HUMAN RESOURCES / SEP. 29, 2014
version 3, draft 3

How to Handle Cliques at Work

If you thought that cliques were something you left behind along with school, sadly you’d be mistaken. These groups have transcended from the school playground to the office. For many of you, this will be most unwelcome, especially if you were one of the students these groups taunted. However, these groups do have the potential to maximise productivity in the workplace and therefore are encouraged by employers. In fact a survey carried out by Career Builder discovered that 43% of workers stated that their place of work is populated by cliques. But now that we are adults, how do we handle working in an environment where cliques are present?

Why do cliques exist?

Before we can learn to cope with cliques, we need to know why they exist. They are created when people come together and make friends due to having similar interests. This can be a great thing if you are part of the group. You feel as though you have people to talk to, socialise with both in and out of work and the office can become much more entertaining. However, for those workers who are excluded from the group, they can feel isolated which can lead to lower productivity.

A point to note is, just because a group of people always go to lunch together, does not necessarily make them a ‘clique’. A clique is defined by its exclusionary nature and tendency to pressure group members into following what the ‘leader’ deems to be acceptable. This is where peer pressure found in high school steps into the workplace. As the survey by Career Builder found, many employees have found themselves doing things simply to fit in with the group. Obviously, this can have negative effects on the company’s productivity in the long run which is why employers need to be aware of these cliques and know how to handle them.

What can we do to cope with these groups?

  • As a manager, you could organise team building activities. Make sure to build teams of people who would not usually interact in order to discourage any behaviour which could alienate individuals.
  • Try to spend equal amount of time with all of your staff, not just those who you may actually prefer.
  • Maintain a professional attitude with all members of staff, including clique members.
  • Do your best not to be intimidated by a clique, especially by the leader. Generally the members are not those who hold any power so cannot hire or fire anyone.
  • Do not engage in gossiping with clique members if you do not want to be a part of it. This is their way of enrolling you. If you are approached by a clique, make sure you seriously weigh up the pros and cons of joining the group first.
  • If you become targeted by a clique, by ways of excluding you, do not react, even if you do feel saddened. Instead, speak in a friendly manner to each member as you would any other co-worker.
  • Try to find co-workers to spend time with who do not partake in any office gossip. Then, highlight the fact that you are not a clique by inviting other colleagues for lunch, etc.

Cliques can make employees feel a part of something, which is what we all seek from childhood. Because of this, cliques can be a positive entity in a workplace as they raise efficiency and allow individuals to enjoy their place of work. However, keep in mind the reasons above which show the negative aspects of these groups within a corporate environment. As long as you behave in a professional manner and follow the points listed, you will no longer face this form of conflict in the office.

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