If you’re anything like me, you love nothing more than being surrounded by supportive and fun co-workers at the office, yet somehow find yourself crippled with fear and hesitation when trying to make friends at a new job.
Believe me, if I could just wear a shirt that said, “LOOKING FOR LUNCH BUDDIES AND GCHAT BITCHERS,” I would do so in a heartbeat. But this is Boston, I’m a grown-ass woman, and I’m told that kind of behavior is “frowned upon” or “not socially acceptable.”
Since I can’t just put up signs at my desk that read “Will exchange biting commentary on pop culture for friendship,” I’m forced to resign to barbaric tactics to meet new people in the office.
I’ve made approximately two* friends in the two weeks since working at my new job, thanks in part to the following foolproof advice that I am 100% following.
*I have one in-office co-worker and one guy said he liked my mousepad.
1. Ask questions.
As I alluded to above, I’ve gone from an office of about 50 of the greatest humans on the planet to working remotely in a shared office space with one co-worker actually at my company. I regret nothing, but it is admittedly very jarring to go from shooting the shit with my friends all day to having my human interactions limited to, “Excuse me,” or “Thank you,” or “Oh my God how dope are these speakers in the ceiling in the bathroom??”
But what I’ve quickly learned is that – much like elementary school – asking people simple questions is a great way to start friendships.
My most successful interaction of the week happened Wednesday, when I bravely started a conversation with the boy (man?) next to me. We have small filing cabinets under our desks, but they’re all locked.
Me: Hey, where’d you get the key for your cabinet?
Him: Oh, I had to go to the reception desk and ask for it.
Me: Cool. Thanks! My name is Kate.
Him: I’m Daniel.
BOOM. Instant friendship.
Daniel and I are progressing in our newfound office friendship. We say hi in the mornings sometimes, I apologized today when I kicked his filing cabinet (hard, it was very hard, but accidental), and he complimented my mousepad!
Speaking of which…
2. Bring cool desk trinkets.
Who doesn’t like cool “Star Wars” office supplies?
Answer: Boring people.
Who am I not looking to befriend?
Answer: Boring people.
Whether it’s a bitchin collection of “The Force Awakens” bobbleheads, a colorful cactus, or a tiny gong (yep, that’s real), having that cool desk prop can honestly start conversations. Oh, you happen to like tape dispensers shaped like cats? Me too! I happen to have a million dollars and also would you like to write a Hollywood TV script for me? Cool.
3. Take advantage of communal office space.
I’m in a unique position at my office because we have an entire section of our floor dedicated to open work space, meaning – much like a library – you can sit at any hip table with funky-cool colors and shapes and share space with your fellow rad-hip office buddies.
I, of course, have yet to venture to the open space, primarily due to fear of 1) falling and breaking something, 2) embarrassing myself, and 3) accidentally sitting at a space that has been wordlessly claimed by another human, and thus somehow starting some kind of inter-office war.
But most offices have some kind of shared space, whether it be an open lunch room, a loft, or a recreation area. Congregating with the rest of your office humans in these spots can be a great way to meet new people, and honestly, meet people who are likely also looking for new office friends as well. So whether you’re enjoying a free office beer on Friday while watching grown-ass men play Smash Bros for two hours or you’re spending an hour working next to complete strangers on a couch that can only be described as “hipster chic,” don’t hesitate to take advantage of that open area.
4. Don’t hide your emotions.
When I left my former company, my co-workers wrote me a goodbye post on our internal blog. One of the entries, in its entirety, was:
“I just want to know who I am supposed to make super weird faces with from now on.”
I feel like this speaks to my legacy as an employee at this company. I’ve never been described as a person who “has complete control over her emotions,” so it shouldn’t come as a surprise when I say my face betrays me…often.
Someone in the office definitely just farted and everyone else is playing it cool? Not me. I’m laughing.
That annoying kid everyone secretly hates is talking again and people are trying to pleasantly nod their heads? I’m rolling my eyes and have somehow accidentally let out a guttural caw.
A gong has gone off? An actual gong? Someone rang a gong? In an office? You bet your ass I have completely swiveled in my chair to look at the offender.
Each time, I invariably catch eye contact with another co-worker who is thinking the same thing I am, but has “more control over their facial expressions and body movements.” This shared emotional connection leads to – you guessed it – unadulterated friendship.
5. Literally introduce yourself to strangers.
UGH this is the hardest one, but it’s so true. Physically standing up, walking to a co-workers, and simply saying, “Hi, I’m Kate,” is like, the easiest and hardest way to make friends at the office.
When I sat down today, the guy at the end of my row did just this, and we discovered that we both used to work at the same company. It’s not hard to have a conversation with a stranger, especially when they sit so close to you for eight hours a day, five days a week.
Actually scratch this one. Strangers are the worst.