Help me get my new co-workers to like my introverted, hard working self.
March 31, 2009 1:19 PM   Subscribe

Just started a new job. I want these people to like me. Other than working hard, what's the best way for an introverted person like me to make a good impression with my new co-workers?

I'm not a social animal. I don't really like going out for drinks after work and because I'm generally a quiet, reserved kind of guy, I don't tend to be the extroverted type who is able to easily make friends by being the life of the party. I'm really very much an introvert who is slightly extroverted around those people he really knows. I'm also told I'm a pretty friendly guy, easy to work with, albeit a bit quiet.

What I am, however, is good at what I do for a living. I've worked in this field for three years now and despite some issues with a previous boss (issues that can basically be boiled down to a personality conflict between us), I've had nothing but good things said about me and my work.

The thing is, in the work-culture I operate in, it's almost expected that you be a social animal. But I'm simply not such a creature. People in my line of work who like me tend to be people who recognise that I'm great at my job and that I work hard while I'm at work and then switch off and relax when it's time to go home.

My new job is essentially my old job in a whole new office with all new people. I won't say what it is that I do exactly, but sufficed to say it's an office job and slightly high-profile.

This new job is a chance to cast off the impressions people held of me back in my old office, primarily because no-one there really knows me since, as I say, it's an entirely new office. So I want people to like me. How can I be the social animal people will want me to be (or at least give that impression) so as to ensure that as many of my new colleagues like me, despite myself?
posted by Effigy2000 to Work & Money (22 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: On occassion bring in donuts and/or muffins in the morning -- offering them to your officemates. Take this as an opportunity to chat, etc. Buckle up and ask one person a week if they'd accompany you to lunch. Take these opportunities to get to know them; and they you. The earlier you initiate these actions, the likelier it is that you'll feel comfortable with them, and they you.
posted by ericb at 1:24 PM on March 31, 2009

Why don't you try being a lunch animal, rather than a party animal? Invite your co-workers to go to lunch with you - go in small groups and have a nice (and blissfully finite) conversation with them.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:25 PM on March 31, 2009

Of ... and leave your office door open. And ... when passing folks in the hallway, don't be a shoe looker. Look them in the face and say "good morning," "hello," etc. Also, forge a friendly rapport with receptionists, assistants, etc. After all, those are the people who really run the company.
posted by ericb at 1:26 PM on March 31, 2009

Best answer: Ask people for advice. People love giving advice to the new guy.

I mean, don't be someone who pesters everyone else about every little thing so much that you get the reputation for being an idiot. But asking for advice about the best way to do office-specific things ("Hey Bob, can I ask your advice? Does the boss usually like report X in hard copy or electronically? Thanks!"), or--if your office is not a cut-throat political sort of place where people form factions, how to navigate office politics or which projects/people are really great to work with--will make people like you, because you'll make them feel smart and in the know. Plus, it works for introverts: you don't have to do much of the talking.
posted by iminurmefi at 1:43 PM on March 31, 2009

Seconding the lunch idea - maybe think about setting up a standing weekly lunch open to any of your coworkers that care to join? Sometimes you'll get several people, sometimes you might just get one or two, but in any case it's a good way to socialize within work parameters and for a fixed amount of time.
posted by pdb at 1:53 PM on March 31, 2009

Baked Goods and a bowl of good candy on your desk.
posted by spec80 at 1:53 PM on March 31, 2009

Bring snacks. Donuts, bagels, good coffee... something like that. You don't have to do it all the time. Just do it once. People will make a point of stopping by to say thanks and voila! A conversation has been started.
posted by katillathehun at 1:57 PM on March 31, 2009

What not to do:
Even if it's a better technique, don't say, "we did it this way at my old job, and it was more efficient."

To do
Greet everyone with a friendly smile and their name: Hi, X, how's it going?
Make an effort to learn names as quickly as possible.

Don't pass on or indulge gossip. If someone asks you what you think of Y person dislike by the gruop, be noncommittal and say something like "I don't know Y very well yet." because anything you say, can and will be passed on.

Leave your desk tidy, and especially the communal eating area. I've seen people almost come to blows about dirty dishes.

Assuming you're in a shared environment, be considerate about the amount and type of noise you make, mobile phone, radio, speakers etc. Speak low on the phone.

If someone tells you about a special event (birthday, anniversary, kid's netball game), mark it in Outlook or something, and ask them how it went afterwards. For birthdays, put it on annual recurrence, and just wish them a happy birthday next year. Buying a present or bringing in a cake might be creepy unless everyone does it.

Chat with admin and mail staff and delivery people. Being friendly to these guys can be incredibly rewarding, not just because they're gatekeepers, but also because they're fun people.

If you see someone looking lost, offer to help them. Don't just leave them standing there and walk away.

If there's a football pool, join it, even if you don't know anything about football. I know someone who was incredibly successful one season by picking players who had interesting names.
posted by b33j at 2:04 PM on March 31, 2009 [3 favorites]

My husband reports that his life got a lot easier when he moved to a new job and smiled a lot. Someone had described him as always looking cranky (he was at the time; the job was awful) and he made a conscious effort at the next job to smile at people in the halls. Even though he rarely socializes with his colleagues, he's perceived as more sociable and likeable these days just because he smiles.
posted by immlass at 2:12 PM on March 31, 2009

Your coworkers will most likely take the first step to try and bring you into their circle. So there isn't much that you need to do there. But never, ever turn down an offer of socializing. It will immediately make you look like the odd man out. It doesn't matter if you don't drink. Just because you are invited to go to a bar after work doesn't mean you have to booze it up.

You can be very good at what you do and you can be a class A dork and you still can be well liked in the office. But if you are all of those and antisocial then it could turn on you.
posted by JJ86 at 2:36 PM on March 31, 2009

If people congregate to chat about something at the office, join in. I don't mean squeeze yourself into private meetings, but if people are chatting about movies or what they did on their weekend, add your two cents.

If you feel bringing treats in the morning would set an awkward precedence, why not bring snacks to a more casual meeting?

If you don't like the idea of doling out sugar and sweets, have other personal items of interest that someone could comment on in your area. Plants, fish, interesting photographs or things of that sort. And if you see something interesting in someone else's area, ask them about it. It may feel like awkward small talk, but that's part of situating yourself in a new environment.

If there are office holiday events, get involved, even if you're not doing anything more than tossing out a few ideas. You don't have to buy all the decorations, just get involved.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:43 PM on March 31, 2009

I find that having a bowl of sweets on my desk every once in a while is an easy and relatively confrontational-free to say "hi" to people and be sociable in that regard. People tend to stop by and have a quick couple of words to say when that happens. It's not we have any deep conversations- it's just showing I'm human and like to talk to people every once in a while.
posted by jmd82 at 2:57 PM on March 31, 2009

Seconding b33j's advice to smile a lot.
Be upbeat, positive, optimistic. People like being around people that are upbeat, and will actively avoid people who bitch and moan all the time.
Never tell someone about a problem (especially your management) without offering a couple of suggestions about how to address it.
And yeah, bring in donuts every once in a while. :-)
posted by browse at 3:53 PM on March 31, 2009

Go out with your coworkers every once in a while, even if it's not your favorite thing. You don't have to drink. You don't have to stay till the bar closes (head out after an hour with an excuse of "I've got plans for *blah*, gotta run." if it's really not your scene.) When there, you don't have to be the life of the party, just chat with even one or two coworkers about tv, sports, whatever their thing is. My bet is if you socialize in the way that's standard for the office, even if it's just at a bare minimum, people will feel like you fit in. If you absolutely refuse all invitations because the venue or format isn't to your liking (loud bar, big crowd) people will think it's because you don't like them. So go, smile, have a good time, and then beat it if it's starting to stress you out.
posted by MsMolly at 4:00 PM on March 31, 2009

"Strap on your Dexter mask of bonhommie" -Everichon
posted by ShadePlant at 4:51 PM on March 31, 2009

Go past the fruit markets and buy a couple of kilos of whatever is in season. Stick them in a bowl on your desk or a communal table. Offer to people, with the pretense that it was a bargain for a whole tray of peaches, or just 'these won't last till tomorrow'. You get to eat yummy fruit, people get to eat yummy fruit, nobody gets upset that you are undermining their resolve on their diet, plus you get a reputation for eating healthily that might help if you want to decline a booze up or something similar in future.
That said, I would suggest making an effort to attend any Friday night drinks or similar at least for a while.
I also find a few kindred spirits who will support it if I suggest a team lunch every few months. Usually some Yum Cha or similar. This lets you have some say in what the socialising events are.
Best way to start, I've found, is to wait until somebody a bit gregarious mentions Thai food or whatever and chime in that you went to a great place/want to try that local place, and do you want to go get some. If it is a yes, it is then natural to ask any other team members if they want to come too.
posted by bystander at 6:20 PM on March 31, 2009

Best answer: I'm a bit introverted too until I get to know someone, but am generally perceived as being friendly and approachable at work, even though I prefer to just get my head down and focus. A couple of things I've done to make sure people know that I'm quiet, not unfriendly, are:

- on Monday mornings, as I come in to my desk or while I'm getting a coffee, if I run into someone I say "hey, how was your weekend?". On Fridays, same situation, I ask "got much planned for the weekend?". If they reply with "not much" it's a bit of a downer, but I often reply with "sounds nice and relaxing then", but usually they're happy to do most of the talking. As mentioned above, if I can remember something they told me on Friday, I'll ask how it went on the next Monday.

- if someone needs my help or advice, then no matter how small or large the issue is, I have time to help. Well, except for one guy who seems to need help for the slightest little thing, but that's his problem! Everyone else gets my full attention and, at the minimum, a suggestion of who else they could ask if I don't know the answer.

- Third/fourth/ing the suggestion to get to know admin and support staff. They know all the gossip, and often get a small group chatting so it's easy to join in and meet new people.

- if Friday drinks are common, it's dead easy to go, have one drink, have a chat about that local sports team or a bit of office gossip, ask someone a question about their family/hobby and let them carry the conversation for a while, then say "I'd love to stay, but I said I'd meet some friends across town in half an hour". Go home, or meet friends, but at least it sounds like you're still a social kinda person. On Monday, ask if you missed anything interesting, have a laugh at whatever funny thing happened.
posted by harriet vane at 5:47 AM on April 1, 2009

Smiling is the easiest and probably most efficient thing you can do. Practice at home!

When there is a group together of five or more people (as I assume for Friday drinks), you don't actually need to say much. Do join though, and smile and show (pretend) that you quietly enjoy the situation. A few times I've come home from a party thinking one person was particularly nice or smart, only to realize that I heard him or her utter merely two or three phrases in the whole evening. Those things said weren't even necessarily amazing either, just fairly good and nuanced thoughts. From that I extrapolated a very intelligent person who knew to hold his tongue over trivial matters.
posted by springload at 12:59 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure how healthy this is but I approach forming relationships at work as part of "my job" since those relationships allow me to do be much more effective. I create a list of people in my office and try to have a meaningful personal interaction with each person at least once during the week. It could be lunch, it could be having a conversation in the break room, or some small talk before a meeting, etc.

The best way for introverted people to be liked by their coworkers is to talk to their coworkers. I do not naturally do this so I need to create a system for myself that enforces that discipline.
posted by orlick at 2:25 PM on April 1, 2009

Seconding just about everything here, but especially MsMolly. I've been in the working world for a long time, and I'm not terribly extroverted, but I have learned to get "in" with people. I'm terrible at small talk, but I'm a good listener.

It is a good thing, as MsMolly said, to go out now and again, even if it's not your thing. It certainly isn't mine, and I don't do it a lot, but spending an hour with my co-workers at a bar is a wonderful way to get to know them and be accepted by them. I take a little ribbing for drinking soda instead of beer, but its all in good fun, and when I leave early, I've left with a good impression.
posted by lhauser at 10:04 PM on April 1, 2009

All of the above is good advice - two more thoughts:

1. Start smoking - honestly its the fastest way to know an office crowd. Its the only thing I like about my nasty disgusting unhealthy habit. Alternately, find out where people go on smoke breaks and go there for some fresh air, and chat people up. Smokers love it when non-smokers do this.

2. This depends on where you work, but if you can leave the office to walk to a coffee shop or coffee cart, just ask you co-workers if they need a cup and bring it back to them. I guess that would work for lunch too (but that would get expensive). Anyway, people like it when you bring them stuff from the "outside".
posted by RajahKing at 9:08 AM on April 4, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! I mixed and matched the advice contained in the answers I've marked as best answers and it really seems to have paid off! I get the sense I'm really well liked in this office (I mean you never really know, do you, but I do get the feeling that they do genuinely like me) and I credit most of it to the great advice I received here. Thanks again!
posted by Effigy2000 at 10:11 PM on May 22, 2009

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