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

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.

Related Stories

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

June 9, 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, ...

Recommended for you

Chimpanzees shed light on origins of human walking

October 6, 2015

A research team led by Stony Brook University investigating human and chimpanzee locomotion have uncovered unexpected similarities in the way the two species use their upper body during two-legged walking. The results, reported ...

Who you gonna trust? How power affects our faith in others

October 6, 2015

One of the ongoing themes of the current presidential campaign is that Americans are becoming increasingly distrustful of those who walk the corridors of power – Exhibit A being the Republican presidential primary, in which ...

The hand and foot of Homo naledi

October 6, 2015

The second set of papers related to the remarkable discovery of Homo naledi, a new species of human relative, have been published in scientific journal, Nature Communications, on Tuesday, 6 October 2015.

How much for that Nobel prize in the window?

October 3, 2015

No need to make peace in the Middle East, resolve one of science's great mysteries or pen a masterpiece: the easiest way to get yourself a Nobel prize may be to buy one.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.