The Power of Inclusion

What happens to a person who is left out and feels isolated? 

Given that connection is that rewarding feeling of being a part of a group; What is the opposite feeling of connection? REJECTION. This feeling of rejections is often considered a threat. The effects of social rejection are heavily studied in the neuroscience field. It is quite fascinating.

 Have you heard of the Cyberball study on rejection? A game called Cyberball is used to create a situation in which one person feels rejected. A group of subjects begin passing a ball from person to person through a web interface, but after a few rounds, one person is excluded. But this person doesn’t know it was planned. As it turns out, an EEG study found subjects’ brains reacted with anger or sadness in this situation. Tossing a ball in an online game is not so different than tossing ideas around in a business team meeting-on a video call or in person. What happens to the person who is left out, socially isolated?

 They are in the threat state, resulting in[1]:

•  Reduced cognitive performance

•  Increased self-defeating behaviors

•  Reduced prosocial behaviors

•  Reduced meaning and purpose

•  Decreased well-being (social anxiety, loneliness, reduced self-esteem)

In addition, studies show the emotional feeling of pain from social exclusion overlaps with physical pain, such as stubbing your toe. The same area of the brain processes these different kinds of pain. How can employees do their best work in these conditions, when they are in pain? If the organization is built on people who are in a threat state, what happens to the business; the business that is designed to grow on teamwork and collaboration?

Today, the effect of an unhealthy workplace environment on the employee is estimated to cost American companies $300 billion a year in poor performance, absenteeism, and health costs. Finding ways to connect are more important than ever.

For comments, questions, and future article requests please contact Nicole Van Valen at

[1]Matusevich, K. Developing People with the Brain in Mind: What Can TD Practitioners Learn from Neuroscience to Drive Better Results in Organizations. Association for Talent Development South Florida Chapter. Barry University, Miami Shores, May 14, 2019. Lecture.

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