Ever been away ill for a day or two and upon your return one person remarks that it’s good to have you back, but those around you turn and say, “Oh were you away? I didn’t notice.” Worse yet, you’re gone for a couple of weeks vacation and you get the same comment upon your return? That’s not a good sign.
Or how about a situation where you put in a great deal of effort on a project which turns out to be a success, but when the boss is handing out his or her thanks to the team, everyone seems to get thanked except for you? Again, it’s a good indication that you’re being overlooked.
Now this is quite different from the person who comes in daily, performs their work well but doesn’t need the accolades and constant positive stroking that others do. In my own workplace, I’ve got a fantastic colleague who performs her job consistently well and she shuns the spotlight, but her contributions never go unnoticed and she gets thanked often, but with less fanfare than others. So this isn’t what I’m referring to in this post.
No, this is the kind of person who gets overlooked, thought of as an afterthought, often forgotten. Another example would be when you share a birthday with a co-worker and there’s an email that goes out encouraging everyone to wish them a happy birthday, but you are omitted. Then some time later a second email comes out apologizing for having forgotten you, and it’s like you’ve become an afterthought. How do you feel?
Like any other situation, you’ll react differently depending on who you are and what your needs are. Some people really don’t want any attention or fuss at all. However, I’ve found those same people do get emotionally affected if they are passed over for promotions. And little things can sting such as being left out unintentionally when everyone else is carpooling to go to some training event.
And this is the real danger; even though you are surrounded by people all day, you can still feel incredibly isolated and alone. Some people want to fit in, be included in some circles, but they just never seem to connect. Others can be very polite to them, but they just never seem to be, ‘one of the boys’ at work, and they just feel on the outside of all the ‘in’ gatherings.
Okay so suppose this was you I’m describing. The first thing that you’d have to decide is whether you want to bring about a change. How important or desirable is it for you to become more noticed, acknowledged and remembered at work? If your decision is that it’s really not an issue, ask yourself is that just you retreating to your usual safety zone of invisibility or is it you really being entirely satisfied with the way things are? If you are entirely happy that way, that is perfectly well and don’t change a thing. However, if it’s a change you seek – however small or great, here’s some thoughts…..
First of all, any change has to start with you. Change doesn’t mean you have to go from invisible to the extreme other end of the scale and become the company spokesperson, employee of the year, or Miss Popularity. I’m guessing you don’t want that anyhow. So recognizing it starts with you, make it a point of starting a conversation with someone one on one; with someone you feel closest to. It need not be a major production, and could be just a conversation starter such as talking about a politician in the news, an upcoming big movie release, or a local sports team’s plight.
If you listen well, and I suspect you do, you can pick up what is of interest to other people. Engaging others in conversation is easier when you are discussing things they are interested in. And don’t do an entire research project on their interest area before you work up the nerve to engage in conversation! Sometimes it is sufficient just to say, “I don’t know much about (whatever the subject is), tell me a little about it.” The degree of success you obtain in your first attempts isn’t really that important, but the effort is.
All that chit-chatting and social interaction that goes on that you may wish you could engage in, but feel awkward trying really does have a point. Those seemingly time-wasting conversations about past weekend activities, kids sports teams, medical issues or home renovations are really examples of relationship building activities. By building trust, and nurturing these relationships, people are always more at ease working together on projects, and seek out co-workers for inclusion rather than exclusion.
Yes of all the super powers to have, you don’t want to really be Invisibility Woman, or Captain Invisible.
I understand that the quieter person, who seeks the sidelines as their place of comfort is more than entitled to continue to lead that life if that’s the life they sincerely desire. Again, I want to make that point crystal clear. There’s nothing wrong at all with that person or their choices if they thrive and are happiest there. But if you desire change, a little more recognition and inclusion, know that it really does have to start with you. And the only one who truly knows how difficult it can be is you. Why not start today to bring about the change you want to see?
By Kelly Mitchell, BA
*First published at: http://myjobadvice.wordpress.com/2013/11/22/invisibility-can-be-isolating/
Republished through syndication with the author’s permission.
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