How to Adjust to a New Work Environment and Change the Perception That You're Unapproachable

Dear Office Mom,

I recently moved halfway across the country for a job at a small family-owned business in a primarily male-dominated industry. I like my job, I like the work, and the people are nice. The problem is my peers are all young men in their 20s, and I’m a woman in my mid-30s. We’re very different people and finding common footing has been slow but cordial. I am the only woman, the guys don’t talk much when I’m around, and they keep coming up to me and asking if I’m happy. I now spend a lot of time going back over every interaction, worrying that I was cold, rude, or showed general unhappiness. I’m not unhappy. I know I’ve always been slow to warm to people, but I get there eventually. I’m nervous I may be let go because I am not a good fit. What do I do?
— Lindsey
Image: Lacey Seymour Photograph

Image: Lacey Seymour Photograph

Dear Lindsey,

If you are doing your job well, being a positive teammate and keeping customers happy, give yourself a break. You just moved across the country to a new job, new residence, new town. It takes time to acclimate, so don't put too much pressure on yourself. That being said, Your Office Mom has some advice for you.

Because peers ask you if you're happy, something is driving that perception. In the past, you have been told you are cold and hard to get to know. It's important to gain a better understanding of what makes you tick and how others perceive you. Complete a personality assessment and get more detailed information and insights about your style and temperament.

Sometimes we are so involved in doing our jobs to the best of our ability, that we overlook the people part of the job. You may be so task-oriented that you neglect your co-workers. If you want to develop relationships, focus on common interests. Try to engage and ask questions casually. Don't go overboard, but if you have an opportunity to socialize, do so if you feel comfortable. Greet your co-workers each morning, and try to join in on conversations, and initiate some interactions. These guys don't know you, and they are a decade younger. You probably know their interests. You might mention a game "I see the Warriors lost last night. Are they out of this thing or what?" Ask about a TV show or movie. "Hey, have you seen [movie name]? I am thinking about going to see it with a friend." On Friday, you might ask about weekend plans, or ask how weekend activities went the following Monday. Engaging in idle chit chat can often break down barriers. If it doesn't, consider it a problem of a male-dominated work environment and spend your time networking and developing friendships with those that you don't see 9-5.

Please let me know how it goes! Don’t just focus on your peers. You may want to approach your boss too. Hang in there!

xo

Yom