Cliques! Do I Have To Socialize At Work?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about promotion of favored coworkers :

I have been working for a company for over 4 years now. From my first day at work, I noticed that there were several cliques amongst the group I worked with, none of which were the least bit welcoming to an outsider. These cliques consisted of management and co-workers who also were very close friends. I have always thought that to remain professional in the workplace, one had to remain somewhat at a distance when it came to personal relationships. I’m not saying you shouldn’t share some personal stories with each other; I just don’t think management should participate in extracurricular activities with subordinates such as golfing, parties, dinners, etc. Am I wrong?

We recently went through a re-organization, and it seems those who had personal relationships with management got the promotions and raises. I am a very hard worker who produces excellent results, yet because I chose not to have a personal relationship outside of work, it has caused me to be left behind. How can you have a personal relationship with someone you really don’t have anything in common with outside of work?

Also, in my group, my supervisor favors one lady in the group. I personally think they are having an affair, and this is why this untalented person gets him to spoon feed her every morsel of information she needs to get her job done while I get told by the same supervisor to learn on my own. She cannot get anything done on her own without his undivided attention and assistance. How can I get my head boss to separate these two or at least get him to stop helping her so the truth of her lacking any skills can be brought to light?

Signed, Life Can’t Be That Unfair, Can It?

Dear┬áLife Can’t Be That Unfair, Can It?:

Job competence matters, but working relationships are also political. Consequently, those who enjoy each other socially are naturally favored when it comes to promotions. Is that the way it should be? No. Finding co-workers with whom one has something in common happens all the time. Cliques happen around common likes for music, smoking, golf, you name it. Is it beneath you to feel left out? No. Should you lower yourself to be like the rest–seeking something in common outside of your work with your co-workers? Perhaps. Or at least find something outside of your workplace that makes you feel good–singing in a choir, taking an art class, dancing, workouts, yoga.

You are more than your job. Are there other ways to fit in and for your good work to be acknowledged? Yes. How? Begin to think beyond your job. Think like a manager or owner. What might you do to bring praise to your organization? What might delight internal or external customers? What might cut wasted supplies, time, and energy? What might you do to make others’ jobs easier? And what do you see in others that deserve support and praise?

Remember that not only is another’s name the sweetest sound in the English language, but also praising someone is akin to urging a course of action. So is it possible for you to commend someone when what she/he has done merits a word of praise?Do you see ways that your work group might work together more cooperatively? It appears you do because you are annoyed about the help your supervisor gives this one particular co-worker and then tells you to learn it on your own. So is there a way to initiate transforming your and others’ working solo to working as a team? Probably not alone.

But you can bait your supervisor by saying, “Other supervisors have done so. Here are some examples.” The Internet site Winning Workplaces has many examples, and you could copy some of them and give them to your supervisor. Then after a day, ask him what might be ways your workplace could be more like those places. See what I mean? See yourself as a change agent or at least as a one to spur your supervisor to see his job as being a change agent. I have copied just a few examples below from one of the Newsletters of that site. Also their Directory has a couple of dozen references of resources, some of which you might find of particular interest.

And put your resentment about your supervisor way back in the back of your mind and if possible out of your mind. Thoughts of resentment toward him undoubted creep into your face and behavior and that ain’t good. Rather do your job. Learn on your own if necessary. Try not to be obsessed about his spoon-feeding Ms. I Can’t Do and rather focus on yourself being known as Ms. I Can Do.

If the supervisor/Ms. Can’t Do’s closeness escalates or de-escalates, let it. Rather, focus on ways to make your supervisor’s job easier and making him look good. Do these thoughts make sense? If so, after giving them a fair try, please let us know what works and what doesn’t. Try thinking WEGO and acting WEGO.

The excerpt from Winning Workplaces follows: Winning Workplaces Ideas eNewsletter, Vol. 1, No.1 July 19, 2002 From the CEO’s eDesk: In the last few months, it has been difficult to ignore the headlines about corporate responsibility, business ethics, and the public’s shrinking confidence in corporate leaders. At the same time, the current economic climate is forcing many small employers to make hard choices, in some cases cutting employee benefits to save costs. That makes it even more important than ever to improve the workplace and the morale of employees.

In this inaugural issue of our eNewsletter, Winning Workplaces, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping small and midsize employers create great workplaces, spotlights businesses and research showing the direct correlation between good people practices and improved productivity and profitability. We can help you create a great workplace that’s “better for people; better for business” through our practical, easy-to-use, and low-cost ideas based on the six Building Blocks of employee-friendly workplaces: Trust, Respect and Fairness; Open Communications; Rewards and Recognition; Learning and Development; Teamwork and Involvement; and Work/Life Balance.

I hope that you will find Winning Workplaces Ideas relevant and useful for your own workplace. Enjoy! Jill Wine-Banks, CEO Winning Workplaces Success Stories How does the small, high-tech Vis.align maintain employee loyalty despite company layoffs? By protecting employee benefits, such as paternity and bereavement leave, in tough economic times. From the start, Jennifer Horrocks, CEO of Vis.align, intended to build a company that treats employees and clients with equal respect. Smart people practices, Horrocks believes, can differentiate a company from its competitors – and contribute to better customer service. “We want to provide a workplace that allows you to do more than just collect a paycheck,” says Horrocks. Read more about Vis.align at: Read more Success Stories at:

Competitive Advantages of Good People Practices Did you know that workplaces with employee-friendly practices return shareholder value two times higher than workplaces with little or no employee friendly benefits? (Human Capital Index┬«, Watson Wyatt 2002). Read more at: Companies with low employee satisfaction have double the turnover rate as compared with companies with highly satisfied employees. What’s more, for each hourly employee that resigns, it costs the company about a half-year’s salary of that employee. (The Retention Dilemma, The Hay Group 2001). Read more at: Quote of the Month “It appears that the old aphorism ‘people are our most important asset’ is actually true. Compelling evidence suggests that organizational success comes more from managing people effectively than from attaining large size, operating in a high-growth industry, or becoming lean and mean through downsizing-which, after all, puts many of your most important assets on the street for the competition to employ.”

Jeffrey Pfeffer, author of Hidden Value: How Great Companies Achieve Extraordinary Results with Ordinary People (Harvard Business School Press 2000). To purchase this book, click to: Tool Kits Over the next several months Winning Workplaces will be offering more Tool Kits. Thirty-six are available right now, for purchase either individually or as a complete set. To order, please click: Employee-friendly Tip of the Month With summer officially here, implement a summer work schedule. Schedules can vary and one arrangement might be: start work an hour early Monday-Thursday, and knock off Friday afternoon. A summer schedule lets employees get a head start on the weekend and helps them keep a balance between work and family needs, and it costs your organization little or nothing.

New Books, Articles and Research The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, by Patrick M. Lencioni, Jossey-Bass, March 2002. List Price: $22 Ranked #10 on Business Week’s Best Seller List (July 15, 2002) this book tells the story of fictional “Kathryn,” CEO of a high-tech firm, as she faces the challenges of organizing a healthy and functional team to run the business. The book uses vignettes to illustrate key problems that teams face, such as lack of trust, and solutions to overcome these problems. Included are questionnaires that readers can use to evaluate their own workplace teams. Read more on this book and order it by clicking: Downsized Companies Use Team-Building Exercises to Boost Morale, Stem Worries, by Michael Kinsman, The San Diego Union-Tribune, July 06, 2002. Read more articles on teambuilding at: Coping With National Crisis: The Employer’s Family Support Toolkit, Family Support at Work Leadership Roundtable, January 2002.

Don’t let the title of this resource mislead you, the report not only addresses how employers can help employees cope with a national crisis but also how they can help workers deal with all kinds of stress, including domestic violence and personal crisis. Read more on this report at: Visit our Library at: Winning Workplaces Events We are scheduling presentations for fall-winter 2002/03 right now. To book a Winning Workplaces presentation for your organization, please send your request to or phone us at 847-328-9798.

Please be sure to include information on your organization including your address and phone number, the size of your audience, and the date(s) you would like the presentation. To learn more about where Winning Workplaces will appear next, please click: Please share Winning Workplaces Ideas eNewsletter with your friends and colleagues. Please contact Mary Ebeling, editor, with comments and suggestions on Winning Workplaces or if you would like to contribute to subsequent issues. Winning Workplaces is a not-for-profit organization providing information, training, ideas, consulting, and easy-to-use, affordable tools to help small and midsize organizations create great workplaces. The business experience of our founders and evidence from other companies prove that people-friendly workplaces produce better business results.

William Gorden