Is the workplace the new high school in terms of cliques?

Many people say yes and that their workplace might as well be the 13th grade

Ah, high school. School dances, weekend house parties and making friendships that you thought would last forever. Not to mention the football games, puppy love and the prospect of  heading off to college or the work world.

But for some, high school wasn't a happy time and a lot of that has to do with the cliques, or in-crowds, that were formed during those years.

In every high school there are the cool kids, who can be the athletes, the fashion-savvy or just the most attractive. Then there are people on the outside of that cool circle, who maybe haven't developed the confidence or social skills to make their presence known.

And sometimes, there's no rhyme or reason as to why certain cliques develop -- they just do. In some instances, the cool kids will simply choose who else they want to be cool and popular, forcing the rest of the students to fend for themselves socially.

Then of course you have those extremely weird kids, who actually go to school to learn and do well. Go figure.

On and on and on....

PhotoBut thank goodness all of that ends once you finish the twelfth grade, right? Wrong, say the folks at Harris Interactive, who conducted a survey for CareerBuilder on cliques in the workplace.

According to the survey, 43% of workers say their office or workplace is run by cliques and oftentimes those cliques resemble the ones in high school.

In addition, 20% of workers said they've participated in something they had no interest in, just to fit in and be accepted in the workplace.

For example, have you ever been invited to happy hour after work and you went, even though you had no desire to hang out with the people you've seen all week for at least 40 hours?

Or have you ever signed up for a weekend activity of some sort, even though you were dying to spend time with your family?

If the answer is yes, you're not alone because 46% said they've done things like going to happy hour just to fit in. And they've done other stuff too.

The urge to fit in

Results show that 20% of workers said they've participated in something they had no interest in just to be part of a work clique, 21% said they've watched a certain TV show or movie just to be part of the discussion at work and 19% said they've made fun of someone else or pretended not to like them in order to fit in.

In addition, the survey showed that 17% of workers pretended to like a certain food and 9% took smoke breaks and puffed on cigarettes even though they didn't smoke. Again -- just trying to fit in and make their work experience better.

The boomerang effect

PhotoBut Rosemary Haefner, vice president of Human Resources at CareerBuilder, said trying to fit into a clique could have the opposite effect and make your job even harder.

"Thirteen percent of workers said the presence of office cliques has had a negative impact on their career progress," said Haefner.  "While it's human nature to associate with peers who possess similar personality types and characteristics, cliques can be counterproductive in the workplace. 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."

Janie Harden Fritz, an associate professor of communication and rhetorical studies at Duquesne University, who wasn't involved with the survey, said people will typically choose a clique at the workplace once they find out how the inner politics work.

"The question is where [do] you want to belong," said Fritz in an interview with The Baltimore Sun. "Maybe there is a work group that works quite hard and doesn't complain. Maybe there is a group that's cynical and creates a community of complaint that's really tempting to be sucked into."

In addition, Fritz says becoming a part of a work clique can be a dangerous and slippery slope, because if a problem arises within that clique, it'll only make things hard for you.

Life beyond work

Fritz says it's far better to put focus on your home life.

"Having a life outside of work is important," she noted. "If you get on the outs with people at work -- at least [you can say] I have a life outside of work."

Krystal D'Costa, of the blog Anthropology in Practice, says wanting to be part of a clique has a lot to do with self-validation.

"We're programmed to do this," she said in an interview with Bloomberg"We need a sense of security in whatever setting we're in, and we like to form little networks of people that allows us to define ourselves in the world around us."

Other findings in the CareerBuilder survey show that one out of seven people keep their political affiliation to themselves at work, to avoid being ousted from a clique. And 10% won't reveal what their personal hobbies are.

Plus, 9% choose not to say anything about their religious beliefs in fear of not being able to be part of a group.

And lastly, 17% of workers who consider themselves introverts, say they're part of a clique; 27% of extroverts say the same thing. 

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