The Helpline by Clara B.

Dear Clara B,

There is a group of women at work who are nice enough to me, but they frequently go out to lunch without inviting me or discuss things they did over the weekend together. I've tried to let it roll off my back but it really hurts my feelings. Any thoughts or suggestions?


Dear Derf,

I'm reminded of the Frank Zappa quote, "Life is like high school, except you get money".  Even when we're all supposedly adults, everyone seems to fall into a clique.  You'd think we would all be past that, but it always seems to happen in almost every work place in some way or another. 

It's natural for you to feel hurt or left out, and it could be that they don't realize that they're excluding you.  Yes, people can really be that obtuse.  And you don't want to try too hard with them because then you worry about looking like you're kissing up.  

If this group of gals are friendly enough, the easiest thing to do is take the initiative and and invite them to lunch with you.  Maybe you heard of a great new restaurant, or maybe there's a fresh piece of mancake working at the deli near you that you all could ogle while he slices his meat.  Heh.  I said 'meat'.  Anyway, it really is as simple as that.  Put on your friendliest smile and invite them to lunch.  The worst thing that will happen is they will say no.  

Don't fret too much over it if you can.  From what I've experienced in the working world, office friendships can be trickier to navigate than those high school cliques.  And if they do say no, it's OK.  If their circle is that tightly closed, you probably wouldn't have much fun in there, anyway.  There's always someone else in the office that's looking for a lunch buddy.

Derfs, what are your experiences with office friendships?  

If anyone has a question they would like me to answer, drop me a line at

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Reader Comments (9)

More like what happens out of work for me since I sleep, eat and live with the boss.

April 30, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermeredith@whynot

As one who has been burned over and over by office "friends", I now keep it professional and leave it all in the office. It's hard to work with people you no longer talk to or have to deal with people you no longer have respect for.

I met my husband at my last job and a month after we were married, I left and took another job. Personal life and professional life do not mix!

April 30, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermamasoo

I would kind of agree that you are probably better off on the outside of the in-group. Professional friend groups get so gossipy and over involved, work becomes secondary to the mini dramas.

I would try to find maybe one other person to lunch buddy with and count yourself lucky.

April 30, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermolly

Being a social loner, I didn't notice I wasn't invited at a few jobs. Those where I was included tended to drive me nuts. I'm not good with groups; individuals are preferable. However, I realize others are as comfortable in groups as I am not. I tend to think - speaking as a poor team player - that figuring out one person in a group to approach may be easier, and then that person will help ease you in. Inviting all makes one the "hostess" and then all eyes may be on you and you gots to perform. If you can handle the whole group without a trial run, go for it.

April 30, 2014 | Unregistered Commenternaomi d

I worked at an emergency dept as a nurse in upstate New York. The bunch there were so cliquey and bitchy that they would often loudly plan the dinner they were going to in front of me, leaning past me at the desk to invite another person. They were unfriendly and unhelpful in my orientation and the boss didn't help because she was part of the bitchy-clique. It hurt but I hadn't done anything:they were predisposed to hate me, one of them let on, because I had a master's degree and they thought I looked down on them. Nothing could have been farther from the truth. Too bad they let their insecurities and bad manners prevent friendship.

April 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Damn, Sarah - owch!

And to All who have to deal with this crap, my sympathies. I was lucky, I guess. For 23 years as a Kdg. teacher, it was part of my job to take the All Day Group to lunch, thus freeing me from Faculty Room cliques. In my (short lived) next job, there were only 4 of us, and we usually gathered together or went next door to the local pizza joint.

I was lucky, I know. So no real help here. Just - reminiscence. And Derf Good Wishes to all of you dealing with Mean Girls.

April 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBriget

I was in the same situation for a while. There are now new/more people here who are much more inclusive. However, I found myself missing my "loner" lunches. I used them surf online, read, make phone calls, etc. Now I do about half and half and have found that if the perfect balance for me. I do agree with the "ask them to lunch" advice. The worst that can happen is they say "No, Thanks" and then you will know.

May 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

or look around and ask someone else to lunch who is also not included in the "special" group. start one of your own----but a nicely inclusive bunch.

May 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAngAK

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