Excluded at Work? How to Deal with It

Learn how to cope with exclusion and still be successful


From being isolated in the lunchroom and ignored in meetings, to being excluded from after hour events, exclusion in the workplace is one of the most painful types of workplace bullying someone will experience. In fact, research suggests that being excluded impacts victims of bullying at the core of their identity.

What’s more, exclusion in the workplace is a very powerful form of bullying. By simply excluding another employee from various social events, the bully is able to manipulate the target’s feelings of self worth without ever saying a mean word.

While exclusion is hard to identify, it is even more difficult to take a stand against. In fact, most employers would not even recognize exclusion as a form of bullying. But it is. And it erodes away the teamwork atmosphere of any company. If you suspect that you are a victim of exclusion at work, here are six ways to address the issue.

Remember knowledge is power. Bullies use exclusion as a way to control their targets. As a result, the more you know about exclusion the better prepared you will be to handle it. The key is to recognize that exclusion is about the bully and not about you. Bullies believe keeping you out of the group will give them a leg up in the office. So instead of worrying about what is wrong with you or what you need to change, recognize that you must be doing something right if someone feels the need to exclude you.

Remain positive and upbeat. Workplace dynamics are constantly changing.

So while you may be excluded today, it may be someone else tomorrow. Instead of getting caught up in what the bully is doing, remain focused on your goals and work toward achieving them. The best way to address exclusion is to remain upbeat and positive. Avoid getting emotional when the bully excludes you.

Instead, focus on the things you can control at work, like your performance and your attitude.

Be proactive. If you find that you are always the one excluded from events after hours or at lunch, try to take the initiative and organize some things on your own. Invite your team of coworkers to join you at the new burger stand down the street or organize a night at a baseball game after work. Instead of sitting home and sulking because you were left out again, be proactive and make some plans on your own. You will feel more in control and less like a victim if you take charge of your life.

Remain calm. Your co-workers who are being included in the group outings are often bystanders to the exclusion and might not know what to do about it. As a result, refrain from blaming them or getting upset with them. You also should avoid pumping them for information. Remember, if you start probing too much, the bully might label you as paranoid or crazy. Also avoid getting emotional or upset when you discover your coworkers have done something without you. Bullies will use these emotions against you.

Do not show up uninvited. Even though showing up uninvited may seem like the best way to confront the situation, it could backfire on you.

Aside from being awkward for everyone involved, it also will make you appear needy and insensitive. Instead, try to downplay the snub by making your own plans or working harder on your projects and do not worry about social issues at work.

Find support outside of work. Refrain from confiding in coworkers about your frustrations. Sharing your fears at work could work against you. However, you still need to talk about what you are experiencing. Find someone outside of work who will validate your feelings. Additionally, if the exclusion you are experiencing starts causes other symptoms like stomachaches, headaches, stress, anxiety or even depression, be sure you consult with your doctor.

It also may help to talk with a counselor for tips on how to cope with your situation.

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