You are starting a new job. You always hate the “get to know you” period. You also are a private person, and you are not interested in turning your new coworkers into best friends. How can you make the transition go more smoothly? Recognizing the following three points may be a start:
•Coworkers will be curious, especially when someone new enters the fold. By the time you first appear on the job, you can be sure you have been heavily vetted on social media. People may know your age, family structure, professional background, address, what your house looks like, even facts like tax assessment on any property you own.
•For a while at least, you may be the main subject of office gossip. Many colleagues tend to engage in gossip and some embellish what little they actually know. They like to appear as though they have a scoop or an inside tract. This gives them a certain status.
•It is difficult to maintain privacy or to keep secrets at work. In fact, I would go so far to say there are few secrets in an office. Somehow salaries, health issues, and problems with the boss become common knowledge.
By now you may be thinking, “Don’t I deserve my privacy?” and, of course, you do. So how can you best attain it?
First of all, be careful about what you put on social media sites. Close some of them down if possible. Use the other sites to your advantage so that coworkers will know what you want them to know.
Next, realize that you can’t completely keep your personal and work lives separate. Everyone will want to know about your family or partner. It is probably easier to determine what you are willing to let others know right away. That will help stem some curiosity. Put a picture of your kids on your desk or hang a diploma from your college. Add whatever personal items or souvenirs from trips that you are willing to talk about. These are “safe” subjects, and they help people think they are “really getting to know you.”
Realize that everyone likes to be in on secrets. If you want to try and keep something a secret (a divorce or medical problem, for instance) do not tell anyone at work (really no one at all) about it. That may help until you need to change insurance forms or take time off for a medical appointment. Then it may become harder.
Finally, don’t become an enigma. You may just want to go to work and do your job. You are not interested in chatting in the kitchen or attending employee gatherings like birthday celebrations. If you avoid all social interactions at work, people will simply become more and more curious about you. So, again, be selective. Go to the party, stay for a few minutes and then eat the piece of cake at your desk. Spend a minute or two chatting when you get a cup of coffee. The idea is to not stand out in your isolation.
It can be difficult to fit into a new workplace and even more difficult to achieve and maintain the level of workplace privacy you desire. Being antisocial and offputting only work against you. Instead think ahead and use some of the techniques mentioned above to help you make choices and be in charge of what you disclose.