7

This question is posted as first person but on the behalf of another person. Some details might be lacking.

I work in a nursing home, as a full time employee since two weeks. My contract is for a fixed term of 3 months that can be renewed in a regular indefinite duration contract. I am 50, working as nurse's auxiliary. My coworkers and my superiors are all younger than me by 10 to 30 years.

I noticed that they tend to go on break together without letting me know, that they sometimes interrupt speaking when I approach. What bothers me the most is that they also tend to have less consideration for handing me work they dislike: During task planning, I am sometimes assigned tasks nobody wants to do, and I often find that I have to finish work they didn't finish because they have spent their time socially bonding.

I do not get along well with most of them except a few, as they tend to get into morbid games such as guessing who's going to die next and in general our background cultures do not have much in common.

The times I tried to speak to them, for example at lunch, we talked about work to do, or what we did, and remained cordially distant. I remained silently listening for most of the time we were together as a group. I didn't manage to break the ice with them.

If not gaining their complete approval, I would like to know some effective ways to gain respect from an established group given that I have difficulties relating to them, at least to the point they consider me equal in terms of workload sharing and task assignment.

4
  • How long have you been working there and what is the turnover rate of staff? – AsheraH Nov 16 '20 at 16:45
  • The turnover rate I don't know. Few weeks since employment, I'll edit the question to add detail. – Arthur Hv Nov 16 '20 at 16:46
  • You might want to add what the different cultural backgrounds are (or at least the coworkers'), since that could be a factor. – Em C Nov 16 '20 at 17:36
  • I don't have the details; I imagine age gap to be the biggest factor here. – Arthur Hv Nov 16 '20 at 17:47
8

Very short answer: you have only been there for 2 weeks, give it time.

Longer answer: I have worked as an interim or as a consultant at several places and have experienced one or more of the symptoms you are now on different occasions. In turn, I may have exhibited some of these behaviors myself.

I will write this answer with some assumptions: you have not done anything specific to alienate your coworkers and they are not making a deliberate attempt at bullying/excluding you from the group.

While not an immediate solution to your problem, understanding some of the possible reasons behind their behavior still may be of value:

  • Especially at jobs with high turnover rates (hint: quite high in nursing), people can be hesitant about getting to know new colleagues, since in a few weeks, you might be gone and they have to start all over.
  • If the core-group has been working together for some time, they may have formed some routines, for example about taking breaks, where they overlook inviting the new person.
  • The tasks they are giving you that "nobody wants to do" may be the ones that are easy to hand over without supervision or much training, or just happen to be the ones your predecessor used to love.
  • You may be the one replacing someone that they particularly liked and died or was fired or whatever, and they just can't help not really liking you.
  • The morbid games/humor, while debatable, can be their way of coping with the harsh truth of working in a nursing home.

Give it some time, they don't all have to be your new best friend from day one. Worst case you'll be gone in about 10 weeks and probably forget most of their names moving on to your next job. Best case, in a few months, someone new will start and you can make an extra effort to not have them feel the same way you did.

Some tips I have picked up in the mean time:

  • Instead of focusing on the group as a whole, try breaking the ice one-on-one, over small-talk at the coffee machine, in the elevator or when working together.
  • Make it a point of actively participating on the occasions when they do invite you in.
  • Master the grunt work as fast as possible, so you can show initiative in picking up new things.
  • If they have some routine of team fun (someone brings in cake every Friday), offer to pick up the next edition.
  • Find allies in other people like you or from a different group (that other person that just started, the receptionist, someone else that doesn't laugh at their morbid jokes).

Finally, sometimes you just don't click with a group. On occasion, I spent my lunchtime alone on a bench outside. As long as they are polite and professional, realize it's just a job and move on.

3

I've been both a contractor and an employee dealing with contractors so perhaps I should explain the dynamic I've experienced.

There are a couple of reasons that contract help are brought in. Sometimes it's to cover a staffing shortage. Sometimes it's because the contractors have knowledge the employees lack, especially for a specific project. Sometimes it's to cover a temporary uptick in business but they don't want to go through the effort of hiring, only to release the staff when the uptick ends. And sometimes, it's preparatory to big changes - either outsourcing or a mass layoff.

Whatever the reason, quite often the FT staff sees contract staff as temporary. I've worked with contractors who had a 3-month contract. The team I was on at the time didn't get too close, thinking "They won't be here for long anyway; give them their work and let them go." As a hired gun, I got a lot of the work they didn't want to do - in a way, that's part of the gig. (And if you won't do it... a compliant contractor is only a phone call away)

That gets frustrating. And I've also been told "you're just a contractor." Not polite, but at least it was honest.

So... knowing this, how to break in?

The short answer is: you can't. It's tough to break into established groups; you're starting on the outside and looking in. You don't know the bonds that group has or the shared experiences.

What to do?

Flip the script. Instead of trying to break in, find people to allow in to your circle. Right now, it's small. You said that there are a few you get along with - start there. You don't have to become best friends, but you can become comfortable acquaintances.

You want to gain respect? Be excellent at what you do. Take the jobs you have been given and perform them with a smile on your face and do the best you can at them. Can you help someone without being intrusive? Do you have knowledge/skills that someone lacks? Can you help teach them in a way that gives them credit for what they know? Can one of them show you something interesting that they are proud of?

In the end, this will take time. For someone who may only be there for 3 months, it may take longer. But as time goes by, chipping away by being excellent and reaching out to individuals can lead to acceptance as an individual.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.