Camaraderie and collaboration in the workplace go hand in hand with a healthy working environment. However, there is a fine line between genuine teamwork and the formation of cliques within a small team. For employers, dealing with a work clique in a small team can be challenging, and it can lead to a toxic environment. How do you deal with cliques and instead promote inclusion and a positive working environment?
Why workplace cliques form
These can be defined as small and exclusive groups of employees who all share a strong bond. They may have similar personality types, are at similar stages of their lives, share common interests and hobbies, or simply work in the same department. However, workplace cliques can also cause division and unrest within the workplace.
What are the signs of a workplace clique?
There are many different ways a clique can impact other colleagues. Some of the common signs that a clique has formed include:
- Excluding other colleagues from joining in conversations or activities.
- Gossiping or speculating about other employees or spreading rumours.
- Bullying colleagues.
Impact on staff
The impact of cliques at work on other employees can lead to feelings of exclusion which leads to a lack of motivation and productivity. They can also stifle innovation and creativity, as often a clique will share one or a limited perspective. If colleagues who perceive to be outside the clique feel that those within it are receiving praise, this could suggest favouritism from managers.
How to deal with a workplace clique
Step 1: question the perception
If you find that a workplace clique is forming, or have been informed by another member of staff, start by reflecting on the relationship that has formed. Look at whether colleagues have been excluded or if could they be misinterpreting the situation. In some instances, it could be a shared common interest that is uniting a group of staff, and it is not necessarily a clique.
Step 2: address the concerns
If you genuinely believe that the dynamic of the clique is impacting the team then it’s important to have an open and honest conversation with colleagues. Express your concerns and examples of specific incidents where others may have felt excluded. Communicating constructively often leads to a better understanding of the situation all round, and a potential solution. The members of the clique may genuinely be unaware of the impact they are having on others.
Step 3: create team-building activities
Encourage the wider team to interact and bond through shared experiences. Through team building events, you can disperse the clique and give colleagues the opportunity to interact with people they may not have engaged with previously. These can be anything from a team lunch to a fully-fledged team-building day.
Step 4: be mindful of those who feel excluded
Be sure to include those colleagues in team meetings, outings, or other events. Being inclusive and reaching out to others can help to break down barriers and create a more cohesive working and team environment.
Step 5: be empathetic
At the same time, it’s important to consider the dynamics of the clique from their perspective. They may have shared experiences or interests and be unaware of the impact they are having on others. Encourage them to open up dialogue with the wider team and include them in their activities.
Step 6: lead by example
You can set the tone for inclusivity and fairness by promoting these values in your own style of working and communication. Encourage this type of communication so that all colleagues feel they have an open opportunity to excel and make a positive contribution to the team.
Step 7: review your company values
This can be an important reminder for all staff of what your company stands for. If you don’t have any company values, it’s a good idea to establish some to ensure that all staff understand the ethos of the business. Read our guide.
Step 8: seek help from HR
If things do not improve, you may want to seek the help of your internal HR resource (or an HR consultant if you don’t have one) to mediate conflict. They can also advise on strategies to create a more inclusive working environment. They can also refer to the policies in your company handbook and how these should be applied in practice. Read our guide to creating a company handbook. We also offer 15 mins of free HR advice if you should need immediate guidance on a situation like this.
In a small team, it’s essential to address cliques at work before they become a serious source of tension and division. By practising self-awareness, open communication, and inclusivity, you can navigate these challenges – and ultimately create a harmonious workplace.