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Not fitting in

Dear Office-Politics,

I have recently moved from New York City to San Diego to start work at a new job. At my new office I don’t feel like I fit in. Everyone is quiet. No one expresses themselves.

Our Receptionist/Office Manager does not even answer the phone or greet people when they walk in. Clients will actually stand there looking around for 5 minutes until someone will look up and greet them. The office culture seems to be “laid back” which makes me feel too persistent and pro-active. My projects are all going well, are all on time and I feel good about my work. I just don’t feel like anyone likes me.

Also at my new office, the associate director hired his wife to be the account manager. While they both seem to be good at their jobs, they seem to both work together to get ahead, often talking behind closed doors to our company’s president. I was once in his office and saw him Instant Message our president to tell him that 2 other co-workers were “slacking” when they were busy at work.

Another time our president pulled me aside to tell me that “while I was doing a great job with my accounts, I needed to keep my opinions to myself”. He made it clear that someone had complained about my personality and told me to try to get along. It is a culture of silence and passive-aggression. I am really starting to feel paranoid and disliked. At my last office everything was out in the open, everyone spoke their minds, were highly efficient, and pro-active. I feel like a car that is being forced into 1st gear.


Not Fitting In


dr. rick brandon
dr. marty seldman

Dear Not Fitting In,

If you had made the choice to start a new job in Mexico City, Moscow or Rio you probably would have prepared yourself for working in a new culture. You might have been on the lookout for cultural differences, asked people beforehand about the culture and accepted that you would have to work to fit in.

Even with this type of preparation working in a new culture is difficult and there are many instances where the cultural gap is too wide and people can’t or won’t bridge it. On the other hand, many people feel that the best thing they have done for their development is to work in another culture because it forced them to learn new skills and develop flexibility.

In your case, the culture of your new organization is quite different from the one you thrived in, in New York. You never left the U.S. so you mentally did not prepare yourself for how different the working culture and norms could be.

Every culture has different norms, core values, taboos and language. If you make the choice to stay, fit in, and contribute then we think this culture analogy will help you have the right attitude.

You can always decide that “life is too short” and try to find an environment where it is easier for you to work. However, it might be a positive, stretching experience if you became a student of the culture and tried to understand how to be successful there.


Rick Brandon, Ph.d. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. Co-authors,
Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success

cover of Survival of the SavvyRick Brandon, Ph.d. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. are Co-authors, Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success. Dr. Rick Brandon is CEO of Brandon Partners. He has consulted and trained tens of thousands at corporations worldwide, including Fortune 500 companies across a variety of industries. Dr. Marty Seldman is one of America’s most experienced executive coaches. His 35-year career includes expertise in executive coaching, group dynamics, cross-cultural studies, clinical psychology, and training.

  1. One Answer to “Not fitting in”

  2. Each of us must ask how much being accepted is worth to us. If getting the corner office, an assigned parking space in front, your own support team is worth selling out then call [the devil] right now. Otherwise, find the place & people that are right for you and ignore the salary & perks.

    By ed on Nov 11, 2015

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