Key Point: Being included and making a valued contribution is the greatest feeling. On Friday, June 13, it was exhilarating seeing EVERYONE on the LA Kings Hockey club, raise the Stanley Cup over their heads and kiss it. It is the best possible feeling to win together when everyone plays. Being excluded and ostracized, on the other hand, is the worst possible feeling. What does this have to do with you and me at work?
In many cultures, banishment is the worst form of punishment because it is the most painful. In today’s workplace, ostracism is usually done with the sole intent to either remove an individual or push that individual out of their position. As employees, we have a fundamental need for a sense of belonging. Inclusion impacts our self-esteem and it is an important part of developing a great workplace culture. That core need comes under attack when isolation is severe and continuous. When people are disenfranchised it can affect their physiological condition, attitudes and behavior. Neuroscientists have actually been able to pinpoint a change in brain chemistry when dealing with exclusion. In fact certain parts of the brain exhibit a reaction like when hitting your thumb with a hammer. And yes, an Advil can make someone feeling the psychological pain of exclusion temporarily feel better. But eventually, the shunned employee disengages as a functioning team member, isolates himself or herself and usually becomes distrustful toward their supervisor and coworkers. The victim often finds themselves in a no win situation and this leads to further erosion of their self-esteem.
Workplace ostracism turns out to have a bigger impact than harassment, doing greater harm to employees’ well-being and causing more job turnover, says a team led by Jane O’Reilly of the University of Ottawa. Ostracism is also more common: Of more than 1,000 university staff members, 91 percent reported such experiences as being ignored, avoided, shut out of conversations, or treated as invisible over the past year, where as 45 percent reported being harassed, such as by being teased, belittled, or embarrassed.
- Fight for the inclusion of every single employee. Be clear and direct regarding expectations and desired results. If an employee does not fit or perform after you’ve sincerely coached and helped them try to improve, please be respectful and fire the person with dignity. Do not condone or contribute to any form of targeted or intentional exclusion, hoping that they’ll quit. That’s frankly gutless.
- Watch for and stamp out the littlest signs of exclusion. As a not so trivial example, if you’re a leader and exclude some of your team on the little stuff like a going for a beer after work or out for lunch… Well, ask yourself why you’re doing that. (I’m not talking about earned celebrations and other clear reasons to exclude some members).
- If you’re a teammate and/or formal leader and you stand by to watch people get picked on and isolated, you need a metaphorical kick in the behind. If you’re a passively aggressive observer, it usually comes from your own insecurity and poor self-esteem. Have courage… Be respectful and accountable.
- Be a great leader and teammate. Find the spot for everyone to contribute value. And if you feel like you’re being ostracized, have the conviction and strength to stick up for yourself and constructively confront the issues. A crucial conversation, however it works out, will be the best outcome. Ostracism and isolation is the worst. We all deserve more and better.
Everyone one plays to win in The Triangle,
Edited and published by Garrett Rubis