8 Ways to Stop Feeling Left Out at Work as an Underrepresented Minority

feeling left out at work

If you’re feeling left out at work, know that you’re not alone. Whether you’re a woman in a male-dominated industry or an LQBTQ employee. 

FOMO at work is real (fear of missing out). And when you’re an underrepresented minority, it’s easy to feel excluded. No matter how hard you try to fit in at work.

Feeling comfortable in spaces where others don’t look like you can take time.  So give yourself grace. 

Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not a part of the work clique. Here’s how to stop feeling left out at work!

How to Deal with Being an Underrepresented Minority at Work

Being an underrepresented minority can fall into many categories like gender, race, sexual orientation, age, religious beliefs, and physical ability, to name a few.

And in some cases, this could even be considered “the new majority.”

As an underrepresented minority at work, you may find yourself in situations your peers just won’t understand.

So how do you deal with this? By focusing on what you can control.

You can’t control how others behave. But here’s what you can control:

  • Your actions and reactions 
  • What you tolerate and don’t 
  • How you carry yourself 
  • Your mindset 
  • What you learn 

Most importantly, you’ll need to own your unique identity. And have an attitude that sets you up for success

Here are affirmations to use if you struggle with being in a marginalized community at work. 

Affirmations for Underrepresented Minorities at Work

  1. I bring more to the table than diversity
  2. My uniqueness makes me an asset to my organization 
  3. I earned my position so I deserve to be here
  4. It’s not my responsibility to fix the limiting beliefs of others
  5. I’m paving the way for future generations of people like me  
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How to Stop Feeling Left Out at Work

1. Get to the bottom of why you’re feeling left out 

The first step is to get to the bottom of why you feel left out at work. This requires self-awareness and reflection.  

To help with this, we recommend using an activity we teach at NetWerk® called the “Interrogation Exercise.”

It involves questioning your beliefs until you discover the real reason behind your issue. This activity can be similar to mind mapping.

Here’s what the Interrogation Exercise looks like:

Your Belief: “No one likes me at work.” 

Interrogating Question 1: What makes me think everyone dislikes me at work?

Your Answer: I sit alone at lunch every day.

Interrogating Question 2: Why do I sit alone at lunch?  

Your Answer: I usually catch up on social media and emails during lunch.

Continue to question your beliefs until you uncover the real reasons behind your problem. 

In this example, your co-workers may actually like you. But see you as unapproachable while on the phone. And therefore may not sit with you at lunch. 

Here are some questions to help you interrogate your beliefs:

  • Why do I believe this?
  • What do the facts say?
  • What else might be causing this?
  • What proof do I have?
  • Did I assume positive intent?

The Interrogation Exercise and questioning your beliefs help give you a new perspective. 

Interrogation Exercise by NetWerk
The Interrogation Exercise involves challenging your thoughts and questioning your beliefs.

2. Assume Positive Intent 

Assume your co-workers mean well until proven otherwise. When you think everyone’s out to get you, you’ll give off bad vibes that will keep you feeling alienated at work. 

Practice giving others the benefit of doubt. It’ll make you come across as emotionally intelligent.

The next time a co-worker says something problematic to you, take a deep breath and tell yourself “their issue isn’t with me.”

This next level will require you to be the bigger person. And assuming positive intent is one way to do that. 

3. Open Up 

One reason you might be feeling excluded at work is that no one knows you. It’s hard to befriend someone that’s a closed book. Is this you? Be honest.

We’re often taught to keep work and our personal lives separate.

While this can be true at times, you have to be careful not to be too closed off to the point where you’re not relatable.  

Here’s how to find a balance. Never share anything that can be used against you in the future. 

For example, sharing your next moves like a job search or career change isn’t wise if that move doesn’t involve your current employer. 

Instead share fun lighthearted things about yourself, your culture, or your identity.

Lastly, loosen up a bit, and don’t be too closed off at work. 

4. Don’t isolate yourself 

It’s easy to turn to isolation when you don’t feel welcome at work. Don’t do this! Isolating yourself will only create more awkward tension at work. 

Instead, challenge yourself to keep showing up. Inserting yourself. And taking up space. 

This means you should join any informal gatherings or group discussions at work. Don’t eat lunch alone and invite co-workers to join you instead. 

Again, you can only control your actions. Not how others will behave. 

If your workplace is as inclusive as it says on your company’s website. Your efforts will be appreciated. 

5. Accept the invites

If you’re invited to a work function, accept the invite. You’ll never fit in at work if you’re not present where relationships are built.

And that’s usually at after-hours events like happy hour. It doesn’t mean you have to attend everything.

But at least try to make an appearance whenever possible. You’ll have to get creative if you have obligations like kids or another job.

Try suggesting a family-friendly after-hours event to your co-workers. Or organizing an event that works with your schedule.

6. Find an Ally whose opinion is valued

Every workplace has a person whose opinion carries weight. They are respected and can influence people.

Find that person and make them your ally. Invite them to lunch and make a good impression. Find ways to support them and make their job easier.

Eventually, they’ll want to help you in return.  At that point, you can approach them about becoming your career sponsor

Once you have their approval. Others will be too afraid to go against it. Interesting how that works right?

At the end of the day, having an ally will help you gain trust and hopefully stop feeling left out at work.

7. Document Your Experiences 

Documenting your experiences will help you reflect on what’s really going on. It’s easy to be in your feelings when things aren’t going well. 

By keeping track of your experiences, you can focus on the facts. It will help you be data-driven, not emotionally-driven.  

That said, documenting your experiences is also a good way to protect yourself. 

Let’s face it, some workplaces are toxic. If you feel you’re being excluded based on being part of a protected class, there are options you can explore to file a formal complaint. 

A protected class is a group protected from employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, and genetic information (including family medical history).

In the US, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission EEOC handles discrimination complaints known as EEOC complaints.   

You’ll want to confirm who handles employment discrimination complaints in your country. 

Remember it is illegal to be discriminated against based on being part of a protected class in the US. 

individual professional development plan
Documenting your experiences can help you cover your ‘you know what’

8. Take advantage of the benefits of being underrepresented at work

Being an underrepresented minority at work, sometimes has its benefits. It’s often easier to stand out among your co-workers. 

Think about ways to take advantage of being underrepresented at work. 

This doesn’t mean you’re obligated to take on diversity equity and inclusion or  DEI initiatives on top of your job.

But if you’re presented with opportunities to increase your visibility at work based on being an underrepresented minority. You should consider it. 

What to do if you’ve tried everything but are still feeling left out at work 

There gets to a point where you have to decide enough is enough. You’ve done your part and need to accept the outcome.  

If you’ve tried everything, but are still feeling left out at work. Be open to moving on.

Someone out there is searching for the skills you have to offer. Go and bless them with your talents.

Don’t waste your experience where you’re not valued.

Feeling Left Out at Work

Feeling excluded at work hits different when you’re a minority trying to make a name for yourself in spaces where others don’t look like you.

Be patient with the process. Hopefully, this article gives you a starting point!

If you’re new here, join our inclusive community with thousands of future leaders worldwide. Ohh and it’s free!

You’ll get instant access to our Career Center with free resources to help you upgrade your career! 

Over to You

Is your workplace as inclusive as it says on your company’s website? Let us know in the comments section on social @netwerkmovement.

Share this with someone feeling left out at work!

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About NetWerk®

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