Archive for December, 2023

Ostracized in the workplace

December 19th, 2023

Why are things the way they are? The University of Eastern Finland recently released a paper by Sipra Manninen, Samli Koponen, Timko Sinervo, and Sanna Laulainen in the Journal of Advanced Nursing on the impact of ostracism in the workplace. We all have experienced this phenomenon in several ways, but my personal experiences pale when compared to those individuals who had a different skin tone, religious belief, any type of physical anomaly, or were just less self-assured people.

Ostracism is, as defined by Oxford, exclusion from society or a group, and it comes from the Greek ostrakismos which has the same meaning.  Although it typically causes no visible physical damage, the emotional and psychological impact can be intense and often heartbreaking. It most certainly can harm the individual’s mental health, self-esteem, and personal well-being in ways that are long-lasting and deep.

Many of our adult behaviors can be traced back to experiences relating to these exclusions or outright rejections from our peers.  Ostracism can occur in personal situations, the workplace, or on societal levels. It can be both unintentional and intentional and can influence the individual’s perception of the world around them for a lifetime.

Because we are inherently social human beings, finding one’s tribe and being comfortable in that scenario can provide a sense of emotional and mental well-being. Conversely, when someone is ostracized, it often triggers feelings of sadness, despair, and loneliness that can have a significant impact on feelings such as anxiety and depression.

The Finnish article was directed toward ostracism in the healthcare workplace, and it described examples like the impact of exclusion from social activities, lack of communication or the withholding of information, being overlooked in meetings, and how these slights can negatively impact the workplace. All of these actions can create what can only be described as a toxic work environment. This can result in decreased job satisfaction, underperformance in the form of less productivity, and even higher turnover rates.

Because our coping skills are less developed as children and young adults, that same behavior in school or social settings can result in academic underachievement, withdrawal, behavioral problems, and more prevalent actions recently due to the addictive and anonymous nature of social media, such as self-harm and even suicide that can be both intentional and unintentional.

If you’re the kid who is not invited to the party or gathering where all of your friends are. If you’re excluded from a club about which you were passionate. If you’re not part of the in-crowd at a dance or a meeting where you were previously a key player, you are being socially ostracized. The worst part of this is there may be no real concrete reason for being cut-out, and if there is a reason, it may be even more hurtful.

As we look at the numerous scenarios that have brought our country to this point in terms of philosophical separation, we can reflect on what contributed to the two political camps, and within those camps, we will find people who were ostracized at various times in their lives. There are reasons why certain groups feel more of an affiliation with others and this is often based more on the previously felt pain caused by being eliminated from situations that were meaningful to them.

If we could take a deep look at the personalities of the leaders that are controlling life and death decisions in our world, they are dealing with deep issues that have roots in their past. The desire to dominate, eradicate, decimate, and eliminate entire countries, groups of people, or societies is not normal.

Only through encouraging inclusivity, open communication, and the promotion of empathy can we help mitigate the negative impact of ostracism. By working to create a more compassionate and inclusive society through fostering understanding and empathy, we can create a world where everyone feels valued, accepted, and capable of reaching their full potential.