Approximately 6 months ago I took a new job in an AV-Technology department. Prior to my taking this job, I had done some part-time trouble-shooting for this department.
Over the past 6 months or so, I noticed that two of my colleagues were collaborating on projects between themselves and not including me as they should. I recently had my performance review, and described the scenario to my supervisor, who is personal friends with one of my colleagues outside of work.
As was expected, I came into work this morning and have been given the silent treatment and cold shoulder by my colleagues. Was I wrong to make my supervisor aware of this situation? He obviously spoke to one of my colleagues outside of work about what I had said during my review. Any suggestions you could make would be appreciated. Thank you.
OFFICE-POLITICS REPLY BY FRANKE JAMES
Dear Left out,
Essentially your question boils down to: How do you gain acceptance in a new workplace? Your dilemma reminds me of not being invited to a party — and how hurtful that can be. Your two colleagues excluded you, so you took what you thought was a very straightforward action. You went to your supervisor and complained.
Unfortunately it had the opposite affect that you hoped for. Instead of being invited to the party, you’re now being shunned.
Writing to www.officepolitics.com is a first step towards healing that rift. Let’s walk through some options here and see if there is a solution:
Imagine that you had wanted an invitation to their ‘party’. As we all know, invitations to parties are at the discretion of the hosts. They don’t have to invite you, and nobody can force them. Going to a higher authority (your supervisor) to get invited to their party will just backfire. It’ll get their back up, and make their acceptance of you even harder. You may get invited, but it will only be because the supervisor twisted their arms. Which isn’t much fun for you, right?
The Welcome party-goer?
I think you have to ask yourself how you can be a welcome party-goer (or project worker as the case may be).
1. What can I bring to the party that will make them want to have me there? If it really were a party then you might be bringing food or drink. But in the context of work, what can you bring to the party? What’s your contribution?
2. Sometimes the best way to get invited to a party is to host one yourself. Ask yourself, “If I host the party, will they come?” There’s only one way to find out. Ask them. You may have to swallow your pride, but basically you’re saying, “Hey, guys I want to play with you too.” If one coworker is more receptive than another, approach him/her first with your ‘party invitation’.
3. Get it straight from the horse’s mouth. Ask for feedback. Is there something in your behavior that is annoying them? Are you in the habit of jumping on ideas, and saying, “That will never work.” Are you too forceful? Are you always pushing your own ideas ahead of theirs?
I’m really trying to figure out why they haven’t invited you to their party. Only you know the answer.
If sharing ideas does turn out to be the problem, I suggest reading SIX THINKING HATS by Dr. Edward de Bono. In it he teaches a method for conducting meetings that I think is quite brilliant. He assigns a different color, and different thinking style to each hat. It can sound frivolous but in my experience it works. It enables groups of people to think in one direction at a time, to allow optimistic ideas to surface, and then to allow negative ideas to be aired. The beauty of it is that it’s a very systematic style of meeting that can bring very creative and workable solutions to the surface.
Let me know if this is helpful to you. Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.com.
Best of luck,
Franke James, MFA
Inventor, The Office-Politics® Game
Editor & Founder of OfficePolitics.com
Franke James, MFA is the Editor & Founder of OfficePolitics.com. She is also the Inventor of The Office-Politics® Game a dilemma-based social game that teaches you how to play, and laugh, at office politics. It’s used by HR departments, and corporate trainers worldwide. The Office-Politics Dilemmas have been inspired by the hundreds of letters submitted to Office-Politics.com.
Publication note: This letter was originally published in 2006. We are republishing the best letters from Office-Politics and integrating them with our blog format.