Dealing with Loneliness at Work

In working with corporate professionals, we’ve heard clients express from time to time that they’re dealing with loneliness at work. That is, they feel emotional distress due to perceived disconnect from the team members around them. While feeling lonely at work isn’t something openly discussed in most offices, it’s increasingly common, and it has severe impacts on work performance. A study by the Wharton School of Business and California State University found that “greater employee loneliness led to poorer task, team role and relational performance as mediated by lowered affective commitment and to a lesser extent increased surface acting.” Surface acting means faking the appropriate emotions for a scenario. When we start surface acting, hope for overcoming loneliness grows even more dim.

Today, let’s address loneliness at work. How do you know if it’s impacting you, and what can you do about it?

How to know if you’re feeling lonely at work

The APA Dictionary of Psychology defines loneliness as “discomfort or uneasiness from being or perceiving oneself to be alone or otherwise solitary.” Furthermore, they describe this condition as “the emotional distress that results when inherent needs for intimacy and companionship are not met, [or] the unpleasant and unsettling experience that results from a perceived discrepancy (i.e., deficiency in quantity or quality) between an individual’s desired and actual social relationships.”

While feeling lonely does mean that you have a sense of being all alone, it’s more than that. Sometimes, being alone can be peaceful. But if you’re struggling with loneliness, there are deep emotions below the surface that may seem heavy or dark. It can be difficult to acknowledge this.

In previous posts, we’ve discussed how connecting to your physical body can help you take inventory of your feelings. If you suspect you’re feeling lonely, this can be a good place to begin. Are you holding sadness or anger in your body? What about fear? What are the stories behind those feelings that impact your connections in the workplace?

Reasons you might be dealing with loneliness at work

If you perceive that your need for quality connection is not being met, it’s time to do some soul searching. The longer you remain lonely in your work, the worse you will perform in your job. Over time, the disconnection worsens. In some cases, jumping ship from a toxic work environment may be the answer. However, if loneliness has become a pattern in your life, a change of scenery may not be the cure. It’s important to search yourself for the stories that are leading to a lack of connection. Consider the following tales you might tell yourself. Do any of them resonate with you?

  • The last time I went above and beyond on anything, it was totally overlooked. Nothing I do at this job matters.
  • At the end of the day, we just create a widget that people don’t need. I don’t really feel aligned with the purpose of this organization.
  • This crew has been working together for years and they’ve made no effort to welcome me. Why would I want to befriend such rude people?
  • When I have an idea, nobody cares. But when Becky shares the exact same idea, everyone’s excited about it. Guess I’ll never win the popularity contest.
  • Everyone in my department is so gossipy. The constant meaningless chatter is so annoying!
  • All the bosses go on hunting trips together. I have no interest in that. I’m just not meant to be in that circle.

There are always opportunities to connect more deeply with others, even if you’ve been shunned in the past or don’t believe you have much in common. When you’re dealing with loneliness at work, it can seem like it’s the result of things that other people did to you. It’s true that the actions of others have an impact. Fortunately, you can take your own steps to defeat loneliness regardless of what other people do.

How to begin building connections

Professional support is the best way to dig deep and expose the sources our your loneliness, and I encourage you to schedule a complimentary consultation to discuss this in a safe space. In the meantime, here are some resources that may help you take action to combat loneliness:

How to get support

Perhaps you’re performing well at work, but feel disconnected from the community around you. Over time, dealing with loneliness at work can impact your emotional state as well as your career growth. If you feel lonely in your day-to-day work, it might be time to enroll some high quality support.

Our Dallas workshops are an excellent resource to connect with your community and improve communication skills for deeper connection. This two-and-a-half hour intensive training will show you how to master soft skills to get more of what you want in life. We’ll teach you how to show up as an effective and powerful communicator!

Can’t make it to a workshop? Click here to book your coaching session now.

Breakthrough Coach Written by Craig Tennant
Founder, Engaging Breakthroughs
Transformation Architect and Breakthrough CoachAt Engaging Breakthroughs, Craig Tennant delivers
breakthrough success workshops and online life coaching to increase emotional intelligence. He offers proven leadership development for leaders who seek to build effective teams, break through to success in their careers, and discover life beyond the 9 to 5.

 

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