Franny Oxford over at Do the Work blog wrote a post a while back about SHRM (aka the Society for Human Resource Management). While her post was about something completely different, she made reference to SHRM affiliated chapters being cliquish.
The comment really struck me because, during my involvement with SHRM, I’ve heard the same remark…many times. And I always walk away scratching my head about cliques, the perceptions of cliques and their relationship to teams.
I guess to understand my view, you have to know my definition of a clique. I define it as a group that excludes other people from being a part of it.
That being said, if the group doesn’t exclude you, but you don’t participate, the group isn’t being cliquish. You’re choosing not to participate. Here’s a common example: after our local chapter meetings, some of the current board, past board and anyone else who wants to hang out, will grab a drink at the bar. You decide to go home. The group at the bar isn’t a clique…they just want to hang out together.
The other comment I hear a lot is about the group having “private jokes” or “nicknames” and this means the group is a clique. Honestly, I don’t get it. When I was on the board of our local chapter, did we have private jokes…yep. Nicknames…guilty (mine is Kahuna – be sure to ask me how I got it next time you see me.) But also keep in mind, when a group of people meet at least twice a month, chat regularly on the phone and swap emails daily, they will get to know each other. They’ll learn each others’ idiosyncrasies. Jokes will form. Nicknames will happen.
On some level, you want those jokes. It helps the group become a team.
Groups deal with this balancing act all the time – wanting cohesion and camaraderie on one hand while not appearing to be a clique. I know many boards that will not allow fellow board members to sit together or talk to each other during membership meetings so no one will accuse them of cliquish behavior. It’s disappointing.
This isn’t to say cliques don’t exist, just as Franny mentions. There are organizations that don’t operate in a transparent way and blackball members simply for questioning board decisions. Those are definitely cliques (or worse) and deserve the bad reputation they get.
But for the groups that are just trying to do good work, make some contacts and have a little fun…I hope you’ll join them. It might take a little while before you get your nickname, but it will happen. And the relationships are well worth it!
Image courtesy of stevendepolo