Kick the Cliques in the Workplace

The partiers. The tech nerds. The married ones with kids. If you work in a large office or agency, you know that, much like high school, cliques will inevitably form within the company. In fact, what you were in high school may influence if you are in a clique in your day job. A recent American study by CareerBuilder found that 43 per cent of workers say their office or workplace has cliques. These cliques may even include the boss, as the study revealed. This isn’t too surprising, and recent discussions with Canadian young professionals (YPs) revealed similar findings. When you see each other more than you do your own family, friends or significant other, friendships will form among likeminded coworkers within the workplace. There are a few less than ideal potential consequences of cliques, however. They can alienate coworkers, may affect productivity and may even negatively influence your career personally.

Put yourself in their shoes
Revert back to your mother’s voice in your head telling you to treat others the way you want to be treated. Just as those few unfortunate high school kids felt alienated back in the day, eating lunch alone in the bathroom, the same mentality may hold true with coworkers who feel isolated (minus the lunch in the bathroom part). Be pleasant and try to make an effort to treat everyone equally, from the CEO to the secretary.

Your clique may affect your career
Just as like assumptions were made about you in high school based on your clique, the same can be said in the office. Upper management can consider you to be running with a crowd that leaves a little more to be desired professionally or who are seen as “partiers.” Furthermore, if you close yourself off to other people’s perspectives and input by limiting yourself to your clique, it can negatively impact the overall project, campaign, team and organization.

Keep the office banter work-related
You will make others feel left out if you’re chatting about the great meal or movie you enjoyed with coworkers the evening or weekend before. If you do share a memorable social experience with your coworkers, try to keep talk about it minimal when others (who were not invited) are around. The same goes for gossip about your social life or that of others. If you are going to develop close relationships with coworkers, save some of the personal banter for your personal time, not time spent not on the company clock.

Have other friends
Try to keep an active social life and healthy group of friends outside of the office so that you don’t rely solely on co-workers for social activity outside of work hours. You already have enough trouble with work/life balance; your work friends and your social friends don’t have to be interchangeable.


Plan inclusive social or team-building engagements
Whether you are a manager or an employee, the best way to combat the negative effects of cliques is to plan all-inclusive activities. This can range from happy hour drinks to a company golf day. As a manager, it is important to identify cliques in the workplace and assemble people from different groups to work on projects together to combat alienation of certain coworkers. As an employee, you can plan other social events, lunch potlucks or even sporting events. 

We are not advocating forced friendships or interactions, and admittedly, some of our best friends have been made through workplace introductions and interactions. If everyone gets along in a division-free workplace, however, not only is the state of the company better, your lives will be easier in terms of team projects and productivity. Who knows, you may even see that everyone has something to offer through their unique personalities.


Cover Image: The Office