Background about myself: 40+, white, male, family, with the company for 10+ years, speaking English only.
Over the past couple of years, there has been a change in the inofficial company structures (global fintech, based in English-speaking country) which has led to some very unpleasant change in mood and atmosphere amongst those who are there for longer:
Get-togethers used to be attended by everyone. They were on-site, open to everyone (have a beer and good conversation, perhaps play some on-site games). They started during work hours, and were open-ended. Now they are off-site, themed (i.e. practically open only for those who enjoy what the organiser (read: one person who decides for everyone) had in mind), and at times of the day (night) when normal people want (need!) to sleep. Food and drinks are provided, but drinks are almost always exclusively alcohol-based, which is not suitable for everyone. It appears that this kind of outings are targeted at the young single people with no familial duties, of which the company hired a lot recently. This naturally excludes older employees or those who want or need to go home before, say, 8pm.
At lunch time, the breakout room used to be full. Tables were all occupied, everyone joined, and there were no cliques. Nowadays, tables are formed based on nationality and ethnicity, mostly Chinese and Indian. Incidentally, the company hired a lot Chinese and Indian over the past couple of years. Naturally, if a table speaks Mandarin or Hindi only, the rest would feel uncomfortable sitting there. Heck, there is even an Indian coffee club!
Management used to be inclusive towards individual contributors, but now junior management forms an intimate circle which is hard to penetrate as outsider. They form a clique at lunch and during outside work activities. Incidentally, new manager material is recruited from the pool of "friends" of existing junior managers. This has happened in the past three occasions, although there were equally skilled and suitable employees available outside this group. And senior management is completely invisible now.
However: The very same people who form these cliques will step outside from what can only described as their comfort zone only if they need something.
Example: I am taking care of project A. A member of the Indian coffee club who would not talk to me at all, would not even say "hi" in the lift, would even push against the wall when I'm passing to put as much air as possible between her and me as if I'm some kind of pariah, will come to my desk to ask questions about project A. After I was kind enough to resolve her issues, she's back to her old behaviour. I'm solving here issue on Friday night, and off she goes, doesn't even say "have a good week-end", while I'm staying back, finishing my tasks that I've put aside for hers. She has no qualms making chit-chat with other members of her Indian-only clique. This is utterly demotivating.
Another example: New hires (interns, junior developers) wouldn't talk to senior employees unless they need to. They talk amongst themselves (a lot!), but towards long-time employees they put on a very aloof attitude, including not greeting or even making eye contact except with people they are familiar with (from uni or previous jobs). Basically, it amounts to "We don't want to even know you, we're having so much fun amongst ourselves." I find this disrespectful.
Both scenarios (and many more) were completely unknown until a few years ago. Employees back then would exchange greetings when they see each other first in the morning. They would establish eye contact when passing in the hallway. They would not try to avoid each other so openly. They would actually speak to each other rather than "I need your help to solve my problem, then I'm back to ignoring you.", also about personal things. Etc.
I'm not the only one affected. I've spoken to some people that fit in my "category", and they have pretty much confirmed my observations. Some are weary, some don't care.
I do, though.
While I understand that things change, I don't think treating people with disrespect and demotivation is a step forward.
I also understand that I can't change their behaviour, as irritating as it may be. What I'm seeking is something I can do to cope with their behaviour as it makes working very unpleasant. I don't want to just go to work, do a job and go home. Ideally, what I want is to participate, in aspects of my work that happen outside my desk. But even if I can't have that: How can I let their behaviour not affect me that much to think that I'm some sort of stopgap who can be ignored when not needed.
Things (I've tried) that don't work:
- Bring this up to management: Our management lives in an echo chamber. In fact, our management not only profits from these structures, it encourages them, ironically in the name of "inclusiveness". Anyone bringing this up will suffer.
- Talk to my manager: He doesn't care. He is not affected by these structures, as he is high enough in the hierarchies.
- Try to integrate into these groups. Tried that, failed. Junior management is talking management-ese at lunch table, which I can only listen to, but not talk about. Trying to sit down at a table where everyone speaks Mandarin or Hindi is awkward at least. At best, I'm being ignored.
- Try to change the way get-togethers are arranged. Doesn't work. The organisation of those is left to a single person is young and without any domestic commitments. She simply won't consider older employees or those with family.
- Change jobs. I do like what I'm doing as job, and there's no guarantee it's better at other companies. In fact, with the recent climate of social justice, companies are just too happy to polish up their image by putting up well-sounding, but badly implemented inclusiveness policies.
- Become sarcastic. Haven't tried yet, but I'm tempted to tell people who seek my help but ignore me otherwise to go and talk to their club members instead.