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Lonely and Invisible: Behavioral Judgments About and Neural Responses to Lonely Employees

Hakan Özçelik

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Hakan Ozcelik is a Professor of Management at the California State University, Sacramento; and an Adjunct Professor in Bogazici University. He received his Ph.D. in organizational behavior from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He holds a double‐major degree in Management and Political Science, and an MBA from Bosphorus University, in Istanbul, Turkey.

He studies emotions in organizational life, focusing on topics such as workplace loneliness, discrete emotions, surface acting, leadership, emotional climate, decision-making, cross-cultural communication, organizational neuroscience, and utilizing film-making to analyze work emotions.

Professor Ozcelik has published his research in prestigious academic outlets, including the Academy of Management Journal, Organization Science, Journal of Organizational Behavior, Journal of Managerial Psychology, International Journal of Human Resource Management, Personnel Review, and Research on Emotion in Organizations. His research has also been featured or cited in popular press outlets such as New York Times, The Guardian, Fortune Magazine, Harvard Business Review, Comstock’s Magazine, Wharton School’s business radio broadcast, The Washington Post, Society for Human Resource’s Magazine, Forbes, CNN, Teaching in Higher Education Podcast, KCRA, Fox TV, BBC, and Bloomberg.

He leads the interdisciplinary CBA Organizational Wisdom Studio, a platform that aims to generate wisdom for pursuing happier organizational experiences with live studio events, videocasts, and workshops. Recently he has been co-producing a series of video-casts, titled “Pursuing Organizational Wisdom in a Pandemic”, hosting idea leaders from around the world to explore how organizations and people can better cope with pandemic period. These episodes are publicly available via a YouTube Channel. He also leads the Annual CBA Film Festival program, which explores leading with emotional intelligence via film-making method.

During his career do date, Professor Ozcelik has received numerous awards, including the systemlevel CSU Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award; Outstanding Research Award at the CSUS; Outstanding Teaching Awards from the UBC and CSUS; the Citation of Excellence Award from the Emerald Management Reviews; Provost’s Research Support; and several Research and Creative Activity Award and Pedagogy Enhancement Award grants from the CSUS.

Hakan Ozcelik is married and has one son and daughter, who make Hakan and his wife learn how to rediscover the joys of life.

Loneliness is an interpersonal phenomenon involving both the lonely individuals and the people from whom they feel disconnected. This study focuses on people’s neural responses to and behavioral judgments about lonely employees. Drawing on interaction ritual theory and the research loneliness, we predict that because lonely employees do not provide the emotional energy others seek, they will evoke less of an affective neural response in others as compared to non-lonely employees. Through a social neuroscience experiment using fMRI imaging, we find support for our hypotheses. Our fMRI results indicate that lonely employees are less likely to activate the amygdala and hippocampus regions of people’s brains, indicators that lonely employees register in the brain significantly less than do non-lonely employees. We also find that people are less likely to choose to work with lonely employees. Thus, despite their strong need for interpersonal connection, lonely employees are more likely to be overlooked, becoming interpersonally “invisible.” These results have signficiant implications for research and practive.

June 1, 2020 - 18:00