Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cliques -- good or bad?

Cliques or informal groups are found in every organization -- not just in school. Cliques are prevalent in the workplace. People who have similar interests will stick together regardless of any formal organization. People who form cliques or informal groups are often not even aware that they are members of such a group. They are just accustomed to hanging out together or IM'ing alot, or other such behaviors. People drift in and out of the informal group.

People who like to talk about movies will hang out together while company "old-timers" will lunch together and work together out of habit. This appears harmless, but to the "outsiders," these groups may be viewed with suspicion, fear, or even envy. For example, "old-timers" may "know the ropes" concerning company procedures, so may seem to get more privileges than others. Others who try to link up with this group may be accepted or rejected after being observed by that particular "in" crowd.

As a employee (whether or not you are a supervisor), you might as well accept the existence of informal groups. Mature people recognize that there is much to be gained by an expanded network of people. Extend yourself to others, especially to others who may also feel left out. Say hello to everyone, and don’t worry about who says something back. Try to sincerely connect with everyone, including those in the clique. Look for ways to include yourself. Ask questions and gain knowledge about the interests of the informal groups. So, when the time is right for you to influence change, you can sell the cliques on YOUR direction or agenda, rather than attacking or ignoring them.

Are you new to an organization, trying to fit in or break into cliques? Perhaps you might wish to read this posting. If you wish to read about junior high (middle school) cliques, my reflections are here, or about cliques and groupthink, read here.

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