I Don’t Want to Hang Out with You!
As an African American who works in the South, I must ask you to think about this and ask yourself the following questions: Do you always find yourself eating lunch alone at work? Do your co-workers rarely speak to you or make you feel like an outsider? If your answer is yes. It is just another form peer pressure. People tend to stay away from people who don’t “blend in” within the workplace.
Why? Pure fear and ignorance. Some organizations are not friendly to new employees, and this is especially true for minorities who work in a conservative workplace. I work in a similar environment, but it wasn’t so noticeable until one day I decided to do an experiment. I changed my normal behavior toward certain people in the office. I didn’t speak to them until they spoke to me. Most of my co-workers didn’t have enough courage to reach out and speak with me first, so I ended up spending alot of time alone. Always remember that you don’t owe anyone anything. No matter where you are employed you are always going to have co-workers who believe that you got the job because of affirmative action. Another incident occurred when I had a family emergency resulting in a leave of absence and hardly any one ask about my sick relative. Now, that was cold, especially after being nice and friendly to everyone.
Let’s not forget about the “Uncle Toms”. Oh, you have the minorities that “blend in “because they think they have to act a certain way to keep their job." They make you think that there is something wrong with you or they can’t be around you because you appear too “ghetto”. What type of behavior defines “ghetto”, anyway? I never felt ashamed of who I am or what I am. I always believed that as long as I am professional and a lady, forget about the rest.
So what does this have to do with peer pressure? Many co-workers will force people to conform to the office environment because they think that their behavior is the “right behavior”. Don’t forget about your co-workers who like you but feel pressured to choose between you and the office group. Don’t be dismiss them, they are not as strong as you. I always say and believe that people fear competent people, confident people, and smart people who are not ashamed of being yourself. Some employers think that if you don’t get along or aren’t sociable with your co-workers, then you are the problem. Unfortunately, this idea can negatively effect your job evaluations. I personally think that it is a geographical thing, but I haven’t worked anywhere else besides the South. So, what do you do?
What To Do
1. Be Cordial. Never let anyone take away your happiness. Your co-workers may enjoy giving you the silent treatment and making you feel unwelcome because they see you as a target. Always be cordial and pleasant, even if they say derogatory things to you - People are watching you just to see how you will react.
2. Keep your Composure. It is okay to be angry and sad, but do not let foolish people provoke you to exhibit irrational behavior at work. If you have to cry, cry in private. Always respond like an adult, and refrain from saying petty things or talking negatively about your co-worker. You are just falling into office drama.
3. Be Yourself. I know I have said this throughout the article, but it is the most important thing that you can take away from this post. You don’t have to always conform to your environment. Always show appropriate behavior for the workplace. But you don’t have to agree with everyone’s opinion and like their hobbies - Be yourself, and define your own likes and wants.
4. Don’t Quit. After consistently experiencing negative behavior in the work-place, I have developed thick skin. I don’t say much anymore. I just smile and keep going. In the past I had always wanted to quit, but I later told myself that I am only letting my foes win. However, some behavior requires your attention, so if you find yourself in a tough situation, think before you react. You can express yourself without resorting to negative behavior and speach.
- Heather Browning, MBA, BA
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