How to Deal With Being Ostracized in the Office

By Mika Lo
Excluded
Josh Rinehults/iStock/Getty Images

Finding yourself on the outs with coworkers can make you dread going to work. Perhaps coworkers ignore your input during meetings or give you the silent treatment at lunch. These types of actions represent a form of bullying called ostracism, which skips overt bullying in favor of shunning. Ostracism casts a negative shadow on workplace dynamics. Dealing with being ostracized in the office takes perseverance.

Wear Rain Gear

Facing ostracism daily can take its toll on your self-esteem. Weathering the storm means staying prepared for harsh conditions. Arrive to work each day with a positive attitude and productive intentions. Enhance your life outside the office by cultivating a rich social life with non-coworkers. You may find that your strength will disarm some coworkers, especially followers who are just going with the ebb and flow of office politics. Venting frustrations to a trusted friend outside the office can relieve tension and help you keep your cool during work hours.

Identify Why

Knowing why coworkers oust you can help you plan your next move. Ostracism occurs for different reasons. Maybe coworkers blame you for alerting management of their workplace misdeeds or shortcomings. Maybe rumors about your personal life or perceived social habits inflame coworkers. Simply belonging to a different age group, employee status or gender may also cause coworkers to exclude you from group activities. Commit to staying honest as you assess your situation and seek ways to gain positive ground with coworkers. Asking a trusted colleague or an outside counselor for advice can help you identify why coworkers mistreat you.

Make Renewed Efforts

Workplace politics are dynamic. Yesterday’s outlier may be today’s leader. Today’s leader may be tomorrow’s scapegoat. While your situation may appear hopeless, wallowing in negativity will not help. Appropriate actions depend on why you are being ostracized. Sometimes the right answer is apologizing. At other times it may be demonstrating that you are not, for example, the “odd” colleague who never makes eye contact when speaking. Try hard to rebuild bridges, but know when to quit. There is no magic recipe to make coworkers accept you.

Embrace the Silence

Forcing your way into a group will not make the members accept you. It might even make them more resentful. While it may hurt to take breaks alone, you can use this distraction-free time to your advantage. Organizing your workspace, tackling a tough project or volunteering to help in another department can occupy your mind and display your work ethic. Understand that being ostracized is not an acceptable excuse for increased absenteeism or decreased productivity. Focusing on your work will help you block out the negativity radiating from the "in" crowd. Used productively, it may even help you ascend the career ladder ahead of your detractors.

Emotional Stress

Your job description may include an extensive list of duties and expectations, but being a punching bag is not one of them. Your human resources department may not be able to take decisive action to stop coworkers from shunning you. While ostracizing others may be immature, it isn’t necessarily illegal. However, being excluded and ignored can take a heavy emotional toll. It may feel as if your feelings don't matter, but keeping all of your emotions inside is not advisable. Seeking assistance from an outside counselor can equip you with the perspective and coping mechanisms needed to endure your situation. Engaging in enjoyable hobbies outside of the office can also reduce your stress.

Your Other Options

If the workplace becomes so hostile your performance or health suffers, consult your company’s HR professional or a trusted manager. If management refuses to intervene, consider conferring with an attorney who specializes in workplace harassment cases. Meticulously document each incident of ostracism, so the attorney can determine if your situation rises to the level of a legal action. You also might contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission through its website and use its online assessment system to determine whether the agency can assist you.

About the Author

Mika Lo has been producing online content since 2005. The majority of her work has been published in areas such as parenting, lifestyle and health. Lo has also assisted with the development of community and hospital-based patient education programs, including creative discharge classes for new mothers and assisting underprivileged patients with medication assistance and information.