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Trump Card: How To Make the Most of Your Outsider Status At Work

2016 is the Year of the Outsider in politics. Voters want to shake things up, and how! It's out with the old, and in with the new. But how can you make the most of your outsider status at work?

From temporary workers to independent contractors to the stoic Lone Ranger in need of a Tonto, the workplace is filled with outsiders. These employees feel like they haven't quite been fully welcomed into the company tent, so to speak. Instead of feeling embraced by their peers, they feel kept at arm's length.

Is it their employment status, their personality, their appearance, their age, their gender, their background, their ideas, their sense of independence from group-think, their avoidance of the company holiday party, or something else? Sometimes it can be hard to know. What these employees do know, however, is that no matter how hard they try, they just don't seem to fit into the office toolbox. Hey, if the shoe fits, right?

This topic has been brewing in the back of my mind for weeks now as I observe the infinite loop of exhilaration, sadness, angst and fear generated by this year's presidential primary season. The news cycle has been effortlessly breathless, and has coughed up many nights of cable news appointment television. Keep the popcorn ready, and your voter registration up to date.

The cold, hard truth is that when people are grouped together -- at school, at a party, in a political party, or at the workplace -- subgroups will form and you have to find your spot. And sometimes, you might feel, well, like an elephant at a donkey party, or vice versa. So how can you change your outsider status at work?

First, you have to decide if you desire to be more of an insider, because many outsiders at work actually revel in their "outsider" status, sort of like Janeane Garofalo's character Heather Mooney in Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion. You're actually glad you don't quite fit in, because you like your quirky independence, and your individuality. You work for the paycheck or for the cool projects, not for the social scene and general workplace conviviality. If you're comfortable with your "outsider" status at work -- and management isn't telling you in performance reviews to be more of a "team player," cough -- then feel free to maintain the status quo.

If you feel like an outsider but you don't want to be one, however, then you'll have to step up your inside game. You might smile more often; reveal your sly sense of humor (you know you have one!); do more listening than talking (because people like to talk about themselves); regurgitate interesting things your co-workers have said to show you're paying attention ("I remember you telling me last week that you take yoga, is it fun?"); compliment your co-workers (but only when you're truly sincere about it); be more flexible in your work style (go ahead, extend the deadline); become more of a "joiner"; consider all sides before forming an opinion; and strive to be fair in all your workplace dealings. Even if your efforts have minimal effect, at least you'll know you've tried as you send out another resume.

You can reach into your workplace toolbox in other ways, too. Start small, and see where you can divide and conquer. If a group of co-workers makes you feel like somewhat of an outsider, then find the one co-worker in the group who seems the most approachable. Strike up a conversation, ask them to coffee, or refer to the tips in the previous paragraph and employ them on the job. If you can get this colleague on your side a little bit, then it's a small step toward greater workplace inclusion at some later date. A good inside game takes time, and a lot of effort. Play to the constituency you hope to build.

Most importantly: stop viewing yourself as a lowly outsider at work! If you're walking into work every day thinking, "My co-workers make me feel like I don't belong here," then you'll need to re-frame your defeatist mindset. The company cast a vote of confidence in hiring you, so find the confidence in that knowledge. Confidence is contagious.

In sum, you belong just as much as your colleagues, which, when you think about it, is exactly the point Mr. Sanders and Mr. Trump -- our two most prominent outsiders du jour -- are trying to prove to their parties. Maybe there are some good, workplace-related takeaways from their respective examples? #Discuss.

Besides, if everyone at work were the same, then the workplace would be incredibly static and even more boring. As a workplace outsider, you can bring a different perspective and a bold approach to old ideas. And you're not alone. In fact, you're in good company! Now go find your other shoe, will you? Maybe it's in your toolbox.


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