What happens when someone is ostracized at work?

Merideth Thompson, management department professor at USU's Huntsman School. Photo courtesy of Utah State Today

To ostracize means to exclude someone from a group.

Research at Utah State University’s Jon M. Huntsman School of Business presents the possible negative effects when that happens in the workplace. Merideth Thompson, a Professor in the Huntsman School who was involved in the research, describes one result.

“People kind of take those experiences and the bad mood that it creates and the stress and the distress it creates,” Thompson explains. “Then, they tend to go home and treat their family members badly, and engage with them in a way that is very negative and sends a signal that says, ‘you’re not okay.’ And then that leads to burnout or emotional exhaustion for the spouse as well.”

To deal with these workplace challenges, she says some companies are creating an organizational culture that says ‘this is how we treat each other.’

“If you pass within 10 feet of someone, you’re supposed to nod or smile or otherwise acknowledge them. And if you cross within five feet of someone you’re supposed to speak to them. There are very explicit expectations about how we acknowledge one another and we can diminish the likelihood that ostracism takes place.”

Thompson says the research indicates 66% of employees experience some form of ostracism at work, which can create a significant negative impact on both the employee and the employee’s family.

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1 Comment

  • Warren Pugh August 8, 2019 at 3:05 pm Reply

    Meredith, where have you been. We feel ostracized. 🙁

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