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The psychology of the silent treatment...

Are you being ignored at work?

Enduring the Silent treatment is a form of abuse, Psychologists note that being ignored causes the same chemical reaction in the brain as when one is physically assaulted.

Being ignored can come in many forms, for example you may have behaved in a manner which does not please someone, and as a direct consequence, this individual does not speak to you for a few days, most likely because they are exercising self control, while they are cooling down, or for avoidance of facing a potential confrontational situation.

However if this individual makes a conscious decision to ignore you for a lengthy period of time, weeks, turning into months, and some people are noted to have been ignored for years, this indicates that the individual has a discard, a full blown discard.

So why does the silent treatment last for so long? Silent treatment or ghosting (on media platforms) is a form of punishment, because the individual is just enraged with you and is trying to hurt you or make you apologise to them for their perceived wrong.

Though many do not revert their silent treatment because it is likely that the individual found another person to fill your void. This distraction helps their mind refocus on someone new, so they just completely devalue you in their mind and see you as a lost cause, so they decide consciously to cut you off for good.

Is this behaviour accepted in the workplace? It is definitely not acceptable, though unfortunately it is not uncommon for this to happen in workplaces, where you have varying personalities, and when we delve into Neuro Luingistic Programming we discover that many allow their past event to shape their behaviours and therefore this can inhibit their maturity and professionalism in such situations, and can be a default mechanism of coping strategy for someone.

How do you to react to this? It really depends on you and your strength of character, the behaviour of another person has clearly defined their level of rational or emotional intelligence.

You need to be true to yourself and be sure your behaviours in reacting to this are ethical and professional. Be very mindful in this situation that if you make a genuine attempt to salvage the relationship, this the other person may not perceive this for what it is, and may believe that you are not respecting their wishes. The impact in a work place context is that while the individual has chosen to ignore you, they can use your attempt and reconnecting and an abuse of equality, or bullying and harassment.

Are you alone in this? Unfortunately not, statistics show that 53% of employees have confessed to ignoring colleagues in the workplace. With an average duration of ignored situational time adding up to 2.8 hours a week. Over a one year period this costs the employee one whole weeks worth of communication between the employees involved, and can cost the business up to £7.5k pa, when this occurs between multiple employees.

How do you recover from this? This is a tough one, because it is dependent on the situation, and how much influence the individual has in the work place, it depend on what story they tell colleagues, and whether colleagues are open minded enough to hear both sides before judging, or whether colleague like a bit of idol gossip, and a classic drama triangle. When the drama triangle presents the possibility of more than one victim, resolution becomes increasingly difficult to reach and Psychologist of Oregon University Paul Slovic calls it “psychic numbing.” As the number of victims increases, ones empathy, and willingness to help, reliably decreases.

If the situation is that bad, and you can not defuse the flame, get out of the fire and move on.