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Navigating Workplace Cliques
I was a “lone wolf” type in high school. I didn’t really fit in with any of the groups: the jocks, the hippies, the Honor Society crowd, or the future Darwin Award nominees. I remember thinking I’d be so glad when it was over and I’d never have to deal with those stupid cliques and their snobbishness again. I was wrong.
I don’t remember the first time I encountered a workplace clique, but I remember thinking it was like high school all over again. I was disgusted. This was not how intelligent adults interacted with each other. But sadly, it was.
Like so many other aspects of life in the workplace, the clique appears to be here to stay. And, they aren’t limited to the office. Workplace cliques can be found on construction sites, in retail stores, at used car lots, and about anywhere else there are three or more employees. Aside from causing needless friction between co-workers, the clique can disrupt productivity on a major scale. I personally know of a case of competing workplace cliques essentially sabotaging each others work, spreading vicious lies about each other, and engaging in shouting matches in the hallways. I know people who have quit jobs they hated to leave because of harassment by members of a workplace clique. To say this kind of behavior is not conducive to a healthy work environment is a gross understatement, and it is management‘s responsibility to be on the lookout for this type of bullying and intimidation.
While there are no guarantees you won’t be sucked into the clique quagmire, my advice is to try to maintain neutrality. Become the Sweden in your workplace. Sweden of course is a country sandwiched in between what was at the time NATO and the Warsaw Pact nations during the “Cold War“, and still managed to stay neutral. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for them, as both sides probably used both carrot and stick to some degree in an attempt to sway them. By maintaining neutrality, you’ll not only be making a statement about your character, you may help to dissuade the practice within your workplace.
If you feel you’ve been targeted by members of a clique, document everything. People sometimes want to see how far they can push you, so if you can roll with the punches for awhile you may find that things will settle down. But if they don’t, you should definitely go to your manager. If you believe your manager is “in cahoots” with the clique in question, go over their head. Yes, you probably are taking a risk by doing so, but you have a right to work in an environment free of hostility. And like most rights, you still have to fight for this one on occasion.