It is natural for people to form groups at work. They group and bond with others who share similar backgrounds, interests and job functions among other reasons. Usually these groups are formed with good intentions but as time goes on these groups could evolve into cliques and if they do the effects can be damaging to the health and prosperity of an organization.
These cliques become especially disruptive to the harmony of the organization in two primary areas:
1) When new people join
Companies invest a lot of money in finding new talent. When new talent is treated like an outsider their ramp up time and their ability to meaningfully contribute will be prolonged. They might even give up and quit before you are able to benefit from their skills.
2) Between departments
When an organizations departments are divided against each other they are not working together to move the organization forward. Instead they are competing against each other to claim their status within the organization. This most commonly happens when one department thinks another is beneath them.Tips for leaders to encourage harmony throughout the organization:
Model the behavior
Evaluate how you talk about and mingle within the different departments and how you treat new hires who join the organization. Don’t tolerate cliquish behavior, instead coach those who demonstrate it or let them go.
Spread your attention throughout the entire organization
Spend time with all the departments instead of the one or two you may gravitate towards.
Encourage cross-departmental teams
When forming project teams select members from across the organization and chose different people every time.
Create spaces that encourage people to mingle
Build a central kitchen or lounge area and encourage the organization to use it. People bond over food and drink, providing them with places to go will provide mingling opportunities.
Create a cross-departmental peer mentoring program
Assign tenured staff as mentors to new hires for their first 30, 60 or 90 days. Pair someone from sales with someone from operations or someone in IT with someone in finance. The mentor doesn’t need to be someone in their department or with a similar role.
Cliques, if left unchecked, become a cancer over time. Your organization will suffer casualties along the way in terms of lost talent, lost clients, lost revenue and a loss to the competition. When people in an organization are more focused on belonging to a clique than they are about their shared identity and purpose the organization will begin to decay. These tips will help you create the harmony and cohesion needed to beat the competition.