7 Ways Workplace Cliques Harm the Work Environment

Businesswomen talking in the office building lobby
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Every company wants its employees to get along. After all, teamwork is an essential part of a company's success. But sometimes groups of employees form cliques at work. When this happens, it is detrimental to employee morale and can lead to workplace bullying.

Cliques cause employees on the outside to feel like they are less important or worthy than those on the inside. And, that’s just bad for business. Here are the top seven reasons why workplace cliques are bad for your company.

They Don't Usually Socialize Outside Their Group

Excessive togetherness is bad for companies because those on the outside become distracted and dissatisfied with the work environment. They may even expend more energy trying to cope with the clique than they do on their actual job.

What’s more, cliques can become more about the group than they are about the company. In the end, this impacts the company’s bottom line. And it causes good employees to flee the company when they have had enough.

They Thrive When No One Addresses Their Behavior

It is important to address issues with cliques as soon as they occur. When you see something inappropriate, be sure to address it right away. But try not to overreact.

While it is important that there be unity among all workers, you want to be careful not to punish employees for having close friends at work. Be sure you know the difference between a clique and a group of friends before you step in and break them up.

They Ostracize Other Employees

One way to prevent employees from ostracizing others is to assign them to group projects instead of allowing them to choose their own groups. When you allow employees to pick their own groups, you are opening the door to workplace bullying.

Conversely, when you select the group, you are ensuring that they include those outside their circle of friends. Pre-selected groups also give employees the opportunity to learn how to work with different types of people.

Another way that workplace cliques can affect employee morale is by making a big deal out of the things they do together. For instance, cliques often laugh and share inside jokes that other employees do not get. These secrets create an unbalanced workforce because some employees are left feeling like outsiders instead of part of the team.

They Often Have Several Types of Bullies

Remember, not all bullies are the same. Some bullies are very covert and manipulative. As a result, this type of bullying is hard to recognize. Be sure you know what constitutes workplace bullying. This will help you identify workplace bullying issues within your company and help you eliminate cliques.

Cliques Often Contain Gossip, Backstabbing, and Rumor-Spreading

Nothing disrupts the work environment more than office rumor mill. As a result, be sure your employees can identify the perils of gossip and rumor-spreading in the workplace. You also should educate your employees on what constitutes workplace bullying and how they should respond when they witness bullying in the workplace. 

They Often Cyberbully

Stress to your employees the importance of thinking before posting something online. The group mentality of a clique often leads employees to take embarrassing photos and videos of other employees and post them on social media. And photos and videos are not limited to those outside the group. They may even expose members of the clique on social media. Sometimes their actions even border on workplace cyberbullying.

Be sure you are clear about your company’s policies regarding social media use. It’s also a good idea to discuss the key components of digital etiquette with your employees. Also, a discussion about what they should avoid posting online is always helpful. Employees need to realize that these guidelines apply both in the office and outside of work.

They Require Conformity

Being alike can make employees feel safe. But it also hinders productivity. People feel discouraged to think outside the box or suggest new ideas because they don’t want to rock the boat or be different. Stress to your employees that you are looking for fresh and new ideas and that you don’t want cookie-cutter approaches to problems.

Try to get them to see that you don’t want them to be like everyone else at work. Be sure they know that you value creativity and authenticity from your employees. When you do that, you will discourage the like-mindedness that holds cliques together.

A Word From Verywell

If you find yourself falling into a specific clique in the workplace, work on expanding your social circle. Spend time with people outside your normal group. Strike up conversations with new people and refuse to get caught up in speaking negatively about others.

By Sherri Gordon
Sherri Gordon, CLC is a published author, certified professional life coach, and bullying prevention expert. She's also the former editor of Columbus Parent and has countless years of experience writing and researching health and social issues.