Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Perceived Exclusion in the Workplace: The Moderating Effects of Gender on Work-Related Attitudes and Psychological Health

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Perceived Exclusion in the Workplace: The Moderating Effects of Gender on Work-Related Attitudes and Psychological Health

Article excerpt

Research examining the nature and consequences of social exclusion indicates that such behavior is multifaceted and has deleterious effects on the intended targets. However, relatively little research has specifically assessed the impact of such behavior on employees who perceive of themselves as being excluded within their place of work. Even less has examined gender differences in relation to exclusionary behavior. The current research investigated the moderating effect of gender on the relation between perceived exclusion at work and work-related attitudes and psychological health. Participants included 223 working students (64 men and 159 women). Hierarchical moderated regression analyses on work attitudes (supervisor satisfaction, coworker satisfaction) and psychological health supported initial predictions. At higher levels of perceived exclusion men indicated lower satisfaction and psychological health compared to women. Findings are discussed in terms of potential workplace implications and limitations of the current research.

Exclusionary behaviors may take many forms, including giving another the silent treatment, unrequited love, being shunned, ignoring another, and outright rejection (Leary, 2001). Similarly, multiple definitions exist as to what constitutes exclusionary behavior. For example, Gruter and Masters (1986) note that ostracizing forms of behavior range from minor exclusionary tactics such as curt responses to more serious instances, with the most serious form of ostracism involving death. In his research on ostracism, Williams (2001) takes a moderate position, defining ostracism as "any act or acts of ignoring or excluding of an individual or groups by an individual or groups" (p. ix).

Drawing on previous organizational and social-psychological research (e.g., Duffy, Ganster, & Pagon, 2002; Gruter & Masters, 1986; Williams, 2001), we define workplace ostracism as the exclusion, rejection, or ignoring of an individual (or group) by another individual (or group) that, hinders one's ability to establish or maintain positive interpersonal relationships, work-related success, or favorable reputation within one's place of work. While we acknowledge than one can be excluded for any number of reasons (e.g., stigma, disease, inability to contribute to group survival), the current focus is on the general perception of being excluded. In fact, Leary (2001) argues that the mere perception that one is being excluded or rejected is as important as the behavior itself. Given that people seek to establish a minimum number of fulfilling and stable relationships with others, such a perception may connote a decrease in relational evaluation: the degree to which an individual perceives that their relationship with another (or group) is valued (Baumeister & Leary, 1995).

Within the workplace realm, exclusionary behavior has been conceptualized as one form of workplace bullying (Workplace Bullying Taskforce, 2002), retaliatory behavior (Miceli & Near, 1986, 1989; Williams 2001), and as one component of ethnic harassment (Schneider, Hitlan, & Radhakrishnan, 2000). For example, the Task Force on the Prevention of Workplace Bullying, established by the Irish government in 2001, surveyed over 5,200 organizational employees and found that, on average, approximately 7% of respondents indicated being bullied in their place of work within the previous 6 months. Of those participants experiencing bullying behavior, 35% reported that their experience involved some form of exclusionary behavior (Workplace Bullying Taskforce, 2002)

In addition, whistle-blowing behavior has been associated with several forms of retaliatory behavior, several of which connote exclusion and/or rejection, including: poorer performance appraisals, denial of promotion, denial of training opportunities, assigned less important job duties and reassignment or transfer (Miceli & Near, 1989). Research also indicates that temporary workers may have an increased likelihood of being rejected by other "permanent" organizational employees (Williams, 2001). …

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