I joined a new company two weeks ago. I’ve been the new person at work many times before — I know what it feels like. A new workplace is scary, overwhelming and challenging.
What I’m about to share with you makes me incredibly emotional and it’s very close to my heart.
During the week I saw someone else, who was also new, having lunch by themselves.
They walked through the big grey door by themselves, took one look over at all the tables, and then headed towards a table in the corner away from everybody. My heart sunk.
I knew what he was going through and it wasn’t easy. Right as he walked through the door, I was in the middle of a conversation.
Mid-sentence, I said:
“Excuse me for just a second. I’ll be right back.”
People sitting on my table looked at me funny. They knew I was odd and did weird stuff. They were trying to figure out what I was about to do in their own minds.
“I’ve always been told that leadership is not about being the boss but setting the right example”
I walked over to the other side of the lunchroom. I said:
“Would you like to come over and have lunch with us?”
I wanted him to feel part of the team. The first couple of weeks in any career are make or break — I should know given my recent exit from finance after seven years.
I know what it’s like to be the new person.
I was the new person in insurance.
Then I was the new person in business banking.
Then I was the new person in eCommerce.
Each time I was the new person I felt scared, incredibly fearful, overwhelmed, anxious and self-conscious. Not much has changed really. I still feel like that which is why I’m obsessed with being part of the solution.
The solution is this:
“Don’t let the new person have lunch by themselves.”
Taking the time to make people feel included and like they matter makes a difference. You could be the difference between a new person staying and having an epic time at work, or giving up in the first few months.
The difference is even bigger than you think.
What do I mean? If being the new person doesn’t go well, it can lead to many issues that you may not have realized. The new person could become lonely; the new person could underachieve and be fired; the new person could struggle to make friends.
These issues could lead to a failed career or not being able to pay bills or even mental illness.
As a worst case scenario, these issues could even lead to suicide. The difference of helping that one person to have lunch with the team could be far greater than you realize.
Inclusion is how we cure loneliness.
Loneliness is why we have social media, dating apps and cafes.
No one wants to be that person having lunch by themselves because they feel like they’re not enough or can’t fit in.
“The cure to loneliness is inclusion”
You can be the difference by encouraging inclusion.
Be the leader and set the example of inclusion.
Embrace differences in culture, gender, sexual orientation and race.
Stopping someone from having lunch by themselves will teach you far more about life that you might think. Bottom line is this: we’re all the answer. Be inclusive.
One sentence can change everything.
That one sentence “Hey would you like to join us for lunch?” means more than you think. You were the new person once. I was the new person too.
That one sentence can change someone’s perspective.
It’s not about lunch buddies; it’s about leading with heart and being a good human being.
It’s what you must do. Next time you see someone having lunch by themselves, invite them over. If they are too shy to come over, sit down with them and have lunch together.
It’s the simple hacks like this that will change your reality.