If you think cliquey behavior stops after high school, you’re in for a rude awakening. A social clique, which is an exclusive group of friends, can also develop among adults and find its way into the workplace. Unfortunately, these groups can disrupt the harmony in an office and leave many feeling like outsiders. Just because you’re a friendly, nice person doesn’t mean you can’t fall into a clique at work.
If you’re accused of being cliquey, you might immediately fight back and defend yourself. But before you shrug off someone’s claim, or think they’re simply jealous because of your popularity, here are six signs that you’re cliquey at work.
1. You Don't Know Everyone's Name
If you work for a large company with fifty or more employees, it will take a while to learn everyone’s first and last name. This is understandable. But if you’ve been working for a company for some time now, or if you work for a fairly small company, yet you still don’t know your colleagues by first and last name, there’s a good chance that you’re a cliquey person. This is especially true if you know everything about a select group of three or four coworkers.
Understandably, you go to work to earn money and make a living, and not memorize the background of each person you work with. But if you know little about your coworkers because you’re so attentive to a select group of people, your lack of knowledge may not be a coincidence.
Cliquey people tend to have a one-track mind. Because they are tunnel visioned, if they see a member of their group, their primary focus will be to speak with this member, and they won’t pay attention or think about anyone else in the surrounding area. If you are a cliquey then you won’t bother with having any type of relationship with your other coworkers, nor will you have a strong desire to know them better.
2. You Stop Talking When Others Join the Convo
You may say you’re not a cliquey person. But ask yourself: how many times has your group stopped talking whenever someone outside the clique attempts to join the conversation?
When you work in an office with a lot of people, everyone has their opinion and their viewpoint on different issues. Having adult conversations is how we get to know each other. Not allowing others to join your exclusive conversations is classic cliquey behavior. If someone asks your group what you’re talking about, do you ignore this person? And if someone overhears your conversation and comes over to join, does the group stay silent or disburse quickly?
It’s understandable that you’re more comfortable hanging out or talking with certain coworkers. But this isn’t an excuse to be rude or purposely exclude others.
3. Your Inside Jokes Exclude Others
It’s normal for close friends to have inside jokes with each other. You know each other’s background and family, so you might make comments or jokes that only you understand. This is okay. But if others join your conversation, it’s only polite to keep inside jokes to a minimum so the other person doesn’t feel they’re left out of the joke.
Let’s say four of you are standing by the water cooler. If three of you are part of an exclusive group, the other person might exit the conversation abruptly due to feeling uncomfortable or left out of the discussion. You might not always be aware of your cliquey behavior. But if you recognize that one person is being left out, change the direction of the conversation and make the person feel included. If you don’t do this, your actions and behavior indicates that you don’t want to be bothered by this person. Your actions also indicate that your group is limited to certain individuals in the office.
4. You Don't Hang Out with Other Coworkers
You might not think of yourself as cliquey, but how many times have you hung out with other coworkers on a social level? You might be a cliquey person if you refuse to socialize with others inside and outside the office. You have your group of two or three colleagues you’re comfortable with. You have your designated lunch table in the break room and you make weekend plans. As a cliquey person, you don’t make any attempts to hang out with other coworkers. If another coworker invites you to lunch or any other social event, you decline the invitation regardless of whether you already have plans. Even if you have nothing better to do with your time, you will not attend or socialize with this person because she’s not a part of your exclusive group, and you don’t want to waste your time.
5. There's a Group Leader
Having a group leader is a telltale sign of being cliquey at work. In this case, nobody in the group makes a social decision or does anything unless the leader is okay with the idea. For example, a coworker outside your group might have a barbecue and invite the entire office. Before you RSVP, you might check in with others in the group – particularly the leader – to see whether he or she will be attending. If the entire group goes to the cookout, you attend as well. But if the group decides to skip the cookout, you boycott together.
6. You Show Favoritism
Favoritism is a big problem in the workplace, and you might be a cliquey person if you show favoritism to certain coworkers or employees, and completely ignore the potential or accomplishments of others. This might be the case if you are a boss or supervisor.
There may be five individuals in the office who qualify for advancement within the company. But when openings become available, you automatically promote those who are members of your exclusive group. The problem, however, is that those you promote may not be the perfect person for the job. But you don’t care. These are your friends and you’re going to help them get ahead no matter what.
The favoritism might be so blatant and obvious that others inside the office know that getting ahead will require being a member of a particular group.
See Also: How to Handle Cliques at Work
If you belonged to a clique in high school or college, chances are this behavior and mindset will stick with you through adulthood and carry into the workplace. You’re certainly entitled to choose your friends at work. And given the different types of personalities in an office, you may not click with every person you work with. But just because you and certain coworkers have similar interests, likes and dislikes, doesn’t mean you can’t learn from others and have a relationship with everyone in the office.
As mentioned, it only takes one cliquey group to disrupt the harmony in an office space. But if you can acknowledge cliquey behavior, and if you and your group put the brakes on this type of behavior and embrace everyone, it can make the workday more enjoyable for all. If you’re a manager, boss or supervisor, it’s important that you set the example. If your actions show that you support this type of juvenile nonsense, others in the office will think it’s okay.