The Upside of Not Fitting in at Today’s Workplace

It’s natural to want to fit in when you are with a group of people. In most situations, fitting in with a group makes social situations easier and all parties feel comfortable.

There are some moments where not fitting in can give you an edge, such as in a workplace setting. One of the reasons not fitting in seems strange to most workers has to do with the wording. It is possible to still be on good terms with your coworkers even if you do not fit in with the rest of the workplace.

In recent years, employers put more emphasis on having unique coworkers. In the past, many employees were viewed as nothing more than cogs in a machine. Moving into the 2019 workplace, companies actively seek out more diverse workforces. The reason having a diverse workplace is valuable is it means you have more valid opinions. Employees who do not fit in at work often come from significantly different backgrounds, meaning they have experiences, perspectives and ideas completely unrelated to the rest of the office. As a result, these employees bring to the office something new and fresh.

You Are a Specialist

Many workers spend years trying to develop themselves as a specialist in their field. Being a specialist has many advantages. If you are looking for a job, employers are more likely to hire you because of your unique experience. If you already have a job, you have more opportunities than your fellow employees because of your specialty. While it might not initially seem like it, not fitting in with your coworkers naturally makes you a specialist. If your manager is looking for a unique opinion, he or she is more likely to ask the employee who does not fit in because asking any other employee is likely to yield the same answer. Anytime someone in the office needs a neutral opinion, the employee who does not fit in is the one to whom they can turn.

How useful your outsider status is varies depending on your profession. In marketing, not fitting in typically provides more benefits. You can provide insight on a marketing group nobody else on your team has. Teachers, depending on the subject, also benefit from not fitting in, as they can apply a unique outlook to their lessons and offer something to students no other teacher in the school can.

Some Jobs Require Not Fitting In

There are some professions where you are at a disadvantage if you fit in with your coworkers. Many higher ranked positions in a company require making difficult decisions. These decisions become even harder if you are particularly friendly with your coworkers. Many managers who are promoted internally after being with a company for years are advised to lean away from their old connections. If you are too close with your coworkers, you risk falling into the favoritism trap. You instinctively give your former friends better jobs or cover for them whenever they make mistakes. You may even blame other employees you are not close with because they are new to the office and not connected to you.

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Another profession where fitting in hurts your job is any type of consultant. One of the most important roles of a consultant is identifying areas where the company is wasting money or resources. If you fit in and form too much of a connection with your colleagues, you risk making decisions based on what is good for your coworkers and not the company. You run into similar problems if you work in human resources. If you are asked to solve issues between employees, you are naturally biased towards the employees you fit in with.

You are More Productive at Work

Many employees spend too much time trying to fit in at work. Trying to organize work events or getting into long conversations with your coworkers ultimately leads to wasting time. Some employees focus too much on the social aspects of work, believing it is necessary to fit in to succeed. In reality, one of the things employers notice is your ability to produce high quality work and meet your deadlines over how much you fit in. If you do not fit in at work, it is a good indicator you are more concerned with getting your job done than you are with socializing.

This is something managers look for in employees when discussing promotions or handing out more responsibilities. Employees who are overly social are frequently turned aside because their managers don’t believe they can balance their new responsibilities with their social lives. Similarly, if you are promoted, you know it has everything to do with who you are as a worker, and not because you were promoted out of favoritism.

It Is Not Personal

One of the overlooked benefits of not fitting in is employees do not take your actions personally. Mistakes and miscommunication are bound to happen in the workplace. While some employees are more forgiving when the coworker making the mistake is someone who fits in, sometimes the opposite is true. Employees feel oddly betrayed and are harsher towards the employee because he or she fit in, making the mistake feel more personal or disappointing. As the black sheep of the office, you may find yourself not being held to the same harsh standards as someone who does fit in.

This attitude does not only apply to mistakes. Employees who fit in with coworkers are often expected to perform certain tasks without prompting. For example, if another employee is hosting a work-related event, such as a retirement party or celebrating a promotion, he or she may not expect you to chip in as part of a workplace etiquette. If you do bring in something or help with the event, your coworkers notice it and appreciate more than someone who fits in and is expected to help.

Do Not Ignore Coworkers

While there are upsides to not fitting in at work, it does not mean you can completely ignore your coworkers. There is a difference between not fitting in and being rude or cold towards coworkers. Even if you are an outsider in the office, make sure to do the following:

  • Be cooperative. If a coworker asks for help, do not turn him or her away just to remain an outsider.
  • Stay accessible. If you need to work with coworkers to accomplish a task, do not isolate yourself from the group.
  • Stay connected. Being too much of an outsider means you might miss important workplace announcements, or your coworkers miss important information about you, such as not knowing you were taking vacation until you do not show up.

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