If you think you left the world of cliques behind in high school, think again. The workplace is rife with clusters of like-minded people who gather for all sorts of reasons, from the good intentioned to the nefarious. Whether you want to be swept up by righteous passion or lowered into a black pit of negativity, you’ve got choices. Of course, you could decide the price of admission -- your well-being -- to any clique is too high; in which case you are free to work on your own terms.
You're sitting alone in the lunchroom at work, peacefully enjoying your sandwich and book, when you look up and see them coming toward you. Close your book, swallow your tuna on rye and get up from your chair. Walk swiftly to the nearest exit and count yourself lucky that you weren't engulfed by the cloud of negativity and cruelty exuded by the workplace gossipers. The sole purpose of this clique is to malign, ridicule, belittle and besmirch. This group feeds on the pain of others and whether the gossip they are spreading is true or not is moot. Workplace gossips operate a clique that is easy to join but almost impossible to leave without consequences to your reputation.
Like the gossipers, the rabble-rousing clique exists to incite and foment. They justify their actions by truly believing that they are working for the good of their fellow employees and the company. What better way to elicit sympathy for your cause than to make a case that by changing this you'll get that? Most members of this clique are followers who are being shepherded into action by a leader with a vision. Rabble-rousers would be advised to do their homework though; inciting changes for the betterment of the workplace have a better chance of succeeding if they present a well-researched proposal delivered respectfully in writing rather than storming the boss's office en masse.
Toadies can be recognized by the way they scurry after the boss at every opportunity. Whether they are squealing on the gossipers or rabble-rousers, or just making sure the boss knows how hard they've been working, toadies are a clique to steer away from. If you do unwittingly make nice not knowing who they are or what they do, and then decide to distance yourself, just know that they'll be keeping an eye on you. You don't have to belong to a clique for a toady to offer you up as a sacrifice.
Every office has them; the group of employees who excel at everything. Some braniacs are loners, but some form into cliques. You might be tempted to think that this group of high-achievers would be inspiring, and to become tight with them would only enhance your own performance. That could very well be true, if they were also saints. Unfortunately, the highly intelligent mind works at a different level and speed, and unless members of this clique are encouraged by management to actively help the employees who learn at a slower pace, they prefer to hang with their own kind.
Linda Kaban is a certified yoga teacher and professional life coach who specializes in helping people achieve their fitness goals. With a bachelor's degree in the humanities, Kaban has been writing since 1998 and has been published in YOGALife magazine along with other healthy living publications.