Isolation – “You Can’t Sit With Us!”

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There’s the memorable Mean Girls quote “You can’t sit with us!”, and the first lunch time scene where Cady is left feeling and physically isolated on her first day at a new high school to the point where doesn’t have a table to sit at and eat her lunch, so she resorts to the bathroom cubicle where she will feel less embarrassed. But in reality, this draws attention to an issue that exists at any age and in any new environment, ignorance to others’ feelings can cause loneliness and isolation.

Isolation or seclusion is when individuals have a lack of contact with others. There is a difference between feeling “isolated” and being in physical “isolation”, there is time when they can cross over but often feeling isolated is more of a subjective response rather than being in isolation which can be measured by facts (therefore, objective). The latter is initially more identifiable as you have more tangible evidence to support it. Feeling isolated on the other hand is very much an internal emotional response to a situation, it cannot always been seen from looking at someone. It also can occur when someone is around a group of people, they could be in the same room, but just not involved in what is going on for one reason or another; it can also- end up evoking a feeling of loneliness.

There is a definite stigma associated with talking about our emotions, we are often too proud to admit when we are struggling mentally with situations, especially in the workplace. It does not mean you are not up to doing your job properly or that you are a weak link in the team – it just suggests some elements of your work life could be improved to make sure you are happier and more productive. When you start feeling isolated at work, you also get demoralized and detached, perhaps even depressed.

In a blog written by Janet Choi (Chief Creative Officer at iDoneThis), she notes, “In the first study to empirically analyse the effect of loneliness on work performance, Sigal Barsade and Hakan Ozcelik examined the experiences of 672 employees in 143 teams. They found that indeed loneliness led to withdrawal from work, weaker productivity, motivation, and performance. Importantly, the study also showed that this doesn’t happen in a vacuum… ‘Co-workers can recognize this loneliness and see it hindering team member effectiveness’.” This is where all other members of staff should take it upon themselves to protect their colleagues from feeling like this; all they need to do is provide a little emotional support, recognition and value to others in the office. Later, Choi draws on the work of Barbara Fredrickson and explains how significant identifying to people around us can be. The more you identify and build a relationship with them, the more you can tune in to their emotions. To help others reflects internally onto ourselves – we feel more at ease through supporting our colleagues, overall team cohesion improves – and voila so does your business success!

When a new colleague joins a team, of course they will initially feel out of the loop and as though they aren’t one hundred percent sure what is going on. They wont know the so called ‘inside jokes’ or the “do’s and don’ts” of office etiquette.  Alternatively, you may feel as though someone is deliberately isolating themselves; they may be having a bad time at home and need some advice. Don’t underestimate the impact simply asking someone to go to get lunch with you will have on their confidence in a new job; ask them out on social events and make them feel comfortable enough so that they can ask you questions if they get stuck on a task. Maybe upload a “Welcome to the Team!” document onto your oneHR documents manager feature with your Company Handbook. Let us know how you get on… find some more tips from Ms Choi by clicking here.

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