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Employee experiences of exclusion such as Jennifer’s can be painful and often lead to undesirable outcomes. The negative consequences of exclusion for employees and organizations are particularly troublesome when one considers the prevalence of exclusionary practices within work settings (e.g., not being invited to informal and formal work events, not being heard or acknowledged, being left out of important projects). Indeed, a recent study reported that 66% of the study participants had been ignored by their colleagues, 16.6% of which experienced such a behaviour frequently or very often (Fox & Stallworth, 2005). The pervasiveness of workplace exclusion is not surprising. As noted by Williams (2001), anyone can engage in exclusionary behaviour— one does not need a lofty position or special authority to do it. Social exclusion is often subtle or intangible and, therefore, not usually subject to punitive action. Equally concerning is that exclusionary practices invoke strong reactions among excluded targets. Workplace exclusion has been shown to negatively influence workers’ behaviour and well-being even beyond the effects of other serious forms of mistreatment, such as work sabotage or slander (Ferris, Brown, Berry, & Lian, 2008; Hitlan, Cliffton, & DeSoto, 2006). Yet, studies of workplace exclusion remain sparse. With an initial emphasis on trying to establish a link between exclusion and extremely aggressive reactions (see Blackhart, Baumeister, & Twenge, 2006; Williams, 2001, 2007 for reviews) much of this research has understandably, albeit unevenly, focused on a range of antisocial and self-defeating responses following exclusion experiences such as increased hostility, aggression, lowered performance and withdrawal of helping behaviour (e.g., Baumeister, Twenge, & Nuss, 2002; Thau, Aquino, & Poortvliet, 2007; Twenge, Baumeister, DeWall, Ciarocco, & Bartels, 2007). Surprisingly, these findings seem to contradict the central tenets of belongingness theory (Baumeister & Leary, 1995) on which exclusion research is generally based. This theory presumes that people have an innate, biologically driven need to belong and gain acceptance from others to enhance their chances for safety, success or even survival. Recently, research has begun to explore more complex models of exclusion responses in an effort to reconcile this apparent paradox. Though many studies have shown that exclusion is directly and negatively related to relationship-strengthening behaviour (e.g., Balliet & Ferris, 2013; Hitlan et al., 2006; Thau et al., 2007; Twenge et al., 2007), in experiments where opportunities for future interaction were provided to excluded subjects it was found that they displayed a variety of social reconnection behaviours (e.g., giving rewards to others, mimicking others’ behaviours, conforming) (Lakin & Chartrand, 2003; Maner, DeWall, Baumeister, & Schaller, 2007; Williams, Cheung, & Choi, 2000). Recent work further shows that excluded individuals who are predisposed to focus on future outcomes also engage in high levels of helping behaviour (Balliet & Ferris, 2013). From this body of literature, we surmise that when mediating or moderating factors are considered alternative behavioural patterns may emerge. However, studies that explicate why and when exclusion is associated with social reconnection behaviour are exceedingly rare. We take steps in our current work to fill this gap. Because recent studies suggest that excluded individuals may be more likely to contemplate the reasons for their exclusion than to react emotionally such as with anger or distress (DeWall, Twenge, Gitter, & Baumeister, 2009), we focus on cognitive reasoning processes that can follow exclusion experiences and contend that one relevant explanation for why exclusion may evoke social reconnection lies within the social comparison literature. In response to difficult or ambiguous circumstances such as social exclusion people often compare themselves to others in an effort to make sense of their reality (Festinger, 1954). As a result of this comparison, excluded workers can believe that others are envious of them (e.g., their work-related success, accomplishments; Vecchio, 2005). To generate predictions about excluded employee reactions to being envied, we integrate belongingness theory (Baumeister & Leary, 1995) with a theoretical derivation of social comparison theory referred to as STUCC, or the sensitivity about being the target of a threatening upward comparison. Both the exclusion and STTUC literatures acknowledge that self-protection is an important goal in the face of unfavourable social information—especially in response to perceptions of social threats such as being excluded by others (Beach & Tesser, 2000; Heatherton & Vohs, 2000; Leary, Tambor, Terdel, & Downs, 1995). Indeed, in reaction to socially threatening situations individuals often invoke a “psychological immune system” that helps them reason through or rationalize why they are the target of others’ mistreatment (Gilbert, Pinel, Wilson, Blumberg, & Wheatley, 1998). Typically, individuals activate their psychological immune system by focusing on their achievements and successes in an effort to offset the potentially unflattering or damaging effects of negative social experiences (e.g., Taylor, 1983; Tesser, 1988). We argue that the fixation on accomplishments and contributions can generate the perception that excluded employees are the target of others’ envy (Duffy, Shaw, & Schaubroeck, 2008; Menon & Thompson, 2007). This self-perception can help reduce targets’ fear and uncertainty surrounding the perceived threat of exclusion and potentially enable them to secure a “viable niche in the group if possible”—often by engaging in ingratiatory or helping behaviour that facilitates social reconnection (Beach & Tesser, 2000, p. 135; Exline & Lobel, 1999; Kulik & Mahler, 2000). At the same time however, being the target of others’ envy can also be an unsettling and stressful experience— especially in work-related relationships (e.g., Duffy et al., 2008; Exline & Lobel, 1999; Tai, Narayanan, & McAllister, 2012). Thus, we propose that while the belief that one is envied following co-worker exclusion can elicit relationship repair this view may also adversely affect employees’ psychological health (i.e., job-induced tension and depression) and attitudinal (i.e., intent to turnover) outcomes. We also recognize that not all excluded individuals will perceive themselves as envied targets to the same extent; we suggest that certain individuals are more likely predisposed to this reaction than others. We argue that these mediated relationships will be stronger for employees with high levels of dispositional positive affect (PA), a tendency to experience a generally positive mood state composed of feelings like excitement, pride, enthusiasm, and attentiveness (Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988). Though high PA is associated with a keen awareness of one’s abilities, potential, and accomplishments (Aspinwall, 2001; Aspinwall & Brunhart, 2000), it is also associated with an increased tendency to engage in self-serving bias—or to attribute success to oneself while blaming others for one’s failures (Campbell & Sedikides, 1999; Taylor & Brown, 1988). We propose that high PA predisposes excluded employees to fixate on their successes or achievements and possibly fault colleagues (i.e., view them as envious) for their own lack of belongingness and acceptance in the workplace. As such, we argue that PA will moderate the relationship between perceptions of exclusion and being envied and will strengthen the overall effect of our proposed mediation models. We test this set of relationships across two distinct samples of working adults (see Figure 1). In Study 1 (Dutch workers), we explore the impacts of exclusion on ingratiatory behaviour and job tension (via perceptions of being envied). We add Study 2 (American workers) to provide a constructive replication of our model and to extend our research by investigating the moderating role of PA between exclusion and being envied. The latter study also explores a more specific set of organizationbased social reconnection behaviour in the form of interpersonally directed citizenship behaviours (ICBs), and it considers whether the impact of these perceptions on psychological health endures beyond states of job tension to manifest as depression. We also use Study 2 to test an additional facet of STUCC theory that perceptions of being envied may prompt withdrawal behaviour among excluded workers, increasing turnover intentions. In sum, the undertaking of this work contributes to the extant literature base in three important ways. First, we aim to reconcile disparate findings within the exclusion literature by shifting our focus from traditional aggression-based reactions to exclusion to the development of a model that provides insight into the explanatory mechanisms (i.e., that one is envied by his/her colleagues) that can invoke co-worker targeted relationship-building behaviours in response to co-worker exclusion. This is a relatively unique perspective that is underexplored in exclusion research. Second, we take our research a step farther by simultaneously considering a variety of worker outcomes beyond ingratiatory and helping behaviour to include the impact of work-related social exclusion (via target of envy perceptions) on employee psychological health (Studies 1 and 2) and intent to leave the organization (Study 2). Our goal is to illustrate the complex and potentially counterintuitive role of the positive self-view that one is the target of envy in the exclusion process (i.e., this positive self-view may be beneficial to the target in terms of behavioural outcomes but not necessarily in terms of psychological or attitudinal outcomes). Third, we consider how the moderating role of PA between exclusion and the perception that one is the target of envy strengthens the indirect effect of our mediation model by reinforcing this self-view. In doing so, we delve deeper into a lesser explored area of PA research (i.e., the tendency to engage in self-serving bias in the face of social threats) and offer an explanation as to when excluded workers are most likely to perceive that they are the target of coworker envy (or for whom this relationship manifests most strongly). In the light of our findings, we hope to help organizations better understand and manage the workplace exclusion process and to assist workers like “Jennifer” in our opening vignette in dealing with coworker exclusion. Below, we delineate the constructs in our model and discuss the expected relationships among them.



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