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I feel tension at work because I prefer not to socialize with colleagues. What should I do?

Tuesday February 26, 2013
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Dear Donna,

I am a relatively new nurse finding myself in a rather bizarre situation of misunderstanding at work.

I go to work to do my job promptly, properly and to the best of my ability. I have worked at a particular facility for almost a year, have never taken a day off, am never late for work and stay until my work is done, which usually is an hour or more after they stop paying me — no overtime is ever paid.

I never dodge the unpleasant parts of my job and always am willing to help the other nurses, including providing my personal equipment to them when the facility equipment fails. My patients are wonderful to me. I often get cards and small gifts. The problem is that I don't go to work to socialize, and I'm finding increasing tension as the other members of the staff struggle to understand this. While I am friendly with everyone, I have no interest in making my place of work a social outlet. Please help.

Don’t Want to Socialize

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Don't Want to Socialize,

While everyone has a job to do at work and that is a priority, taking time to build professional relationships with other members of the team also is important. Because of 12-hour shifts and the fast-paced, high-pressure environment most nurses work in these days, socializing is not often possible during regular work activities.

As in any relationship, it is important to spend some fun, recreational time with those we work with. This helps to build a foundation that strengthens the team and bonds people. It also helps reduce stress. Contrary to the old adage, familiarity breeds respect.

This doesn't mean you have to go out every week with co-workers, but being resistant to all socialization can give the impression you don't like the others, think you're better than them, and so on, regardless of how you really feel. So even if you are not comfortable socializing, you have to make an effort.

You are part of a team and as such cannot stay isolated. Being friendly during work hours isn't enough. People want to know you a little better, and it will be to your benefit in the long run to reciprocate.

In an article I wrote titled "Your First Year as a Nurse" I included a relevant tip: Be sociable. Take part in social functions at work. If everyone is going for pizza after work, join them when you can. If the crew brings in food on your shift, be sure to occasionally bring something yourself, whether you partake or not. If the department is throwing a shower for a co-worker, make an effort to contribute in some way. Attend awards ceremonies, company picnics and holiday parties. This participation shows you are a team player who supports your co-workers. It also shows you are making an effort to get to know people, become integrated with the group and are working to build relationships.

Although you don't have to like everyone you work with, you do have to get along with them. Deliberate efforts to build relationships will make for a better situation for yourself and reap benefits you never imagined. It also will make you feel more a part of the group and gain acceptance.

Best wishes,

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nurse.com’s “Dear Donna” and author of “Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” and “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career.” Information about the books is available at www.Nurse.com/CE/7010 and www.Nurse.com/CE/7250, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to www.Nurse.com/Asktheexperts/Deardonna. Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call 800-866-0919 or visit http://Events.nursingspectrum.com/Seminar.