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Workplace Ostracism: Being Ignore is Hurtful

Does your firm’s office remind you of high school? There’s the clique that’s always grabbing lunch and gossiping, a few workaholic souls drowned in papers, the couple of paralegals and interns who always stick together, and you. The lonesome soul no one seems to notice.  A new study from Canada says that being an outcast or excluded at work can be harmful,even more than most would expect.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia’s School of Business looked at the impact  that being ostracized had on people at work. Specifically, they looked at how it affected the employees’ health and morale. Ostracism, according to research co-author Sandra Robinson, can be defined as “when people fail to socially engage an individual in a way that would normally be expected in the situation”.  Ostracism can be seen in many different forms:

  • When you walk to the water cooler, and everyone surrounding goes silent.
  • Not being invited to a meeting or happy hour event you would normally be interested in attending.
  • People don’t acknowledge your input in a meeting or discussion.

Researchers asked 90 managers about their views of ostracism and bullying in the work environment. The researchers also found being ignored was more harmful on a person’s mental and physical well-being than being harassed or bullied, and ostracism was more likely to be overlooked than bullying, and more socially acceptable.

It turns out that if you feel as if you have no role in a company or firm, then that can be more detrimental than having a negative role. As predicted, being ignored affects job performance and satisfaction, and those being ignored are more likely to quit and experienced more health issues.

Ostracism is a form of workplace bullying that is normally swept under the rug because the negative behavior is not overtly seen. If you feel as if you are ostracized in your law firm, speak up. There may be others around who feel the same way. Or if you notice someone not being including in company activities or conversation, offer support. There are many ways to tackle ostracism, but you first have to take notice before the problem can go away.

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