Good girlfriends are hard to find. Consider yourself fortunate if you have a trusted group of friends who genuinely love, support and are loyal to each other. A circle of trust is a gift. The problem begins when that group of friends intentionally isolate other women – that's when the circle becomes a clique.
We've all experienced the intoxicating draw of a clique. The exclusivity. The close-knit friendships and the secrets. The feeling of being part of something special. However, we've all seen "Mean Girls," so we know that cliques aren't necessarily all they are cracked up to be. Aside from the obvious downfalls illustrated in the film, there are more subtle repercussions associated with forming cliques in the workplace or other social areas of your life. Here are four ways that cliques might be a hindrance, rather than a help.
Cliques Isolate Other Women
First, cliques exclude people. They isolate the new girl at work. They cut out the ladies from the other department. They ignore the new person at yoga class. Most obviously, this makes people feel like crud. Less obviously, these are people who otherwise could potentially be your new best friend! No one likes to be alone and on the outside. We've all been there and it doesn't feel good. Remember that next time you find yourself on the inside.
Second, women are already getting isolated and marginalized enough without also doing it to one another. It's a tough world out there for the ladies. In the workplace, you have trouble being taken seriously, at after-work gatherings your ideas are all but ignored, and in the boardroom you have to choose your words wisely so you don't come across bossy. Knowing all women are faced with the same issues, why would you want to make it more difficult for your fellow gal?
Cliques Encourage a Gossip Culture
It's all too easy for a clique to spiral downwards into gossipy, mean-girl culture. We get it, it happens and perhaps the negativity isn't on purpose. But what happens next? You're playing straight into the typical stereotypes associated with women. In the workplace, this can be detrimental to your career. Outside of work, it will affect your social life.
When this culture is propagated, women work together less often. They start to dislike and distrust each other, and will ultimately begin to compete. Women become less approachable and less likely to have meaningful relationships with other women. So try to avoid the downward spiral to begin with and disband the clique before it begins.
Cliques Suppress Originality
Within cliques, it is common for members to start becoming more like each other, less able to express their own originality, and less prone to unique thought or quirky behavior. Original thought or behavior is likely to be squashed by other members. And when there's social pressure involved, it's even more difficult to be original and have your voice heard. Once again, we don't need help to be suppressed. Let's not make it worse!
Cliques Make You Miss Out
When you start excluding others, or at the very least start ignoring them, you're denying yourself access to some fantastic people. As discussed, cliques discourage outside ideas, alternative points of view and, importantly, different personalities because outside members will not want to join. Anyone different will be frowned upon.
These different and interesting outsiders are the ones we learn the most from. The ones that challenge our views and our assumptions – not the ones who agree with everything you say and think the same way. These other women might have creative ideas, become lifelong friends or become life-changing business partners. You're missing out. Big time. So next time you notice clique-like behavior, do yourself a favor and disperse.