Shutting others out

An employee stops interacting with fellow employees. A son or daughter slams their door and won’t come out. What’s it mean when normal social patterns shift and someone pulls away?

Isolation may mean they want something

Shutting others out sends a clear, simple message. “I’m not getting what I want and I don’t like it.” It’s a strategy we used when we were little. Do you remember scooping up your toys and running home because things didn’t go the way you wanted?

Isolation may mean they’re violating something

When someone that normally interacts stops interacting, they may be hiding something. I believe guilt makes some people hide.

Isolation may mean they’re hurting

Some people, and I’m one, prefer to withdraw when I’m bothered or hurting. For better or worse, I want some time and space.

Reaching out?

Reaching out to “door slammers” may only throw gas on their fire. Rather than begging an angry teenager to come out of their room, it may be more effective to understand and acknowledge their message. I’m not saying agree. I am saying acknowledge. The same thing goes for an employee or colleague that pulls away. Ask yourself:

What do they want? (I’m not saying give it.)

What have they done?

Are they hurting?

Reach out when negative behaviors have long-term negative impact. You don’t want to run around the office mothering everyone that suddenly pulls back. Give them some time and space. However, you must deal with persistent isolation.

Going out?

Here’s another side of this issue.  Leaders “want stuff” and won’t always get it.  Isolation may be the self-defeating strategy you employ to send your messages. If that’s the case, open your door and pleasantly interact.


Why do people isolate themselves?

How do you determine to intervene or give space?