Why You Don't Have Friends At Work

5 Reasons Why You Don’t Have Friends At Work


As humans, we need some form of social interactions (some of us more than others). However, we all do need and thrive on the simple act of connecting to people.

Related: 5 Ways To Build Relationships With Colleagues

For the majority of us, our social fabric is created through work. We see these people every day. We have work in common. We get to know them in ways the spouse and significant others simply don’t. When we leave these people due to job change, it can be painful.

Yet, despite all this social goodness that work can bring, what happens when it doesn’t happen to you? What do you do when you don’t have friends at work? No one to save you space at a meeting or light up when you enter a room. It happens, and when it does, there’s no lonelier place to be. It can be so impactful that it can cause a person to look for another job.

5 Reasons Why You Don’t Have Friends At Work

Here are situations you may be facing and what you can do about them:

1. You’re New

You may think you’re past due for connecting to people in a deeper way at work. Sometimes, the dynamic is such that it simply takes a while and ongoing persistence to break through.

2. You Got Off On The Wrong Foot

It doesn’t matter if you were misinterpreted. Somehow, you did something right off the bat that got you sideways with many of your peers. If you did do something wrong, make amends and don’t do it again. Being a big person takes courage, but you will win friends. If there is nothing to make amends for, stay friendly and ignore the undertow. It will eventually fade.

3. The Cliques Are Too Strong To Penetrate

Just like high school, there are work situations where you are the outsider and will stay that way for an indefinite period of time. Most likely, these people have worked together for a while and the bond is tight. They probably don’t realize how unfriendly they may seem.

You need to be friendly and make efforts to get to know each person at an individual level. It may take some big work event, like a year-end close, to be the final catalyst that forms the bond. There’s nothing like being in the trenches with people to nail the trust and support.

4. You’re Not A Cultural Fit

That feels like a hard message, but it truly is not personal. We all have values and work styles we wear like a suit. They are out there for everyone to see and experience.

Many times, when we aren’t a cultural fit, we are out of step with the people we work with. This makes it hard to really form friendships. If you aren’t a cultural fit, you need to admit it and move on. It not only won’t help form friendships, but it won’t help your career either.

5. You’re An Introvert Who’s Turning More Inward

For introverts it can be tough to push yourself toward people you don’t know. When an introvert is surrounded by ‘strangers,’ it’s easy to retreat even further. You could appear kind of wonky and unapproachable, making it difficult for co-workers to approach you. You’ve set up your own lonely situation and only you can make your way out.

To make is less overwhelming, simply focus on one or two people with whom you feel some form of affinity, and focus on getting to know them. It will help you overall and will become a catalyst to forming more relationships.

Work relationships can make or break a job. They can nourish you and help you excel in your career, if they are healthy work relationships. When those bonds are not forming it can make you feel very lonely, but there are things you can do to improve the situation. You need patience and a friendly smile.

This post was originally published at an earlier date.

Related Posts

How To Be More Likeable At Work: 10 Things To Do Today
How To Make Friends With Ambitious People
Things To Watch For When Dealing With Work Friends


Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Dorothy Tannahill-Moran

Dorothy Tannahill-Moran, founder of New Chapter New Life, is a career coach, speaker and author. Download her e-workbook called, Should I Stay or Should I Go?


  1. This is a very interesting read, especially the part about introverts. I am an introvert so I can identify with this. In my job a the call center we were kept busy all day and since our breaks were all at different times and the times were constantly changed on the basis of call volume, there was little opportunity to form relationships at work. Those who did hit it off did their socializing after work.

  2. I find it easier in the 21st Century to maintain polite, social interaction with my collegaues, but avoid personal discussions. It seems most people are most interested in gossip more than anything else; my pesonal business is not fodder for communal discussions.

    If what they say about me is that I am closed-in, good.

  3. It’s also a combination of multiple things.

    1. The increasing churn of people.
    2. The more mercenary aspects of how people are treated.
    3. The economy has people a lot less willing to share and be open lest you use something against thing.
    4. The increasing use of consultants / contractors who have no great incentive to be FRIENDS *


    In looking back, I haven’t hade “friendships” that have survived my leaving the company since I left Ford/Visteon. And it’s not like I haven’t tried to keep up ties. Nowadays, once you’re gone, you’re gone. Out of sight, out of mind.

    * http://davidhuntpe.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/mercenary-workforce/

  4. I worked with people who made fun of those who had left the company but still tried to keep in touch. They said if you got a new job, you should get new friends. When I left the company, the same thing happened to me.

    • I didn’t quite have it put that explicitly, but… there were a few people at a former job with whom I shared a deep commonality. One person and I were on the same page politically. Another shared the same faith as I have, and this person was quite grandmotherly-in-remote to my children.

      After I left? Silence. Barely a reply to any emails I’d send. And certainly no “reaching out” from their side.

      When I departed my last job, I hadn’t had time to develop any significant ties, but even as I was walking out the door, the indifference to my departure on the part of the few people who noticed was stunning. And the silence when I reached out to the couple of people who’d been pleasant was answered with silence.

      SOMETHING has changed, and fundamentally, in how people relate to each other at work. And what I SUSPECT is that it has its roots in the 80’s-90’s MBA craze when the wave of MBAs arriving at companies started scrutinizing everything to wring another fraction of a percent of profit… thus, people became nothing more than “human capital” to be manipulated, poked, prodded, and discarded as expedient.

      BOTH of my now-late parents kept in touch with former colleagues from their places of employment, and the friendships lasted for years despite there not being the daily interaction that happens at work. Count of hands, please… who can say that happens now?

  5. It’s the reason I’m looking for a new job. My job requires help from people in other positions and when my requests are ignored or postponed to help others first, my work becomes imossible to complete and performance suffers.

  6. That’s the problem…most of the people who I am comfortable with end up leaving the company. There’s just no one to sit down and talk to anymore…I’m an introvert and I hate small and meaningless conversations. My coworkers would always talk about showbiz gossip and are even doing things that are against company policies…I’m sure I don’t want to be friends with those!

  7. This article hits it for me. I’ve worked in the same office for three years and the first two I had one close friendship but then that person moved onto bigger and better. Still everyone around me seemed pretty nice but then about a year ago I cha

    • *changed departments and while I tried to make friends I found myself in a group of guys who were already close to each other, hanging out at work functions/meetings going to lunch together, etc. and it felt like my not being ever invited to join despite being asked to join the group to begin with was/is their way of telling me they really just don’t like me/don’t like being around me.

      I like my new boss a lot, in fact more than maybe all of my bosses before so I feel a real loyalty to him and would feel guilty quitting but I’m at a large company with no friends and I feel it may be time for me to move on.

      The thing is at my previous office I didn’t have this problem, everyone (except for management) was amazing and it was a great social atmosphere so i feel I moved from a tropical paradise to the artic and I can’t pinpoint where I went wrong.

      It’s a horribly lonely sensation to be surrounded by a sea of people and not have any friends

  8. This is a great read, very close to reality. I’m experiencing this in my current job that no matter how hard I try to reach out to my colleagues, they seemed too self-centered and selfish not to share the treatment back… There are a couple of times that I would even invite some of the members of this clique for lunch but majority of them will refuse to come.. They don’t even return the favor back when they go out during snack break or lunch… Despite the over the mile things that I do (e.g. attending their invitations for after office business, buying some of the things they sell even if I really don’t need it, etc.) still I can sense their cold shoulder more often than not for almost 2 years. I even invited all of them in my wedding but only 40% of them attended (some even didn’t wish congratulations/best wishes).. Good thing that there are still some people in the division who also return back the favor. I can say that my officemates are not bad people but they have to introspect on how they treat the others in the team and be more friendly not only when they need favors from you.

  9. Managing one’s relationships at the workplace is an art and requires great deal of skill and tactfulness. I have been part of the corporate sector for almost two decades and have been through the ‘isolation’ phase for calling a spade a spade often. If the workplace doesn’t have a culture of openness or transparency, for people who are honest and straight-forward, it becomes all the more hard to fit into a you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-yours work culture. And if your boss happens to be in cohorts with your unscrupulous colleagues he/she would always pander to their demand than back you. The only way out in such a situation is to switch jobs.
    Besides, I have observed that treating one’s colleagues as ‘friends’ does affect workplace dynamics as most of them tend to leverage on their ‘personal’ relationship with you for seeking favours (or preferential treatment) at the workplace, which makes such ‘friendship’ very complex to sustain.

    • I couldn’t have said it better myself. Exactly what you described is exactly what I’m dealing with at work. Good to at least know I’m not the only one.

  10. Great article on as aspect of work that is profoundly impactful and yet seldom discussed. Another piece that might impact relationships in the office is the office layout: previously I worked in a space with shared cubicles laid out in a very open concept. I could talk to four people face-to-face with a slight change in my chair placement. There I had a lot of friends – still friends with them in fact.
    At another job I had an office with a door that closed in a hallway full of similar offices. It was much more difficult to form relationships with those co-workers simply because we didn’t share our day-to-day frustration and successes on an on-going, face-to-face basis.

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