A clique is an exclusive group of individuals in the workplace who interact with one another and share similar interests, often with negative and a closed attitudes to those outside their group.

Dealing With Office Cliques

I am often asked how to handle friendships in the workplace that may feel somewhat elite. When there’s a small number of officemates who do everything together and seem to have formed an impenetrable circle, it can create an environment of hurt feelings and promote animosity among peers. While it’s human nature to gravitate toward some people over others, the problem arises when there’s a perception of exclusivity and favoritism surrounding a select few. Whether you are part of a group or observing one from the outside, here are a few tips to ensure that cliques don’t hinder an otherwise productive company culture.


Be considerate.
While you may particularly enjoy spending time with a few of your associates, stay mindful of those unintentionally being left out. It’s good practice to include others in a business lunch or after hour meet up occasionally.


Do your own inner-office networking.
Expanding your circle of professional connections isn’t limited to mixers and community functions. Challenge yourself to reach out to colleagues you don’t see regularly. You may potentially be overlooking an alliance or mentorship opportunity.


Supervise thoughtfully.
A close peer-boss relationship can be fraught with potential landmines.Be especially cautious not to show favoritism when delegating new business. Remember, you have the power to help foster collaboration between employees who may not normally interact.


Watch what you say.
Gossip is the quickest path to team discord. Saying bad things about one colleague in an attempt to win favor from another can be disastrous. Adopt a personal no-gossip policy, showing others through your actions where you stand.


Steer clear of being professionally typecast.
If you connect strongly with only a distinct set of colleagues, you may be branding yourself in the same way. For example, if your cubicle pals are known for their wild partying antics, you are likely developing a similar reputation.“You are known by the company you keep.”

Spread your wings.
You have the wisdom and maturity to create your own affiliations. If there are people you would like to get to know better, step out of your comfort zone and make the first move. You will be glad you did.

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Navigating social cliques can be one of the toughest parts of middle and high school. Cristen explores why they happen and are practically impossible to get rid of.

Credit: Stuff Mom Never Told You - HowStuffWorks: Why do cliques exist?

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Focusing on the Positive

If you’re experiencing some negative fallout from a particular group, keep in mind that cliques aren’t all bad. Groups can offer a lot to each other and the organization. Consider the following:

  • Cliques have power to get the job done. There’s safety in numbers, and cliques can have a lot of power, even if each member has little to no power in the company as an individual.

  • Cliques play an integral part in team morale and create a sense of camaraderie that’s difficult for even the most adept manager to replicate.

  • Cliques can create a sense of safety and inclusion for their members, cultivating a multitude of positive experiences and workplace memories for employees.

  • Cliques can work across departments and accomplish just about any task. When personal relationships transcend company org charts, the give and take works for the benefit of the organization.

  • Cliques offer social benefits. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a group that offers them pats on the back and social invitations and reminds them that they’re a part of something bigger than themselves?

Understanding the Negative

You know what’s right for your situation, but consider intervening when

  • Cliques are purposefully alienating others.

  • Groups are closed to any perspectives other than their own.

  • People are missing out on opportunities to expand their careers or view of the company.

  • Alienation is causing employees to shut down and not perform to the best of their abilities.

  • Bullying or inappropriate language and behaviors emerge.

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