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  • Linda R. Taliaferro

What Can We Learn From Cliques in the Workplace

Have you ever faced a clique in your workplace? You know, that group of insiders who go to lunch together every day and seem to be on the inside of every project? I’ve had clients who get really dejected about cliques. They feel that if they’re not in the clique, they’re not going to get promoted or get the next-level opportunity they’re after because it’s only going to people “in the group.”

I want to challenge that notion of the “insider” group for a minute here today.

The unspoken assumption is that if you’re not in the clique, you’re excluded. But thinking like this essentially means you’re excluding your own self before this group of people can even try. People who think this way immediately give up on their own growth. Don’t jump into the “clique” narrative feet first, because that line of thinking can translate into a lack of growth in our own career. I prefer to think about it in the sense that these people have leveraged a social group based on relationships. If you’ve read my other work, you’ll know that I think networks and relationships are some of the most important things to growing your career.

Now, I’m not naïve. I know that there are groups of people at companies who might leave, and bring others in their group with them. I’m an African American woman. There isn’t an organization I’ve been hired at where I knew someone on the inside, but I intentionally developed a strategy to build relationships that have made a big difference in my career.

So the clique narrative re-framed becomes: how can I create a positive social circle that encourages growth, rather than fixating on the idea of a social group that excludes me? Don’t let your assumptions about a group preclude you from success.

Put together a strategic framework to support you in your ladder climb. I wrote the Seven Keys to Success with exactly this framework in mind. But it requires you to recognize and address your own negative self-talk and get it out of your brain. Let go of obsessing over cliques and focus more on implementing your growth plan. Free yourself from a negative mindset.

Working from home can make these feelings even worse, can’t it? I’ve met people who are feeling so hopeless that they don't even want to get out of bed. Without drop-by meetings and face time, it feels like the cliques are only going to get more powerful. I answer those feelings by reminding my clients that words have power. If you continue to think an endless cycle of negative self-talk, that pessimistic outcome is exactly what’s going to happen.

Re-frame your thinking. Cultivate your network, leverage relationships, and don’t worry about being in the clique. Lay your game plan out and focus on generating your plan rather than dwelling on whose lunch table you’re going to sit at.

If you're struggling to find your place in your company, let's connect! Put a one-on-one with me on your calendar and let’s get you a seat at that table.

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