Is This the Workplace or High School?

July 30, 2013 ( – Nearly half of offices have cliques of some kind, according to a survey.

CareerBuilder found 43% of employees said their office or workplace is populated by cliques, similar to those found in high schools. These cliques affect workplace culture in a variety of ways.

Fitting In

While only one in 10 employees (11%) said they felt intimidated by office cliques, 20% said they’ve done something they’re really not interested in, or didn’t want to do, just to fit in with co-workers. Forty-six percent in this subgroup simply went to happy hours to fit in.

But the reluctant, adaptive behavior doesn’t end there. Some other activities include:

  • Watched a certain TV show or movie to discuss at work the next day (21%);
  • Made fun of someone else or pretended not to like them (19%);
  • Pretended to like a certain food (17%); and
  • Took smoke breaks (9%).

In addition, about one in seven employees (15%) said they hide their political affiliation to fit in, 10% don’t reveal personal hobbies, and 9% keep their religious affiliations and beliefs a secret.

Bosses and Office Cliques

The survey found not all managers succeed at staying neutral. Nearly half of those workers whose workplaces have cliques (46%) said their boss is a part of clique with some of their employees.

High School Personas and Office Cliques

According to the survey, employees who fit a specific persona in high school are also more likely to be in an office clique. Survey participants were asked to describe their high school selves as one of the following stereotypical archetypes: athlete, honor society, cheerleader, drama club, geek, class clown, student government, teacher’s pet, or band/choir.

Former class clowns, geeks and athletes were the most likely to say they currently belong to an office clique in their job. Those who chose not to self-identify as fitting one of these personas were found to be the least likely to be a part of an office clique.

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

Perception of Colleagues

In stepping beyond office cliques to look at the organizational structure of entire companies, the survey found different departments were widely perceived as owning distinctive traits. Employees chose which departments best embodied the following categories:

  • Most Social: Customer Service;
  • Smartest: Information Technology;
  • Most Attractive: Sales;
  • Most Productive: Production and Quality; and
  • Most Intimidating to an Outsider: Legal.

The survey was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Interactive on behalf of CareerBuilder. The 2,999 full-time employees were polled between May 14 and June 5, 2013.