Majority of women see exclusion at work as a form of bullying

Being left out at work is not only a lonely feeling, but it can also feel like an act of bullying, a new survey finds. According to a new poll from accounting firm Ernst & Young of more than 1,000 working professionals in America, being excluded at work left the majority of women — 61% — feeling like they were being bullied.

How exclusion at work can feel like bullying

While the majority of women saw being left out at work as a form of bullying, the majority of men —53%— said it was not. Across generations and genders, 40% of respondents equated social exclusion with bullying.

Whether or not you see social exclusion as bullying depends on your definition. Bullying can mean physical aggression, but there are other insidious ways you can be made to feel small. The National Centre for Bullying defines the term as “when an individual or a group of people with more power, repeatedly and intentionally cause hurt or harm to another person or group of people who feel helpless to respond.”

When you watch a group of colleagues in the position to promote your career have meetings and take calls without you, this can make you feel helplessly frustrated. Getting the cold shoulder for hangouts and meetings makes you feel like you do not belong. Forty percent of men and women said being excluded made them feel physically alone.

The survey did not explore whether participants saw the exclusions as intentional or not, but if you notice you are being repeatedly left out of projects, intention feels less important than impact. You need one-on-one time with colleagues to build rapport and gain the social capital you need to get your ideas executed. When important work events exclude groups in the office, this unfairly hurts career advancement.

This is what Ellen Pao alleged that her former employer Kleiner and Perkins, a venture capital firm, did to female employees like her in a 2015 gender discrimination lawsuit. She said she and other women were barred from certain work trips and a meeting with important guest Al Gore “because women kill the buzz.”

To get ahead in your career, you must first get a seat at the table where decisions get made. And to do that, everyone needs to feel like they have the invitation to get inside the room.