Better to be bullied than ignored in the workplace, study says

May 29, 2014

Being ignored at work is worse for physical and mental well-being than harassment or bullying, says a new study from the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business.

Researchers found that while most consider less harmful than bullying, feeling excluded is significantly more likely to lead , quitting and health problems.

"We've been taught that ignoring someone is socially preferable—if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all," says Sauder Professor Sandra Robinson, who co-authored the study. "But ostracism actually leads people to feel more helpless, like they're not worthy of any attention at all."

The researchers used a series of surveys for their study. First they determined that people consistently rate workplace ostracism as less socially inappropriate, less psychologically harmful and less likely to be prohibited than .

Additional surveys revealed that people who claimed to have experienced ostracism were significantly more likely to report a degraded sense of workplace belonging and commitment, a stronger intention to quit their job, and a larger proportion of .

The researchers also took an employment survey by a Canadian university that included feedback on feelings of workplace isolation and harassment and compared it to turnover rates three years after the survey was conducted and found that people who reported feeling ostracized were significantly more likely to have quit.

"There is a tremendous effort underway to counter bullying in workplaces and schools, which is definitely important. But abuse is not always obvious," says Robinson. "There are many people who feel quietly victimized in their daily lives, and most of our current strategies for dealing with injustice don't give them a voice."

Explore further: Personality clashes not the cause of workplace harassment

More information: The study, "Is negative attention better than no attention? The comparative effects of ostracism and harassment at work", is forthcoming in the journal Organization Science.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Sucking up to the boss may move you up and keep you healthy

Jun 09, 2011

Savvy career minded individuals have known for some time that ingratiating oneself to the boss and others – perhaps more commonly known as 'sucking up'– can help move them up the corporate ladder more quickly. However, ...

Stigma: At the root of ostracism and bullying

May 05, 2014

Increasing evidence shows that stigma – whether due to a child's weight, sexual orientation, race, income or other attribute—is at the root of bullying, and that it can cause considerable harm to a child's mental health.

Recommended for you

Precarious work schedules common among younger workers

Aug 29, 2014

One wish many workers may have this Labor Day is for more control and predictability of their work schedules. A new report finds that unpredictability is widespread in many workers' schedules—one reason ...

Girls got game

Aug 29, 2014

Debi Taylor has worked in everything from construction development to IT, and is well and truly socialised into male-dominated workplaces. So when she found herself the only female in her game development ...

Computer games give a boost to English

Aug 28, 2014

If you want to make a mark in the world of computer games you had better have a good English vocabulary. It has now also been scientifically proven that someone who is good at computer games has a larger ...

Saddam Hussein—a sincere dictator?

Aug 28, 2014

Are political speeches manipulative and strategic? They could be – when politicians say one thing in public, and privately believe something else, political scientists say. Saddam Hussein's legacy of recording private discussions ...

User comments : 0