Building belonging is an organizational responsibility but there are some things in your control.
We all have a basic need to feel seen, welcome, and safe, in other words, as a sense of belonging. When that isn’t present, you experience workplace ostracism: a pattern of being ignored, disregarded, or excluded. Those who ostracize you are sometimes unaware and, at other times, may do it as a misguided way of avoiding conflict or discomfort. Unintentional ostracism is when colleagues don't intentionally ostracize you, but you still feel excluded (eg when they don't realize they've formed social groups and don’t notice who has been left out). Workplace exclusion can happen because of the affinity bias, different communication styles that clashes with yours, or different expectations for workplace relationships. The sense of not belonging is widespread, yet few people openly express that feeling. Research indicates that 71% of professionals experience some degree of exclusion or social isolation and it impacts their level of psychological safety and promotes covering.
Building a sense of belonging in the workplace is generally an organizational responsibility, not an individual one. Yet, if you want to feel like you belong at work, there are some things in your control.
Exclusion is prevalent among members of minority groups. Emotional tax is defined as the combination of feeling different at work because of gender, race/ ethnicity, or other identities and the associated implications on thriving at work. For example, 58% of Asian, Black and Latin employees are on “guard” (consciously preparing to deal with potential bias or discrimination).
Experiences of judgment or ostracism can leave you covering or withdrawing (cognitively, physically, emotionally) which can even reduce your effectiveness at work. Because people typically get promoted through referrals and informal networks, social exclusion has a real, negative impact. But forcing your way into an existing group can leave you more alienated than before.
While it is the organization’s responsibility to build belonging for employees, as an individual, you can:
1. Practice self-acceptance: challenge any assumptions that might lead you to blame yourself for the situation.
2. Assume positive intent: you’ll be less likely to be triggered by what others say/do, to villainize others, or isolate yourself/build walls;
3. Be vulnerable and patient: it takes effort and courage to put yourself out there. Seek out activities/groups with common interests and build connection with others; it takes time to build trusting relationships, gain acceptance, and feel connected.
4. Find an Ally: start small, build trust with one person at a time, and share authentically.
Julia Kristina Counselling: How To Handle Feeling Left Out
Out&Equal: Your Story. Your Truth. Your Power
Discover what equitable feedback is and how to use it to create an inclusive workspace.
Learn the benefits of being your authentic self at work and how to overcome covering.
Learn how to create a positive team environment through inclusive meetings.