Who are your friends at work? Are they people you’ve known seemingly forever? Do you connect over conversations about Crossfit or how you can’t get enough of The Weeknd’s jams (even on weekdays)? Or maybe you’re food soulmates, having claimed a vegetarian corner of the office fridge and bonded over discussions about the health benefits of green juice?
That’s all great, and it’s important to have friends at work. However, when was the last time you welcomed someone new into your group, grabbed coffee, or had general chitchat with somebody other than the usual suspects? If you can’t remember, you’re probably pretty cliquey.
While having friends at work is great, being exclusive can stall your career growth and advancement. Not only that, but by associating yourself with the same people day in and day out, you miss out on all the benefits of workplace diversity.
The good news is that there’s a quick and easy fix. Here are a few signs you’re being cliquey, complete with recommendations on how to fix it without completely leaving your comfort zone.
1. You’re Part of the Coffee Crew
Each morning, at the same time, you go to the same coffee shop, with the same co-workers, where you enjoy the same toasted sesame bagel with light cream cheese and a coffee, and talk shop.
Your conversations follow the same pattern taking the form of complaining about the latest organizational changes, your ever-increasing workload, or that client you just can’t stand. Boring!
The Solution: Break Free From the Herd (Occasionally)
Choose at least one day a week to take a break from your breaks with your usual group and ask someone you don’t normally socialize with if he or she’d like to grab something. If your friends look at you funny when you say you can’t make it this morning, tell them that you want to learn more about another department (it’s true—and it’s good for your career).
2. You Gossip
You’ve heard that office gossip isn’t all bad. And when you’re around certain people you really spill—sometimes unaware that you’re crossing the line from banter to just being negative.
Sure, maybe you think you’re being discrete by only dissing your assistant’s poor spelling in whispers or your boss’ lackluster fashion behind closed doors—but your comments will definitely get around eventually. Nothing will remind people of middle school faster than the person spreading rumors—and no one wants to be reminded of middle school.
The Solution: Lead by Example
Even though you and your friends aren’t saying negative things directly to co-workers, you never know what might get back to them. The best thing to do is lead by example. Stop criticizing or gossiping about your co-workers even when you’re with your trusted friends.
Have a colleague who is always sharing the latest salacious office tidbit? Use these great responses from Muse writer Aja Frost to shut down even the most persistent gossip. The best part is that they’re phrased in such a way that you won’t come off as condescending.
3. You Play Favorites
It’s only natural to support your friends. But, have you ever bolstered your buddy’s initiatives just because you’re close? Did you ever stand behind her even when her idea was misguided or when someone else had a better one? Have you given your friend a leg up while overlooking someone who may have been more deserving?
You might just see this as being loyal, but it’s cliquey behavior through and through. (Additionally, this can have some dire business consequences.)
The Solution: Show Your Support to Everyone
If you think that you might be over-promoting your pals, take a step back and assess how you can show support to each and every person on your team. Even if your friend is deserving of preferential treatment on the basis of merit, it’s your professional duty to ensure that you have the back of everyone you work with. After all, you want everyone to support you when it’s your idea.
The workplace will always have its fair share of cliques, but you can do your part. As you strive to be a more inclusive colleague, you create the opportunities to develop new relationships that could grow into valuable friendships. With the support of these new friends, and a reputation for being a welcoming colleague, doors will open and your career will flourish.