Socially anxious new hire worries about getting off on the wrong foot.

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Q: I just started a new job and the office is so cliquey! No one has made an effort to include me in lunches or conversation. I’m rather socially anxious anyway, and I am constantly second-guessing everything I do, wondering if I have gotten off on the wrong foot with people.

I’m trying to find the balance between pushing myself to make connections versus intruding upon friend groups that already exist and will be resentful of me.

A: Sometimes people with social anxiety overestimate how unwelcoming a place is, because they are (understandably) hypersensitive to any perceived slight whatsoever.

Now, your office may be particularly difficult, but even for people who aren’t socially anxious, getting assimilated into a new office social culture can be uncomfortable and awkward. It’s a goal that takes effort.

Reassess the (likely) all-or-none thinking about “no one” including you, and the catastrophizing that friendliness will lead to resentment. Instead of wondering what you’ve done wrong, make a plan of specific steps to do right, like polite, interested questions, offers to share your macaroons, or compliments on someone’s ZZ plant.


Andrea Bonior, a Washington, D.C.-area clinical psychologist, writes a weekly relationships advice column in The Washington Post’s Express daily tabloid and is author of “The Friendship Fix.”