43% of employees say that their office is dominated by cliques. Cliques are groups that develop exclusive social practices.
Cliques are a barrier to unlocking cognitive diversity because they silo people, communication and ideas.
For those outside cliques, alienation can damage psychological safety and reduce their contribution and collaboration.
Within cliques, cognitive diversity is at risk since cliques can incubate a tight set of values and practices that don’t get challenged.
Between cliques, there can exist an us-and-them mentality that gets in the way of knowledge sharing and meaningful cooperation.
💁♀️ How to build a socially inclusive environment
Let’s look at the top 5 ways to build a socially inclusive environment at the workplace:
Ensure there is a rigorous onboarding process where new staff members are made aware of the organization’s mission to achieve an inclusive environment.
💬 Ensure existing staff members are active in this process. Watch bridges grow by suggesting introductory coffee chats and drawing different types of colleagues into easygoing conversations around the office.
Split up the cliques and assign fresh sets of team members to different projects until everyone has had the opportunity to work with each other.
💬 This also benefits individuals in tight-knit teams that don’t speak out for fear of rocking the boat and undermining relationships that depend on fixed sets of values.
Host a social lunch or walk during work hours to increase the likelihood that colleagues with different lifestyles and commitments can attend.
💬 This can be particularly effective with employees who may not be willing to give up out of work hours.
If your attention is drawn to a situation where a group of team members are excluding other employees – address it by suggesting they invite their other colleagues.
💬 Don’t tell them off. We often don’t recognize our own clique-like behavior. Talk to the individuals and ask them to open up their social group and become more aware of individuals who may feel left behind.
It’s natural to want to be surrounded by people who are similar to you and have similar interests.
💬 Encourage them to talk to someone they haven’t spoken to before. Put them in a situation where they need to work closely with someone they have nothing in common with.
✊ You’re only as reliable as your consistency
It’s important that as a leader you are consistent with your policy and attitude and that you walk the walk yourself.
Regularly review. Create a routine where you assess whether the actions you have implemented have been effective.
Crowdsource ideas. Ask your colleagues for feedback and suggestions for your goal of fostering a socially inclusive test.
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The bottom line?
Socially excluded individuals are more likely to feel uncomfortable with bringing their opinion to the table as they may not feel as valued as other employees. Employers must ensure that inclusive values are practiced.