Gossip. Cliquiness. And ostracizing others. It’s all bullying behaviour. Here’s what workplace exclusion does to your business, what’s really causing it and how to break the cycle today
Big bullies. Cliquey companies. And what it’s costing your business. Workplace exclusion is one of the most damaging and hardest to root out threats to any company’s profits. Mainly because it seems so intangible – how do you counter a social phenomenon?
But, as we’ve learnt, when it’s social, it’s cultural. So here’s a new way to look at exclusion in the workplace:
WHAT EXACTLY IS WORKPLACE EXCLUSION?
Some of the most harmful threats to our society and businesses are the things we all glance over or ignore. And, while it’s widely recognised that bullying can destroy whole companies and wreck many individual lives, researchers found in a study called “Invisible at work” that people consistently under-rate the impact of ostracism at work and its psychological and business effects. But new evidence points to the exact opposite: that “invisible” exclusionary behaviour could be even more rampant and damaging than outright bullying.
In short, workplace exclusion is when we ostracise some employees, excluding them socially from certain activities at work – like not inviting that person to lunch with you. It seems natural, socially, that this would happen, but it could leave some people feeling like they’re alone at work: that they have no one to talk to, no one to help them if they need it.
But make no mistake, it’s definitely a – perhaps even the most harmful – type of bullying.
“We’ve been taught that ignoring someone is socially preferable – if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” says Sauder Professor Sandra Robinson, who co-authored the above study. “But ostracism actually leads people to feel more helpless, like they’re not worthy of any attention at all.”
COSTS TO BUSINESS: THE EFFECTS OF EXCLUSION
The same study (above) looked at Canadian research into workplace exclusion that followed up 3 years later with companies where ostracism was found before, and realised that most excluded employees had already left the company.
And it’s not isolated. This 2010 study found exactly the same thing: Ostracised employees leave their jobs more often than non-victims. Which should immediately set off alarms over the Millennial “job-hopping” trend for business owners.
But that’s not all, not by a long shot. This 2009 study actually found that workplace exclusion was directly related to “counterproductive work behaviours”. And that literally is the most damaging thing to any company – when your people’s behaviour makes your entire company less productive, your business dies.
In fact, that last study found that when employees are excluded by colleagues, they get counterproductive in their teams. But when a manager excludes them – doesn’t listen to them, hear their ideas etc. – they get actively counterproductive on an organizational level. And that should scare your socks off!
According to the UK’s Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), workplace exclusion causes:
- Loss of morale and poor employee relations
(see what happens if you don’t have core values)
- A loss of respect for managers and supervisors
- Decreased performance
(see why employees don’t ask for work clarity)
- Lost productivity
(see what causes bad meetings)
- Regular absence
(see why employees are always late)
- Frequent resignations
(it might be why you’re paying too much overtime)
- Long-term damage to company reputation
(see why you’re getting too many customer complaints)
WHAT’S CAUSING ALL THIS WORKPLACE EXCLUSION?
Wow, there are many theories about why people exclude or ostracise others. But one thing we know is that it’s a social thing, which is often dictated by our culture. And at work, that links directly to your company culture.
Specifically, how well defined, developed, communicated and adopted your organizational culture is among your employees.
See, one thing we all tend to glance over in our businesses is that our employees all come from different cultural backgrounds. Job titles aside, even the smallest cultural difference in the individual person, like whether you prefer team sports or individual challenges, can have a huge impact on how you interact with others.
For example, if Person A is from one background and Person B from another, they might have extremely different worldviews. But they might have exactly the same qualifications and skills – they might even be in the same types of roles. So, on paper, they look the same, but in reality, they’re culturally diverse.
And you want that, of course. But know that, in the absence of a new and very well-defined workplace culture to step into every day, people will automatically revert back to their own culture. We spoke about this phenomenon in our post on why it’s so vital to invest in your company culture in South Africa.
BREAK THE CYCLE: FOCUS ON YOUR ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE
People need a clearly defined and widely-adopted culture to walk into at the office every day. Because it helps shift the focus from whom you or I outwardly are, onto who we are within the context of our work, our cause, our mission.
That’s why one of the most effective ways to counter workplace exclusion is also the key to unlocking more productivity and profits – you have to invest in building a high-performance culture.
Good news! We are a change management company, and we specialise in helping companies discover, change and develop their Company Culture. We help companies get right down to understand their employees’ behaviours – in meetings and interactions with each other! – and use science-based organisational development to re-energise your people.
And we WILL SEND a team to your company RIGHT NOW to help you get your people aligned – with no obligation from you! (Just book your assessment below).
Let’s figure out what’s going on, so we can help you get back to high performance.
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