Seamus (not his real name) was having a rough time at work. An attorney at a large firm, he lost a big trial that the company had invested heavily in. He was relieved when the company still offered him the promotion he’d been working toward — but he then had to turn down the role because it would have required him to relocate.
After that things changed in the atmosphere of the office; he could sense people acting differently toward him even though no one said anything to him directly. “I was not invited to several meetings,” he told us, “and was left out of several important decisions about the direction of the law firm.” He heard that one partner had denigrated him to a group of others; Seamus felt his approach was “very passive aggressive.” The situation came to a head with a social occasion — all of the attorneys at the firm were invited to play a basketball game and he was left off of the invitation. By this point he had no doubt it was deliberate; he was 6’4” and a strong player.
The negative effects of bullying and harassment and other aggressive behaviors in the workplace are becoming better known, but another, quieter form of torment is actually far more common: ostracism. Research indicates that a full 71% of professionals experience some degree of exclusion or social isolation in a six-month period (compared to the 49% that experience harassment, for example). And it’s not just more common: research has also shown that experiencing ostracism in the workplace can in fact be more psychologically hurtful than being the target of more overt aggressive behavior...
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