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Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Will you tell me about fitting in at your job?

Asked by Simone_De_Beauvoir (38917points) May 26th, 2009

Do you fit in? Does it matter to you if you fit in? Does fitting in at your workplace translate to more opportunities? Does this phenomenon change from field to field?

I never really feel that I fit in, because when people that I work with (they’re nice and all) get together for lunch or a walk to the park, the things they talk about are so vapid and ‘safe’ that I feel like I’m being fake, too but I realize that even if they do have depth, they also feel the pressure of just discussing ‘nice’ things like yoga and whatever…I never really say the things they want to hear me say and I always end up feeling out of place and I wonder if they talk about me behind my back and if it hurts my chances of ‘moving up’ when it’ll come to that decision and believe me I’m SO glad I don’t fit in with these pretenses but it matters to me if this will put me below someone who can keep the smile up and discuss what a ‘lovely memorial day weekend they had, blah blah blah’

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23 Answers

SirBailey's avatar

First question I have is “What do you mean you never say the things they want to hear you say?” Like what?

Secondly, yep! You want to advance? Then in addition to your good work you have to play the politics game. That includes going with them to lunch, going to the Holiday party, etc., no matter how much you hate it. And NEVER say something bad about the boss. They WILL get it back!

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@SirBailey Like they know that I have 2 children and they wanted to complain about how they get mommies asking them all the time when THEY’ll have children and I told them I never do that as I generally don’t assume all women MUST have kids…they didn’t like that…they didn’t like that I don’t ‘fit’ into their idea of an annoying mommy

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@SirBailey and I’m still having difficulty with the concept of ‘faking it’ for advancement…sure money’s important, maybe, but screw that, it’s not for me, these games…

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

Hey, I know how you feel. Seems everyone I work with is into sports, or are ex-cops, or ex-firefighters, and I sometimes feel like a school bus driver at a get-together for astronauts. I got into security work because it was an opportunity for good pay, good benefits, and no more busting my ass for unappreciative employers. It was a way to work smart instead of working hard. Sometimes I wonder if it was a good choice.

I don’t fit in anywhere really, but I try to fit in enough at work to make it pleasant at my workplace. I think respect and cooperation are better than fitting in when it comes to advancing. You gotta play the politics game, and sometimes, that means acting as if you are something you are not. which I fucking hate, by the way.

Of course, I also worked sales at a small print shop a few years ago, and since my job title was customer service, I learned how to ‘talk the talk’ of utter vapidity. I hate it, but it does help you to maintain professional connections so as to not end up on the wrong end of someone’s shit stick.

Also, doing your job with a professional mindset, finding which co-workers you can depend on and which ones will stab you in the back, and a little schmoooozing will always help in any job.

SirBailey's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir, that’s the choice you make. Either DON’T play the “game” and make it harder for you to advance, or DO play and probably make it easier. It’s not a rule that’s in cement, but it can be a rule.

As for that business about not fitting in as an annoying mommy, that sounds like a peculiarity of the people involved. You do NOT have to EVER say you’re not some “negative” they want you to be if, in fact, you’re not. That’s not politics. That’s a crackpot you work with.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I agree with SirBailey, never pretend to be something negative just to please idiots.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@SirBailey @evelyns_pet_zebra
ya, it was a ‘great’ morning

nikipedia's avatar

I had a roommate once who was a really likable, popular guy. I was complaining once about having to go spend time with someone I didn’t particularly like. He said, “Hey, can’t you find something to like about her?”

I thought that was possibly the best advice I ever got. So you and these ladies don’t agree on some weird notion of motherhood they have. What can you like about them?

cwilbur's avatar

I fit in enough to get by, and there are a few people I like. But it’s work, not a social club—I work with them just fine, and it really doesn’t matter if I don’t like most of them.

SirBailey's avatar

Another thing – playing the political game does NOT mean you agree with anything they say even if you don’t agree with it. DON’T do that. What would you do if there were two co-workers there? Suppose one wanted you to be an annoying mommy while the other did NOT???

YARNLADY's avatar

I wish it wasn’t necessary to fit in in order to get ahead, but in some companies, it is. Hubby was once told that he was the best worker they ever had, but he was being passed over because he didn’t fit in.

He left that company shortly after that, and was hired on at a company where his work is the most important thing, and through several changes of ownership, and transfers, he is well paid. When the layoffs come (which they inevitably do) he is still there, after 25 years.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@nikipedia i was just saying the exact same thing to my husband
finding something, anything in common
it’s just such a chore

galileogirl's avatar

Have you ever thought of being non-committal? If someone made a comment about “mommies” being annoying or what they did over the weekend, do you have to respond? Why can’t you give them an MM-Hmm or How nice?

As for the lunch thing, I worked in a dept with 3 women who were twice my age and we all had lunch at the same time. We were out of the city with no place but the company cafeteria so I went on a ‘diet’ and went to a corner with a book. Women always understand if you don’t want to be around food. As for a walk in the park, just get real interested in flowers, trees and squirrels and lag behind. Walking by yourself is healthy.

As far as talking about you, don’t worry. They are going to talk about you anyway. If the chit-chat comes up during work time, just pay more attention to your duties. As long as you do your job well and remain blandly pleasant to your co-workers, you should be just fine.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@galileogirl lol, your advice is funny, thanks for bringing a smile to my face…i already have lunch at my desk to avoid those kind of get togethers

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Do your job, don’t participate in workplace politics or gossip, be friendly to people even if you’re having a bad day.

It’s like that line in Star Wars: “Stay on target…”

You don’t have to sacrifice yourself to fit in, though sometimes you may have to bite your tongue.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@The_Compassionate_Heretic I do appreciate the SW reference, always

casheroo's avatar

I feel like I don’t fit in at the job I have now. The customers are on such a different financial level than me, that they act superior and don’t really like talking to me. So, I don’t even like talking to them. My boss is hard to talk to, because she talks to me and I feel it’s always in a demeaning manner so I try to avoid any sort of small talk.
I get along fine with my manager, but I hate becoming close to people I work with. It never works out, especially since this is just a job and not my career. If it were my career, I’d probably make more of an effort to “fit in”. But, that’s just at work. You can be friendly and fit in at work, even if that’s not who you are outside of work.
My personality at work is much different than my personality outside of work.

kevbo's avatar

If your (active or passive) goal is to move up, then the only opinions/game playing/fakery/camraderie that really matters is among those who’s circle you’d be moving into. In fact, it would benefit you to align yourself more closely with them at the expense of the “plebes,” if that’s your current crowd.

Otherwise, I would only suggest that rather than characterizing it as forced fakery, perhaps you can use these encounters to practice being observant and possibly lead or direct the conversations with questions about themselves. I’m sure that would keep you from having to worry about your opinions and give them a sense of self-edification. This also can work to just get the time to pass.

Like @YARNLADY said, it is probably worth your while to find another venue. Anecdotally, a friend and coworker of mine was truly a whipping boy for my uberdysfunctional, hating department. He left after a few years- being told all the while that he wasn’t that good- to become a fast rising star at another company where he’s now a regional manager. So context can make a big difference.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@kevbo thanks for that
I am thinking of another job

wundayatta's avatar

I’ve generally worked at jobs where people share my political views. My first job the major part of my social life was with my coworkers. Then I had a couple of jobs where I wasn’t really part of the social scheme, and I believe one should keep work and life separate. This was particularly true after I got married. Mostly, though, it was because I didn’t really like anyone at work. I didn’t dislike them, either. They just weren’t people I wanted to socialize with.

Then someone was hired who I had a lot in common with, and gradually I started socializing more with this group, and some of the relationships have lasted past the termination of my employment there. I’m now in a different place, and I like a lot of the people, but we don’t see each other much at work (academics seem to hide in their offices a lot), so it’s not easy to build social relations outside of work, at least for me. I don’t attend any faculty meetings. Also, my staff turns over every year, so there’s not really time to get to know each other.

I haven’t had to worry about fitting in all that much. I’ve generally worked at places where people are about as crazy as I am. I haven’t helped or hurt my opportunities, since basically I’ve been in jobs that can’t go anywhere without a change of employer. Since they don’t make me work too hard, and I can fluther most of the time, I don’t mind.

TitsMcGhee's avatar

Everyone i work with is under 25 years old, and we have a good amount of things in common (ie we all drink and smoke), so we all fit in and get along pretty well. I don’t work everyday, so if something feels weird, I have time to chill out before I see everyone again.

RedPowerLady's avatar

it matters to me if this will put me below someone who can keep the smile up and discuss what a ‘lovely memorial day weekend they had, blah blah blah’

In some fields it will put you below. Academia being one of them. I’ve seen it happen a few times including during the direct hiring process.
But I don’t agree that should be so. It is horrible to deal with.

lillycoyote's avatar

I really have never fit in anywhere I’ve worked and I’ve never been good at office politics. I am generally friendly though and able to get along with all sorts of people but I have to kind of scope everyone out first. I can’t tell you how to fit in in a way that will help move ahead or how to play the politics but if you’re looking just to make your work days a little easier in a social way, just try to be friendly and non-judgmental, once to get the lay of the land and get a sense of what the other people you work with are like you will probably find that you can relate to at least some of them on some level. You should make a few allies where you work. Also, you can pretend you’re an anthropologist doing fieldwork, learning about the strange ways of this strange culture:)

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