Feeling Isolated in the Workplace

4w_monblog300x300_012113Do you have any friends at work?

I’ve noticed that, even though more women are in the workplace now than ever before, many of us still eat our lunches alone. The guys have their little clubs that hold “official” meetings during their lunch breaks, but we women still eat at our desks. We don’t go out for golf or happy hour after work either. Why are we so isolated?

Now I realize that part of the reason we feel so isolated at work is that we don’t have the luxury of hours after the office to go “hang.” We have kids to pick up, dinner to make, homework to help with and laundry to fold.

But just because we can’t hang out like the guys do doesn’t mean we can’t form friendships with other professional women, on our own terms and in our own timetables.

So how do you go about building those friendships? Take a look around your office. Is there someone who’s always in the break room around the same time that you eat lunch? Instead of taking yours back to your desk, ask her to share a table and eat with you.

Or, you might have to get a little creative. One of my friends, Amy, has started a daily walking club at the office. She found a couple of other women in her department who wanted to start being a little healthier, and the three of them go for a brief walk every afternoon. It’s a triple bonus: they get a “brain break,” some exercise and the chance to get to know each other better.

Another great place to look for like-minded female friends is to join a professional association related to your career or area of expertise. Most of these associations have local chapters that hold regular events. Not only do you get a chance to stay up to date on what’s happening in your field, you also have a chance to form lasting friendships with other women like you. (For a list of professional organizations you might consider joining, see chapter 14 of “Work, Love, Pray.”)

Wherever you have to go to find them, be on the lookout for friendships like these. God didn’t create us to live in isolation; we are meant to be in community!

This truth really hit home for me in the past few months in dealing with my daughter Annie’s illness. I’ve written previously about my Bible study led by my friend Ka Cotter. Ka and I met through CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women), and she and the women in her study have been a wonderful source of support, encouragement and wisdom throughout this difficult time in my life.

Several weeks ago, Ka pulled me aside at Bible study and said, “Diane, I have to tell you, I don’t think it is by accident The Mayo Clinic has come up two times in the last week while I have been praying for Annie.”

Little did I know that Annie, with her proactive personality, had already registered online to be admitted to The Mayo Clinic because she thought her diagnosis needed a second opinion. When Annie told me what she had done, I remembered Ka’s words and knew God was directing me towards The Mayo Clinic. So to Rochester, MN we went.

As a result of our visit, we learned that she had recovered from Gastro Paresis (GP) and needed to stop taking the medicine for GP, but that she had side effects that needed to be treated now. Our doctor at The Mayo Clinic switched her to a different medication, and Annie was actually able to return to her studies at Texas A&M ten days ago. That wouldn’t have been possible without the trip to the clinic, which would not have happened if my friend Ka hadn’t been committed to praying for Annie.

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Do you find it difficult to make female friends at your work place? What hinders you? Or perhaps you’ve found a circle of women to share your life with. What advice can you offer on building those friendships?