Thursday, July 21, 2011

Feeling isolated in the workplace?

Upon the recommendation of one of his closest friends, John Andrews, one of the smartest traders on the Wall Street decided to quit CitiBank to join Morgan Stanley. A week into his new job, Andrews started to feel isolated. Of course, his friend did go to his office to welcome him. But, none of the other managing directors did not seem to bother to introduce themselves to him. Also, his request to have an assistant assigned to him went unheeded which worsened his sense of disappointment. He felt neglected. One month into the new job, he quitted Morgan Stanley to rejoin CitiBank, his former employer. In a telephone conversation with his friend, he did not mince his words in saying that joining Morgan Stanley was the worst career decision he had ever made.

Ambitious professionals like John Andrews often tend to feel isolated. Or at least that`s how they perceive. As long as they believe that they are on the outside looking in, they are naturally tempted to withdraw and ruminate about how they have been excluded and abandoned. No doubt, this`s a devastating feeling. In the case of Andrews, it assailed him with so much force that he decided to go back to his previous employer. 

Obviously, where organizations fail to implement continuous effective programs that improve the employees` sense of connectedness and belonging in, it is small wonder that they develop a false sense of isolation. Still, there are a few things one can do to restore the sense of connectedness before it all moves beyond the point of no return.

Do something before your sense of isolation deepens

In the case of most employees, this feeling of exclusion originates from some incident occurring early in their term with a company, team, or group. However, it won`t be healthy to leave it unsettled. Where one feels it is just an inconsequential remark, he needn`t be consumed by anxiety right from the beginning of his tenure. Where someone influential gets a negative impression, it is even more crucial for one to set the record straight early. Where one has made a mistake, he should know it so he can fix it and feel included again.

Step back and put things in perspective

It is also possible that one may be over-reacting and taking the perceived or real feedback too personally. Also it is important to discover whether one`s organization, particularly the CEO considers inclusion as a value. In most cases, it has been found that companies tend to follow their CEOs in this matter. Where the top executive models behaviours that make people feel empowered and connected to the corporate community, there is what is called an inclusionary organization. Unless the CEO has made inclusiveness a company value, most people in the organization feel more or less alienated.

Communicate with the isolating party clearly, concisely, and honestly

Well, it is not too easy to start these conversations whether you are a recent recruit or an old hand. In the case of high-need-for-achievement individuals, they constantly fear having their worst fears confirmed- that they are indeed on the outs with their boss or have fallen off the fast track. In most situations, the most effective solution is to express oneself honestly and clearly to the bosses. That will lay most of one`s doubts and fears to rest. Don`t go for a long-winded speech or get defensive. Just stick to the facts and state simply and clearly how you are feeling. Probably the bosses` reaction will almost always be a reassuring statement about your value as a member of the company and/or some helpful suggestions dissipating your feelings of isolation.

As they stand on the edge of a group, people ask these basic questions: Am I in or out? Am I a member of the club or not? Will I ever fit in here? The truth is that the majority of us feel like we are floating towards the outer edges of the circle a lot of the time. The challenge is admitting to our feelings of isolation and dealing with them before they start affecting our productivity, our relationships, and our sense of fulfillment. When it comes to isolation, obviously, our perceptions become reality, which we`ve got to realize above all.

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