Breaking up workplace cliques

December 1, 2016
Elsbeth McSorley
By Elsbeth McSorley

These tips will create interactivity in your organization without the workplace cliques.

Walking into the office, you feel a certain vibe in the air. Employees are hustling around the room as they are completing projects and nailing deadlines. As a business leader, you want to believe that you have nailed the workplace culture environment. Employee morale is at an all-time high and you have the most ideal workers who are focused on reaching the company’s objectives.

Unfortunately, there is just one thing that has become the elusive specter in the room: employee turnover rates.

Your human resources departments are bringing in the new hires that fit the job positions perfectly and have just the right motivation and drive to spur your existing project teams to even greater heights of success. Yet they are barely lasting three months at their desks. From bright-eyed and eager to disillusioned and disgruntled, the new hires are turning in their resignation letters before jogging to the office doors with their final paychecks in hand. When inquiring about the reason why they are leaving, you hear the same thing repeated over and over again. They don’t feel included in the office dynamics.

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Workplace cliques: the double-edged sword

Very rarely can you walk into an office today and not find exclusive groups of people in the room. These tight-knit workers are sharing lunch tables in the break room, discussing the latest project work orders, and buying each other a few drinks after work. Workers become migratory in the office as they home in on other employees that either share their general opinions, beliefs, work ethics, lifestyles, career goals and a range of other behaviors, emotions or mentalities. They bond into tight groups that can dictate the workplace culture in unique, productive, and sometimes scary ways.

That is not to say that all cliques are bad. You may have an environment where the separate groups of people are highly professional that they can still come together, collaborate, and mentor each other to grow an even stronger company. Unfortunately, for every good clique, there is a bad one.

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The bad cliques seek to dominate instead of collaborate with other employees and groups. If a person doesn’t want to be involved with the inner clique, they can feel ousted from offering their ideas at meetings or excluded from working on a project. The office gossip can become demoralizing where an employee will give up not only on the work they provide, but on the company itself and move on to greener, and more inclusive, pastures.

Creating interactivity without the cliques

A dynamic, productive workplace can thrive on an inclusive office atmosphere. You may not be able to entirely get rid of cliques, as those friendships may be beneficial toward your company goals and can exist outside of office hours. Yet you can ensure that all employees are included in the same office community and feel as if their voice, thoughts and work counts in the company. Here are several tips to create a more inclusive environment.

Stop favoritism.

Nothing can create an inner clique faster than when you are complimenting and hanging out with a single group of workers on a daily basis while ignoring the rest of the employees. For employees to feel included by their coworkers, they must first feel that business leaders and managers are including them in the office environment and treating them as equals to the other existing employees.

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Allow everyone to have a voice in meetings.

Meetings can become power trips where certain employees will try to dominate the flow and pace of the conversation to their advantage. You need to step up and wrest control back where it belongs: in your leadership hands. You can control the meeting atmosphere and allow all employees to voice their ideas in an equal fashion.

Tear down the physical walls.

Many companies have seen success in minimizing inner workplace cliques by actually creating a single office environment. They do this by eliminating the cubicle walls and having a more open work area. Without walls, employees that felt left out and isolated can form stronger coworker relationships when they can more readily see and interact with others.

Become the top clique leader.

If cliques are inevitable in your office, then you have to establish yourself as the top dog who is a step higher on the seniority ladder to every group leader in the office setting. They must see you as the authority figure who still allows them to be creative and independent in their work, yet will not tolerate the clique shenanigans when it comes to excluding new hires. Then help the new employees fit into the groups where their talents would be the best fit in reaching the company’s goals.

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Creating the workplace culture that invites, instead of rejects, inclusivity will take some time based on how long certain cliques have been established in the office. You will have to modify and adjust your strategies until every worker has a voice and a productive place inside your company.

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