Isolation at Work

A variety of work situations can bring about that feeling of being cut off from people and having no one to turn to. Daniel Goleman in Emotional Intelligence says this is a mortality risk both in business and on a personal level.

We will examine isolation and how to minimize it.

 Typical situations:

  • The CEO of a large company where the rest of the staff look to the leader for direction
  • The solo entrepreneur working out of a home office

  • The professional whose work demands complete objectivity and the appearance of non-partisanship
  • The admin support person in a small operation where most of the work of the firm happens “out there”
  • The worker who has been charged with a duty that is unpopular with the rest of the staff
  • The male or female who is the only one in a group of that gender
  • The only First Nations or Visible Minority person in the company/department
  • A district office in a geographically isolated location

What does Isolation feel like?

If you are experiencing any of these feelings about your work, it’s time to take some action.  Your happiness and health depend on it!

Lonely, Alone, Uncertain, Like we have all the problems and are the only one to shoulder the accountability and/or blame, Disconnected, Not supported, Withdrawn, Misunderstood, Low confidence and self esteem, Lack of creativity, Ignored, Discriminated against,

What makes these feelings happen?

  • No one to brainstorm with
  • No one to act as sounding board and give feedback
  • No one to vent with
  • No collaboration
  • No relationship or connection
  • Fragmentation
  • Strong sense of individuality
  • Over-reliance on independence
  • Over specialization so that there is little interest in what others are doing
  • Competition
  • Disharmony with one’s environment
  • Pulling away from others due to lack of trust, lack of advancement or lack of vision
  • Being ostracized by peers
  • Fear of acknowledging to peers and subordinates that we don’t have all the answers
  • Fear of the boss learning what we are doing/not doing

Strategies for Overcoming Work/Business Isolation?

  1. Open up your feminine side and trust your emotions – that’s how people connect.
  2. Slow down so that you can perceive opportunities to develop deeper connections with people. (Simple Living in a Complex World by David Irvine)
  3. Give a “leg up” to someone with practical support, encouragement and validation (David Irvine) There’s no better way to connect than to help!
  4. Put people in touch with each other – build community.
  5. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. Be an empathetic listener and avoid autobiographical responses, stay with the speaker.
  6. Find a mentor (a senior person inside the organization) willing to sponsor your success.
  7. Hire a coach who will be a sounding board and will be focused and interested in your success.
  8. Join a professional organization. Most provide informative and interactive web sites as well as opportunities to meet face to face.
  9. Join or form a networking organization. Examples: Rotary, Business Networks (WBN or BNI), Chambers of Commerce, Home Office Support Groups.  You will find a wide variety of local group on MeetUp.com
  10. For home operators – get out of the home/office daily – go to the gym, meet someone for coffee, go to the library.
  11. Be proactive and invite someone you don’t know in the office for coffee and get acquainted on a personal level.
  12. Maintain a positive outlook about the company and the people that work there. No one likes to associate with negative people who will pull them down.
  13. Change your networking habits away from dropping a business card and moving on to getting to know one or two people in more depth.
  14. Take a personality assessment to help you understand people unlike yourself. Examples:  Enneagram, Personal Styles Indicator, Parker Team Survey, Learning Styles, DISC, Myers Briggs – There are many.
  15. Develop ways to remember people, their names and what they do. Make good use of your own contact list (both desk top and smart phone) and use LinkedIn as your Rolodex.
  16. Create strategic alliances and partnerships
  17. Develop a 30 second elevator speech to let others know what you do succinctly.  This makes your networking experience much smoother.
  18. Make a list of the people you want to get to know better and make a new contact each week. Call them up and make a date to get acquainted.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in Flow – The Psychology of Optimal Experience says the quality of life and work depends on two factors:

How we experience work and relationships with other people.

We are hardwired as social animals and we can become depressed and soon begin to doubt our very existence without connection with others. So how do you create that sense of community that will help you stay connected and emotionally healthy?

Create a Mastermind Group. 

The purpose is to support and encourage members emotionally, personally and professionally. It usually comprises 5 to 8 people and it serves as a forum for:

  • Sharing ideas
  • Discussing meaningful topics or books
  • Exploring everyday challenges
  • Holding each other accountable for goals and plans
  • Giving encouragement

Success depends on the following factors:

Selecting the right people. Choose people who are not like you to ensure a broader perspective, and people who can benefit from the skills and knowledge of the others.

The commitment of members

Developing together a mini-charter that spells out when & where, how often and how long to meet, what members will talk about/not talk about, and leadership

Participation with respect, thoughtfulness, inclusion, openness and honesty.

Coaching Questions to Stimulate Reflection About Your Life & Work

  1. What do you know about the people you work with?
  2. What makes them tick?
  3. What emotions do they experience in their work?
  4. What are their goals and dreams?