Combating cliques at work

When you were at school, were you part of the ‘cool’ crowd? Or did you feel somewhat on the outer, excluded, and made to feel bad about yourself. It’s a big deal for teenagers. And sadly, it’s also an issue for many adults who are dealing with cliques in workplaces. 

Some examples of workplace cliques include: 

It is important to understand that there will always be people at work who have friendships and very supportive working relationships. People tend to gravitate towards others who are like them in some way. But, it is easy to misread such friendships, become inadvertently offended, and worsen  the situation by withdrawing from those individuals. 

Cliques only develop when groups of people deliberately exclude or are negative towards others. When such behaviour is repeated and comes at a cost to others’ well-being, health or safety, then it certainly fits one of the classifications of workplace bullying.

Cliques also come at a cost to those who are involved in them. Firstly, they can breed negativity and can bias perspectives to those of the group. People in cliques also miss out on what others have to offer. Cliques, even the perception of cliques, can also strain team relationships and lead to lower morale, increased sick leave, and formal grievances.

So, what can we do to combat cliques in our workplace? 

Firstly, we all need to be more inclusive, particularly of those who are new to the workplace, different or vulnerable in some way. We also need to take the time to reach out to others. The best workers are those who can relate and work well with all types of different people.

I am a big fan of lunches where leaders bring together a new and long serving staff member over food. Human beings are social animals and relationships often build over coffee or shared meals. Changing the location of where people are working can also give opportunity for relationship building. 

It is essential that leaders are not part of a clique themselves. If they are or even if there is a perception of this, when promotions, contracts or resources are allocated, they are likely to be seen as unfair. Good leaders help to counter such perceptions by treating everyone in a fair, positive manner and being transparent about how decisions are made.

Leaders also help by bringing people together from different groups for a particular project and team building activities, such as training on building positive team relationships. But where do you find such training, you ask? Ahem … there is a very good speaker I can recommend at

Ultimately, for teams to be working well, they need to be united by strong team relationships and a common purpose. Rather than an ‘us and them’ mentality, it has to be the attitude, ‘we’re all in this together’

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