Advice column: my new colleague shuns any social encounters with colleagues

Dear Ash,

I have been fortunate enough to have worked my way up the ladder at my current firm through much hard work and determination and have always felt like my colleagues are my friends too. However, a relatively new colleague in our team has sought to upset the dynamics in our department and, despite being new, does not seem to have any respect for the way we do things and is not interested in establishing any friendships either. He refuses to attend any social events after work and always makes an excuse for skipping team lunches. There is no doubt that he is competent at his job but his disregard for making an effort with the rest of the team is frustrating and quite frankly insulting.

Ash replies:

It is great that you have formed such friendships in the workplace; it is not always an easy task, especially when there are often different personalities all vying to compete against each other. Your colleague has chosen to not get too involved in the social side of work and you should not hold this against him, as he is perfectly within his rights to decide the level of engagement he is willing to undertake. 

He does not have to be friends with people at work, as long as he is civil and polite and does the work he is employed to do. There is no doubt that camaraderie between colleagues can be an important and positive dynamic and can result in a more productive working environment; however, it can also be quite intimidating for a newcomer entering such an environment. Moreover, although such friendships are nice to have, they are not an essential component of the workplace. You may just need to accept that some people are not as sociable as others and may not wish to have colleagues as friends; you cannot force your ideals upon others. 

Respect for everyone’s thoughts and choices will help to support a positive environment at work. It may well be that your colleague is just shy or indeed a little intimidated at being the new guy in a clearly close team. He may also just prefer to socialise with his own group of friends outwith the work space. Whatever his reasons, give him some space and he may, in time, just decide to get more involved anyway; but even if he doesn’t that should be OK too. 

Send your queries to Ash

“Ash” is a solicitor who is willing to answer work-related queries from solicitors and other legal professionals, which can be put to her via the editor:, or mail to Suite 6b, 1 Carmichael Place, Edinburgh EH6 5PH. Confidence will be respected and any advice published will be anonymised.

Please note that letters to Ash are not received at the Law Society of Scotland. The Society offers a support service for trainees through its Education, Training & Qualifications team. For one-to-one advice contact Katie Wood, Head of Admissions on 0131 476 8162, or by email:

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