“I’m sorry that people are so jealous of me, but I can’t help it that I’m so popular.” –
Gretchen, Mean Girls
Does your workplace have a clique problem? A clique is a close group of co-workers who socialize both during and after work. They may form a corporate subculture with inside jokes, and rules about dress codes or who is allowed to speak to whom.
Of course, not all cliques are bad. Many of them welcome new members and use the social relationships to challenge themselves to work every bit as hard as they play. Cliques become a problem when they start using the power of their group to gang up on and bully other co-workers, to spread gossip and rumors that create an atmosphere of fear and bad feelings, or to interfere with the office workflow.
If you have a toxic clique in your office, it’s time to take action.
1. Foster an atmosphere of inclusiveness. Emphasize to your team that everyone’s contribution is important. Get in the habit of cross-training employees so that every employee is exposed to people from other departments.
2. Choose your battles. Cliques can get into some incredibly petty arguments about issues like who gets to use the office copier first or who sits where at lunch. It’s better to ignore these minor squabbles. After all, you’re a boss, not a grade school lunch monitor.
3. Have a word with the Queen (or King) Bee. Speak privately to the leader of the clique and explain that the clique is becoming a problem in the workplace. Ask them to use their influence over their group to help you resolve the matter as diplomatically and peacefully as possible.
4. Discipline members of the clique when appropriate. If a member of the clique behaves in a way that violates the organization’s standards of employee conduct, don’t hesitate to sanction the offender. Examples of clique behavior that might warrant discipline include
·         Making sexual remarks or gestures intended to make another employee uncomfortable
·         Verbal abuse such as screaming or name-calling
·         Physical abuse like tripping or pushing
·         Corporate sabotage by refusing to cooperate with other employees to get work completed
·         Excessive episodes of tardiness or absence from work
5. Split the clique up. As a last resort, you may need to separate one or more members of the clique. Perhaps you could send the leader to work in a satellite office for a few months, or you could transfer the members of the clique to different departments.
Negative cliques can be difficult to deal with, but don’t allow them to fester. As soon as you see signs that a clique is causing trouble among your employees, take action. This will not only put a stop to the clique that is causing the trouble, it will also serve as a warning to other potential cliques that you will not tolerate bad behavior

Author's Bio: 

Lisa Rezac is Vice President of Instruction for the Western region at the Leaders Institute http://www.leadersinstitute.com, a soft-skills training company focusing on team building, public speaking and leadership development. She is based in Seattle, Washington and covers the West coast but also travels nationwide for her clients.