The Consequences of Shunning People in the Workplace

Ignoring someone is a form of shunning.
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While you might think of the term “shunning” as disavowing members as a form of punishment in a religious sect, shunning is also seen in the modern workplace. The act of ignoring, avoiding or disassociating with a colleague in retaliation for bad behavior or a perceived stigma can have a lasting negative effect on the workplace.

Shunning Defined

    Shunning someone at work can be as simple as “forgetting” to tell them about an important meeting, leaving them out of a group email about an after-work get-together, or ignoring them in the break room. You might be tempted to shun someone if you think they did something to slight you, impact your work or take professional advantage of you. You might also be trumpeted to shun someone seen as a troublemaker, a problem employee or a busy body. This shunning can be rationalized as a form of self preservation in the workplace.


    The immediate impact of shunning is isolation; the shunned employee is isolated from colleagues in the workplace. This can potentially jolt the co-worker into recognizing poor behavioral issues and working to regain the attention of the pack. It can also drive an angry, depressed or unsocial person into a darker place. Any way you look at it, shunning essentially cuts someone out of the social and professional loop in the office and impacts the workplace dynamic and the relationships colleagues have with one another.

Decreased Productivity

    It’s tough to work well with someone if you’re not speaking to them. Shunning has the potential to decrease productivity and increase the likelihood of mistakes. If someone is cut off from the confidence of colleagues or is prevented from getting status reports or project updates, there’s a good chance deadlines will be missed and team efforts thrown off track. This can have negative consequences for everyone on the team.

Poor Communication

    Partial shunning can be even worse than fully disassociating with a colleague. If you’re collaborating even partially, you may give and receive diluted information or communicate just enough to keep projects on track, but not do them well. In a work environment where colleagues require functional and effective interpersonal relationships, shunning can throw everyone’s effectiveness to the wind.

Lowered Morale

    It can be tough to keep a full-blown shun in place. If you’re shunning your cubicle mate, you still see her on a regular basis; keeping up the self-imposed barrier can become time consuming and stressful. You might find the time spent on shunning efforts impacts your time management and ability to focus on your work product. This can lead to mistakes and lower your job satisfaction and morale.

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