Isolation in the workplace

Isolation in the workplace can be common, particularly with freelancers, sole practices, small businesses and even large work spaces. However, there are ways to improve the 'feeling of fit'.

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By Sara Chatwin, Registered Psychologist

Isolation in the workplace can be common, particularly with freelancers, sole practices and small businesses. Yet it can occur even in large work spaces, where productivity is at a premium and collegiality is not!

By Sara Chatwin, Registered Psychologist

Isolation in the workplace can be common, particularly with freelancers, sole practices and small businesses. Yet it can occur even in large work spaces, where productivity is at a premium and collegiality is not!

There are ways to improve the 'feeling of fit' within any one of these contexts, without too much effort. It may be about thinking “smarter not harder” and deciding to get what YOU want out of your work environment.

1. You are not ALONE

Interestingly, you can still feel marginalised when you work surrounded by people if the level of interaction, support and feedback is negative or lacking. The number of people who anecdotally speak of feeling alone in work environments that are far from empty is surprising. In fact, some people report stronger feelings of competition and negativity in some workplaces where there are many employers. This may be due the fact that in a large group you need to stand out from the crowd and this does not necessarily mean that people are focused on interacting with or helping others.

However, the good news is this kind of phenomenon is not about “YOU”, it is a fairly common theme and once you acknowledge this and decide not to personalise it, you can move forward!

2. Why do we get these feelings: Identification

It’s really important not to ignore feelings or signs. If you allow yourself to ‘buy in’ to negativity or feelings of marginalisation it may contribute to continued decreased productivity, a feeling of apathy, work related insecurities and general dissatisfaction with your career choice. Recognising the signs that things are ‘not right’ in the workplace is a good indicator that action needs to be taken. A great way to validate your feelings/thoughts, is to ask a colleague with whom you have some connection, whether they have noticed similar dynamics.

3. What to do next

After you have identified that your working situation is not bringing out the best in you or giving you what you need to do your job in a comfortable productive way, it’s time to put some proactive strategies in place!

  • Mentoring: It is always great to have a ‘voice or reason’ or wisdom from another corner to give you a unique perspective. Don’t be afraid to ask for help/guidance even from someone who is much higher up the order than you. Most times this kind of enquiry will show people your desire to get the best out of your working situation.
  • Buddy system: Identify people in your workplace who are easy to get on with and who you could ask to provide you with some support and encouragement if you need it. One supportive co-worker is all you need to make a situation that much more workable.
  • Rewards: If you have been ‘doing it tough’ at work and feeling very enervated and stressed out chances there haven’t been a lot of times you’ve had a treat or reinforced any good behaviours with a reward. These are essential motivators that inspire us to keep ‘pushing through’ even when things pile up.
  • Planning/organisation: Have a ‘game plan’ so that you have direction and can take see what’s up ahead and what you need to do to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’. When a plan is in place, it is easier to move through life without too many hitches, purely because you have taken the time to strategise and work out what is needed to progress forward.
  • Debrief/rationalisation: It’s really handy to de-brief regularly so that you can make the necessary ‘adjustments’ to your plan. The workplace is so dynamic that it may be that you need to reassess your modus operandi to suit the variations in your employment landscape!

4. Moving forward

Now that you have identified and strategised you may be able to see a clearer and more productive way forward in your job. The key is to be consistent and repetitious in your approach to using your strategies.

Connections/linkages you make with others, may help you find a level of satisfaction with your job that you may not have experienced before. Learning to appreciate ‘lone time’ or self-development time also helps to make that time less scary and allows for appreciation of the time you have with others.

Never be too fearful or proud to ask for help or guidance, particularly from people who have expertise or experience that could be valuable to you. To work co-operatively, not competitively, is always a more comfortable way to function in the workplace.

However, if you are surrounded by selfish go-getters, it may be that you need to look elsewhere for support. Seeking support OUTSIDE your workplace is not a bad thing and can give you a unique perspective that, in turn, could give you an employment edge!

Written by

MindWorks

6 Feb 2012

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