5 Ways to Break the Ice with your Colleagues as a New Employee

Starting a new job is always a healthy mix of good and bad, pros and cons, fear and excitement. Will you be good at it? Will you love your new company? Will you spring out of bed every morning, or will you smash your alarm clock to pieces and hide under the covers?

You also get to worry about your new colleagues. About being the “new guy or girl” in the office. It’s like starting at a new school - people already have friends, belong to cliques, and generally fit in.

And then there’s you. You show up that first day not knowing anyone, not knowing anything, and not even having more than a basic knowledge of the physical layout. If you’re lucky, you may have interviewed at the office, so it’s possible (but not a given) that you’ve been there at least once and met at least one person. It can be downright terrifying.

In order to break the ice with your colleagues, you need to start on day one. Don’t wait. Here are five ways to feel at least a bit more comfortable from the moment you walk through the door.

1. Take charge

Be proactive on your first day. It’s a bad idea to hunker down in your office or at your desk, telling yourself you’ll meet everyone tomorrow if you can just survive the dreaded first day. Take the initiative and ensure you do survive it and leave feeling wonderful by going around and introducing yourself to everyone. Don’t wait for your new manager to do it for you. He or she may not have the time or even think to do it. It’s up to you. Go around and introduce yourself, smile, and learn a few names (it helps to repeat someone’s name a few times during that first conversation). Everyone is probably at least a little apprehensive about you joining the group, too, so make them feel better in the process. They will return the favour.

Your first day is not the time to be shy, even if you are. Get out there and meet people. Immediately.

2. Be more interested than interesting

Over the first few days, show sincere interest in your new co-workers, colleagues, and cubicle neighbours. Say “good morning” and “hello”, ask them about their night or weekend, and ask follow-up questions about whatever they say. Make them open-ended questions (ones that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no) to cultivate actual conversation. If they’re having trouble with a work project or task, offer to assist if you can.

Too many people try and be the most interesting person in the office when they start, believing that will draw colleagues to them. It’s exhausting and doesn’t work as often (if not more) than it does. Plus, you run the risk of coming across as loud, obnoxious, and fake if you’re trying too hard. You certainly don’t have to hide your personality, but don’t try and force everyone to like you. Show sincere interest in the people around you, and they will show interest in you. Participate in office events and outings. Slow and steady wins the race.

3. Visit the water cooler

The stereotypical image of office workers congregating around the water cooler to discuss last night’s episode of “Seinfeld” is a little outdated, but the sentiment remains valid. Every office or workspace has someplace where everyone gathers at various points throughout the day for breaks, to eat, gossip and socialize. Find it. It might be a break or lunch room, an outdoor area, and yes, it could even be the water cooler. Whatever it is, make a point to drop in during the day and join the conversation. Take your coffee break there. Eat your lunch there. Engage with your colleagues. Even if you’re shy and busy, you can muster up the courage and time to visit for 5 minutes at some point. You’ll see a tremendous return on that investment.

4. Feed your colleagues

It may seem a bit tired and cliche, but bringing in some snacks - donuts, muffins, home baked cookies, cupcakes - on the first Friday will go a long way. Invite everyone to have something as a thank you for helping to make your first week go smoothly and making you feel welcome.

5. Eat with your coworkers

This goes for each lunch during the week (if everyone eats in the break room, you absolutely need to as well). But go a step further and invite your immediate department, team or group out to lunch early on. It need not be your “treat” (it could be if you can afford that), but it does provide an opportunity for you to get to know them outside of the office, and vice versa.

Even better, invite them out for drinks and/or dinner after work sometime in your first or second week. Cultivate relationships outside of the job.

Being the new employee can be stressful, but everyone wants you to succeed and feel comfortable. Take these five simple tips to help them help you, and you’ll feel like just one of the team before the end of your second week.


Image: iStock