There have been dozens of characters with the ability to turn invisible. Dubbed a super power, it’s often seen within films as a positive and a gift. Unfortunately however, work isn’t a fairytale and whilst we’d occasionally like to disappear on the odd Monday morning, the reality of being invisible to your co-workers is simply pain and rejection.
Being ignored at work has been found to be so harmful to our workers mentality that it’s actually been suggested to be worse than out-right bullying. Proving that there may be truth in Oscar Wilde’s statement that “there is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that’s not being talked about.”
In 2014, Researchers at the University of British Columbia conducted a study into the effects of feeling left out at work, writing that “ostracism actually leads people to feel more helpless [than bullying], like they’re not worthy of any attention at all.” Further research into the subject also found that not only was ostracism ‘seen as more socially acceptable’, but that ‘most of our current strategies for dealing with workplace injustices don’t give them a voice’, meaning that not only is this hurtful behavior more common, but that it often goes on with no resolution.
With 70% of US participants saying they’ve been adversely affected by ostracism at work, it’s worrying that after comparing the results of the study 3 years later, the British Columbia Researchers found the turnover and ‘quitting’ rates to be much higher for those who felt ‘left out’ at work. Suggesting that we could be losing 70% of our workforce much sooner than we need to.
Unfortunately feeling our voices aren’t being heard isn’t just hurting us emotionally, but could be affecting how quickly we progress within our careers, with Courtney Lynch, the Founding Partner of Lead Star Leadership Development Firm, writing, “career success is not just about our work quality, itís how we engage with others and contribute to the team.” When we are only allowed on the outskirts of the team, our success is then often dimmed and progression much harder to achieve.”
Jason Hanold suggests we target this by not assuming the worst. Writing, “sometimes it’s a simple oversight, extend yourself, be willing to be vulnerable”, he suggests we face the problem head on, telling our colleagues we’d like to be invited to future events or meetings. Although this puts a lot of onus on the ‘victim’, reaching out could help you to make great strides within the company. Dan Schawbel, workplace expert, says of the issue, “visibility creates opportunity, if you aren’t visible, then you won’t reach your full potential because no one will know what you’re capable of.”
There are many reasons people feel left out at work, whether it’s the lone female exec feeling left out of ‘boys club’ or the father of 5 whose never invited to after-work drinks, often it can leave employees feeling confused and gas lighted as to whether they’re purposefully being excluded. However the best course of action is to trust your gut, with Schawbel writing, “you know you’re being unnoticed at work when you are being ignored, not getting a promotion [and] not getting assigned new projects. And if your gut is saying that something can be done, maybe it’s time to step out from underneath your invisibility cloak and make your voice heard. If nothing changes, maybe it’s time to look a role where you can be fully appreciated.”
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