How to navigate adult cliques at work, on the playground and in social circles

How to navigate adult cliques at work, on the playground and in social circles

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How to navigate adult cliques at work, on the playground and in social circles

Mean girls and queen bees don't disappear when you graduate from high school. The adult world is ripe with cliques in both business and social situations. But how can a reasonable female navigate phoney friendships, bullying and behaviour that exclude others? Here are tips on how to successfully deal with adult cliques.

Workplace cliques

According to a 2013 survey by CareerBuilder in the U.S., 43 percent of participants reported that not only were cliques in their workplace, but they were flourishing.

Tip: Be confident
When you show that you're confident, competent and an asset at work, the office clique may realize you're an important member of the team, but that you're unafraid of standing on your own. "Cliques are all about power, so if you can demonstrate that you're somebody who's sought-after at work, they'll want to impress you," says Kimberly Moffit, a psychotherapist, relationship expert and the founder/director of KMA Therapy in Toronto.

Tip: Be friendly to everyone
It's important to display kindness and a willingness to work with everyone in your office. Bosses notice when their employees are inclusive with colleagues. "As an employer, I would rather have an employee who is willing to work with any type of person," says Moffit. "It shows their flexibility, their ability to adapt to new situations and ultimately that they have a resilient personality, as opposed to being stuck in one sort of social situation."

Tip: Don't gossip about clique members
Spreading tales about a workplace clique is a major no-no. Your words can come back to haunt you. "Rumours can go a long way in a work environment -- even right to the top," says Moffit. Being labelled as a gossip can hurt your career.

Cheryl Dellasega, relational aggression expert, author and professor at Penn State University, College of Medicine in Hershey, Pa., agrees. "Be careful with what you share or repeat," she says. Dellasega has a gossip test that she uses to figure out whether information should be passed along. "Ask yourself three questions: one, do I know that the story is true (did I get it first hand); two, is somebody going to be helped if I share this information; and three, would I say this to the person's face? If I can't say yes to those three questions, then I don't share," she says.

Cliques in the playground

Grown-up mean girls can be a common sight in the playground or at the school gate.

Tip: Go one-on-one
"Try to befriend people one-on-one," says Dellasega. Often, cliquey individuals are more willing to open up to potential acquaintances when they're not under the influence of their circle.

Tip: Adjust your schedule
If you arrive early at the school gates and receive a cool response from the other moms, adjust your schedule. "If their behaviour makes you feel bad, don't hang around," says Moffit. Avoiding cliques completely means they can't affect you.

Tip: Keep the kids out of it

If your children are friends with the sons or daughters of a cliquey mom, don't involve them. "The last thing your kids want is to deal with your mamma drama," says Moffit. "Give them a stress-free environment so they can navigate their own relationships. Don't let them witness it, and don't talk about it at the dinner table." If you need to vent, wait to discuss the situation with your husband or girlfriends once the kids have gone to bed.  

Cliques in your social circle

You love your BFF, but her other friends tend to freeze you out.

Do you mention it?
Telling your bestie that you don't like some of her friends can be tricky. Some individuals might welcome your honesty, while others could be so offended that it damages your relationship. Moffit says that you may come off as jealous, or not wanting her to be happy. "You have to make sure that your friend knows you have the best intentions," she says.

If you do decide to voice your concerns, Moffit recommends that you mention a few examples of being snubbed so your friend realizes that you're not making it up. "Instead of saying, ‘Your friends are never nice to me,' say, ‘Remember that time when I went to talk to your friend and she turned away to talk to someone else?' That's a good example of how they made you feel not part of the group," Moffit says.  Hopefully, by giving examples and stating the facts, your friend will understand your worry.

Don't expect a friend clear-out
If you tell a friend that you don't enjoy her other pals, don't expect her to dump them just because they're not appealing to you. And putting pressure on her to choose between these friends and you is asking for trouble. "It rarely works out for anyone," says Dellasega. Instead, find ways to come to terms with the situation as it stands, if not for your friend, then for your own peace of mind.

Tip: Be picky about social occasions
If you really can't stand your BFF's group of friends, limit the time you spend in their company. Arrange one-on-one time with your bestie so you don't have to share her. "If she invites you out as a group, decline and say that you'd rather hang out individually," says Moffit.

Looking to expand your social circle and meet new people? Learn how to make friends as an adult.


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How to navigate adult cliques at work, on the playground and in social circles