October 21st, 2013

First of Five Freedoms for Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week

#1: Freedom to Affiliate with Friends at Work

Freedom From Bullies Week One of the most bothersome bullying tactics is to demand that coworkers isolate their friend. The arbitrary command by the malicious meddler cuts deep into the human psyche. The converse of isolation is affiliation, bonding, sharing, friendship. Social support is the greatest stress-buster.

It’s “icing out,” the silent treatment, false rejection, ostracism. Listen to our archived webinar on the topic.

Ostracism compounds the stress for an already stressed bullied target.

Turns out the need to belong, to be included in a group, if not a work group, then to be a part of the human race, is fundamental to our being. Perhaps the technology of social media gives the illusion of inclusion just as “friends” on Facebook convince some they are not alone. But no technology replaces the connection between humans. We need real face-to-face conversations, eye contact, audiences for our live “performances,” even if the audience is one.

The research on the devastating effects of ostracism and social exclusion is clear. Ostracism causes:

– a disconnection from friends who could have provided social support to reduce the harmful effects of distress (their fear to ignore the isolation command ensures the painful separation)

– with long-term exposure an acceptance of the alienation which leads to a lowered sense of self-worth, thus ostracism itself leads to self-isolation

– depression

– an impaired cognitive ability. When one’s belongingness need is thwarted, attention to social cues typically grows keener. However, social exclusion blunts that ability. Social relationships are disrupted.

– elevated blood pressure in ways similar to other forms of threatening behavior

– higher cortisol (stress hormone) levels. Prolonged elevated cortisol alters blood sugar, osteoporosis, cardiovascular problems, body fat storage, and an overactive stress arousal system.

– neural activation of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex that is involved with physical pain and self-reported distress

No other human being should have the right to create so much harm for another person simply because it is the workplace and employers responsible for the harm choose to ignore it.

Social affiliation is the cure for emotional distress. Isolation is a greater risk factor for mortality than many lifestyle factors, including smoking and obesity.

Perpetrators, seeking ways to entertain themselves at work for sport, must be prevented from believing they have the right to disrupt the fundamental human needs of others.

Five Freedoms for WBI Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week
To Affiliate with Friends | Dignity at Work | To be Believed | To be Innocent | From Fear


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  1. TwylightZone says:

    I have to agree that being isolated and shunned like a criminal by co-workers is just as damaging, if not more so than the actual bullying. One expects previously friendly co-workers to be more reasonable than the bullies and it is shocking to be arbitrarily cut off.
    I found this to be the most perplexing and hurtful part of my experience as a target. I couldn’t understand at the time why co-workers were icing me out when I had been nothing but nice to them. Now I know the bullies had either told them lies to entice them into joining the mob and/or my co-workers went along out of fear of becoming the next target.

  2. T says:

    I’ve been a target my whole life, school and work. I’ve changed schools and I ran out of a job like the place was on fire because of it. Now, I have a job I like. I get along with everyone, except one person. Who one day decided she doesn’t like me, doesn’t want to speak to me and asserts her need for control by messing with heat and putting up to 80, knowing that I have asthma and the gentleman next to me has a heart condition. THANK GOD my supervisor addressed it. I only text my sister my feeling because I don’t know who to trust and I don’t want to seem like a gossip.

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