By Louise Bauer Davoli
Every organization has one -- that one odd person who tries so hard to fit in and be part of the group. The workplace is a hodgepodge of various personalities and the struggle to fit in nags everyone at some point in life. Most of us assume that the socially awkward coworker can be found in the IT department, but they can be working in any department.
Pinpointing exactly and defining what behavior constitutes being socially awkward in the work setting can vary. Behaviors can be described and range from having the courage to talk to others, knowing what to say when you want to start a conversation with another person, to understanding how to read people. Socially awkward behavior can cost you in the workplace through lost promotions, lost prospects, and ineffective presentations.
Overcoming Social Awkwardness:
-- Practice talking
-- Eye contact
-- Ask questions
Some of us feel sorry for the odd man/woman out but no one is ever quite sorry enough to take this co-worker under his or her wing. We may pity the awkward coworker but few of us take any action to help. We all can remember how it feels to be that insecure adolescent who doesn't fit in with our classmates. We also know that this individual still experiences those same pangs well into adulthood. The problem is that the socially awkward odd man out tries so hard. They go way past the point of obnoxiousness. Their severe social deficiencies make them painful to spend time with and these deficiencies can hold people back in the workplace.
-- Keep it professional
-- Check the pity
-- Put them in charge
This topic is not about being the mean girl or putting this person down simply for the fun of it. Working with someone who is socially awkward and who desperately wants acceptance presents its own set of challenges in the workplace. Even if you are generally not exactly the bleeding heart type, you need to still be nice. This co-worker is used to feeling picked on or ignored, so even the minimum amount of kindness will mean plenty to them. It's not hard to be nice, so make an effort.
Keep it professional. One of the pitfalls with being "nice" to someone who is awkward is they are unable to read social cues and may misinterpret your friendliness. You don't be that person who leads them on, even if it's nothing more than a friendship. They deserve better.