“They whisper about me behind my back and stop talking when I enter the room. They say mean things about me and they don’t include me in their social activities. They have their little clique and they leave me out because I’m not part of it!”
Sound like something you’d hear from your kid over dinner about their school day? Or did you, like us, just have this conversation with one of your employees?
Cliques form in workplaces:
Cliques don’t just happen in high school. The mean girls have graduated and now they may very well be working in your business!
A recent CareerBuilder survey revealed that 43 percent of workers complained of cliques in their workplace.
With so many businesses affected by cliques, it’s worth it to review the positive and negative aspects of cliques and how to manage them in your business.
The benefits of workplace cliques:
Oftentimes, cliques form in the workplace based on a variety of factors from shared workspaces, departments, interests, demographics, and personalities.
The group forms a dynamic and pulls together, developing a bond. Because of that bond, some good things can happen.
For instance, the group develops a camaraderie which can make being at work more fun. This can result in better morale, more productivity, and better attendance.
If the clique is a complete team with a job to accomplish, it can boost creativity and help the team achieve higher goals.
The downside of workplace cliques:
Obviously, there are some drawbacks to cliques. By their nature, cliques are exclusive, leaving others on the outside.
Those within the clique risk being shut off from experiencing the benefits of a diverse group of opinions and perspectives. By choosing to align themselves with a particular group of people, they may actually be limiting their own opportunities to advance within the company.
If the leader in the clique is a negative person, the entire group can become toxic, spreading poison throughout the organization.
Employees on the outside of the clique may complain of feeling left out and alienated. Worse, the outsiders can feel like they are being bullied, and complain of a hostile work environment.
What happens when there are cliques in a business?
The CareerBuilder survey shed some light on what workers do when there are cliques in their workplaces. 20% of employees reported they’d done something they didn’t want to do just to fit in with their co-workers.
That could be something innocuous, like watching a TV show they weren’t really interested in. It could also be something more harmful, such as making fun of another co-worker, or pretending to not like someone.
The survey also reveals that company leaders play a role in this issue. Almost half of the workers reporting cliques say their boss is a part of the group.
The pressure is great to participate in a clique when the supervisor is part of it. And employees outside the circle are sure to think those within receive better assignments, more money, promotions and favoritism by participating.
What can you do to prevent toxic cliques in your workplace?
If your workplace has a clique problem, what can you do to ensure that it’s not creating a toxic environment for some of your employees?
Start by looking at your own behavior:
Are you a member of a clique?
It’s a part of human nature to like some people more than others, but as leaders in our organizations, it’s up to us to treat all of our employees fairly. So start by cleaning up your own house first!
Create a team environment throughout your entire organization:
Recognize that work friendships will exist, and that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Allowing friendships to develop into exclusive groups to the detriment of others is a bad thing.
Put people from different departments, buildings, or working groups together to work on projects. In other words, create some cross-functional teams that break down the perimeters of the cliques.
Emphasize your corporate values to your staff:
Let them know that every member of the team is important and should be treated that way. Train your team members on open communication and positive methods of conflict resolution.
Sometimes, resentments and issues churn among a small group of people because the tools aren’t present in the workplace to effectively resolve it. Give your employees the tools they need to constructively resolve disputes without having to rile the troops to their side.
Regularly conduct workplace training:
Make sure your supervisors have been trained to recognize and deal with bullying and harassment. Train them on the value of diversity in the workplace as well.
In turn, they should train their employees on the importance of a workplace free of bullying and harassment, where a diverse workforce is valued and appreciated. Your employee handbook should reinforce these values.
Have company-wide social events that give everyone a chance to participate:
Some people are not joiners by nature, so they end up not being a part of a particular group. Company-sponsored pizza lunches, or Friday afternoon barbeques can casually bring the entire organization together and give everyone the opportunity to be included.
If your workplace has a clique, don’t stick your head in the sand. Thirteen percent of workers surveyed by CareerBuilder said the presence of office cliques had a negative impact on their careers.
A negative work environment lights a fire under an employee who may already be thinking about switching jobs. Don’t lose a valuable employee because the mean girls have taken over the office!