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Lack of fit at work can be a pain. How to deal with it.

Feb 24, 2023
3 min read

When you don’t fit in at work, it can feel like teenage drama, complete with awkwardness, cliques, and struggle. While we may insist that other people’s opinions don’t matter, experts agree that feeling comfortable and accepted in the workplace is not trivial.

Belonging in the workplace can impact your productivity and your ability to effectively influence others to achieve your organizational goals. What should you do when you don’t fit in at work?

What is the problem

It’s critical to know whether your feeling of being an outsider is an internal problem (i.e., a problem with how you perceive yourself) or an external problem (i.e., a problem with how others perceive you). If you’re prone to overthinking, the problem may be in your head. In that case, the solution lies in working on your self-esteem rather than adjusting interpersonal behavior.

On the other hand, if your teammates are hostile or dismissive of your contributions, or your values are wildly different from your co-workers, you may need to address external factors.

Figure out what’s working and what’s not

Start with an honest self-assessment of your interactions with your team. Create visual categories of your relationships and assess how the smooth relationships are working. Once the “right-fit” relationships blossom, it is common for the difficult ones to minimize or become unnecessary. The idea is to strengthen solid relationships, which will gradually create a sense of belonging or make it clear that it just isn’t the right place to be.

Connect with your co-workers

Humans crave connection and community, and connections in the workplace are no exception. Try to find common ground with your co-workers, invite them to lunch or to an after-work event to get to know them better, and take initiative in the situation to create an atmosphere of mutual respect.

Observe and adapt

A few adjustments to your communication style could help put others at ease. If you feel like the odd one out, you probably need to adjust your style. Observe how your boss responds to your co-workers or how your co-workers interact with each other. This might give you a clue as to where to start.

Decide if it’s time to leave your job

If you’ve done everything you can and still aren’t feeling any more comfortable with your current situation, it may be time to move on. Prioritize your health and find a better fit. At some point, cutting your losses so you can have a fresh start at an organization more well-aligned to who you are will allow you to be yourself, make the most of who you are, and achieve results that benefit your organization and your own career trajectory.

Feeling like you don’t fit in at work is an internal or external issue, and figuring out what’s working and what’s not, connecting with your co-workers, reaching out for help, are critical to prioritize your health and find a better fit at work.