If you think that cliques are a thing of your past or your biggest high school nightmare, you couldn't be more wrong. According to some surveys, nearly 43% of employees form cliques, a tightly knit group of people who socialize inside and outside the office while excluding others.
Even though many companies insist on teamwork, cliques can be detrimental to employee morale and cause workplace bullying. People may feel left out or less important, which is bad for business.
Let's see how to deal with cliques at work and if there is a way to avoid such behavior.
What is a clique?
Based on multiple dictionary explanations, a clique is a small, close-knit group of individuals who doesn't allow others to join in. They have their inner circle of people held together by common purposes, views, and interests.
Cliques in the workplace
Workplace cliques are a group of colleagues who frequently socialize inside and outside of the office. They share common interests, discuss what they like to do together, and have many inside jokes. While there is nothing wrong with cliques in the workplace, the problem arises when this group starts excluding other people and makes them feel alienated.
If clique members are left unchecked, they can target others and create a hostile working environment, which eventually leads to complaints and resignations. However, it's important to make a difference between cliques and socializing.
Some of the deepest friendships form at work because like-minded people spend a lot of time together. Although not all socializing is bad for your organization, you need to set up some ground rules so that all employees feel equally important.
The reason behind cliques
In most cases, cliques at work form when people feel unsafe. On some occasions, it's a common mistrust of management. They might fear downsizing, or they don't understand the changes that are taking place.
Additionally, cliques at work can also be a means of self-preservation. Employees require a group of individuals that validates their perceptions and supports their decisions. When people feel vulnerable or insecure, they seek safety and protection in cliques.
For example, let's discuss a group of people who get overlooked for their work continuously. While they might contribute to the company or further develop a product, supervisors tend to neglect them every time they handle praises. People who feel neglected and believe their work is being dismissed will quickly form a group, which offers them a strong base. They get to talk about the situation and relate to one another.
Are cliques positive or negative?
When it comes to good sides, cliques are appealing because people like to associate with successful and recognized individuals for their accomplishments. Being in that inner circle can offer value and highlight team players who want to become top performers as well.
Moreover, management will notice the group of people someone associates themselves with. By actively socializing and joining groups, you can become a highly connected individual capable of building cross-functional relationships, ensuring value to bosses and yourself.
Once you enter a clique, a "top dog" can mentor you. They know all the ropes, offer the insides, and introduce you to people who can help you succeed in your career.
On the other hand, cliques are bad for several reasons. As we mentioned before, you can associate yourself with A+ performers, but sometimes the upper management may believe you are running with the D+ crowd without you even knowing it. Therefore, be wary of how others are viewed in your office before you initiate the connection.
Even though cliques initiate an atmosphere of exclusivity, some leaders may be toxic. You might want to avoid a group of people where the dominant figure is spreading gossip or is negative. Keep in mind that cliques can act standoffish toward other business units and make it challenging to get work done.
The biggest problem cliques face at work is alienation. If you miss out on other people's inputs and perspectives, it can hurt your team's overall organization.
Spotting a clique at work
They stick to their group. Excessive togetherness is one of the features of cliques, which makes other people isolated and less important. At some point, cliques may become more about the group than they are about the company they work for.
They tend to grow when no one addresses their behavior. It's crucial to address an issue as soon as it happens. If you notice some inappropriate behavior, be sure to act immediately, but don't overreact. While we want to achieve unity at work, we don't want to punish employees for being close friends. You should know the difference between a group of friends and cliques before you act and try to break them up.
They ostracize other people. One way to prevent such behavior is to create group projects where everyone will work together. If you allow employees to choose their groups, you are enabling workplace bullying. That's why, when you select the group, make sure it includes people outside of their circle of friends.
Various types of bullies. Keep in mind that not all bullies are the same, and some of them tend to be manipulative and covert. For that very reason, this type of bullying is tough to identify. It's imperative to know what constitutes workplace bullying.
Rumor-spreading, backstabbing, and gossip. Nothing will disrupt the work environment like the office rumor mill. You should educate your employees about rumor-spreading and gossip and how they should respond when they encounter such behavior.
How to avoid being a part of a clique?
It might feel good to be approached by someone who is part of a clique. You aren't alone because many people want to feel accepted and popular, especially at work. But, as soon as you realize you are unique and special, you won't need approval from anyone else.
If you want to avoid being a member of a clique, then you need to know who you are and don't allow others to change you. Consider your values and what you believe in, and look for friends you can relate to. Never feel pressured to act in a certain way to get the approval of others.
Workplace clique behavior isn't easy to stop, but you can build a non-clique culture in your company. First, you need to set the tone and share your vision about the workspace and expectations regarding how people will be treated.
You don't have to prepare a big speech, but state your company's values and let people know that everyone's voice counts. The next step would be to mix up your people whenever you can. Create various projects that allow your employees to work with people they otherwise wouldn't. This will give them a chance to get to know each other.
Last but not least, keep your door open and let people know they can talk to you about any workplace issues.