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Will My External Friendships Affect Colleagues' Attitudes

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 6 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
Colleagues Professional Job Guilty


I started a new job recently. The firm held a christmas party and a manager announced publicly that someone important in the industry had called him and mentioned about his acquaintance with me. I was as surprised as everyone else at the party that my boss should make a public announcement like this and everyone was asking me how I knew this 'industry icon'.

Back in work I have noticed a complete change of attitude from my colleagues who are now cold and distant. I can see that is the aftermath of the party's announcement.

I have done everything professionally at work and I have never had any intention of using my acquaintance to influence my job. I want to repair my relationship with my colleagues, especially with my immediate supervisor, that is, to assure them I am no threat to them and I am a reliable. Can you give me any advice?

(EE, 5 February 2009)


OK, first things first. How you react to this situation will guide how your colleagues react – even your superiors – so rest assured that you are in control of how this pans out.

You know how models always say they were picked on at school for their long legs and skinny frames? Or how a child that is really great at maths gets teased for it? Your current predicament is just a ‘grown up’ version of school playground jealousy. And we all know how to handle bullies don’t we?

A Little Insensitive

It does sound as though your boss was a little insensitive to announce this acquaintance publicly, but presumably they thought it was a positive thing and wanted to share it. If you go slinking around like a guilty, embarrassed victim you will look as though you have done something wrong – which you certainly haven’t.

Let’s face it, who wouldn’t use a little help if they knew someone important in their chosen industry? Seemingly, you haven’t cashed in on this important friend’s influence, but you are concerned that your colleagues think you have. So what? Yes, it’s annoying, but you can’t keep trying to prove them wrong or you will only look more guilty.

There is an old Chinese proverb that says ‘It is easier to ask forgiveness than to seek permission’ and this is very helpful in your current situation. You don’t want to waste important time on trying to get your colleagues to change their misconception – you know that you haven’t used this friendship to get ahead and you can probably never change their minds.

Use Your Advantage

What you can do, however, is make the most of this opportunity because what will certainly go against you is if you are not very good at your job. It will totally look like you got the job because of your contact. Whereas if you focus on being the best you can be at work and not addressing this issue – no looking guilty or acting humble – then you will prove yourself in your own right.

You need to think positive and act with purpose. Much as it is a cliché, your colleagues are only jealous because you seem a little more glamorous because of your connection. Use your perceived ‘glamour’ to your advantage and seize the chance to shine.

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