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Diversity Blog > Professional Development

Finding Belonging in the Workplace

Finding Belonging in the Workplace

Look closely at what you can change in yourself and in your environment


Do you feel like you’re always getting the cold shoulder at work? Do you get passed over for opportunities in favour of colleagues who seem to be less qualified and experienced? You may think that discrimination is to blame. None of that behavior supports or improves your mental health in the least. 


However, employees can become marginalized or ostracized for various reasons – some of which you may be contributing to, some of which you can change, and some of which are beyond your immediate control. 


Whatever the work environment, you have to put your mental health high on the priority list of what helps you lead a fulfilling lie. Distinguishing the degree to which events or behaviors are beyond your agency is a good start to reclaiming your mental health.


If you find yourself working for different teams or in different companies and are always feeling marginalized or excluded, you might be part of the problem. If you feel you’re being sidelined at work, it’s important to be self-reflective. Put yourself in the shoes of your colleagues or manager and try to understand how your actions might be contributing to their behaviour.


Being talkative and social is necessary for developing good working relationships. However, if you’re known as the “office chatterbox” you might be talking too much. If people are constantly looking at their watches during your conversations or you notice them trying to avoid you, you might be distracting and unproductive. Colleagues can’t afford to be distracted from their work and will start avoiding you if they associate you with lost productivity. Try keeping office conversations task-focused and to the point. 


Life can get tough sometimes but bringing negative energy and stories to the office regularly is a downer. Your colleagues only have so much empathy. They have their own problems and they choose to check them at the door. Remind yourself that positivity is contagious and will help you connect with your colleagues. If you tend to be hard on yourself, try and remember that you are your own biggest critic. Chances are that your colleagues think you’re a big asset to the team. People want to interact and collaborate with others who are positive influencers and contributors. 


Being successful and happy is wonderful, but both negativity and positivity should be expressed in moderation. If you’ve just bought a new car, that’s exciting and you should share that. However, if telling your co-workers about your extravagant purchases is a weekly occurrence, that could breed resentment. You may become known as “cocky” or “arrogant” and colleagues may start to avoid you. Instead of telling people about yourself, get in the habit of asking them what’s new in their lives. 


Gatherings outside of work are important for getting to know your colleagues. Understandably, not everyone is as comfortable in social settings as others. If you’re shy or an introvert, you don’t have to go to every social event, but you do have to participate in some. If you don’t participate, your colleagues may think you’re uninterested in them or better than them — and your bosses may feel you're not committed to the company. 


Also, the engagements are actually networking events, though employers don't say so explicitly. They are occasions during which you can exhibit your more casual sides. They are also opportunities to perhaps get to know your managers in ways you didn't before. And for introverts who are averse to such gatherings: consider they are far easier to endure as networking events with those with whom you're familiar than more formal affairs with those you don't know at all.


Start by selecting an event that is the most approachable and closest to your comfort zone. You can also make a point to regularly engage colleagues in conversation. Once you get to know people, it will become easier to be social. 


If you’re feeling marginalized at work, sometimes you may hold the solution. If you notice that people don’t engage with you, regardless of the team or work setting, be introspective and see what you can work on in yourself. 


However, if you think you’re being marginalized based on your race, ethnicity, gender, language, or ability, that is discrimination and you should document the occasions and report the ill-treatment through the proper channels within the organization — or perhaps escalate the issues to legal authorities.