Just like in a social group, employees can feel left out and rejected at work, leading to low engagement and high resentment. What can managers do to turn it around?
You say hi to one employee and nothing to the next – it’s nothing personal, but could they take it that way? It’s hard to guess how others interpret your actions, but ignoring it could lead to unhappy, disillusioned employees.
According to a study from Argosy University, being excluded can produce noticeable changes in the brain. The researchers found those in the excluded group showed changes in brain chemistry and performed more poorly on mathematics tests than those who were in the socially included group.
Also, when someone feels left out it’s easy for them to misinterpret signs so they feel rejected even when those around them don’t intend to exclude them, according to Benchmark Communications CEO Judith Glaser.
“Rejection, or the fear of it, is a powerful social trigger — and, at work, it can be a debilitating one,” she said. People who feel excluded will read more into situations than there is, they become distrusting and their decision-making abilities are weakened. So what can a manager do?
Glaser suggests the following steps:
Prime the room for trust.
Even small changes such as a round table can help foster feelings of inclusion, and explicitly stating that everyone is equal and their ideas are worthwhile can help ease fear of rejection and encourage collaboration.
Start with a shared reality.
Send agenda items ahead of time so everyone has time to prepare. “Another way to encourage a common mindset is to give team members an article to read and ask them to find something inspiring in it; have them share these thoughts at a meeting and encourage the group to listen for common themes,” Glaser added. This helps trigger the prefrontal cortex mirror neurons, enabling colleagues to connect with others' emotions and opinions, enhancing empathy and their understanding of different perspectives.
Encourage candor and caring.
“Use open, non-judgmental language and listen with respect and appreciation in all conversations,” Glaser said. “Thank people for sharing, and make sure that there are no negative repercussions for doing so.”