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The hidden cost of workplace exclusion

  1. The cost of social exclusion to employers
  2. The impact on employees
  3. How to bring colleagues out of the cold
  4. Creating an inclusive workplace culture


Social exclusion Social bullying at work is on the rise. A poll by the CIPD suggests that almost two thirds of employees feel that bullying is socially-driven and over 91% believe that their organisation is failing to deal with the consequences. The proven impact of exclusion on people, productivity and business performance makes this an issue no business can afford to ignore.

While verbal and physical bullying are easier for employers to identify, social exclusion is often harder to remedy. Social bullying occurs when colleagues are excluded, ostracised, or ignored by the rest of the team e.g. being left out of meetings or social events, ignored, or even overlooked for promotion.

With the festive season approaching and an increased focus on social get-togethers, it is important for employers to highlight the importance of teamwork and take steps to tackle this hidden workplace problem.


The cost of social exclusion to employers

Social exclusion like other forms of bullying has a direct impact on performance and productivity. It has also been linked to the following.

  • Poor morale and poor employee relations
  • A loss of respect for managers and supervisors
  • Decreased performance
  • Lost productivity
  • Regular absence
  • Frequent resignations
  • Long-term damage to company reputation

It is therefore in every employer's interest to promote a safe, healthy and fair environment in which people can work, together.

The impact on employees

Humans are naturally social, which is why being left out of the loop can be so detrimental to health. Psychological research and anecdotal evidence from the front line suggests that this hidden form of bullying can have a significant effect on employees' self-esteem, helplessness and mental health. Research has also found that people bullied at work can experience a range of psychological and physical health problems, often affecting their relationships with family and friends. It is therefore vital that incidents are acted upon and that victims are treated in a sensitive and understanding manner.

Read more about the effects of bullying here pdf icon Seeking better solutions: tackling bullying and ill-treatment in Britain's workplaces [429kb] or in our bullying and harassment advice page.

How to bring colleagues out of the cold

Employers may not be immediately aware that a colleague is feeling alienated, or isolated. So alongside looking for visible signs of stress (link to mental health article?) it is important for line managers to pay attention to workplace interactions, areas of possible conflict and working relationships between members of staff.

While in many cases incidences of workplace bullying can be tackled with a quiet word with both the 'victim' and the 'alleged bully', employers should always have a structured conflict management strategy in place. This should focus on promoting worker wellbeing and highlight the importance of good workplace relations.

Creating an inclusive workplace culture 

A cohesive bullying and harassment policy is the first line of defence against social exclusion. Research has shown that bullying is often a result of organisational climates or cultures. Creating a framework for what is and what isn't acceptable can help to shape workplace interactions and in turn, help to protect vulnerable employees.

Examples of what may be included in an employer's bullying and harassment policy include: 

  • a statement of commitment from senior management
  • an acknowledgement that bullying and harassment are problems for the
  • organisation
  • a clear statement that social exclusion, bullying and harassment are not acceptable and will not be tolerated within the organisation. In some cases circumstances the behaviour may also be unlawful
  • examples of unacceptable behaviour
  • a statement that outlines how complaints of bullying and harassment may be dealt with through formal, internal  disciplinary or grievance procedures.

Find out more about workplace bullying and social exclusion

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