Years ago, I read, by an author and in a newspaper I can no longer recall, that when you start a new job, be sure to take note of what people did for lunch, and fall in line. Observing lunch, the author asserted, was a good way to decode office culture. Do people go out for lunch to discuss business? Or do groups go out for lunch to discuss their grievances and weekend plans? Or, as I remember a colleague from years ago saying, “Lunch is something you eat, not something you take.” In other words, bring your lunch or buy it, and return promptly to the office – keep working.
Lunch is just one of many opportunities to observe how to go about fitting in, which is almost always just as important, if not more so, than your ability to complete the work you were hired to do. If drinks after work is the thing to do, make sure you buy a round; if office parties are highly valued, don’t let a deadline keep you from making an appearance, if only briefly; if the spontaneous conversations that affect change occur after hours, make sure you’re around.
To refuse to fit in, or to be unaware of how to do so, is to risk challenging the sensibilities and patterns of the majority. And the majority does rule, even if it is a tyranny. You say to meld yourself to fit in would require you to be inauthentic? It’s work, one of the many places it would not be wise to express ourselves in full. Work on fitting in. Your success will be a feather in your cap in your search for a better fit – the place where fitting in will come more naturally.