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From the Classroom to the Cubicle: High School Cliques Make Their Way to the Workplace

Office CliquesEven if it’s been years since you’ve stopped trying to make fetch happen, rallied for Donna Martin to graduate, mooned over Jake Ryan or sacrificed an entire Saturday in detention, a new study indicates that high school personas remain long after graduation – at least when it comes to the workplace.

In a nationwide CareerBuilder survey of nearly 3,000 workers, 43 percent of participants said their workplace is populated by cliques. Not only do these cliques exist, but they can affect workplace culture in a variety of ways…

Peer Pressure Persists
While only 11 percent of workers said they felt intimidated by office cliques, 20 percent of workers said they’ve done something they’re really not interested in or didn’t want to do just to fit in with co-workers, including the following:

  • 46 percent attended office happy hours
  • 21 percent watched a certain TV show or movie to discuss at work the next day
  • 19 percent made fun of someone else or pretended not to like them
  • 17 percent pretended to like a certain food
  • 9 percent took smoke breaks

Pressure to fit in also causes some workers to hide certain things, too:

  • 15 percent of workers hide their political affiliations
  • 10 percent keep personal hobbies a secret
  • 9 percent keep quiet about their religious beliefs.

Bosses and Office Cliques
Cliques may seem harmless, but according to the study, 13 percent of workers say their presence has had a negative impact on career progress. Managers aren’t helping the problem, either: Nearly half of the workers who claim their workplaces have cliques (46 percent) say their boss is in a clique him- or herself.

According to Rosemary Haefner, vice president of Human Resources at CareerBuilder, one way to counter the negative effects of cliques is to focus on team-building activities, or group projects that bring together different groups and discourage behavior that tends to alienate others.

Workers Voted Most Likely To…
Are IT workers just grown-up members of the math club? The survey also looked at how workers perceive members of different departments, and much like it is with clubs in high school, certain workplace departments are associated with specific attributes. Consider the following:

  • Customer service people are perceived as “most social”
  •  Information technology workers are perceived as “smartest”
  • Sales people are perceived as “most attractive”
  • Production & quality control workers are perceived as “most productive”
  • Legal is perceived as “most intimidating to an outsider”

You Can Take the Jock Out of High School…
Results from the survey seem to indicate that the likelihood of cliques forming in the workplace depend on how strongly workers identified with certain cliques in high school. Former self-described “class clowns,” “geeks” and “athletes”, for instance, were the most likely to say they belong to an office clique today. Meanwhile, participants who chose not to self-identify as fitting a certain stereotypical high school archetype are the least likely to be a part of an office clique.

And now for a very special message from the cast of Saved by the Bell.

Mary Lorenz

About Mary Lorenz

Mary is a copywriter for CareerBuilder, specializing in B2B marketing and corporate recruiting best practices and social media. In addition to creating copy for corporate advertising and marketing campaigns, she researches and writes about employee attraction, engagement and retention. Whenever possible, she makes references to pop culture. Sometimes, those references are even relevant. A New Orleans native, Mary now lives in Chicago, right down the street from the best sushi place in the city. It's awesome.
1 comments
BrianBeecher
BrianBeecher

This study about office cliques is oh...so true, even to the point where it can destroy one's own career.  In fact a book I wrote titled JUDAS TIMES SEVEN illustrates this quite vividly.  It is a story which marries fiction with fact to elaborate on how, in today's workplace, office politics and political correctness trump reason and petty jealousies can and often do lead to real-world consequences.

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