Cliques exist in all organizations – sometimes they are obvious and at other times it is underground. Let’s be clear, not all cliques are bad, but cliques can impact your career trajectory.

Career Builder sponsored a 2013 nationwide survey conducted by Harris Interactive asking U.S. workers about how cliques impact work culture. The results may surprise you – only 11% of respondents feel intimidated by cliques. However, the impact of cliques cannot be ignored – 20% of the respondents said they had done something they were not really interested in or did not want to do just to fit in.

Some of the activities that respondents felt pressured into doing included:

  • Attending happy hours (50%)
  • Watching specific TV shows (21%)
  • Making fun of someone else or pretending not to like them (19%)
  • Liking similar foods (17%)
  • Partaking in smoke breaks (9%)

There are situations where people hide something to fit in. The results of this survey indicated that 15% of the respondents hid their political affiliation, 10% don’t discuss their personal hobbies and 9% keep their religions affiliations and beliefs private.

The power of cliques in an organization varies – there are factors that influence it. How strong and consistent is the organization’s culture? Is the culture built on positive principles?

For example, cliques survive when the organization’s culture is weak and negative. Cliques may form to maneuver the system or to offer a network of support for pushing ideas through because the current culture doesn’t have a system that is effective. The clique exists to build alliances and strength in numbers.

So what do you do when a strong clique threatens career trajectory or your ability to advance your career? You know the clique is the power house in the organization – does it make sense for you to apart of it? Think long and hard about it because once you are associated with the clique it is hard to extract yourself from it.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • What are the intentions of the clique?
  • Does this organization’s culture offer other ways to support your intentions?
  • Do the clique’s beliefs align with your beliefs?
  • What are the pros and cons of joining the clique?
  • What are the short and long-term effects of being part of this clique?
  • Can I co-exist with the clique without being a part of it?
  • What happens to people who have joined and then are shunned?
  • If you move up the management ladder, how will your relationship change?

As you work through some of these questions, you will know if joining the clique or if this organization is the right choice for your career trajectory.