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Team-Building: Dealing With Cliques
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Team-Building: Dealing With Cliques - Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: Dealing With Cliques

Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: Dealing With Cliques

People gravitate toward each other for many different reasons, but in the office, the reasons don’t matter as much as the gravitation. When we enjoy the people they work with, we can put up with almost anything on the job, and this is a powerful tool in anyone’s toolbox. Although the word “clique” comes loaded with negative connotations and memories of hazardous high-school hallways, close-knit groups of professionals who enjoy each other’s company aren’t necessarily destructive to company culture, employee morale, or overall team health. In fact, the only real difference between a clique and team is that one is social and the other professional.

The damage cliques can do is pretty clear. Anything that projects exclusion is poison, but if a couple of groups in the office give off exclusivity, the fix is going to be more involved than a memo. You certainly don’t want to damage the positive energy and camaraderie usually generated by groups of people who genuinely enjoy working together, so attempts at breaking up a clique are often counterproductive. Instead, you want social groups to be welcoming and inclusive, able and willing to work with anyone, able and willing to reach out and welcome anyone into even their social relationships.

It’s not easy, but it’s doable over time, especially if you exercise those great leadership skills. Don’t attempt to break up groups of people who enjoy each other. Rather, attempt to work them into smaller groups, with one or two others who have already demonstrated they will work happily with anyone. Your social-professional shapeshifters are very valuable here, but if you don’t have any, other positive, agreeable, competent people will work. The idea is gradually to bring up levels of professional trust and social interaction so that even if a clique sticks together, it becomes a team asset rather than a liability. This is earned slowly, so be patient but be committed.

Those shapeshifters, if you are lucky to have them, can make a big difference. You may even want to go out of your way to encourage them to make direct, one-on-one contact with as many people as possible every day, even if that contact is a friendly email or a casual “How was your weekend?” in the hall. Experienced educators will tell you that this daily contact influences the tone of a classroom so that a spirit of inclusion permeates the culture. Cliques might still exist, but they won’t be divisive or given to intimidating others, especially if the leadership is also doing its best to make that direct, invididual contact every day.

If you’re looking for a team-building activity to forestall the negative effects of cliques, many of the usual (good!) activities will work, but consider regular, group sharing activities as well. Just going around the conference table at the beginnings of meetings and asking people to share their latest movie or their plans for the upcoming weekend goes a long way toward fostering inclusion. At any moment, one person is the center of everyone’s attention, with something interesting and meaningful to share. It’s the group-level version of that direct contact, and it’s a supremely underused strategy in office culture.

A 2013 CareerBuilder survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, reported that 43% of full-time employees (non-government, non-self-employed) in the U.S. say their workplaces have cliques. Only 11% say they feel intimated by cliques, which is reason to celebrate, but 20% say they’ve done something they’re not interested in just so they’d fit in. This by itself is not something to be discouraged. In the case of those who watched a certain television program so they could participate in the conversations at work, it seems a small price to pay for the kind of bonding a good watercooler conversation can foster. But when cliques lead people to tease coworkers or take smoke breaks, reactions are unhealthy and unkind. The challenge then is to leverage the power of cliques to make the office a happier, healthier place, and it should be a welcome challenge because the payoff is the kind of workplace everyone enjoys being a part of.

Reference Link:
CareerBuilder: http://www.careerbuilder.com/share/aboutus/pressreleasesdetail.aspx?sd=7%2F24%2F2013&id=pr773&ed=12%2F31%2F2013

 

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Team-Building: Dealing With Cliques - Executive Leadership Articles

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