After many years of unemployment (thanks Spain) I finally got a full time job. I started in September and found that my co-workers were the coldest people I've ever met. I asked a few friends and an old classmate who work for the same company, and all of them told than that is perfectly normal and it is because I just got in. But I am always left alone at lunch time and people get quiet when I pass in/by.

This makes me feel really uncomfortable and out of place. Because they are really friendly between each other.

This come to a point when they are actually rude to me ignoring me completely.

So what can I do to improve that? Should I even care?

I am here for work not for making friends. But still I spend a lot of time here and such unfriendly environment are really starting to hurt. And ever more now as we had newcomers and they don't receive same treatment.

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    Did you try talking to them? If not, then they definitely think that you are a very cold person.
    – Dawny33
    Nov 23, 2015 at 16:32
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    hello, consider editing the question to make it better fit site topics laid out in help center. In particular, this guidance may help to learn what is expected of questions here. Good luck!
    – gnat
    Nov 23, 2015 at 16:36
  • I'm curious - do they even respond to you , if you ask them a question about work items? Like, if you ask "Hi John, when is XYZ due ? " do they answer? Please add in moe info Nov 23, 2015 at 17:20
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    Perhaps your long unemployment has taken a toll on you and you are unconsciously signaling that you want to be left alone. Transitioning out of unemployment can be just as stressful as being in it. It's hard to be warm and welcoming when you're stressed, and strangers have trouble knowing the right way to behave with someone they sense is troubled, but don't want to intrude on. Don't give up on them, but lower your expectations of them a little and focus on yourself while you adjust to your new situation.
    – ColleenV
    Nov 23, 2015 at 19:40
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    I had a period of unemployment years ago and, when I got back in the workplace, I felt like everyone was very cold. Years on, I look back and realise that it was a normal workplace, I just didn't really know how to fit in at that point and I was hyper-sensitive because unemployment is such an isolating, depressing thing. Basically, be patient, keep being open and friendly, and try not to take anything personally. Nov 23, 2015 at 22:47

4 Answers 4


Sometimes people enter a new workplace (department, team) with the expectation that relationships with colleagues should and will be wonderful. The reason these expectations are often not met is that they are unrealistic.

From my understanding of the nature of professional workplace culture, the appropriate expectation is that relationships with coworkers should be neutral at best. If they are too friendly, this can backfire. (What if you become your friend-colleague's boss and they start under-performing, or the other way around?) Also people change over time, and a fantastic relationship cannot by definition be sustained forever - changes in personal circumstances, life phases, health, etc. can and do affect how people treat each other.

When we interact with others we often expect common courtesy. In a civilized society this should be the case. But everyone comes from different backgrounds. And not everyone had the same number of hours of sleep the night (or month) before. Also, if the issue is the culture of the company, this may simply mean that people have over time developed certain patterns of behavior that are sustainable in these particular professional circumstances. There may be reasons for this that only become apparent after you have been with the company for some time (could be years).

I would also second @New-To-IT and recommend to refocus from how you are being treated to just doing your work. If your colleagues' attitudes are only impacting your social relationships in the office but not directly your work performance, getting traction with the management might be difficult and you might be perceived as the troublemaker in the group (i.e., why doesn't everyone else have problems with each other?).

Considering the current situation, the optimal approach may be to adjust expectations, or even eliminate them. Did someone smile as they almost bumped into you in the hallway? Did you hold the door or the elevator and the person thank you for that? Did you make an on-point remark in the meeting that helped the group? Did you manage to wish someone a nice weekend or a happy birthday? That's one or 3 or 10 more accomplishments than you expected that day. Repeat the next day.

You get to work and focus on your immediate tasks at hand. Your goal is to get better at your work and to keep management content with your performance. If that happens, over time you might become viewed as a subject matter expert in your particular project area(s), and a go-to person with some questions. This will automatically enhance your reputation. Also the staff typically take some cues from the management, and if you can prove yourself to the higher-ups, that respect is more likely to trickle down to peers.

For what it's worth, I will share a personal experience.

I once had a situation where a colleague on a team I just joined, for reasons I never entirely figured out, suddenly became distant and cold toward me specifically. Any time I would approach to say Hi or even say a word in a meeting, I could feel her tightening, as if she barely tolerated my presence. We did not collaborate on any projects work-wise at the time, so I doubt it was due to my performance. I spent quite a bit of time agonizing (at first), then calmly reflecting and contemplating the situation. I decided that my indignation and feelings of being unjustly shunned could not benefit me, but would only increase the risk of escalating the situation. Instead, I did something that was quite difficult, because this involved suppressing my ego: I let it go. I stopped any attempts to 'remedy' the situation, instead refocusing fully on my own tasks at hand. I did not discuss my feelings or seek support from colleagues, and I did my best to overcome and reverse (yes, indeed) my own private negative feelings toward that colleague.

Each morning, I mentally wished her a great day and all the best. I did this no matter what, as a daily routine (like brushing teeth). I also stopped expecting any ROI on my positive thoughts, or any change in her behavior as a result -- I detached from any results of my actions. I simply did these things for their own sake.

The result was that within about 3-4 months her attitude reversed just as suddenly and inexplicably, with coldness and avoidance giving way to acknowledgement of my existence and even proactive contact and comments in positive tone. We have now been working together for some time and have what you would call a decent, normal working relationship. I later found out that she had gotten ill during the time when her negativity toward me began to manifest. It is possible that something about me had become a trigger and a target for her health-related frustration, and without being able to control it she began to channel and project her unhappiness outward, me becoming a de facto target. I now know that nothing I could have done proactively at the time would have remedied this situation. Sometimes we have to leave people to work through their own issues in their minds. Time may be only instrument of healing and resolution.

The thing is, when someone YEARNS for inclusion, validation and approval, this often prompts an opposite reaction -- good intentions may be mistaken for insecurity, setting off a chain reaction motivated by beating down and eliminating the weak link in the group (akin to bullying in school). Rid yourself of the impression of wanting/needing these things, and you are on the way to getting them. It seems counter-intuitive but we often get things when we let go of our desire for them. Sometimes the long-sought reward comes only after (and because) we give up and re-center our needs and priorities. Good luck!

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    I quite insecure, that is true but often hear that people feel imposed by me. I believe it is because I always speak clearly what I think (that is why I try to not talk much I believe people may think of me that I am being aggressive)
    – kifli
    Nov 24, 2015 at 8:51
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    Openly sharing one's thoughts is part of the problem. Nobody wants to hear the truth, whether in our family circle or among colleagues at work. The truth is rarely convenient or aligned to the organization's 'party line'. Therefore, those who care to speak it become labeled 'loose cannons'. Associating with such peers is a risk for others because of the bias of association. Knowing that A is a 'loose cannon' and that B is friends with A tells the management that B is also unreliable and warrants distrust, which is a sure way to not get promoted. So, B avoids A. Welcome to office politics :)
    – A.S
    Nov 24, 2015 at 13:47
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    @Aymor what a brilliant and detailed answer, had i know that answer weeks before you wrote, would saved me my job. But never too late for anything. but you really gave a detailed answer.
    – user15704
    Aug 2, 2016 at 22:57
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    @kifli ".. I believe it is because I always speak clearly what I think". I'll be as blunt about this as possible. This is probably the worst excuse for being an asshole. The other person never asked you to "speak clearly". Be polite and be nice. You are not the ambassador of truth. People already know that they are fat and ugly and not performing well in their jobs. They don't need you to tell you that (unless you are their boss, of course). So, next time, try to be polite instead of trying to "speak clearly".
    – John Red
    Oct 7, 2016 at 7:42
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    Btw, amazing answer. I feel that "letting go" is what I need to do right now, in my current situation. :/
    – John Red
    Oct 7, 2016 at 7:43

This is more of a North-American thing, but I have so far found that work relationships are pretty arms-length to say the least.

99% of people just want to get through their day and go home - they don't care about your problems, only that you don't make their lives more difficult.

It's nice to find someone to talk to, who has the same hobbies, etc, but even then that might not translate into a friendship outside of work.

One thing I've learned the hard way is that you need to separate your work and personal lives. It's honestly much neater and less of a head-ache not to discuss personal problems, or issues with the boss, etc. with your "friend" at work. You never know who they might consider to be their friend and how far your words might travel before you even find out they're not private anymore.

So by all means, try to forge a link with people. When you go out for lunch invite them along, or bring in some snacks (like a box of hard candy), place it on your desk and invite people to come by and grab one - it's a great conversation starter)

But my advice is not to try and make actual friends until you really know who you're dealing with (and again, this will also depend on the culture).

Good luck!

  • I agree most folks don't want to socialize at work but I think it also depends on what line of work you're in that determines the quality of work relationships. If you appear to be an approachable person people will talk to you but if you don't appear approachable then you'll have to work up the courage to talk to others. Don't expect deep, meaningful conversations and expect simple, everyday type conversations.
    – Dan
    Nov 24, 2015 at 15:05

This is just something you'll probably have to learn to deal with. The most you can do is try your hardest to be nice to these people and make friends, but unfortunately, no one can really be forced to be your friend, if they don't like you, there's not a whole lot you can do.

Now if they're causing a stir, bullying you, making fun of you, whatever, then you could always take it to your manager. Now if they're cold to the point where it's making it hard for you to do your job because they simply won't talk to you or acknowledge you, then you also have a problem, but if they're simply just not making any effort to be your friend, there's not a whole lot you can do.

The best advice I could give is to just keep trying, say hi to them in the halls, try and spark up a conversation with one of them sometime about something you enjoy, or might know they enjoy. Try to be personable even if they aren't that way back to you. If they don't warm up to you, then it's on them, not you. Just be the best you can be, do your work, get things done, and just remember you have friends outside of work.

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    Great advice . Though it's certainly unpleasant to have cold colleagues, remember that you're there to work . And if you do that well, nobody can deny that Nov 23, 2015 at 17:19
  • It is unpleasant and can make work days seem longer and just kinda sucks, but working is more important than making friends.
    – New-To-IT
    Nov 23, 2015 at 17:22
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    hey , more money means easier to get friends after-work hours : ) Nov 23, 2015 at 17:26

Don't care about your coworkers, just focus on your job. I worked in an office with wonderful colleagues but after two years I decided to go to another office in a better neighborhood and guess what? All coworkers were in cliques and it was very difficult to develop friendships eventhough I'm a social butterfly. Finally, I decided to go back to my old office because you can't change people nor office culture but at the same time, as a human being you need to feel that you belong to a group, team, etc.

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