Thursday, August 8, 2013

Cliques at Work?

No kidding, really??!

I’ve heard so many of my HR colleagues complain about workplace cliques, and I’ve experienced them myself over the years. I’m not just talking about employees within departments bonding as a group, sitting together at lunch or company functions and as a result, developing their own identity. The kind of cliques that we complain about are the ones that act negatively toward those not in their clique and create an "us vs. them" atmosphere. I’ve never quite understood why this happens with adults in the workplace, but apparently it’s pretty commonplace.

A recent CareerBuilder survey found that 43% of workers say that their office or workplace is populated by cliques. Forty-three percent. I wouldn’t be surprised if that figure was higher.

The nationwide survey—conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of CareerBuilder from May 14 to June 5, 20l3, among a representative sample of nearly 3,000 full-time, private sector U.S. workers—found that cliques can affect workplace culture in a variety of ways.

One in ten workers (11 percent) said they felt intimidated by office cliques, 20 percent of workers said they’ve done something they’re really not interested in or didn’t want to do just to fit in with co-workers. Forty-six percent in this subgroup simply went to happy hours to fit in.

I have to question the statement that only 11% said they didn’t feel intimidated by office cliques. Why else would someone do something he’s really not interested in doing? Intimidation has many levels. Maybe they didn’t feel threatened if they didn’t join in, but they felt they were losing out, or would be looked at differently if they didn’t.

Other activities included:

· "Watched a certain TV show or movie to discuss at work the next day" – 21 percent

· "Made fun of someone else or pretended not to like them" – 19 percent

· "Pretended to like certain food" – 17 percent

· "Took smoke breaks" – 9 percent

15% said they hide their political affiliation to fit in, and 10% don’t reveal personal hobbies.

The survey also asked participants to name the persona they identified with in high school. Those former "class clowns," "geeks," and "athletes" were the most likely to say they currently belong to an office clique in their job today. So, for them, I guess work life has become an extension of high school.

Interestingly enough, nearly half of those workers whose workplaces have cliques (46 percent) say their boss is a part of clique with some of his or her employees. I’ve expressed in earlier posts how dysfunctional it can be when supervisors and managers become too involved on a personal level with their staff. Engaging in cliquish activities can be especially damaging.

I’ve seen the damage such behavior can inflict. Cliques aren’t just about sitting with the cool kids at lunch. They sometimes become the source of bullying, harassing, discriminatory behavior. As management, we have to find ways to eliminate this type of influence. Role-playing training, diversity/harassment training, along with not tolerating rude, disruptive behavior are necessary activities if you find your workplace is looking more like high school than work.

1 comment:

  1. I really dislike the cliques that I have been exposed to at all the jobs I have ever held. It still amazes me how management will turn a blind eye to this as long as it is beneficial to them.