HR BLOG: Could cliques be damaging your business and staff morale

Colleagues getting along and working in teams is an ideal scenario for employers.

That is until a clique forms and uses your business as its headquarters.

A clique is a small exclusive group of people, which may also be referred to as a gang or posse. Their workplace chatter can be through the roof meaning that productivity takes a serious hit. And as their bonds to each other grow, their judgment may be impaired so that they cover their mates for bad behaviour at the expense of the company or other colleagues.

So it is easy to see how the exclusivity of these groups can be damaging to workplace culture. And with favouritism or even discrimination at play, those being excluded can be subject to bullying.

This can be deeply upsetting and harmful for the person on the receiving end. It can affect performance at work and lead to increased absences. It can also create bigger problems for you if you are aware of exclusion or bullying and fail to intervene.

All employees have the right to a healthy and safe working environment, and the success of your business depends on their ability to work well. So if a clique or cliques are gaining momentum in your business, it’s time to overrule.

How to take down the clique

Here are a few tactics you can use to counter the clique, according to the nature of your business.

Observe and identify

You may have the suspected ringleader in your sights and be one step away from storming down the warpath. But before you act, we must stress the importance of gathering the facts prior to making your first move.

Impulsive actions, in the absence of facts, can cause problems. So whilst you may think you have identified a clique, you could be about to rumble an innocent group of work friends.

We suggest taking a moment to observe and collect information. Look out for specific “cliquey behaviour” such as exclusiveness, rumour spreading, group negativity towards others and even cyberbullying. Be sure to document your findings, as this will help you to plan your next steps.

Level-up your senior staff

If, after your investigations, it appears that you do have a toxic clique to contend with, it’s time to level up your senior staff. This is because a clique growing in power can be the sign of ineffective management.

With adequate training, your managers can learn to spot the signs of an emerging clique and act accordingly. Give them guardianship of your company culture and explain the damage that cliques can cause to morale and the work environment. If you suspect that a manager or member of senior staff is involved in a clique themselves, have a private conversation with them about their own professional development.

Divide and divert

Whilst clique members might argue that they are “working as a team”, they have not quite grasped the purpose of teamwork. Rather than divide and conquer, we think it’s a good idea to divide and then divert their attention. Seek opportunities for employees to work with colleagues they have not collaborated with in the past. This can even be across departments or to utilise their specialisms for a wider team-building initiative.

If an employee objects to working with their designated partner, it’s time to intervene. Talk to them to find out what’s really going on and seek a resolution. This process can instigate some difficult conversations. Ask us if you have questions.

Champion individualism

Cliques can encourage copycat behaviour as members fear betraying the group. Some people even lie to join the in-crowd, hiding their true selves, opinions and beliefs. Maintaining this charade can be wearing on a person and affect their psychological well-being and performance at work. They may even decide to leave, putting you at risk of losing good employees.

A way to counteract cliquey copycats is to champion individualism. You can do this by celebrating unique thinking and welcoming opinions from all employees. Why not try offering a training incentive for those that contribute ideas? This can encourage employees to think individually and about how they can work on their own career progression.

Need help managing cliques?

If, after reading this, you think you can identify a clique that is running out of control in your business, get in touch. We’ll help you draw up and execute a plan to get your team working harmoniously again.