We had to go through it in elementary school, being the last one picked for the team. We had to go through it in high school, being excluded from the all important “popular group”. What about at work? Is there an exclusive group at the office where others are not welcome, also known as the clique?
How do you know if it is really a clique?
It is natural for like-minded people to form friendships at work and to gather together. If a group is fun and humorous, people will generally congregate around that person or group. It is a nice break at work to engage in conversations that are fun and most importantly - nothing to do with work.
A clique however is an exclusive group that frowns on including others. Is your group of work friends restrictive? That is a good sign you are in a clique. I don’t think we go about wanting to exclude others, but sometimes inadvertently that is what happens. People start to get cozy and comfortable with each other and tend to pipe down when someone not in the clique comes around. That leaves those who are on the outside with a feeling of intruding.
Cliques have sometimes been sources of hurtful gossip when they make it their business to talk about other people’s business. This is not good work networking and can be detrimental to your career.
When you don't clique...
Before you pronounce a group a clique, give them a chance. Say hello and get to know them. To avoid the appearance of being in a clique, be a social butterfly and sit with others as well. However, if I see someone sitting and reading I always ask if they mind me joining them as some people are hoping for no interruptions.
Even if you are not the type to socialize at work, being friendly to your co-workers is good networking. You never know when you might get a heads up on a better job opportunity or need help with something at work. I have always found my co-workers to be my greatest resource.
Being a clique disturber
It is always fun to go and sit down in the midst of a clique. Pretend you don’t know you have just sat down on holy ground. Maybe they are not that exclusive after all and will include you. I think most clique members would deny that they are in a clique. It is easier to see from the outside looking in than from the inside looking out. Inside the clique you see your work buddies, outside the clique you see you are not wanted.