Workplace ostracism is the experience of being ignored, excluded, or otherwise avoided by others at your company. Ostracism can manifest in a number of ways, from being left out of important meetings and social events to being passed over for promotions.
Feeling constantly ostracized and humiliated at work can feel more depressing than open harassment, psychological studies have found. Yet, proving such behaviors, especially if they’re systematic, can be really problematic.
So how do you know that you’re being ostracized at work and what do you do to make the situation better? Here’s our advice.
6 Strong Signs You’re Being Ostracized at Work
Not all workplaces cultivate a cheery environment of comradery. Some companies promote a more competitive, individualistic culture, whereas others just don’t invest too many resources into corporate wellness.
If that’s your case, you may be wondering are your suspicions have merit or if you’re just overreacting. Since workplace ostracism is often mixed up with gaslighting, it can be hard to tell for sure. But if you’re consistently noticing these six signs, your hunch is right!
1. You Face Social Rejection Often
Social rejection can come in many forms. Your boss or upper management does not openly communicate with you and you aren’t included in any important company decisions. As a result, you feel devalued and unimportant at work.
Your peers don’t act any better. In most cases, you’re spending your lunch alone at your desk. No one Slacks you with some quick insider jokes or talks to you during coffee breaks. You feel surrounded by people, but never part of any group. That can be mentally taxing.
2. You’re Getting Silent Treatment
Silent treatment is one of the most common signs of being ostracized by co-workers. People intentionally ignore comments during group talk or make you feel invisible by avoiding eye contact. Some may even act as if you’re not present in the room. This can be a very hurtful experience, which results in self-blaming.
Most of the time, ostracism isn’t your fault. Even more so, if you’re a person of color. A recent study of US workplaces found that as many as 66% of POC employees have received silent treatment, while 45% are left out of meetings.
3. You Feel Professionally Undermined
Another tell-tale sign of being ostracized at work is that others never back your ideas in public. Some colleagues may even try to undermine you directly by leaving you out of conversations, not giving you credit for success, or openly scheming behind your back with others.
If this happens on the peer level, you’re likely being overlooked for promotion and never receiving positive comments from your superiors. You shouldn’t stay in such a workplace for too long.
4. No One Seems To Be Happy In Your Presence
It seems everyone is treating you strangely, even though you haven’t done anything wrong. Conversations get hushed. People avoid eye contact. Some can outright leave the room or otherwise avoid being around. The worst part? Such incidents happen all the time — and you appear to be the only person who’s subject to such treatment.
Eventually, such behaviors can really get under your skin and you even may consider rage-quitting your job. That’s a valid feeling (but not a great career decision). Several studies say that ostracism is as — and sometimes more — harmful than open harassment.
5. Your Achievements are Overlooked
Being a lone wolf is already had. Even if you’ve achieved great things, if you’re not part of the “in-crowd”, your successes may go unnoticed.
The best way to deal with this, for the time being, is to remember that your self-worth is not contingent upon the approval of others. Your accomplishments are your own and they are not diminished simply because others refuse to recognize them.
6. You’re Career Development Stalled
Unlike others in your company, you’re not getting opportunities to attend new work events, complete extra training, or go to conferences. Your last performance review was ages ago and your boss shows no intention of talking about your career goals.
There may be other factors at play for this, but if you’re also experiencing some of the other signs of ostracism from this list, this is your cue to start scheduling new job interviews.
Is Ostracism Illegal in the Workplace?
No, ostracism at work isn’t illegal, unlike other actions like racism or gender-based discrimination. But it’s undeniably a toxic workplace practice, which harms you psychologically. Many organizations try to curb such behaviors, but the problem is that deliberate ostracism can be harder to prove, especially if it’s been systematic. That said, you do have some options to fight back!
How to Deal with Being Ostracized at Work
The first obvious, but challenging step, is to try and correct your own behavior. Make a last-ditched attempt to build a better rapport with your peers. Acknowledge that your relationships haven’t been great and ask if you could start anew.
Chances are that some people have been giving you the wrong treatment because you made them feel threatened, undermined, or upset in another way.
Yet, if that doesn’t help and you’re still feeling ostracized at work because of colleagues’ actions, try this:
- Talk to your friends and family about what you’re going through to get emotional support
- Bring the issue to your boss and see if there is anything that can be done to improve it.
- Seek professional help if the ostracism is affecting your work performance or mental health.
If you are being ostracized at work by your boss, on the other hand, try this:
- Keep a record of the ostracism cases and document any incidents
- Talk to other colleagues to see if they’ve experienced the same issues
- Schedule a conversation with HR and discuss the problematic behavior with them
Finally, don’t let the experience undermine your self-esteem for good. Keep doing what’s required of you. Then refresh your resume and start applying for better jobs!