Updated: 3 days ago
I usually write about strengthening the sense of belonging and engagement of employees in the workplace especially about diversity and inclusion, but this time I wanted to refer to the opposite phenomenon, that is - ostracism in the workplace. Yes, yes, ostracism. Doesn't seem right? Well, you must hear the story of Doron (pseudonym), one of my coachees, who one day found himself on a team that ostracised him. What does such a ostracism look like? How does it feel? And what was the end result? Here is Doron's story.
Doron was a software engineer at the Tel Aviv branch of a successful global hi-tech company from Boston. The company's success was manifested in almost everything: a nice salary, fancy offices in the bustling center of Tel Aviv, wellness activities, happy hour, and much more. One of the benefits that Doron enjoyed the most was the lunch subsidy at the luxury restaurants near the branch. It was a regular habit where every day at exactly 12:00 pm Doron and the team he worked for went out for a long and fun lunch, laughed, and talked about the day's events at the office and even about things that happened at home.
But one day, following a reorganization in the company, it was decided that Doron would be transferred to another team with a different manager. This news fell on Doron like a thunderbolt on a clear day and he was filled with thoughts and concerns about the transition that was forced upon him.
- "Unfortunately, we don't have many choices but to transfer you to another team," said Doron's manager in the weekly meeting he had with him. - "When will the transition take place?", asked Doron. - "ASAP. Maybe even at the beginning of next week," replied the manager.
At that time, I was coaching Doron and he shared with me what was happening in the workplace. I noticed the great fear that filled Doron, a fear we all know - the fear of the unknown. This is one of the basic fears that people face on a daily basis and for Doron, it was very tangible. He was afraid of the social change as well as the professional change since in the new position Doron would be forced to acquire new skills and professional knowledge.
The day of the transition to the new team has arrived. Doron collected his things and arrived at the cubicle assigned to him. The cubicle looked empty, too empty, and slowly Doron realized that many things he needed in order to start working were missing. For example, the infrastructure. There was no communication infrastructure to connect Doron's computer to the network. There was also no chair, no screen, and the drawers were locked, in short, it didn't look like anyone had prepared for his arrival. He went to the new manager's office and it was as if he didn't know what it was about and Doron had to remind him. From the moment the manager remembered things started ticking and by the end of the day Doron managed to arrange his new position. Doron didn't know that this was just the trailer for his real challenge...
Doron's new team had 6 members, all men, all ex-Soviet Union members. The team was cohesive and the guys worked like a perfect assembly line. Everything was synchronized, everything was coordinated, everything was understood and everything was known. They also had a regular custom of going to eat lunch together at exactly 12:00 pm. "What a beauty!", Doron thought to himself. At the first team meeting, the manager was present and introduced Doron and his area of responsibility. Doron told a little about himself and said that he would be happy for any help in acclimatizing to the new team.
Such help never came. Every time Doron turned to one of the team members for help he was met with a refusal for various reasons. "I don't have time", "Try someone else", "You can manage on your own". Apart from the professional gap that started to emerge, Doron felt that he was unable to integrate into the team's routine. The guys would go out to lunch without calling Doron and used to speak in Russian in his presence, so he couldn't understand what they were talking about. Doron felt rejected and linked the rejection to his cultural difference.
He tried to talk to the manager about it several times, but it seemed that the manager solved cases in a spot-on manner and did not pay attention to Doron's real problem - the absorption into the team and the boycott he was going through. In fact, Doron never used the word "boycott". Like many of us, Doron associates the word "boycott" with what happens in schools and could not see the parallel to the world of work at all.
Little by little, a large professional gap emerged which was reflected in affecting the company's end customers, and after several warnings, it was decided to let Doron go from the company for not meeting the professional requirements. Doron found himself out of work and confused by the situation he found himself in. The same confusion also affected him personally and he faced many challenges in self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-image.
A boycott in the workplace is more common than we tend to think because like most boycotts it can be silent or disguised. The organization and its managers must be attentive to the heart murmurs of the employees and identify such cases in order to handle them correctly and allow the inclusion of all employees in the organization. In this case, the correct implementation of diversity and inclusion processes in the organization could greatly assist both the manager and the staff in absorbing the new employee. Coach Perry Corporate Coach for employee engagement and diversity and inclusion