Whether or not we were one of the “cool kids” in school, we all remember the teenage angst and pain that came when we felt excluded by our peers.
Turns out that this pain and frustration isn’t just for teens.
A recent study from the University of Georgia’s School of Business shows that adults respond with “some pretty unsavory behaviors” when faced with the prospect of exclusion from their workgroup.
These behaviors aren’t driven only by the obvious exclusionary acts such as not being invited to a meeting or to join the crowd going for coffee. Apparently even uncertainty about the potential of being excluded from the group can cause enough anxiety that individuals start lying about their performance, undermining people outside the group, and cheating or taking risky short-cuts in order to prove to their colleagues that they’re worthy of being included.
This is subtle stuff that can be hard to spot and even more challenging to deal with. Rather than trying to force the issue – after all, you can’t demand that colleagues invite everyone along for lunch! – the study authors suggest peer mentoring programs (which provide many benefits beyond fostering inclusion) and enrolling natural leaders within your team to periodically check-in on co-workers and to help create a more inclusive atmosphere.
It may seem as if this is all just too “high school” to be taken seriously in the adult workplace. But the consequences – poor performance, lost productivity, unethical behavior – make this issue well worth your attention.
Recommended training resource: Inclusion begins with respect – but “respect” is a big concept. Our two recommended videos, The Respectful Workplace and The Respectful Communicator, describe the ways in which respect can be demonstrated through small acts that can easily become daily habits.
Additional resources: The study mentioned above is described in an article appearing on the University of Georgia website: http://news.uga.edu/releases/article/employee-exclusion-study/