School yard politics persist at work

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A new study by CareerBuilder reveals that, for around half of us, the cliques that existed at our high school have transferred to the workplace.*

Almost half of the workers who responded to the survey (43%) said that their office was populated by cliques. In addition, one in five workers had done something that they didn’t really want to do in an effort to ‘fit in’ and one in 10 workers (11%) were intimidated by the cliques in their office.

Some of the attempts to fit in were perfectly innocuous, such as going to office drinks (46%) or watching a TV show or movie so that they could chat about it at work the next day (21%). Others were clearly more disturbing. Almost one in five (19%) admitted that they had made fun of someone else or pretended not to like them, 15% felt the need to hide their political affiliations and 9% their religious beliefs.

Interestingly, those who identified as having a stereotypical high school persona, especially those who identified as a ‘class clown’, ‘geek’ or ‘athlete’, were most likely to belong to a clique at work. Those who did not identify with any of the stereotypical high school personas, were least likely.

“Thirteen percent of workers said the presence of office cliques has had a negative impact on their career progress,” Rosemary Haefner, VP of HR at CareerBuilder, said. “While it’s human nature to associate with peers who possess similar personality types and characteristics, cliques can be counterproductive in the workplace. We see more managers using team-building activities or assembling people from different groups to work on projects to help discourage behaviours that can alienate others,” Haefner added.

However, it seems that managers aren’t always part of the solution. Nearly half of those workers in offices that have cliques (46%) said that their boss was part of one of the cliques.

*The CareerBuilder survey was conducted online in the US by Harris Interactive between May 14 and June 5 2013. Nearly 3,000 full-time, private sector workers participated.


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