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Fitting In Your Work Environment

Updated: Oct 4, 2020

The Workforce has changed as many of you have noticed. If you are returning to work in a new role or new company, you may feel intimidated. While I understand that trepidation, I’m here to tell you put those thoughts out of your head. I know, it’s easier said than done. That little voice is telling you to look around and notice all the younger people. You don’t fit in. You can’t make friends.


Remember that while you may be older than some of your colleagues, maybe even your boss, you were hired based on two things: your first impression and your experiences. You are unique. No one else is like you. No other human being has your smile, your background nor your brand. Take advantage of those traits. That doesn’t mean go into a meeting feeling full of yourself, all-knowing. It does, however, mean walk into that meeting with confidence.

I have a few other suggestions that may be helpful.

Sit next to one or more people, not by yourself and not at the head of the table at either end. Do not be the first to speak, unless you are asked to introduce yourself. If you are requested to speak, be sure you back isn’t to anyone. You may stand up to ensure you are facing everyone in the room.

Be an active listener. Lean in. Nod your head. Ask questions to clarify what someone else said. Use a phrase like, “help me understand” or “what I heard you say is, ____, please explain further, or did I understand correctly?” Notice other people’s body language. It’s a signal to you of the culture of your surroundings.

When you meet someone for the first time, it’s imperative to make that all important first impression. We never get a second opportunity to do that. Your ‘soft skills’ may need a refresher. Smiles are contagious so be sure you put that on when you walk out of your house. Smile when you enter your workplace and/or when you walk into a meeting. It will automatically open doors and people will respond in a positive manner towards you.

How do you shake someone’s hand? Use the three second rule. Less is not long enough; longer is too long. A firm handshake tells the other person you are confident. A ‘wishy-washy’ handshake will quickly undermine you. Don’t use your fingers. Grasp the other individual’s hand with your entire hand. You should be standing 2 to 3 feet apart. Closer is within the other person’s personal space. Farther apart may send the message that you are hesitant. As you extend your hand, your thumb should be facing upward, toward the ceiling. Your fingers should be pressed together and as you shake, lean in. Shake three times with a firm grip; however, beware not to grip too tightly. Try shaking hands like you are holding a glass of water.

Make eye contact as you extend your hand and smile. It’s rude to stare, so a trick is to look just above the person’s eyebrows.

Here’s another trick.

If your hand(s) is sweaty from nerves, if you can place your hand around a glass or bottle of water, do so. Then you can use the wet glass as an excuse for your ‘wet’ hand. Move the bottle or glass from your right hand to your left hand to do so.

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