Why cliques are ok

Breaking into social groups, at work and outside, is not something that’s new. It’s been happening from the beginning of time. It’s natural to want to connect to similar genders, race, religions, expertise, and passions. As Professor Robin Dunbar explains; ‘We share a similar mental model of the world’.

What we also connect with is common values and beliefs. Now this is the fascinating one for me. How we see the world is shaped by what we believe. Who should be in government and whether they are doing a good job or not or whether they should exist at all? Whether there is an existence outside of our humanity, whether it’s God or gods or aliens. Even the role we play in supporting our communities or supporting ourselves. We all believe what we should be doing or thinking.

We also have beliefs and values at work. Beliefs about decisions made, who should lead, who’s the cool people and who doesn’t carry their weight. And do you know what? You’ll tend to gravitate to those who you agree with.

When we hear beliefs that we agree with we get a rush of dopamine. When we hear beliefs we don’t like, our stress hormones are increased. We have a strong hormonal reaction (that’s not about genders – we all have hormones) to all beliefs shared and held.

I noticed this last week when I was on holiday with my mate Matt, and we were talking about the role of the monarchy. We had different views. I could feel my stress hormone getting into defence. It’s so weird why we need to defend our views isn’t it? Why does everyone need to agree with me? Who made me the knower of all things?

It’s cool to have a conversation but why does it need to challenge us so much?

That’s why the optimists often stay together, or the gossipers. They agree with each other. We like echo chambers. We become the ‘yep yeps’. Yep I agree. Yep I like that. Yep we should do that. 

The harm of cliques is when they fragment our workplaces where we make one right and another wrong. It’s uncomfortable for us to disagree so it can be easier to stay in places where we do agree with each other.

Is there growth in that? For you or the teams around you? You can answer that one.

PS If you lead teams, business units, organisations or people and culture you might be interested in attending our FREE event about our Working as One culture program. For more details visit https://canwetalk.co/events