Getting the Cold Shoulder

Dear Anita,

I just recently started a new position at a local company in the town that I live in. Everything is going great, but without any doing on my part, I already feel disliked and shunned by a group of 3 women in my office. I have tried to make conversation, be polite, and go above and beyond to break down any walls that may stand between us, but nothing has worked. What should I do?

Thank you for your question. It sounds like there already might have been some animosity and unhappiness brewing in your workplace before you started. Trust me, I’ve been there. It is hard to find something more uncomfortable on the first few days on the job than being given the cold shoulder for absolutely no reason. Most likely, you are not the only one who is feeling this way.

Cliques in the workplace should be avoided, but in most circumstances, they are inevitable. People naturally gravitate toward those who have similar interests, beliefs, cultures, and opinions. If there is some bad blood in the office, people will often end up choosing sides just like 3rd graders on the playground.

Here is my advice. Since you are new and haven’t had a chance to upset this persnickety bunch, I suggest focusing on your new position instead of on making friends. All you need to worry about is how well you perform and meet the expectations of your supervisors. If it becomes a bigger issue, bring it the attention of your HR manager. True HR professionals will be able to curtail the negativity without disclosing your identity.

The bottom line is: be courteous and respectful, but do not waste your energy going out of your way trying to win them over. You are only in control of your behavior and the decisions that you make. In the long run, these women’s actions will be detrimental and reflect badly on them.

My favorite quote and a great piece of advice is: “What other people think of me is none of my business!”

Who else has been stuck being the odd man out? How did you handle the situation? Is there still that awkward feeling when you encounter the people who made you feel excluded?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!


11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ameliarojas
    Jun 15, 2012 @ 12:06:22

    I also forgot to mention, smother them with niceness, smile and greet and they will have no choice but to respond… 🙂 Eventually they will know that they are not getting “under your skin” and leave you alone, because it doesn’t bother you one bit. Just smile and continue to focus on your goals, not theirs because they are obviously on a different path… Smile 🙂


  2. ameliarojas
    Jun 14, 2012 @ 18:10:08

    Love Anita’s answer especially the “choosing sides just like 3rd graders on the playground.” I thought that was so on target, true and funny at the same time.

    I couldn’t agree more with Anita, focus on your new job, duties and impress those who really matter, your boss. I’m sure your boss is aware of what’s going on no doubt and I also agree that something was already happening and perhaps you replaced someone that they “liked” someone from their ridiculous little clique and now you are the “bad guy”. So yes, just focus on your new job, it’s not worth the time and energy to try to be part of their group, but be professional and courteous at all times regardless of what others do. Their probably on their way out too 🙂


  3. mymidlifemayhem
    Jun 05, 2012 @ 21:34:38

    Been there and that’s a great quote to adhere to.


  4. Regina
    Jun 05, 2012 @ 18:26:17

    I think she should focus on her job, be courteous, show herself friendly and let them get to know her as she gets to know them. Over time they will invite her to join them, at which time she can accept or choose otherwise. I have been in a few consulting roles and experienced the same division and it”s usually because of fear of the unknown – what’s happening with their job or within their department and company.


  5. Gracie
    Jun 05, 2012 @ 10:12:44

    I have found in time, things change. So I would suggest to her to give it time and not worry about the situation. Focus on doing the best job possible and most likely over time her co-workers will be more friendly once they get to know her. She is the new kid in school, so to speak.


  6. mickiev
    Jun 05, 2012 @ 09:54:09

    I’ve had the same experience after I started a new job. I have been pushed, shoved, bad-mouthed and had things grabbed out of my hand. Not sure whose side my supervisor was on, but she got along with those persnickety employees very famously, including this new old lady who had it out for me the most.

    I confronted the supervisor about this and a few days later, I was reprimanded for false innuendo, including rudeness to customers. The following day, I found myself walking out and declared “resigned”. I was lucky I found another job a week later.


    • m.capriola
      Jun 11, 2012 @ 07:39:26

      Wow. Sounds like a very unprofessional workplace. I’ve seen better behavior in sandboxes. Walking out was the best thing you could have done. A letter to someone higher up the food chain (corporate HQ, for instance) might be in order. Perhaps you can ask Anita if this is a good idea and how the letter might be composed.


  7. Debra Goodman
    Jun 05, 2012 @ 08:44:23

    I’ve worked in many “temp” jobs and have found a lot of the employees try to blame the temp or the new person for things they have done wrong. I’ve had some even try to sabotage my job! I’ve found letters written about me (with typos, etc., back in the days before spell check!) in files I was sent to look through. I’ve caught women talking behind my back (when they hardly knew me!) and goofing off while I was having to “double up” my workload to make up for the fact they weren’t doing it!


    • David Johnson
      Oct 31, 2012 @ 16:17:30

      I am sorry that you go through that Debra. I have found people like that have to put you down in order to look good because thier work does not speak for them.


  8. pravinchn
    Jun 05, 2012 @ 08:15:00

    Reblogged this on pravinchn.


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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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