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Help! Shy person at work. Needs friends.


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I avoid my co-workers like the plague! I think this is really affecting my happiness with my job. I am working in a large company, in a customer service oriented position for over 4 years. I am a pretty introverted person and have always been a loner type of person. But I feel I do my job well and can be vocal when need be. I have made 2 or 3 good friends at work, but for some reason I am unable to make a connection with other co-workers (a staff of 25+ people within my age range). I dread going to the holiday party and haven't gone to our yearly department party. Went to a co-worker's going away party and just felt awkward since a lot of the staff hang out often and are comfortable with each other and I ended up feeling left out and like no one had any interest in talking to me.


A lot of staff go out and drink and do other activities (but it's mainly drinking, and I don't really drink and don't mind bars, but am not a huge fan of the bar scene). In the beginning, I was invited to various small group things, but somehow always had other obligations, so now I think people just assume that I will flake out. I am too shy to invite myself to their events (if I hear people talk of going to karaoke or the movies), but immediately feel left out and jealous. There is high turnover and before I felt there were more people who were quieter, but now it's very cliquey. Even when we get temps every season, they seem to fit in, go out, and mesh really well with our staff. It's disappointing, now that the weather is getting nicer, I don't feel I have any type of community to enjoy the city with (the college friends I moved here for made a lot of new friends with their work, etc).


I think my introvertedness is also due to a sexual harassment type of situation I had with a male co-worker the first 1 to 2 years I was working here, that was addressed with management, but nothing was done wanted to do in terms of disciplinary action (at my request). He has lots of friends on staff and are good friends with the managers. I am finally able to move past it, but know that he gossiped about the meeting to a lot of his friends.


This job consists of fairly menial work and I don't know if this lends to our staff's laid back attitudes, err lack of professionalism. Maybe I just have a different idea of how work should be like. I find it tiring to be social and around people all day and like spending time to myself (ie. lunch), but I know I spend TOO much time to myself. I know this is not the type of job I want to be doing, but the job market is tough.


I also notice that this is a pattern with a lot of the jobs I've have. I know when I was first hired for this job, I was not very talkative with most people. Everyone would hang out in the back office, and you could never have a conversation without an audience or someone interrupting you to give their opinion, so I ended up avoiding it. In other jobs I've had, which were more along the lines of my career interest, I still tried to avoid social situations. I guess I just want time to myself, but it did not help me make as many connections as I would have liked, even if only on a professional level.


I don't want to continue working in positions where I can't feel comfortable with a majority of the staff. I wonder why it's so hard for me to forge connections with other people (me being shy, having insecurities). I started reading a self-help book and really notice that it's up to me to change and show interest in other people (which for some reason I can easily initiate with my own friends and plan get-togethers, but not with new people). I want to go out with co-workers and get a coffee or catch a movie sometime. I'm tired of feeling lonely at work. We are all young people. They can do it, why can't I?


Do I just need a new job, with a smaller department?

I worry if these are symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder. I would like to think Quiet People are just quieter! (but not when you get to know them)

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I just want you to know your not alone. I am exactly the same way-shy and a little introverted. I have a few friends but when I'm at work I cannot be socializing the way everyone else does. I have difficulty going to someones office and plopping myself down to gab. I also have a problem with harassment at work, so maybe there's a link? I can relate to everything you said, and experience the exact same thing, while wanting the same things as you. Theres my boss and one other male that it seems like are trying to form a club with my co-workers to persuade them not to like me because they think I have a bad reputation. It's horrible-I'm considering quitting. Luckily, I think most people still like me, but the bad intentions and lack of integrity are enough to make me want to throw up.

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Why dont you work on your demeanour a little bit? Would it really be so bad if you smiled a bit more at people? Would it be bad if you simply spoke in a happer way? Start thinking about how you can make little changes to make you a bit more personable.


This thread probably sounded a little more negative than I meant it to be, that's just because I'm frustrated with my situation. For the most part I feel I am a calm, quiet, easy-going, shy person. I feel I have good long-term friends outside of work and am friendly, personable, and interested on a one-on-one basis. In a group dynamic, I do not do well.


I'd say I can have fairly good, although short conversations with at least half of my department. The main problem is, is how do I extend these relationships outside of work? I feel like the other half of my department has no interest in talking to me. I already feel I'm labeled as the anti-social, awkward person. In the past I have heard that I'm "guarded" and that I'm "weird". I know I should try to move forward because there were other people who were considered annoying, but then people warmed up to them and now they have friends. I can go about my own thing, but it doesn't make me feel the most comfortable.


It is also a strange workplace because we don't have our own desk/cubicles. We are in a lobby area and the only other communal areas we are allowed are the back office with a communal computer and our break room. There is a lot of down time, when we are not so busy, and I find myself wandering off to read. There is no real "work", project, deadlines, etc.

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I realize that I am just not a talkative person. On occasion and if I'm with someone I'm comfortable with, I am. But for the majority of the work day, I just dont' have a lot to talk about.


I think the outgoing group mentality at the workplace does not lend itself well to the introverted person. I think most people will not have the patience and assume the shy person is awkward and anti-social.

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  • 1 month later...



Your story sounds a lot like mine while I worked at a small/start-up business last year. Out of curiosity, do you work for a small business?


The reason why I ask is because what you describe seems characteristic of smaller, more laid-back companies. I can relate to everything you're saying. I, too, was the more introverted person in the office, while the others seemed to pride themselves on being social butterflies. Sometimes I felt as if people were more concerned with going out for drinks than doing their jobs. As you said, it was a very "cliquey" type of environment. People would meet at each other's houses on given weekends, and a group of girls pooled money together to finance a trip to Disney World.


Being the quietest and most low-key person in the office, I sometimes felt out of place. Luckily, I really enjoyed my job (despite the skimpy benefits typical of small companies), but only 5 months into the job, I was laid off. I also enjoyed the company's unusually slow pace, perhaps because I'm a deep thinker -- I am a writer/editor -- and like balancing few tasks at the same time. It wasn't a traditional deadline-driven environment.


I forged a strong relationship with a girl who started the same day as I did, as well as with one of my supervisors. However, after only working there a few days, people were already making comments about my "quietness." The girl I grew close to would tell me how the others always wondered why I isolated myself from them. Sooner or later, I think everyone came to accept how I was and realized it was OK to work with someone whose personality didn't mirror theirs.


If you're like me, you're very task-driven and don't enjoy chit chatting when you know there's work that needs doing. I also prefer separating my work life from my social life -- it's a way to lessen unnecessary politics and drama.


I am better with one-to-one relationships as opposed to groups.


My suggestion is to try reaching out to others a little more, but don't feel pressured to go to all get-togethers, let alone those that would make you feel uncomfortable (bars, etc.)


Try to start out by drawing closer to people on a one-to-one basis. Once you've succeeded at doing that, try having conversations with two people at a time, then three, and so on.


Best of luck to you. Just know you're definitely not alone.

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  • 11 months later...

Still in the same problem.


Hmm...maybe I just have to realize that it's not me, a majority of my co-workers are fairly nice people, it's just the situation I am in (social, customer service based position) and given (sexual harassment, bullying and warnings by management, sniffed at, desk and locker theft by co-workers, food tampering, FT staff telling temp staff they should take my position), does not provide an environment where I feel comfortable and willing to make friends?


But I feel in every workplace I've been in, I've been bullied in some way and end up isolating myself. How do I change this pattern?

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I think you have to go to work being ready to talk to people. Instead of inviting yourself to their outings, invite some of your co-workers to your place or to the movies. It is up to you to make friends.


Funny, sometimes, esp. in the morning, I go into work saying to myself: I Really don't feel like talking to anyone today. It takes me a good 2 hours to wake up.


Some people will go in and say Hi and good morning to everyone. It's great of them, but that's just not my style. I just say hi to one or two of my friends. I guess that doesn't come off very nice. I'll say hi in passing, but won't go out of my way to greet every single person.

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Funny, sometimes, esp. in the morning, I go into work saying to myself: I Really don't feel like talking to anyone today. It takes me a good 2 hours to wake up.


Some people will go in and say Hi and good morning to everyone. It's great of them, but that's just not my style. I just say hi to one or two of my friends. I guess that doesn't come off very nice. I'll say hi in passing, but won't go out of my way to greet every single person.


In my office, not saying "hi" to people in the hall or "good morning" the first time you see them gets you on the fast track to be called "weird" or "not nice." We're a very friendly office overall, and anyone who doesn't participate in work functions or go out of their way to chat with people gets a lot of funny looks.


It's a tough environment to be in, and it sounds a lot like yours. I used to come in with the attitude that this was my job, these were not my friends, and I have work to get done. Then one day I realized that I spent more time with these people than with my own family or friends, so I should start being friendly with them. It's actually made me like coming to work a lot more. You just have to come in with the attitude that everyone has something interesting to say, just like you would making friends anywhere. It's not tough to say "hi" to someone who's in the mailroom the same time as you are, and it means a lot to people. Go to the office parties. You may end up in the corner with one of your work friends, but it will impress everyone else, and likely your boss.

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