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Tuesday, 25 June 2019

What Is Ostracism & Why It Needs To Be Highlighted & Addressed Properly

By Waiching Liu




Ostracism and being ostracised is something that is unheard of, but it is also something people, organisations and workplace institutions are unwilling to talk about. It is not a new phenomenon, but it has gone unnoticed by many. I had recently experienced an incident at work where I felt I was being ostracised (and one I have discussed on Twitter) and the range of emotions I had; that and I had a terrible day. 

So how can I best describe what ostracism is and what I can compare it with? Well, in my and many people's eyes, especially those who have experienced it, it's very much like being the odd one out in high school and the kid no one talks to or hang around with; ostracism is a form of social exclusion - and a lot of it takes place in the workplace with people of all ages, though mostly with older people. I've experienced exclusion at high school, as well as bullying as a teenager - and so, the correlations between being excluded and ignored when I was young to being in an active work environment and rarely or hardly many people outside of my department at least going to lengths to communicate with me, runs deep. It reinforces all those fears and brings back memories of high school all over again, sadly. 

If you don't conform or fit in with a group or clique of people, one may run the risk of being isolated and ostracised by your peers, and this could lead to things like depression, job dissatisfaction, it can arouse anger and rage and even worse, resigning or quitting your role, or even as extreme as suicide even. It causes unnecessary social and emotional pain, threatens our fundamental human requirements - and these are self-esteem, control, a sense of belonging and acknowledging our worth and existence as human beings. 

I don't belong to one group, I am pretty much by myself and I keep things to myself. When I am cleaning the tables, etc in the role that I undertake, I am by myself and become immersed in my work, whilst in other departments they have teams of four or more people side by side working together. Just because I work alone, does not mean I ought to be and want to feel ignored at work and during social events: I have a lot to contribute to the company, yes, but I also want to feel that I am of worth as a human being too. It's funny how at work when you are older, after many years at school feeling isolated, lonely and being the odd one out, you have to be confident, to work hard to be noticed by your superiors and to fit in and be like them. When really one is unique and who is born to stand out from the crowd. 

As humans, our brains are wired and tuned to feel a range of emotions, feelings and thoughts; we have a powerful need to belong and to connect and it is a mechanism for us as individuals to not only survive but to also learn from and understand one another & to develop and communicate with and depend on each other. With it, we can detect social exclusion that also triggers off different reactions and responses. So without that connection and human and social interaction, which is crucial for us in our personal development that will help us get by in life, we are pretty much screwed and in general, it doesn't bode well for us. 

Workplace ostracism is not deemed as serious enough; because it is subtler than discrimination, bullying and harassment, many organisations perceive exclusion as something that can be swept under the carpet and is easily ignored; thus, implying things such as no eye contact, no verbal communication being made, these are not a big deal and that these shouldn't be a big deal: this is a huge mistake to make and the price one pays when it occurs is so severe, so utterly demoralising it affects your morale and in addition it is hurtful. Social exclusion may occur at an interpersonal level, but employees, in particular managers and supervisors and organisations, need to step in and intervene to build and foster a positive social environment for all. 

Ostracism starts when we ignore people or when an individual is ignored or who is not being acknowledged, even when they don't mean to do it. & whether it is someone you work with or a person of whom isn't your relative, family member, ostracism stings... and it stings a lot.

There is a difference between yourself wanting to need space and being ostracised: when you want space, it means you need time to process, to heal and to eradicate your negative feelings and clear your head of whatever stuff is going on in your mind or life, so you can feel better. Being ostracised, on the other hand, is the exact opposite: you're not craving attention, but having said that, you want them to see that you are indeed actively present. You feel alienated when people do their own thing and yet they give you little or none of their attention towards you and it is akin to being non-existent. That you don't matter to other people -, which is frankly wrong. 


I don't go to work to make friends, nor do I socialise with my colleagues outside of work- yet this is not what we mean by ostracism; but rather demonstrating general etiquette when and as expected, without being reminded to do so. It's not hard, but some people think they can get by without it when really, it is not ideal.

It is a hurtful and painful experience and you're essentially treated like you are invisible to the naked eye, or be it you don't exist in their eyes to them. Being ignored is one thing, but being ignored and isolated in the workplace and in an environment where you are working with and alongside your colleagues and coworkers is another, and is as terrible, if not more so than being physically abused by a bully. 

As irrational as ostracism is, one has to be aware also that when it occurs, it is that has nothing to do with anything we have done and that it isn't and shouldn't be socially acceptable. 

Yet the bottom line to take from experiences such as this and one I have to realise, however, is to work for yourself, be strong, work hard and to continue to do your best and knowing that you are of worth to yourself and know what your qualities and strengths are and to draw on from that to boost your confidence.

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