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Being Excluded?

What makes you unique can also make you a victim. Standing out from the crowd can hold benefits when it comes to bagging the star role, getting that great contract which requires special expertise or being memorable. But the downside to being exceptional is the tall poppy syndrome. It can also mean you may be seen as a threat by ‘the group leader’ and become isolated as a result.

Exclusion Bullying
We have always known that being left out of things on purpose can cause hurt but now science is beginning to prove it. In fact the notion of feeling deliberately excluded causes the same sensation in a pain centre of the brain as an actual physical injury. This is probably why we perceive deliberate isolation or being rejected as a ‘punishing blow’. Which is why being deliberately excluded can be used as a powerful bullying technique.

So what do you do if you suspect you are on the receiving end of it?

Awareness
Bullies know exclusion is a control technique. Knowledge is power and we need to be constantly informed to advance our social and work careers. So keeping you ‘out’ of the group keeps them in—and ahead of the game. It also serves to distance you from your allies. Ostracising causes introspection and fear because we perceive exclusion from others in our peer group as being as harmful for our survival as something that can physically hurt us. Plus it is intentionally degrading. Maybe we are not cool enough or smart enough for the A group invitation. God forbid—even an embarrassment. Deliberate exclusion is a smart but cruel manipulative technique, so don’t let it work against you by falling for it.

Investigate With Caution
Other people who are still on the ‘in’ are often embarrassed about talking about exclusion so they won’t do so willingly. Find other ways of getting information on events and meetings and work out a strategy to be able to attend them independently.

Hide Your Distress
If you start probing other work colleagues you may be labelled as paranoid or oversensitive, particularly by the bully. ‘Why wasn’t I invited to that meeting?’ you ask someone on the inner circle—‘What meeting? It was just a casual chat about future projects’. But however you can, get the facts about what is going on as soon as possible before you’re so far out of the know the door closes behind you. And remember, bullies are imaginative and have been known to ‘make up events’ to cause deliberate confusion and embarrassment. Their modus operandi is to paint you in an unfavourable light.

Be Careful Who You Confide In
Exclusion is an insidious and dangerous. Don’t help the bully by telling colleagues you think you are being dropped. Voicing your fears will probably have the opposite effect to what you want. Out of self-preservation in a competitive world they will probably start avoiding you too. Its like a domino effect. Think Kate Moss losing all her lucrative contracts one after another. The higher you are up the chain, the more you have to lose.

Don’t Give them Excuses
Don’t play into the bully’s hands by not turning up to meetings or social situations that you are invited to. It will give ample reason to exclude you from those important events that might hold the key to your future career.

Keep Positive
Group dynamics are changing constantly but your personal goals remain constant. Keep focused on your objectives and strive to achieve them. The way to beat a bully is to maintain that unique quality that makes you inimitable. And bullies hate that.

 ©Louise Burfitt-Dons
as published in Class Magazine Issue 2 Easter 2006

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