You remember them. The "cool" kids. They sat with other cool kids by the quad. The artsy kids sat with other artsy kids near the art studios, and the band geeks ate together in the band room.
Although we are now disguised and generally live amongst each other just fine, the workplace, with its regularity in schedule and cast of characters, is the perfect breeding ground for that which many of us dreaded in high school*: cliques.
In adulthood, cliques take a slightly different, more camouflaged and generally less catty form. Let's define them here as small groups of people within a large group, who share a common bond among themselves and create an insular bond with each other, to the exclusion of others. This exclusion isn't general, but in specific to the topic of bond that the group has developed.
Cliques can develop around just about anything. A common location. A favorite sports team. A life situation. A favorite hobby or genre of music.
How do cliques affect the workplace? Cliques in adulthood are rather harmless. In this great giant world of people that we interact with everyday, it can be comforting, especially in a work environment, to have others to share with. In this aspect, cliques can build employee morale by strengthening bonds of friendship beyond what your day-to-day work. This works best when there are either a) very few cliques, which blend in with other employees well or b) a lot of cliques, to the point that everyone is in one. It also matters how the clique operates -- if they're super-exclusive or not.
How can you tell if you're in a clique? Do you have a small, select group of friends that share a common thread that you regularly share with, more so than you would with other employees? Do you and your friends clam up or change subjects when another employee who doesn't share your bond approaches? Do you plan twin-day, pony-tail day, or any other themed day in which your clique and your clique alone participates? Then you are probably in a clique.
What should you do if you're in a clique? It is only natural to form friendships with those you have something in common with. Pat yourself on the back for making friends. That said, befriending those that are different than you can be a learning and growing experience, and although you may share an employer, there is most likely a great diversity among the employees. And don't rub it in around others not in your clique...it's just not nice.
What if you're not in a clique? No worries. Unless your workplace is prone to clique-fights and you feel unsafe without a posse that has your back, not being in a clique is perfectly normal. Continue socializing with all employees as usual.
In my workplace there are a few cliques, just about all completely innocuous. There are the mommies (which are growing in number by the minute it seems), the drinkers, the creatives, those that live in the same town...many times whole departments can seem clique-ish.
Does your workplace have cliques? Do you see any issues to them and how do you deal with it?
*Or in my case, what you saw in high school movies. My high school wasn't that clique-y as far as I knew. But what could I tell from the band room in the corner of campus?
**The blurry pic above is my high school campus, as seen on Google Maps. A lot has changed since I graduated nearly a decade ago...