Is 'Fitting In' the New Office Trend?

Is 'Fitting In' the New Office Trend?

This post originally appeared on MainStreet.

Much like in high school, peer pressure on the job can cause workers to mock others, drink alcohol and even smoke, according to a new study.

About 43% of workers noted that cliques persist at the office with 20% saying they've done something they didn't want to do just to fit in with co-workers, according to a CareerBuilder survey.


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"It's human nature to associate with peers who possess similar personality types and characteristics, but cliques can be counterproductive in the workplace," says Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilder's vice president of human resources.

As it happens, 17% of workers who consider themselves to be introverts are members of an office clique compared to 27% of extroverts with 13% citing the presence of office cliques as having a negative impact on their career progress.

While 11% felt intimidated by office cliques, 46% in this subgroup only went to happy hours to fit in, 21% watched a certain TV show or movie to discuss at work the next day, 19% pretended not to like a co-worker, 15% hid their political affiliation and 17% pretended to like certain food.

Workers who fit a specific persona in high school are also more likely to be in an office clique. When participants were asked to describe their high school selves as jock, honor society, cheerleader, drama club, geek, class clown, teacher's pet or in the band/choir, former class clowns, geeks and athletes were most likely to say they currently belong to an office clique in their job today. Resondents who chose not to self-identify are the least likely to be a part of an office clique.

"We see more managers using team-building activities or assembling people from different groups to work on projects to help discourage behaviors that can alienate others," said Haefner.

But the survey found that staying neutral on the job is a challenge even for managers. Nearly half of respondents whose workplaces have cliques say their boss is a part of a clique with some employees.

Within the organizational structure of entire companies, the survey found that different departments are widely perceived as owning distinctive traits. They include customer service as the most social, IT as the smartest, sales as the most attractive and legal as the most intimdidating to an outsider.

5 Tips for Overcoming Cliques on the Job

1. Dismantle a Clique by Ignoring It

Never give a clique any reinforcement by refusing to acknowledge it. Cliques feed off attention even if it's negative. Acting oblivious when the clique gathers around the water cooler to whisper will cause its members to feel their insecurities.

2. Be Dismissive

Clique members question their stature when co-workers refuse to follow their cues. With the wave of your hand, dismiss any mention of a brand of shoes, a job offer, sunglasses or popular vacation spot.

3. Refuse to Engage in Slander

Walk away when the clique speaks badly of co-workers. This will signal your disapproval without confrontation.

4. Create Your Own Positive Clique

Surround yourself with like-minded co-workers. Find others on the job who don't drink, smoke or gossip in order to support your choice to abstain.

5. Forgive

Members of closed cliques lose out in the end because their small minds prevent them from adapting, growing and learning from outsiders.

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