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Employees who feel excluded in the workplace tend to exhibit more aggressive, harmful behaviours, researchers find.

Stefan Thau of the London Business School, Karl Aquino at the University of British Columbia and Marijn Poortvliet at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands noted in a May 2007 study that belonging at work results in increased teamwork and cooperation among employees and helps staff refrain from actions that harm others.

Unfortunately, not every workplace nurtures belonging and takes advantage of the gains. If there is a sense of exclusion – cynicism, sadness, lower self-esteem and self-defeating behaviour result.

The less the staff member experiences belonging, the more she/he is likely to engage in alienating, self-defeating, isolating and unhelpful behaviours. As a result, the person feels increasing social isolation.

This ensures further exclusion and reduces the information the person might receive about what the team needs, wants and values. Without this kind of information, the isolated employee is hampered in his or her efforts to belong.

They are also less likely to volunteer for projects, assist others with tasks not immediately relevant to them and go above the call of duty to assist a colleague. They are less likely to do favours for people at work and may in fact go out of their way to make things difficult such as blocking decisions at staff meeting.

What can Employers Do?

Welcome Newcomers

  • Welcome, orient and include newcomers quickly to reinforce the message that the workplace culture is one of inclusion.
  • Create a buddy system where a more seasoned employee takes a newcomer under his or her wing.
  • Remind other workers of the importance of extending an invitation .

Be aware of the Dynamics of Exclusion.

  • Keep an eye on who is being included in meetings, how information is shared and who is socializing with whom
  • If a staff person appears standoffish, aggressive or passive aggressive, these could be signs that they are being excluded from the team.
  • Take time to meet staff individually one on one about the team and its functioning is important.
  • Watch for staff groups engaging in “in-jokes” that do not include everyone, talking behind the backs of other staff members, withholding information about projects, tasks or meetings and defining themselves as superior to other staff members in some way.
  • Incorporate a Workplace Wellness Program

Derived from an article written by J. Newman and D. Grigg .

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