Workplace ostracism is clearly associated with healthcare workers' job satisfaction, stress, and perceived health

November 12, 2023

Listen to this article

Workplace ostracism is clearly associated with healthcare workers' job satisfaction, stress, and perceived health

Workplace ostracism refers to someone being excluded from social interaction in the workplace without any valid explanation. A recent study of healthcare workers published in Journal of Advanced Nursing shows that workplace ostracism weakened their job satisfaction and perceived health, and increased stress. The study also explored the mediating effects of loneliness and self-esteem. A key observation was that loneliness did not weaken job satisfaction as much as ostracism alone did.

What the researchers say: “This finding speaks volumes of the crushing effects of workplace ostracism. Experienced loneliness weakens job satisfaction as such but, according to our study, ostracism is far worse,” said the lead author.

Previous studies on workplace ostracism in the healthcare sector have not made comparisons between different occupational groups to see where ostracism is most prevalent. The new study, conducted among 569 healthcare workers in Finland, found that ostracism was most frequently experienced by social workers (78.9%). However, workplace ostracism was almost as frequently experienced by practical nurses (76.8%) and nurses (74.8%). Doctors (71.2%) and those working in managerial positions at different levels (67.4%) had experienced least ostracism.

“When we think about healthcare workers’ coping and workplace well-being, these figures are extremely alarming. This also reinforces the idea that ostracism is not tied to educational background or workplace hierarchy,” she noted.

In addition to healthcare workers, managers from all levels of leadership were also surveyed.

The findings highlight the fact that ostracism can no longer be ignored in the debate on workplace well-being.

“The harmful effects of ostracism are significant both at individual and workplace level. Especially in the healthcare sector where people’s work involves constant caregiving, it is extremely important to feel included and supported by the community,” the researchers explained.

Ostracism can also hinder the flow of information within the workplace. In other words, ostracism affects not only those experiencing it, but it runs through the entire organizational structure, all the way to the level of patients (in the case of healthcare workers) customers and clients. The phenomenon itself is very subtle, but its consequences often are anything but,” the lead author told us.

“Learning to identify and recognize ostracism as a specific phenomenon, and calling it out, is key. This will also make it easier to intervene and help workplaces build an atmosphere where ostracism is not tolerated,” she concluded.

So, what? This is an important piece of research. Ostracism is a form of bullying and prior research has shown that it is more likely to be practiced by female employees (or girls in school for that matter) than men (there is no research on LGBTIQ-specific bullying techniques).

It one of the forms of bullying that doesn’t seem to have a genetic base nor is it usually part of a bully-boss’ toolkit.

Since the rate of bullying in Finland is low by other developed country standards the ostracism-experienced rate found in this study has alarming implications for other countries and industries besides healthcare.

Dr Bob Murray

Bob Murray, MBA, PhD (Clinical Psychology), is an internationally recognised expert in strategy, leadership, influencing, human motivation and behavioural change.

Join the discussion

Join our tribe

Subscribe to Dr. Bob Murray’s Today’s Research, a free weekly roundup of the latest research in a wide range of scientific disciplines. Explore leadership, strategy, culture, business and social trends, and executive health.

Thank you for subscribing.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form. Check your details and try again.