You see them everywhere. They populate schools, the mall, the workplace and even places of worship. The clique is a creature onto itself. So much so, that sociologists have spent years trying to understand its nature and reasoning. In all cliques there exists one primary person, the alpha. This person is usually viewed as charismatic, attractive, and powerful. He or she has the power to strengthen or break up friendships. People usually follow this person’s lead because they feel a connection to them and in essence desire to be like them. They can be just as powerful in both positive and negative ways.
Definition of Clique
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary a clique is defined as “: a narrow, exclusive circle or group of persons; especially: one held together by common interests, views, or purposes.”
We all enjoy being in the company of like-minded people who share similar interests. Groups form automatically according to race, religion, economic class, and work, to name a few. There are cliques of vegetarians, comic book enthusiasts, television and film addicts, single people, married people, and coffee drinkers. In short, cliques are a part of the human condition. Cliques can be supporting, fun, and comforting. On the other hand, they can be a form of exclusion and rejection.
Cliques in School
By the time a child reaches junior high school, he or she faces the issue of wanting to belong. As a result, tweens and teens begin to develop close friendships with other peers. This is also a time when cliques and bullying become prevalent as everyone tries to figure out their place in the scheme of things.
It’s important for teachers and parents to know the difference between a group of closely knit friends and that of a clique. It is very common for kids to form groups of friends based on similar interests such as music, movies, books, etc. Often times when kids get older they may grow apart from old friends because of changing interests, or because they find they do not have much in common as one they once did. Sometimes kids can belong to more than one group at the same time. This is all pretty harmless. However, the real problem is when groups purposely exclude other kids. As like most other social groups, cliques can sometimes hold powerful emotional weight and use this power to bully and intimidate other kids.
Social cliques are most prevalent during adolescent years, more specifically during high school. This is a list of high school cliques. The following is a sort of high school stereotypes list. The groups are varied and may be considered by many to be either socially acceptable or socially awkward.
- Jock–they live for sports and are usually part of a group of top athletes at school.
- The Mean Girls—Members of this social group are into the latest fashions and are the first to implement them at school. They form very exclusive cliques and are usually quite popular. Their relationships are usually based on manipulation and do not have genuine friendships.
- Geeks—They are usually considered the smart ones at school and usually not fashion-conscious. So-called “geeky” interests are hobbies such as fantasy movies, role-playing games and they are considered to be quite tech savvy.
- Nerds—Are closely associated with Geeks and are smart and have superior knowledge of something, more often than not are introverted and make great grades.
- Thespians—They are funny, creative and may be described as having a strange sense of humor, which not everyone may appreciate. These teens are devoted to acting and desire to do professional theater acting. Their busy schedules mean that they spend a great deal of time perfecting their craft, rehearsing for school plays, and keeping up to date with the latest news on Broadway shows. Thespians possess a strong sense of responsibility. They are not as exclusive and are not snobby to people outside of their clicks. While in high school, they may be involved in clubs that focus on the performing arts, such as Choir or a drama club. In college, they may likely major in theater or even film.
- The Hipsters—They make a huge effort to look cool, put together and fashionable—usually vintage clothing—while making it look effortless. They see themselves as being independent from other cliques at school.
- The Outsiders are the kids who do not “fit in” with the other cliques. There are many “outsiders” who don’t feel the need to join any one group.
- Rockers—are similar to thespians in that they are devoted to creative forms of expression. In the case of rockers, it is music, particularly Rock-n- Roll. Teens in this group tend to wear band t-shirts, baggy or tight jeans, and are either listening to music, singing, writing songs, or playing an instrument. Some are probably in a band or attempting to start one.
- The Wannabes—They are always eager to fit in with other cliques, particularly the popular kids. They are devoted to fashion and dress in fashionable clothing and have striped, spiked or streaked hairstyles.
- The Popular kids—This high school cliques list would not be complete without mention of the popular kids. Not to be confused with mean girls, or the jock, teens in this clique tend to get along with just about everyone. They are not known as snobs, but can be included in with the jocks if athletics are a prime interest. Because these kids are generally liked, they often are chosen to become prom king or prom queen or class president.
- Emo Kids—These kids are closely associated with the Goth culture. Emotions are always fluctuating; they sport dark clothing, tattoos and multiple piercings. Some kids in this group may tend to be bipolar and display signs of depression. Watch for signs of self-injury such as cutting.
Sorry to disappoint you, but cliques do not end with high school graduation. Plenty of adults are either part of a clique, or on the outside looking in. Parents of school age children tend to to make their children’s lives more comfortable socially, as well as their own, by gaining acceptance from the so-called “inner circle” of parents . Sadly, parents may subconsciously send messages to their children to create cliques by excluding other children. Thus,these groups believe in creating and maintaining a sense of power and less about creating a true friendship. After all, friendships should be easy going, free and fun not manipulative, riddled with tension, and backstabbing.
Cliques are indeed difficult things to understand; however, the key ingredient to overcoming the pain that exclusion brings is to have a very deep well of self-confidence and self-acceptance. Comparing oneself to others is a sure fire way to dispel happiness, and after a while leads to a blurred perception of one’ individuality and uniqueness.
For parents, here are a few suggestions on how to combat the exclusionary tactics of the clique.
- If you are a parent, then consider being more involved with your child’s school. Join committees and school programs.
- Do not become stuck in a rut. Be open to learning new things and visiting new places. Sometimes taking a class or joining a club will introduce you to new people and possible new friendships. The truth is that if you have other genuine friends in your life, you will not miss when one or two disingenuous friends freeze you out.
- Emit an air of positivity. People naturally gravitate toward positive people.
- Don’t take cliques too seriously. Look for areas of imperfection, all people have them. See the humor in this and acknowledge that they are not perfect and not better than anyone else.
- Remember that even popular people can be deeply insecure. Sometimes being excluded from a group is simply a matter of them being intimidated by you. Try reaching out and making the first move. If this doesn’t work, well at least you tried.
- Don’t be so desperate to be part of the in crowd. Be yourself, be positive, and confident. Have some faith that eventually things will work out for the best.
Cliques at Work
After graduating from high school many are surprised and a little dismayed that cliques exist, even in the working world. Unfortunately for most, being in a clique is a form of habit. It is just human nature to want to stick with those with similar interests and attitudes. However, one does not expect this high school mentality to materialize at the office. However, according to a CareerBuilder survey over 43% of people report having cliques at their place of business. These cliques, like the ones in high school, are very tight and exclusionary. But unlike high schoolers joining a click is not as important. A company named Harris Interactive conducted a nationwide survey, which included 3,000 full-time United States workers were asked to describe how clique groups affect their office environment.
- Only about 330 of those surveyed reported having feelings of being intimidated by cliques
- 21% admitted to have watched certain television shows just so they can talk about it with others at work
- 20% have done something just be a part of a clique, even if there was no interest in the activity
- 19% made fun of or pretended not to like someone based on what the clique does
- 15% said they keep their true political beliefs from others
- 10% did not talk about their hobbies for fear of being labeled a “geek” or “nerd”
- 9% keep religious affliction and religious beliefs a secret from others
- 9% take smoke breaks, even though they are non-smokers, to fit in with an office clique
Co-author of the book Mean Girls at Work, Katherine Crowley says that cliques often exists in a corporate environment with very poor management. The types of personalities who populate exclusionary groups are usually not high company performers any way and suggest giving cliques a wide berth.
One of the down sides of workplace cliques is that it limits one’s opportunity to mix with people of different opinions. Furthermore, cliques may have negative effects on career advancement. Amy Hoover, president of the on-line job board Talent Zoo says, “It’s easy to get labeled as part of ‘that group’ and then it becomes part of your identity,” she further adds, “sometimes who you associate with is who you become to a boss or manager.”
Employers who want a productive, tolerant, and happy workplace may do well to adopt a no clique policy and set an example. This may be a bit of a challenge since half of all workplace cliques include a manager as one of its members. For employees, it may be best to become as Crowley puts it, a “non-clique role model.” For instance, inviting different co-workers to have lunch, or coffee or to go for drinks after work is a good start.
Here are a few tips for avoiding workplace cliques:
- Do not be intimidated by a clique, especially by clique leader(s), be professional and courteous at all times.
- If considering joining a clique determine whether or not doing so will harm or benefit your career. Remember, the old adage, “A man is known by the company he keeps.” Make sure the clique is worthy of your company.
- If you decide not to join a clique, try to avoid gossiping with members of a clique and stay neutral.
- Sometimes a clique may reject someone who refuses to join, and gossip about them. The best thing to do is try not to react.
- Be friendly to members of cliques without becoming friends.
- If there are certain members of a clique that you would like to be friends with, try taking opportunities to spend time with him or her separate from the rest of the clique.
- Have friends outside of work.
- Find a group of co-workers who do not take part in idle office gossip.
If your company is over populated by cliques or if cliques are making work life difficult, try to either change your attitude towards the groups or find a job at a company that offers strong leadership and management.
Cliques are truly a strange phenomenon. They can provide a sense of comfort and power for those within the group. However, for those on the outside looking in a clique can be a form of intimidation and fear and isolation. Many experts agree that cliques should be avoided and they may be right. After all, life should be about kindness and tolerance. Why choose to be part of something that encourages the opposite?