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<i>Dear Workforce</i> What's the Answer When Employees Form Exclusive Cliques?

September 26, 2011
There are four steps to becoming a clique buster.
1. Conduct individual interviews. If possible, conduct individual interviews with concerned parties and gain a range of perspectives on people's motives, judgments and behaviors. You then potentially become the most knowledgeable (and, hence powerful) "change agent" in the system.
2. Use mixed or matrix groups. I once worked with a department in the Peace Corps in which differences in educational status, promotional jealousies and perceived favoritism contributed to departmental divisions. (See, cliques form anywhere!) The key to the turnaround was forming small problem-solving groups that cut across loyalty lines. Selected representatives—both leaders and followers—of the different clans gathered for meetings. Initially, we set aside the clique tension and discussed other organizational/operational issues affecting morale or interpersonal conflict. The process began to clear up erroneous assumptions and misunderstandings.
3. Pursue adversarial mediation. Next, meet with key antagonists: leaders of the "in group" and members of the group who feel excluded. With the Peace Corps, we had an open conflict session between the department head and a senior social worker. Not only did this clear the air, but also the other members realized that supervised venting was not going to be destructive to individuals or the team. Soon, laughter returned to the halls.
4. Have a group reunion. Once the dysfunctional schism is disrupted, and you've had another orderly meeting, you're ready for a morale- and team-building process, if not a group celebration. (Pizza parties seem to cut across all dividing lines.) With reduced fears and heightened awareness, your divisive clique just may become a newly united all-for-one, one-for-all community.

SOURCE: Mark Gorkin, The Stress Doc, Washington, D.C.
LEARN MORE: Conflicts are not unusual in the workplace, particularly when young and older workers mix.
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The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.
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