A Reason (and Season) to Stop Shunning
When a person is marked for punishment or elimination by management, workers instinctively avoid being seen with that person for fear of their own status being tarnished in the workplace. But to targets of shunning, the near instantaneous isolation almost always comes as a shock, and the intensifying silence that encircles them is indeed deadly. The impact of shunning is so severe that those religions, organizations and families which routinely employ it do so because they know just how effective a form of social control the practice can be, debilitating even the strongest people once it commences.
When a person is shunned, it is because they have done something to displease someone, or are perceived as distinctly “different” from the group and are therefore an “unknown” force. Shunning is thus a feature of a broader spectrum of aggressive behaviors, including accusation, sabotage, investigation and other efforts to control or remove the person from the group. To shun a person consequently isolates them at the very point when they most need support. It further erodes their self-esteem and their ability to withstand attack. Moreover, when a worker is targeted for elimination, once they are shunned it becomes very difficult to defend their position as former supporters disappear, and even more difficult for them to find new work. And shunning is a particularly effective tactic to undermine a worker’s legal claims, however legitimate, because it is very difficult to prove a negative. Shunning is a non-action — to shun is to avoid, not to interact.