Get to know people without coming off as creepy.
Making new friends is one of the greatest benefits of a new job. Office friends make going to work more pleasant and rewarding, they foster teamwork, and they can help you get acclimated to your new position and environment. If you’re really lucky, your work friends will add to your after-work social life, too.
Though it’s easy to see why friendships with co-workers are desirable, it’s also important not to rush into anything. The first few days and weeks on a job will be strange, yes, but if you try to force a work friendship to make it better, you risk giving off a creepy vibe no one will forget.
Here are some tips on how to make friends at a new job the right way.
Put on a happy face
Before you walk in to the office, put yourself in a great mood. At the very least, if you’re feeling bad for any reason, let that go.
You should come to work “happy, attentive and excited” says Tyler Gipson, SEO and marketing pro with Web design and development company, The Lightwurx. “People will click with that. If you come in sad, mad or anti-social this will make people uncomfortable.”
This may seem like common sense, but even gregarious people can clam up in a new environment. Take the time to say hello to those in your immediate work area, obviously, and then continue that with others you see in the hall or at the vending machines.
Don’t interrupt anyone who looks busy and don’t give everyone your life story. “Hi. I’m Michelle. I started last week in risk management. What do you do?” plus a handshake is a great kickoff.
Find common interests over time
Pay attention when your colleagues bring up their interests and passions, in conversation or in other ways. “Clues can be gathered by the photos they keep on their desk, the mugs they use and even wallpaper they use on their computer desktop,” says Heidi Nazarudin, former CEO turned work and style blogger.
Once you find a common thread, she recommends suggesting an outing based on that interest. Maybe your bookworm co-worker would like to join you for a book signing, or the homebrew fanatic would like to tour a brewery. Bonus: ask your co-worker if anyone else in the office would be interested. They may invite some new people for you to meet or clue you in to others with your same hobby.
Pay attention to the responses you get
After extending your invitation to a hobby-centric event or even just to a routine lunch or coffee break, your co-worker may decline. How they decline should dictate your next move.
If they volunteer information that they’re busy but otherwise would love to go, keep them in mind for next time. If you get a clipped decline, you should respond back openly and warmly, with no attempt at persuasion to change their mind. This will come off as desperate.
A simple “maybe next time” is fine, says Lisa Bahar, a licensed professional counselor. She recommends continuing to invite to future events, but if the person is “responding in a way that you feel they are not interested in joining” then maybe back off a bit and let them come to you.
Remember there’s no rush
You’re going to be in this new job for at least a year or so, right? Your co-workers aren’t going anywhere, so there is no need to rush in adding people to social media, inviting people for beers after work, or learning all their kids’ names.
A good rule of thumb, says digital marketing and social media strategist Bradford Hines, is that if you’re on the fence about whether something is too soon — it can always wait a little longer.