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Surviving the Office Clique: How to Get Along with Difficult Co-Workers in the Workplace
Christine McDade is an experienced human resources manager.
The Workplace Clique
Do you ever feel that adulthood is like being a teenager but you have more money? If you can relate then consider that going to work can often feel like going to high school. You have to deal with all of those difficult co-workers who have personalities that often resemble the maturity level of some of those teenage creeps that could make everyday life hell for you. The dread you might have felt about going to school Monday to deal with that jerk in P.E., might have similarities to that accounting manager who you know is going to give you a hard time about a missing penny on the spreadsheet. It is the same story but with different characters.
Despite the challenges that certain personalities in the workplace may cause you, there are many perks to having camaraderie at work. I am sure you have suffered through that mean boss due to the friendship of some hardworking colleagues who suffer through like you. Their same effort to get a job done gave you something in common and made the day worthwhile. In exit interviews, I have often heard departing employees state how much they will miss the friends they have made at the office. It is the people and their personalities that make up the culture and work atmosphere interesting and sometimes even enjoyable.
How to Deal with the Tough Times
Sometimes, you may find that you are not in the "clique" or group that is always chatting and going on break together. This is the group that whispers when you walk by or huddle in a cubicle about some office gossip that they choose not to share with you. It can be unsettling but nothing out of the ordinary in most office settings.
Chin up. Remember, we are now adults. When we recognize these unproductive situations for what they are, we can withdraw from the vortex that is pulling you to participate in such immature behavior. It is human nature to not want to be left out but we must rise above such ostracizing behavior by not perpetuating activities (gossip, name calling, etc.) that can make us feel less than what we are. Rather, we need to appreciate that diversity makes up our workplace and do our best to create an inclusive environment for all. One thing that can be a great resource in difficult times with employee issues is to exercise patience. Any work relationship that is worthwhile is one that will survive the occasional disagreement. Furthermore, workplace cliques often explode into something that you do not want to be a big player in should there be repercussions for such disruptive behavior. Being the calm, even keeled one will win you points with the boss who will think you are a team player. Choose to be the member of the team who stays out of such negative workplace behavior.
Relationships we have at work are just like any other relationships. They take time an effort to be successful. Since you spend a great deal of time at your job, it is normal for certain coworkers and their unique/quirky personalities to get on your nerves. Furthermore, you will have to deal with it on such a regular basis that you might just have your "fill" from time to time. When we recognize these behaviors for what they are, and work through some of the difficult bumps along the way, we will be able to steer clear of activities that can be disruptive and make an already challenging work environment caustic.
The office cliques that exist today will ebb and flow with turnover of employees during your employment. There will always be new gossiper and "brown nosers" to deal with in the group. By knowing who you are and remembering that you can control your actions and reactions throughout your interactions with your coworkers, you will be able to work through these often changing relationships.
Survival of the Wisest
To survive in today's workplace drama, it is necessary to be aware of some of the pitfalls that can arise from being wrapped up in the office clique. The sense of belonging, a natural part of being human, should never be at the expense of someone being hurt or belittled because of who they are or what they do on their personal time. Back biting, hurtful gossip that gets shared from coworker to coworker can be halted when employees choose to not listen or demand that the perpetrator cease to include them in such activity. Employees can address negative behavior by realizing the pettiness of the activity.
Many office cliques that exclude people may be demonstrating discriminatory behavior that will require intervention from management. Embracing a diverse workplace, one that is inclusive of everyone, will demand some sort of direct involvement from management to be sure that the workplace is healthy and a safe place for its employees. Workplace cliques that get out of control will be detrimental to employees who are just trying to do a good job. Caustic work environments will scare the productive and good employees to leave for greener pastures. Once the economy improves and more opportunities are available, the "wiser" employees will leave to find that place where people are more respectful of one another.