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Are Bosses Encouraging Office Cliques?

office argument . / Credit: Office Fight Image via Shutterstock

In some ways, the workplace isn't much different from high school, a new study finds. Research from CareerBuilder found that more than 40 percent of U.S. employees said their office is filled with cliques.

How much weight those cliques carry, however, is still up for debate. Although office cliques intimidate only one in 10 workers, 20 percent said they've done something they really were not interested in doing, such as going out for happy hour, just to fit in with co-workers.

The reluctant, adaptive behavior doesn't end there. Other activities employees admitted doing in an attempt to fit in include watching a certain TV show or movie to discuss it at work the next day, making fun of someone else or pretending to not like him or her, pretending to like certain food and taking smoke breaks.

In addition, about one in seven respondents said they hide their political affiliation in order to fit in, 10 percent don't reveal personal hobbies and 9 percent keep their religious affiliations and beliefs a secret.

Overall, 13 percent of workers said the presence of office cliques has had a negative impact on their career progress, said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder.

"While it's human nature to associate with peers who possess similar personality types and characteristics, cliques can be counterproductive in the workplace," Haefner said.

The study also found that a factor contributing to the problem is that some bosses are participating in the cliques, instead of trying to quell them. Nearly half of the employees whose workplaces have cliques said their manager is a part of an office clique. 

However, some supervisors are taking steps to discourage the behavior, Haefner said.

"We see more managers using team-building activities or assembling people from different groups to work on projects to help discourage behaviors that can alienate others," she said.

The research discovered that workers who fit a specific persona in high school were also more likely to be in an office clique. Employees who described themselves as "class clowns," "geeks" and "athletes" in high school were the most likely to say they belong to an office clique at their workplace today.

Additionally, 17 percent of employees who consider themselves to be introverts are members of an office clique, compared with 27 percent of extroverts.

The study was based on surveys of nearly 3,000 full-time, private-sector U.S. workers.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.