they thought I was standoffish at first, which was a total shock to me. I think it’s just that I’m a bit reserved when I’m new and don’t let my guard down too quickly. I always thought I was just being professional. That’s probably not the case with you, but I could totally see the “wait and see if she’s gonna work out” thing being at play.

      1. The Spider*

        I think this is really interesting as I worry that my ‘new job’ efforts to be professional and not some over friendly weirdo do instead come across as being standoffish. It’s hard though as sometimes (I find) you get up the courage to be friendly and jokey, realise they didn’t get it and now instead of bonding, they probably are mentally horrified by you… #saysmybrain

    2. TootsNYC*

      ” they didn’t want to get embroiled with a nut and were just “feeling me out” from afar.”

      I think this is very true. As I get older, I get pickier about who I know.
      And I find that people with no sense of boundaries are quick to extend overtures.
      So that raises the odds that the “immediately friendly” people are the ones I might want to distance myself from (whether I’m the newbie or the veteran). I like to wait a bit and see.

      Because it’s hard to back away if you discover that someone is too negative. (again, whether you’re the newbie or the veteran)

      Take advantage of any natural chatting times in the office, and then after a couple more weeks, reach out for something simple like walking out to lunch together. (even just “Oh, you’re going to lunch–can I walk out with you?” and you chat in the elevator, and then you prove your sense of boundaries by going to a different deli–or whatever your situation’s equivalent is). See? Friendly, but not too close; each of you can always reach out again.

  3. KTB*

    I also went from a tiny, dysfunctional nonprofit with good friends to a fantastic organization that took me six or so months to settle into. Alison’s suggestions are all spot on. In my case, everyone’s really busy, and my team’s work looks very different from the rest of the agency. What finally worked was tagging along, and doing my own thing, ironically enough. I started scheduling twice weekly runs at lunch, and now two of my coworkers are joining me whenever they can. It’s been a great opportunity to get to know them better, and get some exercise to boot!

  4. INTP*

    Agree that 4 months is way too soon to worry! I’ve felt like an alien 2-3 months into a new job and family at 12 months. Be friendly to everyone, note things about people to ask them about (their kids, grandkids, new house, the wedding they’re planning – whatever is going on in their life that they like to talk about, and you have a go-to topic when you are in the break room or elevator with them), and keep looking for common interests to discuss. I also like Alison’s advice to find a connector type. If you are friendly and approachable, people will warm up to you.

    On the positive side, this could actually be a good sign – the environment is happy and non-toxic so people don’t feel a need to rush into work friendships to prove that they fit in, relationships can just develop naturally. I’ve worked at more aggressively welcoming places and it often turned out that if you didn’t find a clique quickly, management would decide you didn’t fit in and it wouldn’t end well.

    1. TootsNYC*

      Also–some of those really close friendships at the old place were a direct buffer against negativity. The lack of negativity may mean that people don’t feel the big need to reach out and shelter you right away.

  5. some1*

    Another point is that IME sometimes coworkers who are overloading you with attention and questions about yourself right off the bat don’t have the best motives.

    1. Izzy*

      I am also reluctant to initiate contact, so it took years to get to know and become friends with some of my coworkers. After I did and they became comfortable with me, I discovered that they mistook my shyness for being stuck up. They didn’t invite or include me because they thought I didn’t like them and didn’t want to be included. One person who happens to be a different race from me originally thought I was prejudiced!
      Allison has good advice. I’d add, it can be easier to start with one-to-one conversations. When you make friends with one or two people, they may draw you into their group. Also, you’re not going to click with every group, and some groups you don’t want to be part of. That super chatty group may be the office gossip mill, for instance.
      Sometimes, if you’ve done what you can and you still feel left out, you can just ask someone if there’s a problem. At one point, my entire work team went out to lunch together once a week, and never invited me.
      They even discussed their lunch plans in front of me, which was hurtful. I approached one person that I was comfortable with and asked if I had offended anyone. Turns out that the one day of the week everyone is in the office was the day I had been in the habit of going to a noon church service on my lunch hour, so they assumed I wouldn’t want to go. I said I didn’t have to go to that service every week, and they started inviting me. Even if I didn’t always go, it felt much better to be invited, and I let them know how much I appreciated it. It was just a misunderstanding. Make sure your coworkers know you want to make friends with them.

      1. INTP*

        Yeah, even if coworkers don’t mistake you as stuck up, sometimes they don’t want to be all intrusive to the new person and want to respect your space and timeline for opening up. This can of course come across as cold or uninterested if you are coming from a toxic environment where no one is thinking about your boundaries or comfort! (Which is compounded by the fact that you might have had to develop very strong boundary-signals to compensate for people stomping all over them, which can be seen as a desire not to be bothered or asked questions by people actually paying attention to your signals.)

        Basically, office culture shock can be hard even if you’re going from a toxic environment to a happy one. Just be friendly, open, and try to relax and trust that it will all work out (again, a difficult thing to do if you’re coming from an environment where you felt you had to be constantly vigilant to CYA).

        1. Honeybee*

          This is me. I’m the social director type in my office (and usually am in every org I’ve been in), but I tend not to reach out immediately because I know my extraversion can be really overwhelming especially to introverts. So I hang back, let new recruits get a feel for the place and also feel out how they fit in with the social fabric as well. Some people do like to be left alone a little and it takes some time to figure out whether the person in question is that kind of person.

    2. fposte*

      Agreed. We’ve had several questions here from people whose work friends were the people who glommed onto them when they first arrived and have proven to be problematic since then.

      1. Snork Maiden*

        Yes. One lesson I’m continually relearning (although much less often I hope) is that you should be careful of people being insta-friends with you. I’m flattered, and it’s really nice to feel you have a quick, deep bond, but more often than not it’s indicative of boundary issues further down the road.

        1. Oryx*

          Word. I had a new co-worker send me a FB friend request on his very first day. No. Just no.

        2. Snork Maiden*

          Or I should say, a miserable environment. I’m currently figuring out how to dial back one of these relationships gracefully, now that I’m tired of the commiserating/venting/crying cycle.

        3. BeenThere*

          Oh this so much. One new coworker was very much glomming and it became abundantly clear that they were having huge performance issues.

          Very glad I play it slow as I too am shy and a couple of months into a wonderful workplace. Slowly beginning to find my people in what appears to be a large collection of very shy non partying types.

    3. Gandalf the Nude*

      So much this! When I started at my job, the two who tried to take me in were both gone within the year due to–surprise! surprise!–issues with professionalism. And one had glaring boundary issues. I worry what might have happened to my standing if I had attached myself to them without getting the lay of the land first.

    4. GreenTeaPot*

      Spot on! My experience is that most normal people give newcomers a chance to feel comfortable and settle in before bombarding them with attention. I hav met more than a few (possible) sociopath types who move in right away.

    5. TootsNYC*

      In Naomi Novick’s first Temeraire novel (dragons as air force in the Napoleonic wars), His Majesty’s Dragon, there’s a really dramatic demonstration of the dangers of getting too friendly too fast. Our hero captain joins the air force, which is a very secretive and not-well-understood branch of the service, after having been a captain in the navy. He is looked upon as an interloper at first, and the only person who’s friendly in the officer’s lounge is a guy who seems perfectly reasonable. All the other officers hold themselves at a distance from this guy and our hero; our hero thinks they’re snots. Only after he’s been there a while does he realize how out of line with the mores of the service the other captain is (he calls the female captains by their first name, as if they’re children, instead of by their last, as he does all the male captains—hugely rude in that service, where female equality is deeply defended against the outside mores). And then he finds out that this guy mistreats his dragon.
      Our hero is mortified to realize that he has become close friends with such a loathsome person. No wonder all the other captains continue to treat him coldly, even though he personally has done good and heroic things. He has to do a lot of work to earn back any level of their good regard.

      I’m sure that our OP won’t have anything so dramatic, but it was a vivid lesson in scoping out the sitch, and the people, before investing.

      So make opportunities for you to be scoped out, and for you to scope others out. Look for small moments of communication and togetherness. And then build on those once you see what’s comfortable.
      Maybe say something like, “Is anybody going to the farmer’s market this weekend? Would you be willing to show me the best vegetables?” or offer to meet up “briefly” or to travel there and then split up. Offer to be together for a short time, w/ a specific ending. That’s a way to “sample” the interactions.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Love those books!

        And OP, when I had a job where everyone was social, but not with me, eventually I realized I didn’t actually want to hang out with most of them anyway — we just weren’t a good social fit for each other.

  6. Always Anon*

    I agree, just be patient.

    Where I work now, it took me almost a year to become friends with many of my co-workers. I was friendly with many of them, but I wouldn’t consider myself friends with them. It just took time. And I know that one of my closest work friends told me that she didn’t want to expend too much energy becoming friends at first, because she wanted to see if I would work out with the job.

    1. Ama*

      At my current job I replaced someone who had only lasted eight months and the duties of the position were relatively isolated from the other departments, so I probably talked mostly to my director and our department admin for about 4-6 months (both of whom were lovely, but were 30 years older). It was really our first “all hands on deck” event where I was able to spend enough time with the people in other departments closer to my age and really start making connections — and since apparently one of the reasons my predecessor quit was because she didn’t want to work those occasional events, my stepping up and pitching in also did a lot to convince my colleagues that I’d be hanging around for awhile.

    2. NK*

      Your last sentence is a good point too – sometimes people want to see not only if you’re going to stick around, but what kind of employee you’re going to be. People may be reluctant to develop a friendship with someone at work right away only to find out they’re a terrible employee. Right or wrong, it can have an impact on someone’s professional reputation if they’re personally associated with someone who is poorly regarded professionally.

  7. CaliCali*

    I’ve experienced somewhat the same thing — I went from a toxic job where I had a lot of strong relationships to a healthy, functional job where it’s been much harder to fit in. I don’t think it’s a coincidence — in toxic workplaces, the shared trauma brings you together. There’s a reason battle and war metaphors are used in those circumstances. So when you go to someplace that has a healthy dynamic, you lose that NEED to connect, and it can be harder to start and cultivate those connections. Things that I’ve come to terms with:

    – Recognize that because it’s a healthy place, they have low turnover, and therefore, there are longer standing connections that I’m just not going to have.
    – If it’s healthy, it’s also likely recruiting growing, so you’ll have more “new” people like yourself that’ll be good candidates for new connection.
    – Also recognize that people may just have an overall healthier balance. I was super tight with my former coworkers because we NEEDED to be. There was no upside otherwise. Now, I’ve had more time and energy to put into my outside-of-work relationships and hobbies, which actually helps with life balance.

    I know it can be tough; I’m an extroverted extrovert, but I still have that reticence toward making plans and such. It can be overcome though. Good luck!

    1. OP*

      Such a good point! A lot of my camaraderie at my old job had to do with bonding over the negative experiences. And at my new position, most employees have been here 8, 10, 20, even 30+ years! I really appreciate your feedback and am happy to know I’m not alone in this.

    2. irritable vowel*

      Yes, that was my experience, too. When you’re in a war zone, personal relationships are both stronger and carry more importance. The problem is that when your personal life is connected to your toxic workplace, it’s harder to disconnect. I was so badly burned by my experiences at a toxic job where I was close friends with a lot of people, that when I moved to my current job at a much more functional workplace, I deliberately chose to avoid socializing with coworkers. I’m friendly with people here, but when I leave work, I leave work, and that makes me happier than having close friends at work.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        When my workplace was healthy and functional, I never talked about work at home. At my last job, when I became really close with many of my coworkers was when we were all in the throes of WTF-ery about the dean’s apparent relationship with the receptionist and the amount of power the receptionist was wielding in the office. It was all we talked about at work and much of what I talked about at home; we just could not wrap our heads around it.

        Now that I’m in a healthy workplace, I’m back to hardly ever talking about work at home; there just isn’t anything very interesting going on (thank goodness!).

      2. Jo*

        Oh man, this is so true. I work at a toxic, dysfunctional organisation that is in an *actual* war zone and my colleagues are more than just colleagues. We live together, work together, and socialize together. We’re extremely close because it’s that kind of relationship that helps us get through everything, like the unending stress. Even though most of my colleagues have since left the country, we remain really close and undoubtedly will for a good long time.

        Apparently nothing forges strong bonds like huddling together on the floor, in the dark, listening to the explosions and gunfire while a house nearby is under attack by militants.

    3. Susan the BA*

      So, so true – in my last job we had a party for every time someone on my team made it to a whole year because it was a dysfunctional toxic environment. There was a real incentive to form close bonds quickly and no one could do their job well without trusting and leaning on everyone else. I mean the whole point of those ‘team bonding’ exercises like a ropes course is for you to learn how to problem-solve your way through difficult situations together, right? When you work on a great team amidst a dysfunctional organization, every day is a ropes course without the need to artificially build up high stakes.

      (Which is part of the reason I find ropes courses and such as a stupid waste of my time)

    4. periwinkle*

      I was going to post the same observation! My current workplace has issues, being a normal work environment, but overall things are positive and productive. I’m friendly with my co-workers but not friends with them. Back in the late 1990s I worked at a toxic stressful environment with crappy dismissive management and no hope for advancement unless you left. My closest friendships to this day are with former co-workers – heck, I’m married to one of them. We all made it out of that workplace with our sanity, humor, and careers intact. That’s cause for celebration.

    5. Honeybee*

      THIS! I love my coworkers, and some of them I am actually really close friends with. But I am also putting a lot of work into cultivating out of work friendships, too. Sometimes, you just want to socialize with people you don’t see 5 days a week, 8-10 hours a day.

  8. Daisy Steiner*

    Oh, that must be a tough transition, OP! It’s like moving to a new town – at the time, building those new connections feels like slooooooow going. You just want all your old, easy friendships back! Those first few months can be very lonely. But I’m sure that in a year or so you’ll suddenly look around and realise you’ve gradually built new connections – so slowly that you almost won’t have realised it. It’s taken me 3 years in a new country to feel like I really have a ‘friend group’, and I’m still working on finding a ‘BFF’ – it won’t happen overnight, but it will happen!

  9. Oryx*

    So I went from a very dysfunctional work place with lots of work friends to a job that sounds quite a lot like the OPs. I’ve been here almost a year and still don’t have any real friends here but I’m kind of okay with that. I’m friendly with my team and am slowly working on building professional relationships with members of other teams, but these aren’t really people I’d hang out with after work and I have a Zero Work Friends On Facebook policy.

    It’s actually a lot like what CaliCali mentioned — the relationships at ExJob where there because we NEEDED to have sounding boards and people to go to and that whole Misery Loves Company thing. Now, though, I have a much healthier work-life balance and able to focus on those outside of work things I didn’t have the energy to deal with previously because work stressed me out so much.

    1. INTP*

      You are right about the Misery Loves Company thing – daily misery and a common enemy can definitely act as a sort of social lubricant and make coworkers bond with each other more quickly and closely. The only job where I’ve ever felt remotely warm and fuzzy about my coworkers, we were all miserable, which prompted a lot of emotion and venting, which led to bonding. You start to feel close quickly when you see each other cry on a regular basis, I guess.

  10. Anonymous Educator*

    In addition to the general “give it more than four months” advice others have given, I’d add that maybe your person isn’t there yet. People leave and get replaced, even at great organizations with generally low turnover (life happens—people have to move for spouses or to care for sick relatives). It’s very possible that you may connect with these very people you’re with after 8-12 months instead of 4 months. But it’s also very possible that in 5-6 months someone leaves, and her replacement is your workplace buddy.

    Slightly off-topic, since the OP clearly wants work friends and Alison said studies show a workplace friend is beneficial: I generally shy away from making friends at work. I will be friendly with co-workers and may even do the occasional happy hour, but I like to compartmentalize work/personal as much as possible. After I leave a place, I’m more than happy to keep in touch with certain people, and some of my best friends now are former co-workers.

    1. SevenSixOne*

      I also caution against getting too chummy with anyone at work– I’ll do a happy hour or bowling outing, but I avoid one-on-one social time with my co-workers because I don’t ever want to have even the APPEARANCE of giving/getting special treatment because Sam and I are BFFs… or have to choose between doing the right thing as a friend and doing the right thing as a colleague.

    2. Christopher Tracy (formerly Doriana Gray)*

      I generally shy away from making friends at work. I will be friendly with co-workers and may even do the occasional happy hour, but I like to compartmentalize work/personal as much as possible.

      This is me now. I made work friends in my previous dysfunctional division and at Evil Law Firm (I’d even hang out with these people on weekends), but ultimately, once I left those situations, the relationships changed and now I don’t need to make work friends because my current division isn’t toxic (yet). I’ve even noticed the friendship I had with one of my current coworkers that predated my transfer to her division has changed – I find it weird for us to hang out during work and outside of it (too much closeness), so I’ve stopped the extracurricular hangouts. I did recently go to a ball game with one coworker I also had a previous relationship with, but I still considered that a work event, so it didn’t put me off.

      1. OP*

        Thanks for the feedback! I was wondering if this debate regarding workplace vs. personal friends would come up. I’ve always felt very comfortable at the thought of developing meaningful friendships, but not going to the extreme of hanging out every weekend. But, especially because I’m at a stage in my life where I’ve recently celebrated a wedding, and perhaps soon a baby, I’d love to lean on people in my workplace during these exciting times. Or, in the case of my family emergency, tough times. I’m emotionally driven and need these social reinforcements!

        1. CeeCee*

          I’m a bit concerned that you’ve mentioned having coworkers to “Lean On” regarding personal life events.

          While I understand where you’re coming from regarding seeking friends at work, that seems like kind of a big imposition on your coworkers. It’s one thing to be friendly with them, but it’s another to make them your support system. I’d feel kind of awkward and obligated if a coworker, even one that I was friendly with, decided to “lean on” me in their times of emergency because, at the end of the day, you’re my co-worker or work buddy, not my life-long best friend or sibling or cousin.

          It also sounds like having someone to lean on means having someone to vent to or talk to when emotions are high and, at least in my opinion, that shouldn’t be the role of your coworkers. I think the search for that type of person is probably best conducted outside the workplace.

          1. OP*

            I totally see your point. I mentioned this below but will repeat that the field I’m in might come into play here as well. In my non-profit career I’ve been in a disaster relief organization helping families recover from devastating moments in their lives, and now I’m in a youth programming organization often helping underprivileged families. So, the mission-centric environment of the organization means that a lot of employees are hired due to their ability to connect emotionally with clients/families. That said, my friends at my former position have dealt with divorce, death of family members, and serious illnesses. I’m not saying I want to crash on my coworkers couch or have hour long “therapy” sessions during the day, but, when my dog was in emergency surgery and I was tearing up at my desk, I have never felt so lonely! I would have loved someone to at least know what I was doing through and offer a few words of sympathy.

            1. Tacocat*

              Hi OP, for what it’s worth, I totally see where you are coming from and do not think this is an inappropriate level of friendship for the workplace. I’ve been at my current job for a year and half now, but when I was here for only a few months, I got engaged and felt very similarly as you. Major life events both happy and sad are unusually a topic of conversation and it does feel very socially isolating when you have no one to even mention it to. Also, for what it’s worth, 1 year+ later and its a totally different story. I still don’t really hang out with work friends outside of work hours (and am happy with that), but I have many people that I am friends enough with that when I got the call that my cat had to be put down, I had lots of support and it made a terrible situation just a little easier, and I work in Fortune 100 company. I think maybe the others in this thread may have a different approach to interpersonal relationships or may have not gone through this transition recently. Yes, not everyone wants to have friendships at work so deep they are your primarily social network (I certainly don’t), but many people find it isolating when you can’t even mention major events in your personal life to your coworkers, even if they are just coworkers.

            2. TootsNYC*

              Sometimes you just have to walk out and say to someone, “I’m so upset; my dog is in emergency surgery.”

              Lots of decent human beings who don’t qualify for “friend” status will nonetheless express sympathy; some of them may offer you a hug, and some of them will tell the other do glover int he office, and he’ll come stick his head in and say, “Man, that’s too bad. I hope he pulls through.”

              And then they’ll go back to not necessarily having lunch with you, but they’ll ask about the pooch, and have an extra level to their cordial “good morning.”

              Sometimes you just have to reach out.

              1. OP*

                As simple as this sounds, I never thought of that. This would have undoubtedly made that experience more manageable. Thank you!

          2. Mona Lisa*

            Yes, please don’t make your co-workers your primary sounding board! Especially without their explicit consent. My new co-worker has decided that we’re going to be friends and tells me all about her arguments with her in-laws and the issues she’s experiencing in her marriage. It puts me in the horribly awkward position of not wanting to seem callous or uncaring but not really wanting to know these intimate details of her life. I am clearly not the person that should be helping her through these issues. We have work topics to discuss.

        2. BananaPants*

          Honestly, I’d be uncomfortable if a coworker decided that sharing a workplace meant that I was a built-in friend/social support. While I’m certainly down with supporting a colleague who’s having a baby (or whose partner is pregnant) or being sympathetic if they’re dealing with a family crisis, we’re not being paid to be each other’s support structure – we’re there to do a job. What happens outside of work/in one’s personal life isn’t really the focus of the workday. It feels like an imposition to have a coworker “lean” on me, especially a new coworker who I don’t know very well.

          I’d suggest developing a non-work social circle that can meet your emotional needs, regardless of where you’re employed.

          1. OP*

            Understandable. I think because I see this bonding and emotional support happening between others here, I’m more inclined to want to feel a part of it. There certainly are other colleagues here who come in, say hello, do their work, and say goodbye. But, there are friendships developing all around me and I feel like I’m waving my hands saying, “Pick me! I’m over here!”

          2. Mallory Janis Ian*

            I’m always a little put off by people wanting too much too soon from a relationship. If we’re going to be friends, it will happen eventually that the friend will need to “lean on” me and, for a friend, I’d be willing. I’d be a little skittish if I could sense a co-worker wanting to cultivate a level of closeness that I didn’t feel yet (and am honestly unlikely to ever feel for most co-workers).

            Since leaving my old job, I’ve been surprised at the people that I’ve kept in touch with outside of work versus the ones I was more friendly with while I was there. With the person I was closest with at work, it turns out that we were mainly work allies and we don’t see each other much outside of a monthly-ish group dinner. With couple of the other women who were professors and kept a bit of professional distance from the admin, our friendship has developed more now that I don’t work there, and we frequently do things together.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              That being said, I have also been in the position of seeing everyone around me having close relationships and wanting to be included in that. It especially sucks, as a person who is slower to warm up to people I don’t know, to see a person who has been around for a shorter time than I make friends more quickly with people I was interested in. So I’m not as unsympathetic as I may have sounded above; I can totally sympathize!

          3. Laura*

            Well said. My work partner was in a serious car accident a few weeks ago, and she NEVER leaned on coworkers for support or discussed it without being asked first. Work is not the place to discuss personal issues unless they are directly impacting the work being done.

          4. Dmented Kitty*

            I agree with this. I am in a similar scenario as OP – but I’ve been here almost five years. When I came into the team, I was the youngest and the newest in the group — most of them have been working together for more than 10 years. There were a couple new people who got hired around the same time I did that actually shared the same interests as mine, but they left shortly for greener pastures. Most of my team like to talk about kids (they all have had kids within three years of me being hired) – and only one person has none, but she has way different interests so we don’t talk much.

            I used to feel like they never invite me for lunch out or if someone is running out to grab lunch and I never got asked if I wanted something to-go — but most of the time I bring my own lunch anyway and eat at my desk, so I understood if sometimes they don’t bother to invite me. But when I do get invited, 99% of the time I say “yes” because why not? Eventually, they started including me in invites for lunch out for the most part (there are still times that they don’t but I no longer feel so bummed about it). And if I do decline (because I don’t feel like it or just needed to be heads down at work), I tell them I appreciate the invite – maybe next time! (Note to office veterans — please don’t hesitate to keep asking a newbie if they want to be included in something, even if most of the time they say “no”. Don’t just assume they aren’t “in” just because 99% of the time they aren’t — they’ll appreciate the thought)

            We recently moved to an open office format, so while sometimes an open office is annoying, it helped me open up with people better — I can overhear conversations between my teammates and I [respectfully] butt in sometimes, compared to cubes where normally I get singled out because I’d rather be in my own little bubble. So while I’m not the type to be buddies outside of work like most of my team is, I think I’m fine with that.

    3. BananaPants*

      Yes, I’m friendly with everyone at work. I know the names of my coworkers’ significant others and children, I know who has a pet and who’s looking to buy their first house or doing some remodeling. They know those details about me and my family. But we don’t hang out outside of work/work-related events. I have one friend at work who I consider a friend outside of work as well, but I’m always a little cautious because she may well end up as my boss someday and that would naturally change the friendship.
      I do consider myself to have work friends, but taking my entire social circle into account I wouldn’t consider them anywhere near the orbit where I would “lean” on them during a personal crisis. I’m at work to work, not to have my social/friendship needs being met. I guess I’m one of those people who compartmentalizes!

      1. Windchime*

        I made the mistake of cultivating a really strong friendship with someone at work, and that person is now my boss. It has made the whole thing very awkward indeed. And I miss my friend, but I can’t talk to my boss like I used to talk to her when she was my friend. It has taught me an important lesson about how much I share with people at work.

    4. Stranger than fiction*

      Yes, we’ve all seen the stories here about how being too close friends with a boss or coworker can be a very bad thing too, and boundaries are irreversibly crossed. You have to strike a balance and it sounds like the Op will do that in given time.

      1. OP*

        Yep. And, I think knowing that so many of my coworkers do connect on a social level – with the bike rides, out to lunch, etc – gives me the green light to want to be “in” too. There are some people here who come in, crunch numbers, and leave. And, I wouldn’t burden them with my social longing.

        1. Christopher Tracy*

          Yep. And, I think knowing that so many of my coworkers do connect on a social level – with the bike rides, out to lunch, etc – gives me the green light to want to be “in” too.

          But again, as Alison said, this takes time. And as Snarkus Aurelius said, they may not want you to be “in” with them no matter how long you’ve been there – that’s a possibility you’re going to have to get comfortable with. Just because you see people riding together or doing other buddy buddy things together doesn’t mean they want others to join in on that time. You don’t know how or when or under what circumstances those relationships were formed. Like my example above, these relationships could have predated the workplace.

    5. Mona Lisa*

      I generally shy away from making friends at work.

      This is definitely me now. I went into the workforce unsure how to navigate friendships at work, and the department where I first worked did an excellent job of demonstrating exactly how to be friendly without being friends. We occasionally ate meals together and talked about our personal lives, but we were not Facebook friends and didn’t hang out outside of work. After then working a toxic non-profit job where everyone was in each other’s personal business, I realized that I definitely don’t want to go through that again.

      My issue now is that I have a co-worker who clearly wants to be friends, and I’m trying to balance not being too standoffish with maintaining the personal space I want and need from my co-workers.

      1. Manders*

        Same here. I actually had a friendship and professional relationship crash and burn when my friend started working with me, so now I keep a bit more distance.

        There are also aspects of my personal life that I absolutely do not want anyone in my office to know about. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to keep some things compartmentalized.

  11. Amanda2*

    In every job I’ve had as an adult, it took me the first year to get to know the company and the people. The first year, for me, has always been about figuring out who everyone is and who I may eventually click with. Then, the second year is always when I’ve found “my people” and made some good, long lasting friendships. This may be at the slow end of the spectrum, but I’m a shy introvert and it takes me awhile to open up and reach out.

  12. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Your coworkers aren’t your friends, OP, although I understand your POV.  You see everyone else getting along and socializing, and you’re out in the cold, but you have to remember that nothing (and I mean nothing!) obligates anyone to be friends with you beyond that professional relationship.  

    I’m really keen to make this distinction because your expectations (and the expectations of certain former and current co-workers of mine!) need to be realistic.  One thing you have to keep in mind is that your relationship to your coworkers needs to be proportional to the time and depth that you know them so, at this point in your job (not saying you would do this), NO comparing someone to a close sibling or talking to them like you would a best friend you’ve known since childhood or making someone a bridesmaid — all of which I’ve seen firsthand.  (One woman thought I was “like a daughter” to her.  Ah no.)

    AAM is right that you need to take the initiative, but I’m also concerned that you had a personal emergency and you literally had no one to turn to.  You’re right to be concerned about it, but your solution isn’t ideal.  Find friends outside of work on whom you can rely.  It’ll take time and it won’t be easy, but the expectations and the friendship development will be more realistic than that of your coworkers. 

      1. OP*

        Great feedback!

        Regarding the personal emergency, it was my sweet family dog who needed emergency surgery, and in her old age, I was incredibly emotional and sad, sitting in my office the moment she went under the knife. I had friends and a wonderful husband to turn to, but I have never felt so lonely, sitting along and crying and not sure what to do in that moment!

        1. Damask*

          I’m so sorry about your dog. :( If it helps, having friends doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be supportive during family emergencies. I have some friends who realize that pets are people in terms of how their family feels about them, but then I have a friend who doesn’t get it at all. It all depends on empathy, or lack thereof. I hope your dog is doing okay.

        2. Zahra*

          My perspective on that specific situation: I wouldn’t have known how to react: let you cry alone and not attract attention to it or come and offer to let you vent/talk about it.

          Otherwise, as someone who has a lot of difficulty being part of any “in” crowd (including in my extended family, who I love dearly!), I’ve asked a few people what I could do to make friends. The main comeback was to listen more and talk less. I talk a lot, know a lot of stuff and am eager to share my knowledge. Also, as Alison pointed out, specifically ask people about their life and their interests. I’m working on it, but I’m more concious about it.

          1. Joline*

            That would be my issue as well. Especially since I come from a family that I feel has irregular comforting methods.

            I was visiting my parents when my mom got the phone call that her mother had passed away. We knew that it was imminent so we could tell what the phone call was about. She hung up and started to cry – my father and I continued watching TV until she’d stopped crying. At that point we asked her if she was okay and offered condolences. My whole family wants to get through our reaction emotions solo before we can even consider getting comfort from someone else (and even that’s rare). She was very thankful that we didn’t touch her or try to comfort her in that initial reaction time because it would’ve made it much worse for her.

            People I’m close enough to for me to put the effort in I usually try to confirm what their needs are when processing emotional things.

        3. Anonymous Educator*

          I actually can relate to this a bit. I was about seven months into a new job when our cat died. I wasn’t even there to see him go under. We knew he was sick but not how sick, and my job was too far from the vet for me to go to be with him. I didn’t want him to suffer longer just so I could be there (my spouse was). I came back to my office and sobbed uncontrollably to my office-mate (we were on good terms but not super super close). My office-mate tried to console me, and my boss told me to go home early. It was a bit awkward, because at that point I wasn’t that close with anybody, but what could I do? I can understand why that would feel lonely for you.

    1. Us, Too*

      I agree with all of this, but this in particular spoke to me:

      “One thing you have to keep in mind is that your relationship to your coworkers needs to be proportional to the time and depth that you know them so….”

      I actually have found that the vast majority of my very close friends are, in fact, my very close friends because we have worked closely together in the past. I spend 8-10+ hrs/day with my colleagues. I don’t even spend that much (waking) time with my direct family!

      Granted, I’m not BFF’s with every colleague or ex-colleague of mine, but when I look at who remains in my “circle of trust” who isn’t a blood relation to me: every single person (except for one) is a former colleague! And the one person who isn’t a former colleague was introduced to me… by a former colleague. LOL.

      OP: I get and support the OP completely. In fact, given that the majority of my waking time is spent with colleagues, I want them to be people that I really like and enjoy spending time with, both professionally and (for some of them anyway) personally. That doesn’t mean I’m going to force a friendship on someone, but any workplace that doesn’t at least afford me the opportunity to do this, I won’t last long at.

      1. OP*

        Yes! Thank you! I hope others understand I’m not trying to barge in and force a friendship to happen. But, a significant amount of time is spent here, and although I already look forward to coming here each day, it would be even more positive with a friend or two.

      2. V Dubs*

        Yes, all of my friends in the city I live in now are work friends or friends of work friends. I generally see my work friends 2-4 times a week outside of work. The company hires for culture so it makes sense we all get along so well!

    2. Oignonne*

      I recently had a discussion with someone about having supportive friends and making new friends and it does require an element of risk. It can be hard to open up to people, but often if you offer a little vulnerability, other people may be more willing to open up in return.

      Now of course it is important to make sure you are behavingly professionally and appropriately for work (so don’t take my advice if it would seem “off” in your work environment), but I’m wondering if OP or anyone ever dealing with a rough situation again, at work without apparent support, might say to someone they are somewhat familiar/comfortable with (the person who works beside you, someone you regularly have brief “hi, how are you?” discussions with, etc.)- “Hey, I’m unfortunately dealing with an emergency with my dog this morning, I wanted to give you a heads up in case I seem a bit down today.”

      The other person can simply respond “I’m sorry to hear that/thanks for letting me know/no worries.” But they might also offer some support and understanding “Oh no, are you doing alright? My cat just had to have surgery, I know it can be rough.” You never know what can happen if you open up a bit.

      1. OP*

        That’s a great way of putting it. Just to even have someone KNOW what was going on would have been comforting.

  13. De Minimis*

    You might wait too for some kind of social event at work, like holiday parties or some kind of group meeting. Like you I felt isolated in my job until we had a mixer at an off-site meeting. Being able to be around people in a non-work context made it easier to break the ice and get to know people a little more.

    I sympathize, though I get along with people well enough here I have no real “work friend’ or sounding board, partially due to my being in an isolated department than works to support the rest of the organization. It can be tough to break in, but keep trying.

    1. De Minimis*

      I guess that first part should be, I felt more isolated in my job until the staff mixer….I still feel somewhat isolated, just not as bad and I at least know people more than I did.

  14. KR*

    I agree with all the others. I’m also happy for OP since they are in such a great workplace. I hope you’re happy for a long time.

    1. OP*

      Thank you! I am so grateful to be in this job. Friends will be the icing on the cake.

      1. Us, Too*

        I’d encourage you to give it more time, but I don’t know that I’d, personally, consider this “icing on the cake.” I’m one of those people for whom the people I work with is more important than the actual work I do. Although I’d give it plenty of time, if after a couple years I didn’t have some solid work friends, I’d be looking for a new job.

        Feeling like I belong is REALLY important to me. It’s a deal breaker for me. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. :)

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Feeling like I belong is important to me, too, and I don’t last long at places where I don’t eventually feel some belonging. Having collegial, friendly work relationships, though, is sufficient to meet that need. If the group goes to lunch or to happy hour and I’m invited along as one of the gang and have at least one or two people to converse with, that is enough. I don’t need for the friendships to extend outside of work-related social events.

  15. Muriel Heslop*

    OP, I am a social connector. Because I am also an extoverted extrovert, I usually wait for others to show some interest in developing some type of relationship or until they share an interest. I really love getting to know people but I grew up in a family of introverts and learned from them to let others open up. Please be patient; four months really isn’t very long. If you desire a deeper connection, I am sure one will develop.

    Good luck!

    1. Honeybee*

      Yeah, I made a similar comment on a different part of the thread – I’m a social connector, but my husband is an introvert, so I’ve learned from him that immediately trying to connect someone can feel overwhelming. I try to give people a little bit to get settled in and then start in slowly. (I’ve also learned in the past that some people simply can’t be connected into the group – either they don’t want it, they’re too socially awkward, or most people in the group don’t want to hang with them for whatever reason. So as a social connector who values positive bonds and not just quantity, I often quietly observe how the new person is being received by the group at large before deciding how and when to connect her.)

  16. Roxanne*

    Oh. Wow. This was exactly how I felt at my last job. I was on a 12-month contract but was hoping for a permanent job offer as the work environment was awesome, the work-life balance respected, people were very nice and I was able to do the job (and even scored “accomplished” on my performance review) but I still felt like I was the new kid on the block five months in and felt like I didn’t fit in. My team was super friendly, I was getting along, I was involved in things (in short, I was not introverted but not my full extroverted self)…but day in, day out, my passion for the job was dwindling and I could not understand why.

    Yes, it is true – you don’t get a job to find friends, but having work friends helps immensely.

    I think in my case, there were a number of factors, not the least was that I had been laid off only weeks prior to taking on the new job, where I had some really strong bonds with co-workers, and I just missed my old work friends SO MUCH. I missed the old job, missed the friends and I believe that in a way I was in “mourning” of the old “life” on the job.

    If you feel that this new job is right for you, give it more time and don’t be shy – get involved! Committees, social clubs and Christmas party planning always need people and it’s a great way to find people you can connect with. At the job where I had been laid off, we also played cards at lunch and it was a great way to let off steam, and connect with folks from different teams.

    For me, it didn’t work out – the job was never offered as permanent as the department was shutting down and I knew my days were for sure numbered. There was also a the senior administrative assistant that just did not connect with me at all and while we were both polite with each other, we were never going to be friends and as long she held the team in her thrall, I was never going to truly fit in.

  17. Scott M*

    Coming from the other side, is there a non-awkward way to decline invitations to coffee or lunch? I’m OK at socializing in groups, but I’m uncomfortable in one-on-one social situations. It’s especially difficult with coworkers where I don’t really have much in common with them and don’t want to reveal too much personal information. I haven’t had that happen to me in a long time, but recently we’ve had some new employees who have asked, and I’ve kind of just stammered and made vague commitments about getting coffee ‘someday’.

    1. OP*

      For me, it would depend on if the coffee/lunch is work related or not. If a new employee wants to learn about your position and role over coffee, you might schedule it like an official meeting with a start and end time. If someone is asking you for social reasons, I’d advise you to be more upfront, even though I would have a hard time with that. I’m probably try the round about “I have to focus on work right now/I have too much to do/I brought my lunch/I need to run a personal errand” approach.

      1. Scott M*

        Personally, if it’s work related I don’t understand why it can’t be done in the office. Just schedule a meeting, or extend a current meeting a bit to chat. These new employees are team members, so it’s not like we don’t have ample opportunities for interaction. Oh well, I’ll deal with it. :)

        1. Honeybee*

          Coffee or lunch is a more relaxed atmosphere than being in the office, and at a lot of workplaces that’s simply the way more casual professional chats are done – so they may be coming from places that’s the norm. When I first started I got coffee or lunch with pretty much everyone on my team just as a way to get to know them better – with some people we talked about personal stuff and with others it was mostly work related stuff. (Also, I’d argue that you don’t know how much you have in common with someone unless you actually sit down and chat with them a bit. But that’s my extraverted side.)

          You could just always brightly say “No thanks!” with a smile. If you say that you’re busy, have to focus on work, or run an errand, I would (and many others) would take that as a sign that you’re busy *today* but might not be another day. The vague “some day” promise also doesn’t work with folks who will take the initiative to put an actual date to that “someday.” But a simple “No thanks!” answer 2-3 times gets the message across.

    2. NicoleK*

      Typically, unless someone is totally clueless, if you decline a couple invitations, people will stop inviting you

  18. Shell*

    Echoing everyone: hang in there.

    I am a Certified Wiseass and I don’t think I even cracked a joke my entire first six months (unless they were the slip-of-the-tongue type, and then I was mortified for days worrying that I had offended someone. And I’m not talking vulgar or risque jokes, I’m talking a light ribbing when a coworker sent an email meant for me to a customer with a similar name).

    I also compartmentalize and I don’t make friends at work (anymore), but I absolutely like being sociable because it makes the day more enjoyable. But it often takes longer than a few months, and the first few months at a job is always fraught with expectations and anxiety so it can be harder to establish a connection then.

    PS: anyone getting the name/email/website fields under the comment box today?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      PS: anyone getting the name/email/website fields under the comment box today?

      Yes — WordPress changed it in their latest update.

      1. Shell*

        Thanks Alison! I had thought my eyes were playing tricks on me on a Monday morning. :)

  19. TMA*

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who thinks about this. I am an adult, and I seriously asked my mother, who is the Supreme Leader of Social Butterflies, how to make friends at work. After leaving school, getting married, having kids, I felt like I had completely forgotten how to socialize with adults, and I felt like a freak because of it.

      1. BananaPants*

        OP, since you said a baby may be in your near future, be advised that making “parent friends” can be even more difficult than making friends at work. Finding “mom friends” has been so hard – or rather, trying to develop friendships with the parents of our kids’ friends! Trying to ask for another mom’s contact info while gauging friend potential (knowing that she’s doing the same with you) makes me feel like I’m back in elementary school and am awkwardly asking the new girl in class if she wants to be my friend because we both like Legos or something.

        1. Us, Too*

          Oh, gosh, yes. This is the WORST part of parenting. Just about the time you finally find another parent who seems sort of “OK”, you learn that they have some sort of deal-breaker issue. And it doesn’t even matter if you’re pretty laid back about this stuff. Inevitably, there’s something crazy about anyone who you might be remotely interested in getting to know better as a friend. The below are true examples – you just can’t make this stuff up. I’m using “we” but am referring to what someone else said, not my family.

          * We leave a loaded gun on our coffee table. Our kids have been taught respect from a young age so they know better than to touch it or they’ll get their butts whooped.
          * We’re hosting a play date and our kid has lice, but don’t worry, we’ll be burning some essential oils to prevent contagion.
          * Jenny has chicken pox. Want to bring your son over to play so that he can catch it?

          Truly. I am left speechless sometimes.

          1. Mona Lisa*

            That last example might not strike me as too weird depending on the context/way it’s said. It was pretty common for a long time to control the way that kids were exposed to certain communicable diseases (chicken pox, mumps, etc.) so people might reasonably believe that this is still a way to operate.

            1. Scott M*

              Yes, I can remember that our parents did that with us when I was a kid (I’m around 50). That way, we all got it at the same time in our neighborhood and it was done and over with. These days, you can get a vaccine.

            2. Honeybee*

              Mmm, these days there’s a vaccine for varicella, and although I don’t have children from experience the parents who are most likely to ask for a chickenpox playdate/party are also the ones most likely to be anti-vaccination. It’s definitely at least a yellow flag, and a record-scratch moment.

          2. Stranger than fiction*

            Oh my. Yeah, when my kids were little, I never really bonded with any of their friends’ parents. My first kid was always changing friends and was a bit of a pistol so there was definitely a few times they brought her home for not getting along with their kid (although even those were not all her fault). My second kid made all her close friends in her dads neighborhood, where the parents and I were cordial if I were the one picking her up, but it was never like “oh you should come by our bbq this weekend” or anything like that. This might come off wrong, but I was always the young parent and the single parent, so I used to get those side eyes from some of the moms, at school functions or soccer or whatever, like surely I must be out to steal someone’s husband. But you know what? It never bothered me really, I wasn’t looking for a bff, my life was plenty busy and still is.

    1. TootsNYC*

      Ooh, your asking your mom made me think ofthis:

      Whenn my kid was little I read a story that said, essentially, “parents have been giving their children the wrong playground advice all along.”

      We tell our kids, “walk up and introduce yourself.” but that’s not really effective.

      The best thing to do is to hang out on the sidelines, and watch. And then when you see an opportunity to step in just a little bit, do so. So cheer when someone makes a basket, or admire their swing skills. And then participate; pick up the ball when it goes out of bounds. basically, sidle / slide into the activity.

      So, that. Join the edges of the group and listen (you sound like this will actually be something you’ll be good at). When you see an opportunity to make a comment, praise someone, sympathize, etc., take it. Then ask to tag along to the deli, or volunteer to help someone collate, or something else that you can join in without major awkwardness.

  20. Jinx*

    Is it considered rude to ask to come if your coworkers don’t ask you? Smaller groups on my team go out to lunch frequently, but I am very rarely asked. I’ve always said yes the few times I’ve been invited, and a couple of times I asked others to go out with me. A large group will meet up near the team’s area, and I’ve considered going over and asking to go, but I always felt too weird about it. In my mind, I guess I feel like if they wanted me along they’d ask, and it’d be rude to force them to take me out of politeness. Does that make any sense? Maybe I’m approaching this the wrong way, but I’m so bad at reading social cues that I have no idea what is appropriate in some situations.

    1. OP*

      My question exactly! I’m terrified of saying “Can I come?” but so desperately want to be asked initially. Sometimes I’m asked as an afterthought – like if I happen to walk by while they’re on the way out – and even that makes me feel self conscious.

      1. NK*

        Even if you’re asked as an afterthought, just go! The more you attend, the more you’ll be asked initially and no longer be an afterthought. Don’t take it personally, people are deeply habit driven and sometimes just forget to include new people, even if they’re open to it.

    2. Sarah in Boston*

      As one of the local organizers, I’d always be happy to have someone want to come along on most (but not all) excursions! I do think if you can identify the person/people who tend to organize and ask ahead of time (“Hey, can I come along the next time you go to …”) that’s the best approach. My group is large enough that we need to call ahead to restaurants and it would be easier to add another person ahead of time rather than in the moment.

    3. TootsNYC*

      I think you might not be completely kosher asking right then, but you can -tell- the organizer privately that you’d love to come along next time. So not asking, but stating your interest and availability.

      You can also say, “Oh, I’ll walk out with you,” and make like you’re going somewhere else. They may offer for you to come along, and you can either accept, or decline if their invitation feels forced.

  21. HRish Dude*

    I’ve been at my job for over 5 years and don’t have any friends here. Now I feel very self-conscious.

    1. Cl*

      Ive worked here for 16 years and I wouldn’t call anyone here my friend. I’m friendly, sure, we chat and say hi and whatnot, but it’s very superficial and casual, I don’t really know any of them well enough to call them an actual friend. And that’s fine with me. I’m not at work to hang out with my BFFs, I’m there to do a job. As long as we can be polite and friendly while we get that job done, that’s all that’s necessary.

      I’d be seriously wigged out if a colleague expected the kind of emotional support and investment the OP seems to be looking for, based on their comments here.

      1. OP*

        I do think my line of work makes a difference. I’m in the non-profit field which I think attracts a good amount of emotionally driven people to the workforce. Having such a mission-centered organization comes through in the overall social environment. We do youth programming, underprivileged family outreach, and health initiatives. Before, I was in a disaster relief organization often helping families recover from the most devastating moments in their life. So, part of “doing my job” requires the ability to connect on an emotional level.

        I am the type who would seek some kind of support or understanding or heartfelt sympathies when a family emergency occurs.. though I understand not everyone would or should care.

        1. Mando Diao*

          Yes and no. I understand the impulse, but you shouldn’t be reaching for reasons to think you’re an exception to the advice that people are giving you here, just because it might not be what you want to hear. When you’re young and working retail or serving jobs, it’s more natural to form close-knit friend groups because your schedule blocks out normal socializing times and because you’re still in the school-age mindset of making friends due to proximity rather than compatibility. The fact that you work at a non-profit doesn’t mean that you should expect your job to fulfill other life needs for you. If you want to make friends, you need to put in the time and legwork to make it happen outside of work.

          1. The Rizz*

            I think the advice that people are giving here is way too rigid and impractical. I mean, most people have good friends they met through work. MOST. Because we spend most of our waking lives at work and for people lucky enough to work in their chosen fields, they have a lot in common with the people there. People shouldn’t expect all their co-workers to be besties, and should be professional, but neither is it unreasonable to expect to make a few friends at work and be able to chat to a few about your life. I think it’s you and the people giving this advice who are exceptions, not OP.

        2. Crystal Vu*

          I work at a non-profit too. Even after 6 years, I have one person I can really call a friend, plus two or three others I’m chummy with beyond the usual workplace pleasantries. I don’t think you can demand the connections you’re hoping for even from a non-profit organization.

        3. TootsNYC*

          The thing is, reasonable coworkers who aren’t actually your friends might be able to supply this. I find that sometimes the people who are most supportive aren’t the people I would go to lunch with.

    2. Scott M*

      I’ve been at my job for over 20 years. I have work-friends, but never socialize with them outside of work aside from the occasional group lunch. Don’t worry about it.

    3. MillersSpring*

      Work friends can be very different from other friends. When you’re sharing space and activities with people for hours each day, it can be natural to learn about each other’s lives. That doesn’t mean you’re going to socialize with them on the weekends, but it makes work more bearable for many. It’s even a key question on the Gallup employee engagement survey. I have many current friends who previously were work friends–I felt more comfortable converting those relationships after we no longer worked together.

    4. Lady Dedlock*

      I’ve been at my current place for 6 years, and I just sort of started making friends maybe 2 years ago. I’ve hung out with folks outside of work a few times. But I’m still not part of a clique that goes to lunch or talks to each other every day, etc. It is what it is.

    5. Crystal Vu*

      6 years +, just one friend, and that has been a fairly recent upgrade. :) Some workplaces are just a tough nut to crack, I think.

  22. Lurker*

    Hey Alison, sorry for the OT-ness, but I’m getting ads for University of Phoenix on your site and I know how you feel about them. I don’t know if you can blacklist the ads, or if it’s somehow related to my Google history or what, but I thought you’d maybe like to know.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      They buy space on the larger network that auto-populates the ads on my site, so it’s basically out of my control. (And I’m picking my battles with advertising, since I’m constantly annoying my ad network with complaints.)

  23. MillersSpring*

    I felt this at my current workplace. I overheard lots of noisy invites to lunch, HH and dinner, but no one thought to ask me. I found it incredibly rude. Now that I’ve been here a while, I’ve noticed that most of the ladies eat lunch at their desks, and the men do not invite ladies when they go out for lunch together, even their peers. Grrr.

    Personally, I have to force myself to make invitations, as it doesn’t come naturally. If I’m the newbie, I assume everyone else already has friends, and that I’d be ridiculed for asking (middle school flashbacks). If I’m no longer the newbie, I have to remember to make plans with others, or else I’m just dashing out for an hour of Me Time.

    I agree that social connection is critical at work. It’s nice to have people to talk to about both work and personal issues, at least the ones I feel comfortable sharing.

  24. Nervous Accountant*

    This is such a well timed post. I don’t have much advice to offer really…..but I think it’s better when there’s a slow progression. IME, people are super welcoming and friendly here, but in my case, the warmth stopped abruptly (still not sure what happened, but not agonizing over it anymore). It’s been almost 18 months since then, and a lot of the people who contributed to that strange, clique-y environment are gone now, but I still remember the sting. Things have gotten a lot better now but then I found out something today that’s taking up way more space in my head than it should. Oh well.

  25. Alienor*

    So, after losing several long-time work friends to layoffs/retirement/new jobs over the last few years, I decided not to form any more close relationships at work. It was incredibly hard when each of them left (I’d known some of them for 15 years and we’d been through all sorts of life events together), and I don’t need to be dealing with personal sadness at work on top of the stress of the actual job. I still have a couple of close work friends left whom I’ve known for a long time and see regularly outside the office, but when it comes to new hires, we can chat about our weekends and maybe go on a coffee run once in a while, but that’s as far as it’s going to go. It’s totally possible that there are people in my office right now who are thinking the same thing about me as OP is about her colleagues, but it truly has nothing to do with them and everything to do with me.

  26. LisaD*

    I manage this person at my workplace :( She hasn’t been able to form the kinds of friendships others have here, which is really hard on her! I bet there is at least one other person in the company who feels exactly like you do, but you maybe haven’t noticed them much because they are also quiet. The person I manage is very outgoing which you aren’t, but just isn’t a personality fit for most of the others in the office. She would LOVE it if a new, more shy person wanted to make friends with her. Maybe there is someone like her where you are who seems like they have everything together because they’re extroverted, but in reality is not joining the outings and lunches? Look around for somebody else who doesn’t seem to be in a clique and befriend them, you will do both of you a good turn!

  27. TMW*

    Whenever I start a new job, I never go into it expecting/hoping to make BFF’s–however, it winds up happening. LOL.
    As the others have advised, give it some more time. A food/coffee run is always a good way to break the ice. However, I wouldn’t want to be so quick to make my colleagues my support system (that should be reserved for your friends outside of work)

  28. Rob Lowe can't read*

    I feel you, OP! I was only at my last job for a year, so I didn’t have the opportunity to develop strong, long-term friendships with my coworkers, but I’m finding it so, so much harder to make connections with coworkers at my new(ear) job. Some of it is cultural differences (ex. at my current workplace, almost everyone eats lunch at their desks), and some of it is the nature of my new role (which is less collaborative than my old job, so fewer chances to develop relationships), but honestly? After 9 months in this job, I have to conclude that part of the problem is that a lot of my coworkers at my new job are kind of cold and unfriendly. And that’s….fine, in the sense that I came here to work, not to make new friends, but it also makes me feel much less invested in my workplace. For a variety of personal and professional reasons, I’m planning to stay where I am for another 2-3 years, but I don’t think I’ll feel much regret about moving on after that.

    1. Rob Lowe can't read*

      *new(er) job. My work does not, strictly speaking, involve ears.

  29. Programmer 01*

    It might sound weird, but my work has a mentorship program specifically for things like this — it makes sure you’re not just introduced to people who will help your career and help you get comfortable with your role, but also meet people outside your team who might get along or share interests with you. We also tend to have things running like Walking Dead Wednesdays at lunch where folks can drop in on the latest Walking Dead episode and eat lunch (quietly), board game nights and so on that are open and we remind people on a regular basis they’re open to everyone. So if there’s anything like that, you can stop by! And if there isn’t… you can initiate, too! Board games are my favourite because I’ve yet to work somewhere that, if they did not ALREADY have a running board game night, latched on to it with a whole lot of enthusiasm. We also do a lot of volunteer work with the community and that’s a great way to meet other co-workers, especially in cases where you work on different floors or they’re people you don’t see on a regular basis.

    I’m a social introvert — I can initiate things and take charge and enjoy people, but it’s exhausting! So I totally understand you there (my idea of a relaxing night is a book and a cat), but I figure I’m also socially attuned well enough to toss out ideas that will take and see them through until they’re self-sustaining. Or well, they fail, and that’s cool too.

    As a follow-up, this is going to sound kind of weird, but a family emergency is rough to find strangers to lean on, but a family PET emergency? Just about anyone will immediately be willing to talk to you and offer support, because it’s a totally different social and heart matter, if that makes sense. I might not know your brother but can vaguely wish him well because he’s attached to you in a nebulous way, but oh my gosh I know dogs and the pain of worrying over them and not being able to explain to them what’s happening or take their pain away! It’s not necessarily a deeper shared human experience, but it’s a WAY more socially-accessible one.

    (I’m really glad your dog is doing better! See? Even internet stranger is all concerned about your dog! Because dogs are love in furry packages.)

  30. Nada*

    I’m in the opposite situation as OP – I’m the veteran employee in my department, and my co-workers who I was close to have moved on to other jobs. My workplace friendships never caused any drama, so I do miss that buffer of support at work (especially because I’m constantly walking on eggshells around my hot & cold boss, and it takes an emotional toll). I try to be polite and friendly to my new co-workers, but I also try to respect their boundaries.
    Go slowly, find things you have in common, bring a treat to work to share, keep going slowly, and enjoy your job.

  31. GrumpyandSleepybutNotDopey*

    A true Webster’s Dictionary introvert here. That being said to me the thought of getting close to people who I work with terrifies me. I make a tremendous effort to be friendly to all because I am quite reserved but I truly struggle with building relationships in the workplace because to me, lunch and other extended conversations with someone who I don’t really know is scary and awkward. Any advice on balancing the line between friendly and friendship in the office? I prefer to keep my distance and appreciate clear boundaries, very kindly of course. Though I worry this comes across as a bit steely given I am so young.

    1. NicoleK*

      I can’t tell from your post if you want to make friends at work or not. But do what works for you. And that may mean being friendly but never developing close friendships. There is no one size fits all.

      1. GrumpyandSleepybutNotDopey*

        Thank you NicoleK. Your advice was helpful. I’d rather not develop deep office friendships, polite and removed is just fine with me. But when you see the same people everyday sometimes it feels like the lines are becoming blurred or people naturally want to become closer, which makes me want to run away screaming “Get away!”. :) Also, one person in particular has naturally taken to me–who has sloppy boundaries and no filter to put it mildly, because she is so young I think. I don’t want to push people away but need to remove myself from discussing personal–it’s just way too much for me.

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