ask the readers: workplace clique makes others feel left out

Here’s our next “ask the readers” questions — the second-to-last before our week of them ends tomorrow. A reader writes:

I have a staff of about 20.  About 7 of them go out every weekend to dinner, movies, bars, etc.  They like to talk about their evenings out at work in front of other staff that were not invited.  I have received many complaints from other staff that it makes them feel uncomfortable and left out.  How should I handle this situation? 

What’s your advice?

{ 182 comments… read them below }

  1. Rach G.*

    Well, you certainly can’t mandate that these 7 invite everyone else along. If they are disruptive in reliving their fun nights, that’s one issue – but that’s entirely separate from them being inclusive of everyone in their weekend plans. I’m actually really surprised that anyone would complain about “being left out.” Seems super silly and embarrassing. You can try to lead by example- arrange after-work outings that include everyone. Perhaps more friendships/connections/better team chemistry and a more inclusive environment will grow organically from that. But I don’t think there’s really anything to “be done” about the 7 leaving others out – it’s after work, on their own time.

    1. Andrea*

      Exactly–I, too, cannot imagine ever complaining to my boss that I felt “left out” because I wasn’t invited to after-hours activities. This doesn’t seem like a management issue to me. It seems like a “get to a therapist if you think feeling left out is something to complain to your boss about” issue. And honestly, if a manager takes this seriously and tries to address this, she might find herself inundated with similar silly complaints–might set a precedent, you know?

      It is definitely rude to discuss activites like that in front of someone who was not invited, and I can see where that could be hurtful. But that’s not really something a manager can enforce. If other people were talking about after-hours or weekend activities in front of me and I had not been invited (and would have liked to have been), I’d probably just say, “Sounds like you had fun! I’d love to go next time, too, if you’ve got room for another; let me know.” But past saying something like that (and leaving it there), there’s not much for the “slighted” employees to do–they’ll either get invited after a response like that, or maybe the others will be more careful about talking about these activities and get-togethers in front of others.

      1. Heather*

        Honestly if someone did this at work and talked about it in front of me (just in casual conversation not in a mean way) I’d just assume they didn’t want to invite me for a reason. As in maybe they didn’t like me. It’s not a big deal. Not everyone has to like me. As long as they are nice and professional to me at work why do I care that I’m not invited to an after work function?

        I wouldn’t say anything. Nobody wants to be the pouter at the office. “Whyyyyyyyy ammmmm I noooooooooooooooooot invited?” what is this grade school?

        1. Emily*


          “It’s not a big deal. Not everyone has to like me.” Bingo. We can’t all be friends with everyone, and some people just click better so even if they mostly like you invite that they’d invite you to a big party or something else where 30-50 people get invite, they may not want to invite you to a gathering of 7-10 close friends. We all like to have these small gatherings with our closest friends sometimes, and it’s not a slight to leave out people you don’t know very well.

          I actually did once have a manager try to address with me complaints she had received from other employees that myself and my closest friend at work would attend work-related functions and not socialize as much with everyone else as we did with each other and a couple others we were close to. I was blown away that this was even being brought up–it had never been an intentional ignoring of others, just a natural gravitation towards the people you like the most in a social setting, but we mostly just stopped attending work-related functions after that to avoid incurring further wrath.

        2. Steve*

          Heather – your opinion is EXACTLY why this is a problem – you assume they didn’t want to invite you for a reason. To alot of people, this would be a BIG deal and they would think about it all of the time at work.

          1. fposte*

            Sure, but that’s not the same thing as a workplace problem that the manager’s obliged to solve. Many interpersonal problems at work are the employees’ job to deal with, not the manager’s. It’s not like the manager’s there to make sure nobody ever has to have a difficult conversation or be uncomfortable or unhappy.

            As I noted, there are situations where I do think it’s appropriate to intervene in a scenario like the one the OP described, but that’s not based simply on whether there’s somebody who feels really unhappy. I understand that, as somebody else mentioned, a bad history can make an exclusion more painful, but again, that’s not a factor that makes this into a manager’s problem. As adults, we have, I think, a responsibility to consider the situation and assess whether something is an actual workplace problem that a manager needs to handle or a problem somebody’s having at the workplace, which they need to solve with their own tools.

          2. ethel*

            I’ve been slighted before at work, and it’s an awful feeling. You work all day with these people, sometimes you think you’re getting along fine, and then you’re excluded from their clique? I’d never go to a manager and complain, but it does create a hostile work environment. sometimes it escalates into bullying. It definately affects work, because you’re not a cohesive group; there’s an ‘in’ group and an ‘out’ group.

            I don’t know what’s to be done about it. The manager clearly knows who has been going out together, so s/he has the knowledge available to tell them that out of work activities are inapprorpriate to talk about at work. Of course, that isn’t reasonable, because people do that all the time. S/he could tell them at it’s demoralizing to the team to talk about out-of-work activities with people who specifically weren’t invited, although that elevates the in-group and gives them power over the people they don’t invite.

            The manager could ask them why they haven’t been inviting anyone except themselves, and then explain to them at their exclusiveness is sending a negative message to everyone else, and their open discussion of their activities is reinforcing that message of exclusivity, which is driving a wedge in the team. S/he’d prefer, then, that if they are going out as a small group, that they don’t discuss that group in front of the people they didn’t invite. Since this is standard polite behavior in civilized society (that most peopel learn as children).

    2. Anonymous*

      I agree and I would be interested in knowing why anyone at work is so focused on the after hours activities of their coworkers.

    3. Emily*

      my boss just told me that myself and one other coworker are not invited to our other coworkers bridal shower that is being held in our facility tomorrow! boss is worried we would hear about the shower after the fact & did not want us to “feel left out”. Boss is continually saying we need to communicate and work better as a team (includes all coworkers not just us two). Yet the all deliberately keep information from us (work related) and have had several outings that we have not been invited to. I’m retirement age; coworkers are 57, 33, 25, 45, 23. Boss says “hey you don’t need to buy a gift now”. Its a slap in the face to me. Rude and a type of bullying in the workplace as far as I’m concerned. Childish I’m not. Thing is we all used to get along greatly until the last person was hired. Others from other departments are invited; but not your own dept. coworkers? Inexcusable behavior.

  2. Lils*

    The question isn’t whether to prevent the clique from hanging out on weekends, it’s how to mitigate the discussions at work which are negatively affecting the team. I don’t see anything wrong with privately asking a couple of the leaders of the clique to tone it down. This could be couched as a conversation about how you (the manager) feel that the person has potential to be a leader in the office and how you’d like the person to lead everyone toward a feeling of greater team cohesiveness. Offer some concrete suggestions about how this will manifest itself, including not talking as openly about weekend activities. I don’t think it’s a wise idea to be dismissive of employees’ feelings (especially if several people have complained!), even if it’s “silly and embarrassing”.

    1. Katie*

      I agree with this. As someone who has experienced things like this I can tell you it’s no fun. I never formally complained to my boss, but we were rather close so I did mention at times that I felt like I was being excluded.

      In my case, it was encouraged by upper level management that all the “assistants” be friends/friendly (this was about 5 years ago), so it was a slap in the face to try and be friendly with these co-workers only to be left out after work or on the weekend (or even AT work–in the lunchroom, etc). Or to check Facebook on a Sunday afternoon and see photos of what they all did that weekend.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s wrong to be friends with co-workers outside of work and I’m not saying that everyone needs to be included. But when all of the entry-level assistants pal around and leave out only one or two people and aren’t shy about talking about it, you have to admit that’s going to hurt some feelings.

      I think Lils is right–the manager could possibly ask a couple of the ringleaders to tone it down or be more discreet. Beyond that there’s not much you can do I guess.

      I just wanted to point out to people being harsh saying that it’s petty to be upset, that things like this can be hurtful. I never formally complained to my boss or anything like that, or asked anyone to make it stop or force anyone to include me, but it caused some bitterness on my end for sure.

      And to those who say that those left out should ask the others to hang out–I did! But the couple of times I tried they declined.

      And I know what you’re all thinking, you must be thinking I’m weird and/or annoying. But I’m not! I promise! I’ve never had issues making friends anywhere but this one bizarro workplace.

      1. Rach G.*

        I definitely get that. I go out of my way to invite all my peers to lunches, parties, etc. to avoid hurt feelings. However, if I did leave others out, it’s certainly not a management issue. That’s beyond weird. A manager cannot make folks play in the sandbox together. What can you do but lead by example? When I see that other folks may have left people off an invitation, I suggest inviting X, Y, and Z. It’s the best we can do. Anything beyond that is inappropriate to me unless you make a blanket request that no conversations involve information about outside activities… and then you’re jeopardizing the work climate in totally new and more detrimental ways.

      2. Emily*

        I think being upset is understandable, especially if the left-out folks admire/like the clique members and wish they could be a part of their fun times. I think most of us have been in that situation. What’s petty is that they are complaining to their manager about it, because it’s clearly not a work-related issue–it’s a personal issue over which the manager doesn’t really have any authority (unless the chatter is somehow disrupting productivity). I’m guessing you agree with this since you never filed a formal complaint yourself despite your feelings being hurt by the exclusion.

        1. Katie*

          Yes, agreed. I don’t think this is an issue that management can really “fix” besides trying to lead by example or make suggestions when able.

      3. STEVE*

        I totally get you. Especially living in NYC where some of the young people moved to NY for the job, and other commute so far that work is basically their life from M-F. They come into the job expecting to make a few friends, and rightfully so. Excluding someone from a group, especially with young people, might mean someone ends up spending the weekends alone. Not nice.

      4. Anonymous*

        I feel your pain because I work in a similar environment however in my office the manager is the ringleader she and three others. I used to be cool with her but lately we barely speak. Maybe that’s a good thing because I didn’t come there to make friends. Sometimes I think about forming a clique with the others and be obvious about it to give them a dose of their own medicine but what’s the point.At the end of the day I have to take a look at myself first. Basically I’m a decent human being I don’t need a clique or fostered friendships to define me.

    2. Rach G.*

      “The question isn’t whether to prevent the clique from hanging out on weekends, it’s how to mitigate the discussions at work which are negatively affecting the team. I don’t see anything wrong with privately asking a couple of the leaders of the clique to tone it down. This could be couched as a conversation about how you (the manager) feel that the person has potential to be a leader in the office and how you’d like the person to lead everyone toward a feeling of greater team cohesiveness. Offer some concrete suggestions about how this will manifest itself, including not talking as openly about weekend activities.”

      That’s special. I don’t agree. This question is obviously framed as one of hurt feelings. The problem isn’t that folks are talking about their weekends in general, it’s that they are talking about them in front of people who weren’t invited. You must have missed this: “They like to talk about their evenings out at work in front of other staff that were not invited. I have received many complaints from other staff that it makes them feel uncomfortable and left out.” The best way to build a team-oriented environment is NOT through policing adult conversations; setting the tone for team interactions is the manager’s responsibility. That doesn’t mean asking others who’ve formed a connection to tone it down or giving all 7 of them some BS about their leadership abilities when those abilities may or may not exist; that means creating the space and environment for those connections to be formed throughout the office. The point is that folks hanging out on the weekend and discussing it in front of people who weren’t invited shouldn’t affect the lifeline of the team; if it does, you were working from a weak position in the first place. Be more worried about building the team and less about cliques.

      “I don’t think it’s a wise idea to be dismissive of employees’ feelings (especially if several people have complained!), even if it’s ‘silly and embarrassing.'”

      I’m not sure how suggesting that the manager work to foster better connections on the team is being dismissive of the employees’ feelings. It is addressing those feelings through appropriate, work-related avenues. SURPRISE!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Rach, I don’t mean to single you out, but this is the most recent example of this, so I’m going to use it to point out that there’s no need to take a harsh tone with other commenters. A few people have pointed out that there’s been more of that than usual going on lately, and I’d like to ask people to try not to do that — the whole point of talking about these issues is that people often disagree, and that’s what makes the dialogue interesting and informative.

        I’ll admit that I’m the first one to slap down someone in instances where someone is being an entitled jerk (and I don’t intend to stop doing that), but when it’s just an instance of disagreeing on the approach to something, let’s not make it personal.

        1. Elizabeth*

          Alison, thanks for this. I’ve been noticing it, too, particularly on the last few posts. Usually I find the comments on this blog rather astonishingly (and pleasingly) polite for the internet. I wonder if there’s something about the “ask the readers” format that makes people express themselves more vehemently/dismissively/defensively. Maybe the absence of your good example kicking things off makes a difference?

          I don’t think it’d be too much to make this point in a post of its own, actually.

      2. krzystoff*

        You’re right on the money — At it’s core, this example shows there is a problem with the staff, and in most office environments that will ultimately break down professional relationships. This will lead to lost staff, poor morale and lost efficiency. You should take steps now to focus on the greater issue: for example using team-building training and whole-office recreational activities, or actively break up the clique attitude by requiring staff members to work on projects in eg. 3 teams of 7 with the clique members split amongst the teams, then shift them around again every few months.

      3. ethel*

        But no one in the LW’s description is behaving like adults. The 7 in the in-group should be tactful enough not to talk about their secret club in front of excluded members, and the other 13 should have their own things going on so that they don’t care what the 7 Heathers are getting up to. Management’s problem is that standard work management techniques don’t work with people acting like the office is summer camp.

    3. Katie*

      Here’s the thing. It’s one thing to be dismissive of your employees’ feelings. It’s another thing to act as if every single one of your employees’ feelings–no matter how irrational, childish or unprofessional–merit your getting involved on their behalf. If you intervene for someone, even multiple someones, when you know they are being silly, I guarantee you that the people you approach about the issue will similarly see you as being silly. I know I would lose some respect for a manager who approached me about something as incredibly immature as who is friends with whom in the office.

      I would tell the people complaining if they want to be better friends with their coworkers outside of work, they should try to get more involved in their activities or invite others out for a social event. Otherwise, though, it’s not a requirement that everyone at work be friends with each other, and it’s not a personal thing if someone at work is not friends with you. Some people naturally click together, and that is not something that you as a boss can do anything about.

      Unless the “offending” employees are disruptively loud, talking about their activities so often they’re not getting their work done, or they are actively being rude and ugly to other coworkers, there are no grounds to say anything to them about whether they are allowed to talk about their weekend. You are not a preschool teacher, and it is not your job to make sure everyone is friends with everyone.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        And with that, Katie has taken away the need for me to leave my own comment on this situation, because this is basically word-for-word what I wanted to say. Damn it!

        1. AD*

          Here’s the thing, though…of the team of 20, are they leaving 13 people out? Or is the team structured such that one or two people are hearing about it ALL OF THE TIME and feeling especially hurt? I’d like to say it isn’t a management issue, but this is a very real thing that can cause turnover, and turnover is a management issue.

          I think the manager needs to double-check that there aren’t one or two people at the epicenter of this for some reason, like there are eight people sharing an office, and seven of them are in the clique.

          1. Anonymous*

            With that in mind – that 13 are being excluded from a smaller group of 7 – it sounds like there is something “Mean Girl”-ish going on.

            1. BCW*

              Can less than half the people really be considered excluding the others? I mean, I’d say if it was 15 people going out, then they’d be excluding 5. But 7 people can’t really exclude 13 others, its more just they are hanging out together

      2. Lils*

        I think you’re right, Katie: it’s all a matter of how much this is happening and what the situation is. I assume it’s a problem for the team, the office, whatever, because there have been multiple complaints. I work in a place where teamwork is crucial, but cliques, gossip and backbiting have done some extensive damage to the morale and cohesiveness of the team. So, in my opinion, addressing the behavior of individuals which is affecting the team is valid. A manager is within their rights to expect and enforce civility among colleagues, and this behavior *might* fall on the wrong side of the line. But you are so, so right that you shouldn’t take this to an extreme and coddle the hurt feelings of immature people with no social skills, and I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. Especially about who is friends with who. I have seen this happen and it’s just as damaging to team morale.

      3. Just Me*

        Completely agree. My co-workers in all places I work all talk about what they did during a weekend, where they are going out that night…. and guess what? So did I. No one got mad. We are all adults.

        Hanging together outside of work and making a good buddy sometimes for a long time is the perks of work.

        I had a real exclusion from my co-workers happen to me at work that should never have happen. During X-mas the dept I worked with decided to exchange ornamanents. Wow… would have been great…. if I had celebrated X-mas. I am Jewish. I expressed that politely and rather low -key like.. hey guys can look at an alteritive? No one even batted an eye and just went.. OK well dont participate. Even the supervisor was clueless to this really major rude error.
        So I sat at my desk doing my work while they all did their exchange. I do not think they meant to exclude me in a mean way, just simply didn’t get the problem.
        It was not worth me persuing the situation so I let it go.

        One gal, however who was a very devout in her religion ( not Jewish ) got me a little present ! I was pleasently surprised at that. I knew she understood.

        That is REAL exclusion !

      4. anonny mouse*

        We have a similar situation at my workplace. I am on the outside of the clique, and while I typically don’t care either way, it has bred such friction in our workplace that I will have to start breaking apart our clique via scheduling. I have a fellow manager who will get quite nasty with me and single me out for issues that are the entire department’s responsibility and follow up with snide comments about how “x is a part of management!” This is despite the fact that, officially, I am the same rank as two of his buddies in the clique and they don’t take any heat for these issues. I found out a few nights ago that he basically ranted to our boss about how I am incompetant (even though I am the best performer in my department and my boss flat out told him so).

        Honestly, I would only hang out with them for an hour max (mainly because I know there is the thought that I am an uptight bitch), but I find it unlikely that this situation wouldn’t result in major tension and breakdowns within the workplace. I think that the way it should be handled really depends on things like the size of the company (for us, we’re talking 10 people, 5 of which are definitely part of the clique and 1 who is cool with everyone but hangs out with them; clearly, it is a little more dire for us then at mist places).

      5. Amelia*

        I would love to know how you KNOW that the complaints are silly. How?

        you missed the whole point of the question – the question was not to address the friendships and the after hours events, the question was how to address the yapping about it. You do finally mention in the last paragraph “unless…..” so I can assume you want more information of the complaints. I made the assumption that the complaints did indeed involve all the comments in your last paragraph.

        This is happening in a workplace, not a highschool lunchroom. How hard can it be to be a grown up and shut up? I rather doubt anyone cares a rat’s patoot what they did with whom, which is the reason no one wants to hear about it. Concentration is broken, productivity goes down.

    4. Anonymouse*

      This is a great answer.

      Team morale is very much the business of any leader. Dismissing a person’s need to belong to a group as childish is a facile approach to a very complex problem. Boiled down to hard facts, you’re risking higher turnover, missed deadlines, cost-overruns. Worst of all, the loss of intellectual capital.

      **People will not stay at a job where they feel alienated.**

      In any group there are those charismatic few who will rise to the top. Others will naturally follow them. They’re tough, they’re dangerous, and they know it. I’ve heard them called the “leopards” of the group. Every manager needs to know who these people are and make sure that they are on your side. Addressing the ringleaders is the most effective way to start the process of breaching the wall of exclusivity.

      An article on the impact of cliques:

      Another article on some concrete tools to use:

      Good Luck, team morale is one of the toughest problems a manager faces.

  3. Annie*

    I agree with Rachel, but I do think that it’s rude to talk at length about your weekend plans (past or future) in front of people who weren’t invited. Something like, “hey coworker, I had a great time on Saturday, let’s do it again next week,” sounds fine to me. If the “clique” is frequently having long conversations about their activities outside of work, then that sounds to me like a poor use of time in addition to being exclusionary.

    1. blu*

      I agree. My first thought is for the others to get over it as you don’t always getting invited, but if the OP is getting “many” complaints that makes me wonder just how much this is coming up. I have coworkers that I socialize with outside of work and we don’t feel to have multiple lengthy conversations about it. In fact it rarely comes up outside of a “how was your weekend” type conversation.

    2. The Right Side*

      I disagree. I can talk about my weekend events at work if I want! And if I befriend ppl I work with (ppl whom I spend 50 or 60 hours a week with) – and we hang out after hours or at lunch… you really want to tell me that I can’t talk about it? Lol. Good luck with that…

      But then again, I see a manager butting in at this level as an extreme version of micromanagement… a huge formula for complete failure at the management level. Just my two cents.

      1. Elizabeth*

        I think Annie was saying that the amount matters. In general, it’s sort of a social faux pas to talk extensively on topics that necessarily exclude the other people around you. So if the people that hang out together after hours also make those events the main focus of, say, lunch conversation in the break room, it leaves the people who weren’t there out of the conversation. Kind of like if I’m out for dinner with friends and my boyfriend, I don’t strike up an involved discussion with him about things that don’t matter to the others. It’d be rude.

        I do agree with you that it’d be kind of micromanagement to get involved in people’s conversations, though. A manager’s job isn’t to be the rudeness police, unless that rudeness relates to work. If chatting about the weekend (no matter who was invited to what!) is taking up time that should be spent working, that’s a place for a manager to step in and tell the chatters to focus on work, but it’s not clear if that’s happening.

  4. Anne*

    Why don’t the staff members that feel left out ask if they can tag along sometime? Or invite some of the members of the clique to do something sometime?

    1. Anonymous*

      Because life is much too short to hang around people you don’t like or people who don’t like you. It is also too short to waste so much time dwelling on thing like this.

  5. tami*

    I find it strange as well that people complained about it. They sound like a bunch of babies. I think you can either tell them to suck it up and/or you can let the people in the clique know that others feel left out and let them make a decision about how/if they want to change their behavior at work.

    1. The Right Side*

      Yes. This.

      I can’t stand when ppl talk about hurt feelings at work. Oh, I have to sit here and laugh… it is a business, folks… not a therapy session.

      1. Amelia*

        Yes it is a business, so ppl can keep their mouths shut and work! It is not a therapy session, nor is it a day getting your mani/pedi talking about what you did last night. You cannot have it both ways.

  6. Ellen M.*

    I don’t know that this is something the manager should be getting involved in. What if the manager says something to the leader of the seven or all seven or whatever, and they continue talking about their weekends? Then what? Start threatening consequences if they don’t stop?

    Also I would think that approaching the leader(s) of the group would be kinda weird and they’d probably be a bit put off if not pissed off, as they are not doing anything *wrong* and their manager is commenting on what they do on their own time and telling them they shouldn’t talk about it at work – they are likely to resent the manager AND the complainers, and relations would get worse is my guess.

    Maybe the manager could have all these people work in groups more or even some semi-social activities to (perhaps) make eveyone feel like part of a team, but if some people get along really well, want to hang out outside of work and talk about it at work, as long as the work is getting done I don’t know that this is the manager’s problem.

    Some employees don’t get along with each other at all, but if the work is getting done and they don’t make it a public problem that affects morale, that’s just how it goes. If someone does make it a public problem that affects morale, then that person or those people should be spoken to. Many workers don’t give a hoot what their co-workers are doing over the weekend or whether they talk about it or not. The problem here, IMO, is with the complainers and not those who are going out together on the weekends.

  7. Jamie*

    If they are chatting too much at work, I’d address that. Not the content of the chat, but if it’s excessive.

    If not, and this is within the normal range, then the topic of their conversations are only a management issue if they are offensive.

    The only issue I could see is if any of the seven are managers or supervisors and there is a perception that they give preferential treatment at work to their friends. It doesn’t have to be true, but the perception would need to be addressed.

    Otherwise? I think anything other than telling those complaining that no workplace rules have been violated and that their social lives aren’t under your management umbrella would be a mistake.

    You can’t solve a problem over which you have no authority – so I would draw very clear boundaries around that.

  8. steve*

    Next Ask A Manager question:

    What do you do when a group of your employees come up to you with an unreasonable problem?

    1. The Right Side*

      Ha! Exactly. But I would pull an “Office” move here…

      Dwight keeps complaining to Toby. Toby just creates a “file” to keep all of Dwight’s complaints but never does a single thing about them. Dwight feels that his problems are being heard and nobody sees management discussing ridiculous complaints!

  9. Anonymous*

    I honestly can’t believe that anybody, let alone multiple people, complained about this. All I think when I read this was, “grow up!” I know that’s harsh and obviously not the what the manager should say here, but this clearly should not be addressed by management. Is what the “clique” doing a little rude? Sure. But as long as this isn’t affecting performance, why meddle?

    1. Another Anon*

      I would bet that it isn’t as silly as it looks because there’s more to it. I work with people who grew up together and spend all their time together and talk about it in front of me even though I’m not included, and I don’t mind. However, I have also worked on a team where the boss would go out to golf with some of the subordinates and they’d all talk about golf after. I wouldn’t have minded that either if it weren’t clear that business discussions took place on the course and those who weren’t there weren’t in the know. The golfers sneered at those who were a step behind on department news because they weren’t in the clique. That’s bad business. I’d be betting that the OP’s situation is one where the clique withholds teamwork from outsiders, or bullies them, or gets privileges, or some such. I’d bet there’s some affect on business.

  10. Jaime*

    The people in my department used to get together at a bar after work on a fairly regular basis. It was always open to whoever, but largely the same people would go. People would take your usual “hey we’re having a great time” pictures, it wasn’t a big deal. However, occasionally people would get a little wild after most everyone else went home. Sometimes they took more pictures. In the bathroom. In their underwear.

    I could care less about any of it, except these people would then bring the stack of photos to work. They’d share the PG photos, then coyly say that the rest of the pictures weren’t for public consumption. -_-

    It was stupid, immature, inappropriate behaviour all around. Perhaps it’s this kind of behaviour that is happening? In that case, I definitely think the manager should speak up and ask them to be more discreet and try to confine most of their revelry rehashing to their breaks, lunch hours and non-work hours.

  11. Vicki*

    I’m not sure I understand. If a co-worker comes in on Monday and talks about the great date he had on the weekend or the great movie she saw with friend, do you feel left out? OK, so they are friends. They talk about it.

    To the people who feel “left out” I suggest: Make friends of your own.

  12. Cruella*

    I can not believe this is being addressed here!
    This is another case where I want to say “Please grow up”

  13. fposte*

    Multiple complaints? Either the Group of Seven are really being pains, or you’ve got a counter-clique muttering about this among themselves.

    So are the friends doing this talking when they should be working? Is this group crossing report lines and affecting work treatment? Do they treat their workplace colleagues with politeness and collegiality? Is this post-strip-club-style shrieking back and forth over the heads of trying-to-work co-workers? Because one possibility is that what’s being asked isn’t actually what’s really bothering people.

    But if this genuinely is just people thinking they shouldn’t have to hear about stuff other people do together, I’m finding for the defendants. The thing is, people who have dogs talk together about them in front of people who don’t; people who watched Project Runway talk about it in front of people who didn’t. And so on. I’d be more inclined to take action if it was, say, nineteen out of the twenty and one perpetual orphan, but the considerable majority of the workplace isn’t involved in these outings. (And I suspect also that some of the thirteen have heard complaints about the seven, don’t care, and would rather hear people talking about their weekend than others complaining about the first group’s conversation.)

    Basically, I’d likely be willing to police based on style or volume or frequency, but not on conversational content.

    1. Jamie*

      “Basically, I’d likely be willing to police based on style or volume or frequency, but not on conversational content.”

      Someone needs to put this in a policy manual.

  14. Elizabeth*

    I would look at this from the perspective of how this is affecting work.
    1) Do people have trouble accomplishing things where they need to work together because they don’t agree or avoid each other?
    2) Are people talking so much that it is lowering their productivity?

    If 1, it might be good to have some fun all staff activities where appropriate at work. This could take a lot of different forms depending on where you work. Birthday parties are an easy one. Or you can try to initiate something outside of work, if that’s your style, but if people don’t go for it, don’t take it personally. Or do you notice that it is one or two people you should address one-on-one? Then have a conversation with them.

    If 2, address the individuals directly when you see it happening. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a closed door conversation. Just laugh at their story with everyone else and then change topics to “how’s that project going?” If people don’t take the hint, then again, talk to one or two people who are causing the problem.

    If you don’t say yes to 1 or 2, then I wonder if this is a problem or just a couple of people who like to whine and you should refer them to the EAP.

  15. anon*

    I used to get upset when my co-workers would go out to lunch w/out me, or hang out outside of work w/out me. Until I realized I’m 10 years older than them and they are all single. Of COURSE they hang out together.
    So yeah, grow up. Make your own friends. You’ll be better off for it.

    PS – If work decisions and ideas start getting made outside of work hours and people are getting left out, then it’s an issue. If they are just hanging out, suck it up.

    1. Avril*

      Very wise. I felt left out of a circle at work but realized that none of them have good marriages. If that is what it takes to be a member of that particular club, I will gladly stay out. I would either make plans with others that are also excluded from the 7 or perhaps mention to the group members how their discussions make others feel (the latter is probably not a great idea). I would not involve management.

  16. Malissa*

    Perhaps the talkers just don’t have enough work to keep them occupied?
    Maybe a copy of Emily posts rules on etiquette should be passed around?
    Perhaps someone could tell the unlucky 13 that there’s nothing stopping them from hanging out after work?
    Maybe the use of head phones in the office could be encouraged? I did this while the two ladies up front went through their pregnancies (at separate times) and started comparing notes.

  17. KayDay*

    It’s hard to tell if the complainers are being childish, or if this clique is actually being rude. I have trouble seeing how a group of 7 people forming a “clique” (i.e. group of friends) in an office of 20 is causing issues by “excluding” the other 13. There are so many good reasons why the 7 would choose to hang out together–they might be on the same project, in the same functional area, all play badminton, etc.

    If they really are being rude I think it would be reasonable for a manager to step in and say, “hey, it’s great that you guys have such a good relationship outside of work, but let’s tone the discussions of it down” or something like that. Work place disagreements and personally clashes can be bad even if the direct impact on productivity seems small but it’s hard to tell from the OP’s email if the problem is the clique of 7 or the other 13.

  18. Lesley*

    I’ve worked in a cliquey environment before (much like Katie up thread). I don’t really care about being friends with my coworkers and I would never complain to my manager, but this can create a really poisonous environment. We lost a lot of great people (the strongest performers on the team) because the atmosphere at the office was terrible.

    Some people act like they are in middle school and actively try to make other people feel bad/excluded because it puffs up their own ego. Most posters seem to be assuming people are being over-sensitive (and they might be!), but what if it’s an environment where people need to function as a team and some are being deliberately petty and exclusionary to others? If people really start to dislike the people they work with, do you think they will be engaged in the work they are doing and actually perform their jobs well? Or do they dread coming to work? That’s when it does become a management issue. (I know people can say that they don’t want employees that would let this affect them–but what if you have great employees jumping ship because of crappy coworkers?)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I agree that if we’re taking about the overall workplace culture, that’s a manager’s business. The OP didn’t mention that, but it would certainly be relevant if it’s the case.

    2. EngineerGirl*

      This!!! We had a real brat (that is how I think of her) that was killing our team. She and her friends used to sit around and talk about their activities in a “we had a party and YOU weren’t invited” type of manner. Worse – she and her friends would start talking in Vietnamese in front of the others in the group so the non-Vietnamese speakers couldn’t tell what she was saying. It got pretty bad when she would point at people, make a comment, and others would laugh. And yes, we lost our very best young engineer becasue Miss Malicious was making the environment like junior high. Our high performer (being a high performer) wanted to work in a professional environment.

      Our manager finally told the team that team building, building good relationships, and inclusiveness were going to be part of the employee performance goals. He let Miss Malicious know that she was going to be getting a negative review in that area, and it was going to prevent her promotion. Three years later, she still hasn’t been promoted.

      If you are a manager, I would make “team building” one of the employee goals for next year. That way there can be consequences for poisonous behaviour.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        Oh, and for the guys. Exclusion is how women fight. Men punch each other in the face, women arrange things so that the target becomes ridiculed and excluded. Most men can’t see this, because it is a subtle social interaction. That’s what makes it so horrible. Most of the guys are clueless about what is going on, and even blaming the victim.

        But it is a form of violence. It takes much longer to heal from psychological bullying than from the physical type. So if it is about women complaining about women, well… it may truly be about more than hurt feelings.

        1. The Right Side*

          Not being invited to an after hours non-work event is now a form of violence.

          Omigod… this is what is wrong with America today.

          1. Mike C.*


            What EngineerGirl is talking about and what you’re complaining about aren’t the same thing. This isn’t about not getting invited to the bar after work, it’s about much more serious issues as detailed in the link above. I’ve seen it happen and it does terrible things to a person, their team and the company at large.

            I humbly suggest you read up on it before decrying it the downfall of a nation.

          2. Anonymous*

            @The Right Side, I could not possibly agree with you more. China is going to bury our delicate little selves.

        2. Brightwanderer*

          As I said below, I disagree that “exclusion is how women fight” (not to mention “men punch each other in the face”) – this is not gendered behaviour and I think it’s unhelpful to get focused on it as a female habit. It opens the door to sexism, even unintentionally, and it just doesn’t match my experience with people – I’ve known groups of men, women, and mixed all get into this kind of behaviour.

          1. EngineerGirl*

            My point was that a male leader may miss what is going on and the severity of it. This behavior absolutely can be found in either sex but tends (on a whole) to be practiced to a greeter extent of women against women. It is more of a socialization thing than a genetic thing.

            As one of the very first women in my industry I am well aware that men can pull this stunt too. But my personal experience is that women are subtler and meaner about it.

            1. AnotherFemaleEngineer*

              One of the reason I always said I love being an engineer is because I typically work with just men, or women who can be less petty / vindictive. Through college I worked as a nurses’ aide and witnessed first hand how toxic an environment can get with backtalking, exclusion, and gossip.

              The really odd thing, though? Ha, I feel a little like the original poster in my current position. I’m the only female, in my mid-20’s, working with 5 male engineers. We’re all married and simliar age (the oldest is just over 30). We all live in the same area, with very little to do. We’re all more or less in similar points in our lives (buying houses, starting families) and we all moved out here around the same time without nessisarily a lot of family or friends close at hand.

              So, imagine how incredibly left out I feel almost every single day when they go out to lunch and actively exlcude me. I run into them and often times their wives at various stores on the weekends and they avoid small talk. They make plans for get togethers – in front of me – and then discuss them later… also right in front of me. I’ve invited them to things, etc. They will attend, but they always leave really early, all at once, and in a group. They’ll talk about work with me, but that’s typically it. Small talk is cut short. We have an insane amount of things in commone. I was good friends with one individual, until he started hanging out with the other guys… and now he treats me the same.

              It makes it very difficult to want to go to work every day. It affects my ability to focus, because I often feel so hurt by some comment or impolite behavior. I’ve never had trouble working with men at my previous jobs. I’m a high performer, one of the first to earn a promotion from my engineering peers. But some days I just cannot handle the blantant social rejection. I’ve mentioned it to them and they act like they have no idea what I’m talking about and I “shouldn’t take it seriously.”

              One time they said I should just tag along when they left for lunch, but “the leader” went office to office and got the orders of all the guys in my group, placed them at a local pizza joint, and when they hastily headed to the door and I jumped up to join them, they awkwardly explained they’d “forgotten” to ask for my order so I probably wouldn’t want to come along and have to wait while they ate.

              From that day on, I’ve just given up. I know they dislike me, but I don’t know why. I’m not some social reject. I look nice, I mentor and volunteer in our comunity. My husband and I have children the exact same age and gender as several of them… I even have tried to be friends with their wives at the few work gatherings we “run into each other at.” That’s always been an impressive trainwreck of ice cold rejection.

              I’m not looking for advice, but I’ve learned that even well educated, highly paid professional men can act in the most middle-schoolish manner as well!

              We’ll see how much longer I work here…

              1. DianaH*

                Ouch. So sorry you’re going through that. I’m afraid I don’t have any helpful advice, but I feel for you.

        3. BCW*

          Without being sexist, is it possible that women just care more about being included in everything than men do?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I’ve encountered quite a few men who care as well. Including one male intern who once literally cornered me and demanded to know why I hadn’t invited him to a Trivial Pursuit game that only a tiny number of people were involved with.

          2. KellyK*

            Women are socialized much more strongly to be “nice” and “nurturing” and to value emotional connections, so, sure, that’s a reasonable hypothesis. (Assuming we’re talking about averages with huge variances between individuals, rather than a sweeping “Mars/Venus” generalization.)

    3. The Other Dawn*

      Lesley said what I was trying to say (down thread) and I totally agree. I wouldn’t want to lose good people because others were creating a poisonous environment.

    4. Riki*

      Yes! When I read the OP’s note, I wondered if the this was a bullying, “Mean Girls” situation. Most of the people I know could not care less if they hang out with coworkers or not, but they would care if the office BFFs were using their relationships to purposely alienate or sabotage everyone else. A staff of 20 is not that big and couple of a-holes can really wreck the overall vibe.

      If that’s the case, then the OP should really nip this in the bud. ITA with Engineer Girl’s post below. These people need to realize that this behavior is not cute, appropriate or professional. When the team cannot function, the work eventually suffers.

        1. Mike C.*

          Again, Riki isn’t demanding that people be friends after work, she is saying that employees should act professionally and not sabotage each others’ efforts. That is well within the realm of what a manager can demand of their employees.

        2. Elizabeth*

          The kind of behavior that Riki and EngineerGirl are describing (which isn’t necessarily what’s happening in the OP’s office) isn’t about people just not being friends – it’s about how snarky comments, tone of voice, facial expressions, etc. can be used as tools by girls/women to hurt other girls/women intentionally. I’m an elementary school teacher at an all-girls school, and see this kind of behavior on the playground all the time. “Hey, Sarah, wasn’t Jessica’s birthday party so much fun?! Oh, Hannah… I forgot, you weren’t invited.” Depending on the tone of voice, that comment could be utterly innocuous, or intended as a twist of a knife to Hannah. We don’t have any school rules about who you have to invite to parties or play with at recess, but we do step in to stop power games like that one. Basically, it boils down to “You don’t have to be friends, but you do have to be nice.”

          An office manager isn’t an elementary school teacher, so shouldn’t have to do the enforcing that I do with the kids, especially since grown-ups should be able to take care of themselves better than children. Still, “You have to be nice” isn’t a bad rule for life.

          1. Brightwanderer*

            Could you not gender this, please? I’ve seen this set of behaviours in both men and women and the stereotype that it’s a purely female behaviour (and even worse, the assertion further up the thread that “this is how women fight” – I know that wasn’t you, just addressing it now) is unhelpful and can rapidly lead into sexist assumptions about the best way to deal with it. Everyone’s capable of being petty and exclusionary and if you’ve never been in a room with a bunch of male geeks who, for example, take great pains to regale you with stories of their tabletop RPG with frequent comments along the lines of “… but you won’t really get that, it’s an injoke”, I can assure you there’s nothing inherently female about the habit.

            1. Elizabeth*

              You’re definitely right, and I should have put in my standard disclaimer that boys/men do this too, just as some girls/women get into physical fights. My experience as a teacher has been that there are trends, though. (I worked in co-ed schools before getting a job at an all-girls’ one.) Boys’ and girls’ tendency towards emotional bullying or physical violence could all be represented as bell curves. Some boys are much more catty than most girls, and some girls are much more violent than most boys – but the averages, the peaks of the bell curves, do fall in different places in my experience.

              I’m not saying that’s inherent to biological sex; I think it’s just as likely that there’s a self-reinforcing cycle of socialization based on expectations. I do think the difference exists, though, and that that information can be used to address problems better. For example, my school’s anti-bullying curriculum focuses primarily on this “relational aggression” and doesn’t really address physical violence because the latter isn’t an issue.

          2. Anonymous*

            I totally agree with your comments. I know that some of my co-workers think I am too sensitive but I would never want to make anyone feel excluded. What irks me is these “co-workers” always blame the others for being childlike and that they should “grow up”. Well why don’t they grow up and try to think of other peoples feelings.

  19. Anonymous*

    I’ve worked in an environment like this except it was My manager and co-worker I was in a team of three myself, coworker and manager. My manager and co-worker would go to lunch and not invite me, socialize during the weekend and not invite me talk about it in front of me, talk all day on IM During working hours and play words with friends in meetings. Said manager would also call co-worker her friend in front of me. This also translated in me being left of some work related conversations that I should have been a part of. This defiantly impacted the working environment and it became very uncomfortable. I can see where you need be less sensitive but it defiantly can poison the working environment.

  20. Amber*

    This particular issue is actually kind of personal to me, since I’ve been in an environment like this too. You can say that people should “just grow up” and that people shouldn’t care about things like this, or try to be friends with their coworkers, but if you were ever that kid who got picked last for everything, or who got bullied for being weird, even if you grew up and thought you got over all those things, being in an office environment like this as an adult can make all of those old feelings resurface.

    At one point, our office of about 30 people (at the time) had a gender split that was 20 men to 10 women. And during that time, three members of one particular department, all female, decided to start regularly going to lunch and inviting other female members of the office, from different departments, to go with them. And when there are so few women, and you see that out of the 10 you’re the only one who is repeatedly not invited, it does start to feel pretty personal.

    Add to that the fact that a big part of my most recent performance review had essentially been “you do great work and a wonderful job, but people don’t like you because you’re weird and no one gets your sense of humor, so try to have a better personality, okay?” So you start to feel like you’re caught in a trap. People don’t like you, so they won’t invite you to anything, so when management looks in on the situation, it still looks like you’re not working on trying to fix that “little personality problem” and then it just keeps getting brought up.

    It really was total head-spin territory. I remember discussing the work situation with my therapist for months (because I actually started going to therapy, to try and figure out what was wrong with me that I could not manage normal social interactions like this properly), and we kept trying to analyze where I was going wrong. I was smiling at people in the mornings, always being friendly in hallways and breakrooms, didn’t stop by cubicles to chat inappropriately so as to annoy people. I was extending invitations to lunch to people. I wasn’t even making jokes since people “didn’t get my sense of humor.” Yet nothing seemed to change- the leaders of the clique were pretty much determined that I was never to be included in anything. Once people get an idea of you in their head, they can be super-reluctant to change it, and I was pretty much permanently the “weird girl.”

    Things only changed when we got some new blood in the office. When new people started working with us, when we moved offices and went on a hiring spree, the new people got a chance to get to know me for myself, and didn’t see those same “weird girl” qualities in a negative way that made that earlier clique of women want to exclude me. And when the new people were seen socializing with me, some of the other original women in the office who had hung out with the clique leaders and had been kinda standoffish now seemed willing to give me a chance.

    Those same three clique leaders still dislike me, but with more people in the office and more things going on, three people who dislike me and my personality out of the whole pool of the office workers is a much smaller percentage, so the issue seems to have worked itself out. Sometimes all you can do is wait for the stalemate to break, I guess.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      “You can say that people should “just grow up” and that people shouldn’t care about things like this, or try to be friends with their coworkers, but if you were ever that kid who got picked last for everything, or who got bullied for being weird, even if you grew up and thought you got over all those things, being in an office environment like this as an adult can make all of those old feelings resurface.”

      I totally get this. This was me in school. To this day, I’m still susceptible to these feelings and I hate it.

      I could understand the excluded co-workers feeling left out if it was a staff of 8 or 9 people and 7 of those people were regularly going out, etc. That would be a fairly clear indication that they don’t like the ones they left behind. As a manager, I would be able to sympathize with the ones feeling excluded; however, this is a staff of 20. I thinks it’s ridiculous that 13 people are getting themselves worked up over some co-workers hanging out together. If they came to me and complained about this, I’d probably tell them to stop worrying about what the clique is doing and try socializing amongst themselves. Some people hit it off and others don’t.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I forgot to add that if the members of the clique are behaving in a way so as to purposely make others feel excluded when they chat about their nights out, etc., then that is something I would address with the group. It’s one thing if they go out and enjoy themselves and reminisce the next day, but if they are being catty about it that’s a different story.

    2. Katie*

      This is what I was trying to say above, but didn’t describe as well as you. This is almost exactly my experience.

      The head of our department sometimes took it upon herself to encourage everyone to be friends. I tried to be, but when I was left out and rejected I basically decided to keep to myself–while at the same time still being friendly and courteous (saying good morning, smiling in hallways, etc). However, the head of our department pulled me aside a couple times saying she noticed I wasn’t meshing with the other group of people in my rank that she tried to encourage to be friends. I felt really stuck.

      I remember one time, one of the clique leaders asked me to get coffee with her. I was really excited, thinking that finally I was starting to be accepted. When we arrived at Starbucks and sat down, my coworker said she was taking me to coffee because the head of the department asked her to. UGH.

      Like Amber, things only changed for me when new co-workers entered the office and I would befriend them. Eventually I left that job and nowhere else I’ve ever worked since has been quite so exclusionary and weird (this was my first job out of grad school).

  21. Anonymous*

    Who cares??? I have enough of seeing the same people 40 hours a week. I certainly don’t want to see them for another hour more.

  22. JA*

    Where I sit, there’s 5 of us that sit in one section. I’m the introvert and don’t like to talk much except about work, nor do I like to discuss much about my personal life. So the 4 of them tend to grab lunch or IM each other during the work day. It’s annoying, because I see work as a place to work. Not a place to make friends. I mean, I do smile and say hi and we interactive well when it comes to a work standpoint but it gets awkward sometimes.

    1. Mike C.*

      I can understand this view, but in my line of work it would kill me.

      See, I work in quality which means I’m checking work, enforcing rules on other departments, generating metrics, etc. I’m not the boss of those I look over, but I do have the ability to stop and reject work. Now, I could take the attitude that I do nothing but work and I’m not there to make friends and what not, and I could get along ok. Heck, I could be a complete hardass and it wouldn’t matter a lick from my perspective.

      But if I want to get the most out of my job and towards the success of the company, I have to get to know the folks I’m working with. They have to be comfortable with me to trust what I say about the rules/regulations we have and I have to be comfortable with them to understand they work they are doing and the deadlines they are under. I don’t let them break rules because I’m friendly, but as that relationship grows they feel comfortable with me to ask me questions and it streamlines the training and compliance process. It also allows me to generate a strong network for support.

      Consider that the next time there’s a BS session at the water cooler. Join in a bit to blow off some steam and get to know your coworkers better. There’s no harm in that once in a while and you’ll find that you become more productive, and maybe even reduce stress at work.

  23. Anonymous*

    I agree with what Elizabeth was saying about this affecting the workplace in respect to the amount of work being done. In certain types of work environments, cliques can be a detriment to work for more than just social reasons.

    Here’s a good example: because some feel “left out” of the clique, they may not bring up important things in group settings because they feel that they won’t be heard (especially if they feel like the supervisor supports the clique over them). For example, when I worked at a large museum as an intern, there were two distinguishable cliques: the partiers, and the non-partiers. In most circumstances, I, a non-partier, could care less that I was not one of the more numerous partiers. Unfortunately, we had a circumstance in which I really wish we didn’t have a clique. I was working with three girls from the partier clique. We were leading a slightly physically demanding group activity, and before we went outside to complete the task, I noticed that a child that used a walker was joining us. I wondered if the other girls had noticed, and thought about slightly modifying the activity so the child could be included in everything (I would do this for any and all visitors — changing how you run an activity is an important skill for safety and accessibility reasons). The activity we were about to do was outside, on the grass, and, as luck would have it, the other interns decided that the best way to open the giant flag we were folding was to run (the child used his walker for balance, and was able to leave it on the sidewalk and join us). I was worried that the other inters wouldn’t listen to me if I spoke up (that’s how divisive this clique was), and didn’t voice my safety concerns. That was a mistake. The child fell. It doesn’t matter that it was the child that used a walker that fell — what if any one of our visitors fell? What if they had fallen in the path of the other running visitors? What if that person was injured? What if that person sued the museum because of their injury? Thankfully, nobody was injured, and the following winter, I saw the child’s family back at the museum. BUT, because I did not feel comfortable with the other interns because I was not part of their clique, I did not speak up and something happened that should not have happened. This was more than a “being left out” issue, this was a SAFETY issue. I then went to my supervisor (who had not been present) and told her about everything. I owned up to my mistake, because I did make a mistake. I didn’t listen to my instincts, and someone could have been seriously hurt (we were running next to a sidewalk, which is never a good idea). This is the risk of cliques in the workplace. Someone doesn’t speak up because they don’t feel like they’re going to be listened to because they are not in the “in” crowd, however juvenile that is, and important issues can fall through the cracks. Extra time could be spent trying to figure out solutions that somebody has already figured out but is too concerned about “fitting in” to do so. Or the members of the clique really don’t listen to those who don’t fit in. It’s a horrible conundrum, but it’s a real and, in my mind, can be a serious one. Fitting in doesn’t matter, but communication sure does.

    My advise to the OP is, again, similar to Elizabeth’s response: assign responsibilities that spread out the clique members with everyone else. This way, individuals know each other, and maybe one non-clique member will feel comfortable enough with at least one clique member to bring up important issues. This can resolve both communication and social issues. Good luck!

    1. Mike C.*

      This is really a huge issue in manufacturing/laboratory/industrial settings. Take your example and replace it with a safety issue. People get hurt when they don’t feel comfortable bringing issues to the forefront.

    2. Anonymous*

      With all due respect, if people can’t set their personal feelings about workplace “cliques” aside to the point where it affects their work, then they should be fired.

        1. Anonymous*

          Maybe it is a bit harsh, but I speak from experience. I worked at a place with a few VERY sensitive complainers who took issue every time anyone socialized without them outside of work. Once they were “laid off” for being a bad fit, our productivity skyrocketed as the environment became more task oriented. I didn’t miss them.

  24. Confused*

    What about holding team building events for all employees. Split ppl into teams so the 7 ppl are not together. It might help morale overall, even if it does not fix their superfriendshipfunlunches. Bowling day? You could even ask for their input in choosing the activity.

  25. Another Emily*

    I feel for someone who wants to be included socially but is left out. Even of the people leaving you out are not doing it out of any spite, it still hurts.

    However, complaining about this is unprofessional. What makes me wonder though is that a group of people are complaining. It seems like there’s more than one clique in the office.

  26. Anonymous*

    I know what it’s like to be left out of a clique in the workplace.

    I had interned at a museum with a group of almost 20 other interns. I was one of the older ones in the group and not the type to go out for drinks after work. So I wasn’t invited to go out. Plus, I tended to talk to another intern who was not exactly everyone’s favorite, and I knew then what I still believe now…that because I talked with that intern that the others associated me with her and therefore, they began to treat me like they treated her. She wasn’t invited out afterwards and neither was I so she and I ended up grabbing something to eat before we parted ways.

    About six months after the internship had ended, I saw that one of the others had started a FB event with the title of our internship followed by “Reunion.” I could see who was invited, and I was not one of them; everyone but that other girl, me, and a couple of others who did not have a FB page was invited. After the Reunion had passed, I saw photos go up for it. Only a couple went, including the supervisors. I was really tempted in writing something since we were all still FB friends, but I opted against it because I didn’t need the world to see my anger and my anger would not have allowed appropriate things to be said. I still was angered that the other intern would call it a “Reunion” and not invite everyone. It is not a “Reunion” in that sense. Instead, over time, I slowly deleted them as FB friends because they stopped communicating, and the intern who started that page got the delete button first. That’s how I allowed myself to show the disappointment, but I hardly believe she noticed.

    Luckily this happened afterwards. I did sense their dislike of me during the internship, but they worked cooperatively with me while we were at work. I think when it starts to affect work where the clique-ish behavior comes into play in teamwork projects, then the management has a major problem. Perhaps you can get them to stop is if they are just being disruptive – talking too loud, etc.

  27. uncle*

    Cut the baby in half. Tell the friend group to tone down the non work talk then tell the excluded group to stop whining. Make sure to tell them all to stop acting like they’re still in high school and get to work!

  28. Not-unsocial Manager*

    An earlier poster said, “This also translated in me being left of some work related conversations that I should have been a part of. ”

    Look at this a different way. What if the social aspect is only the surface manifestation, not the real problem? These 7 workers may be discussing and making decisions about significant team and work issues. They then, upon returning to work, act as if a course of action has been decided upon – and are not welcoming to those who feel that their input and control of their own work environment has been taken away from them.

    Things the manager might do:
    1. Break up the team. If the 20 staff are divided into smaller work groups, distribute the 7 partiers so that no more than 2 or 3 work together.
    2. Limit participation into ad hoc teams. Again only a couple on a problem solving or brainstorming team.
    3. Or conversely, assign a some of the 7 to lead ad hoc/workgroup teams that don’t include members from the party crowd. And, explicitly define that team leaders role to solicit group agreement on solutions.

    Seems to me you don’t want to limit social interaction (and why would you even if you could). But, you do want to keep work decisions in the workplace.

    1. saro*

      This is my main concern also. My office is one where people create projects with members and I sometimes see that the most optimal projects don’t happen because one of the members ‘only wants to work with his/her friend.’ I don’t think there is any active animosity, but they only want to work with their friends. It’s odd since they are all older than I am (I’m in my mid-30s). I don’t want to socialize with this clique, but they definitely make working with them more difficult.

    2. Nichole*

      Excellent example of when this becomes a genuine, work related issue-that gatherings are still ok, but the consequences would need to be addressed. Also +1 to your potential solutions.

    3. kkelley805*

      I think you’re on to something here. The manager should overhear what the 7 are saying, and then witness the impact of their social activities. Not saying there is anything detrimental here, but the manager won’t know this until further examination. What makes me curious is the manager mentioned “many complaints from other staff”. If only 1 complained, I think I’d feel differently.

  29. Cynthia*

    I been working for McDonal’s for almost 7 years, at the same one even though i used to work in another location for another 4 years anyways, in the current job they changed our store manager. Is she allowed to cut my hours and give me 16 hours a week just because she said i get pay more than others? ($8/hour) and she hired her whole family members and friends…

    1. Anonymous*

      It is legal. It’s disrespectful and unfair though so I don’t blame you for being upset. It would probably be a good idea to see if there is a better job out there for you. You might be happier elsewhere.

  30. anon.*

    I really wish people would stop responding to OP’s (any OP’s) by saying anything along the lines of ‘grow up’. That is NOT a constructive response. It’s annoying, it’s petty, and obnoxious.

  31. TracyB*

    If this clique discusses their social activities in front of others who were not invited that says volumes to me about who they are in general. If you are ok with a lack of common courtesy to a coworker you better be prepared to be ok with a lack of common courtesy with a customer.

    1. Anonymous*

      So they shouldn’t be allowed to discuss their personal activities because it might hurt the delicate feelings of some of their coworkers? I disagree. I think the problem is with the people who are complaining.

      1. TracyB*

        Maybe this comes from differences in opinion on manners. Seriously. There are differences in work cultures and what is considered nice or not depending on area of the country etc. You certainly would worry about eh “delicate feelings” of a customer where I work.

  32. Charles*

    I’ll be snarky here and piss off everyone under 30 – See hiring managers, this is what you get when you choose NOT to hire us “elderly” folks – f*cking junior high – that’s what you get!

    1. fposte*

      Actually, the worst example I’ve seen of clique exclusion in the workplace was with fifty-somethings against other fifty-somethings.

    2. Anonymous*

      I’m under 30 and I take issue with this. One of my biggest pet peeves is overly sensitive coworkers like the ones the OP is dealing with. In my personal experience, whiners like that come from all age groups.

      Back to the topic at hand: boo hoo. Work is work. If you make friends there, great. If you don’t, oh well. I wouldn’t care one bit if there was a group of coworkers getting together without me, because I am an adult and I already have friends. I wouldn’t want a pity invite any more than I would want to be forced to invite coworkers I don’t like to my own off-hours social functions. When did our society morph into such a bunch of entitled crybabies?

    3. Andrea*

      There was a situation in a different department at a federal agency where I worked for several years–and it was almost all forty- and fifty-somethings. Men AND women.

  33. Bridget*

    It’s just annoying, even if you don’t feel hurt about being excluded from such AWESOME TIMES that are happening outside the office. Yeah, yeah, we get it: You guys had a GREAT weekend, we would not BELIEVE how drunk Katie got, it was non-stop laughter ALLLLLL night long, blah blah blah. If I was subjected to that constant stream of crap, I’d complain to my boss too. Can we just get back to work, please?

    1. Anonymous*

      This is a great point. The focus of work should not be on social activities outside of work from either side- those who took part or those who are complaining that they weren’t invited. The focus should be on work and staying focused. That is what the manager should think about. Who is on task? Who isn’t?

  34. nyxalinth*

    Last I checked, this was Ask A Manager, not RPG Codex and sure as heck not /b/!

    I’m an introvert, and don’t normally care to go out in groups or do anything social after work. Having said that, I understand it’s important to others. As for me, as long as my co-workers are nice and friendly to me and not jerks, I’m perfectly happy.

  35. EngineerGirl*

    I think one point really needs to be made. In my 31 years of work, I’ve only seen the exclusion issue come up on 2 projects (and I’ve been on many). I think it is interesting to note that both projects failed spectacularly because people wouldn’t talk to each other and share information. They were also so busy trying to mess with people that they didn’t get their real work done.

    To those who say “grow up” I suggest that you have been blessed with never having been in this type of situation. Until you’ve actually lived it you can’t believe how bad it can get.

  36. Nichole*

    Based on the massive response to this question there are obviously a lot of things to consider as far as when this becomes a management issue, but I’m guessing this isn’t a Mean Girls situation, just obliviousness. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to catch a couple of the offending clique in the breakroom or something and say “hey, I’ve heard there are some hurt feelings about you and some of the others discussing events that others weren’t invited to a little too loudly/often/obviously, could you tone it down a little?” Even if it’s an interpersonal issue rather than management, if you can make someone feel better with a minimal effort, why not do it? Now if, as another poster mentioned, if the Uninvited have become a counterclique of complainers, this could blow up in your face, but if it’s a typical office situation, what harm? Yeah, the Uninvited should have dealt with it themselves, but they didn’t write to AAM, the manager did. Outside of any weird power dynamics on your team, which is a way bigger problem than who’s invited to the party, just drawing their attention to it will probably be enough to get it to stop.

  37. BadMovieLover*

    What about the opposite situation? When co-workers and project managers try to coerce people into joining activities during your free time because it’s “good for the team” and you should be a “team player”?

  38. kkelley805*

    The manager can’t mandate everyone be included in after-hours, non-work socializing.

    However, the manager can listen and validate how left-out they feel. Then the manager can suggest that they ones who feel left-out should consider asking to be invited/mention they’d like to tag along/or take it upon themselves to initiate get-togethers and invite everyone.

    Lastly, I’m curious how many people have complained they feel left-out of these gatherings. If just 1, then I wouldn’t suspect any underlying issues. But the question mentions “many complaints from other staff”, then from an outsider’s point of view I’d wonder if there are clique issues going on? (The question didn’t mention how many of the other 13 are complaining.)

    If the manager is concerned about clique-issues, then do your homework on ways to team-build. I’m certainly no expert on this, but there are folks out there that do a great job of this sort of thing. Sure they may never go to the same bar together, but if I were a manager I’d want to take every opportunity to make my department a place where people want to be and feel good about being a part of.

  39. Z*

    I have worked for groups with people that have complained in this exact way. The unfortunate result was that our management staff was so stupid they actually told us to cut it out and quit playing favorites or being “cliquey” and make general invitations. That is the fastest way to grow discord among the people you’re trying to get in alignment.

    Now, having said that, at the time I was a recent college graduate working in a rather professional job role and my immaturity and naiveté at the time found this request ridiculous. Additionally, I can say that for quite some time from then to present, I have found myself being drawn into “cliquey” groups or the “grouchy” groups that were just cantankerous about everything the department/company does. Perhaps I have finally peaked from the maturity perspective because I try to distance myself from the water cooler/huddle desk/cube whisper/snicker conversations as much as possible now. I also try to never bad mouth any one in the office if I can avoid it and try to never complain openly or engage in office politics.

    My perspective on this situation is that unless these people who aren’t being invited are absolutely ass mongers then it wouldn’t hurt to do a general invite. It’s almost GUARANTEED that none of the people who are complaining will come anyway, but you have now shut them the hell up for a while. Additionally, if any of them do come perhaps you’ll see a different side of them once they’ve gotten a few beers in their gut. Perhaps they think your boss is just as much of an ass as you do.

    On the other hand, I personally am not the type to engage in large group of drunken rabble-rousing after work. I have better things to do with my time but I can say that you should make the effort to go out every once in a while even if it’s just for an hour and a beer.

    Careers can be made by being part of the boozing group, especially if there is a needy, immature boss that has to be surrounded by people all of the time.

    Good luck — be kind to one another.

  40. BCW*

    Wow, I stumbled upon this based on another post that referenced it, and its kind of ridiculous. I don’t want to say “grow up” because that is very dismissive, however, I will echo the statements of many people here that its a bit immature for a work place.

    I’ll be the first to admit, I’m lucky enough to never have been the one excluded. Not as a kid, high school, or in the work place. In fact, if we are going to compare this to high school, I’ve luckily been part of the “cool kids”. I don’t think we were ever exclusionary though, which is a difference.

    Here’s an example. I used to be a teacher, which as most people know is a very female dominated profession. When I first started, I became good friends with another guy. We both were around the same age, lived near each other, and had similar interests. So we started hanging out a lot. There were a few other guys, but they were either way older, married, or just not similar to us in personality. We didn’t dislike them, but didn’t hang out with them. I wouldn’t say that meant we excluded them though, it was just that we bonded more. At meetings we did tend to sit together and joke around as well. But we were always nice to everyone. Should the other guys have gone to our boss and complained about us? If they did, should we have had to now hide the fact that we hung out? To go the other way though, one other male co-worker would host a couple’s game night. Since I was single, I wasn’t invited. I didn’t feel bad about it either.

  41. tina*

    I would like to say, coming from a job that this was a daily, weekly issue. There were like 12 out of say 3/4 of the office staff. That socialized eating out, or going to ones house after work. Going out drinking and dancing. I rather at first no did not take offense to this due to I am a tight wad with my money, enjoy my time to self at lunch to clear head before starting again seeing patients. But, if bothers you that well were you ever asked? No, and did you hear from the ones that were giving the get togethers about them or asked? No, one of the ladies that shared the same office with my supervisor came to desk one day just to borrow our scanner she in conversation asked if I was going to My supervisors gathering that Friday night. I said no, didnt know about it, wasn’t asked, Oh well. LOL , I said but that is ok, I would rather be with my family on my time off. Which is true.She stated OH, like she had let the cat out of the bag. Then another example of felt as if rubbed in face we were having a meeting, not all staff was there. But the new nurse they hired was sitting there, the Deptuy Director and one of our Physican asst. I have to add this before finishing what she ask, she the nurse worked with this PA soley. everyday, and within not a week after this occurance she was removed as the PA nurse due to PA threating to quit. But the nurse sits and asks the PA are you going out with us to Texas steak house this friday night. Such such, etc are going. why dont you come along. It will be fun. I was sitting right beside her. Again no one offered nothing. It is just the fact of being decent, polite. Not that really I would care to be seen with most of them in public due to the type of people they are to begin with. But, it is the fact of the matter. Then you learn later when they do go out for lunch the office has paid for it, due to they lie call it a meeting. And, say nurses meeting but you are one and were not there. Then like three weeks later you may find out what was decided or discussed with no input from you or feelings on the issue asked. When the office staff is that small, and you are suppose to be a total together team how can this be?

  42. Anonymous*

    At the very basic level, not dealing with cliques or meanness, I was taught that it is rude to make social plans in front of people you are not including. If you want to make plans with a coworker, leave the room and make the plans privately. There are only four people in my office, and we get along well. Today, however, one of them made pizza for lunch, and another laid a tablecloth in the office and set only three places for the two of them and my third coworker. I was astounded. I added a plate for myself and said I would eat my own lunch with them. The pizza chef said “Oh, you can have some too. God, some people are so sensitive!” She’s not mean, but I think she was poor;y brought up. It’s a simple case of manners.

    1. Anonymous*

      In my opinion it is a serious issue. We had a girl ask a couple of people to go out and she told one of them to feel free to throw it out there. In front of everyone, she said, “I’m throwing it out there. On second hand, not.” Then she tossed her head and laughed. It’s not the plans that I think are wrong. I think it’s the exclusionary and rude manner in which people do this. It’s the intent and the context that matter. I agree that you don’t have to be friends with everyone you work with. However, I also agree that co-workers should show a certain degree of respect for one another.

    2. Anonymous*

      Along the same lines, what do you think of group of co-workers (2 different departments who sit next to me that I work closely with) who are cliquey putting celebratory baked goods (2 days in a row now) right on an empty desk on the other side of my cubette and not inviting me to join them? BTW, I don’t care about the baked goods…what bothers me is being excluded and it also seems so rude to me…yeah, call me sensitive, but I was also excluded in HS and this brings it all back, and I would never exclude anyone that way. PLUS…they are friendly if I approach them, but if I don’t, nobody even bothers to say hello to me, or tries to include me. I feel silly that it bothers me, but it does. I don’t know how to deal with it.

  43. Anonymous*

    I just want to say that I disagree entirely that this is a personal issue if you feel left out. I am this exact situation right now and besides the fact a bunch of people pal around most nights and weekends and talk about it at work ad nauseum, but basically these people I work have such an attitude about it on the exclusitivity. Not only does it disrupts the workplace and dept managers due nothing to curtail it, but the people the most involved in this clique also have a very un-business like attitude and goof around all day and it’s allowed. You all that say why complain to management, well for this reason alone because of the un-professional attitude. I thought nothing would ever correct this bad work environment until recently, when because of all of this two managers were fired. The Branch Mgr basically called the entire office into a meeting and call out this behavior to everyone and said all this crap will stop and people will start acting like they work at a business. I was quite satisfied with this because FINALLY someone addressed right in their faces.

    1. BCW*

      Your situation is more about them acting professional in general, not really about the fact that they hang out with each other. Its a bit different.

  44. M@vit@*

    I have the same problem at my office and it is not to be mean… How far can people go and exclude you out of meetings while you actually running the project??? And later on they address as you were included while expecting at the same time for you to give a solutions to their problems.

    Unfortunately this is my current situation and I spoke with someone that works with me which recommend me to talk to my boss. However, I refuse as it is totally unprofessional and they already sees me like I don’t know anything (Because I young, smart & pretty).

    As far I try to look for a solution it keeps happening and I start noticing that people start excluding more from meeting. At this point I feel like I am soon to loose my job and the only way I can get away with keeping my job is performing in my current role even though some of my projects I am not include in calls which makes me look like I am totally clueless about it.

    I really don’t know where to start and it is upsetting me to no end!

  45. Anonymous*

    There is a group at my job that eats lunch together everyday. They call it “Ladies Lunch” and eat in an office right across from my desk. They are very loud and disrupt my work. I am never included and now they have private jokes that are told all day in front of me. Now one of them got married and of course the group pictures are on Facebook (the second wedding I was not invited to). This is getting so old. I try not to feel left out but it is in my face everyday! I applied for another job but did not get it within the company. Trying to have a positive attitude but it gets more difficult everyday.

    1. BCW*

      Thats an unfortunate situation, but again are they purposely excluding you or are you just not going. For example, do you try to eat with them and they say no? That would be a problem.

      As for the wedding thing, you can’t really be upset that you weren’t invited to a wedding when from how it sounds you aren’t really friends with the person.

      1. Anonymous*

        I am not invited. They all went out on Friday night and I was not included. It is obvious and I am so tired of living like I am in middle school. If I walk into where they are all eating to ask a question, they all quit talking. I have many friends outside of work. It is hurtful and mean. I am surrounded. I guess it is time to find a new job. Not good for teamwork. I am not a whiner. Just very tired of the clique.

        1. Mustang Sally*

          You are obviously being punished for some “wrong” such as: being prettier than they are, being smarter than they are, having more self-confidence than they do, being better at your job than they are, or a combination of things like that. Let them REMAIN in middle school and move on…

          1. BCW*

            Or maybe they just don’t like her. Look, not trying to be a jerk about it, but sometimes you really just don’t like a person. I don’t know anonymous, and its possible she is the nicest person in the world. Its also possible she is a total witch. Who knows.

            I used to be a teacher. There was a girl who all the kids seemed to not include in things. One day I asked one of the nice girls why everyone hated her. Turns out she stole things from a bunch of them the previous year and got caught. To me that is a perfectly valid reason to not include someone in your social plans. Now I’m not saying that anonymous did any of that, but they may have a perfectly valid reason to not want her around.

            And to anonymous, again not trying to be mean, but people don’t have to invite you out with them on the weekends. Its not like its a 5 person company and 4 are going out and not inviting you. Why do you feel its owed to you to be included in their social gatherings and their wedding?

            1. Anonymous*

              That could be a factor that someone is not liked, but that should not be a reason for excluding (and obvious about it) from a group. I am sorry but Women are just B***ches and Middle School prevails in the workplace. I can understand friends at work hang out, but I think its a bit over the top when the rest of the workplace is subjected to listening to these times out. I am from the Old School belief that what goes on after work stays after work. I find it very childish to talk on and on about drinking from the night before because to me that is total company time wastage and getting away too much with this behavior.

              1. BCW*

                Well in that instance, your issue is that they are talking about their personal lives at work. That is a completely separate issue than the clique thing. However I will caution that if you are to say they are being unprofessional by using work time to discuss what they did last night, then you would also have to say that people who discuss their kids all the time are being unprofessional. Either way they are wasting company time right?

  46. Mustang Sally*

    I once worked in a very small law firm with about 10 staff members. Since I was the “new girl,” they were friendly at first, asking me personal questions about myself. They already had a routine of having lunch in the lunchroom together at a handful of small tables. The Ringleader, who was the biggest busybody at the firm, usually sat at a particular table with her “besties” every day. Early on, I was invited to sit at The Table for lunch once. After a few minutes of chit chat, the subject of abortion came up and because I didn’t pipe in to the din about how it should be given on demand in any circumstance, they knew by default that I was against abortion generally speaking. As a result, they asked me point blank if I was a Christian and I said yes. None of them were Christians, one of them was a professional yogi, others were athiests or agnostics, etc. I was never invited to sit at The Table again, and they even brought their chairs from other tables over to The Table crowding around it, leaving me alone at a table by myself every day after that. They also made it a point to let me know they did this or that after work together or on the weekend. The Ringleader was a crossover friend to (female) Management as well, and soon I found my good work was being nitpicked on. My work went from very good to great in response. Since that ploy didn’t work, they upped the clique-y games even more and did everything they could do to make me feel unwelcome. They eventually got my boss (who was part of the “Management Clique” to turn against me too and she started writing me terse emails whenever she had to communicate with me. Despite their games, I tried to be nice to everyone and do a great job for my boss. They only perceived this as “weakness” however and continued their clique-y games. I stood up for myself when my work was picked on erroneously, and then I noticed sometimes things had been disturbed or moved at my desk in my absence. I have plenty of self-confidence and am not too tough to look at if I do say so myself, but I played it down a bit for their sakes and continued to try to be nice to everyone. One day I was fired for no given reason, but they gave me two weeks’ severance and a letter of recommendation anyway (guilt I guess). Later, I found it hard to find a new position for several months in my field in town, so I hired a reference checking service. They discovered that my boss had been saying bad things about me to prospective law firms in town. With that evidence, I could have sued, but I didn’t bother.

    I think clique-y high school games at work among females is wrong and dangerous, not to mention childish and it smacks of insecurity among the group who need each other to feel okay at work. And not only is it wrong, but sometimes it is used as a TOOL to punish employees who are disliked for their spiritual or political beliefs, or who seem to be some kind of threat because they are quite attractive, or both. IOW, if you work in the field of law, by all means don’t be a Christian and/or a Conservative, and certainly NEVER be good looking and under no circumstances have any self-esteem, and God help you if you are an Attractive Conservative Christian with Self-Esteem!!!!

    1. SpareMe(&everyone.else)*

      It could be that you’re arrogant, condescending and so high maintenance emotionally that people end up despising you.

      1. Grace*

        Or…those who profess to be open-minded and tolerant aren’t as decent to differing beliefs as they’d like. The way I handle people who are intolerant of those who are against abortion, “I’m glad you were born.” Honestly, stuns them every…single….time!

  47. Mustang Sally*

    To “SpareMe”:

    There’s a difference between self-esteem and arrogance. Self-esteem is when you don’t NEED to be in a clique at work to feel worthy or like you are a good employee. Self-esteem is when you stick up for yourself when you know you are being railroaded by insecure, small-minded women at work.

    Arrogance is when you feel it is okay to run a clique or belong to a clique that openly mistreats those who are not in the clique simply because you are jealous of them and/or afraid of them for not needing the clique.

    The people who are “high maintenance emotionally” are the ones who need to be in a clique at work and need constant praise to feel okay as a person at work.

    Christians are often despised simply for being Christians who believe that right is right and wrong is wrong, because a lot of people don’t like being in the presence of someone who has morals because it makes them uncomfortable about their frame of mind and their life choices.

    This is true when the Christian female employee is demure and frumpy, but TRIPLE TRUE when the Christian female is attractive and somewhat hip. IOW, many people feel that Christians are NOT ALLOWED to be attractive and must be frumpy and look down all the time and shuffle along (THAT is pretty ARROGANT to decide who at work is ALLOWED to have confidence and who isn’t). They feel that anyone who is attractive MUST BE a liberal and in their camp (I guess to add to it’s cred), and they simply CANNOT WRAP THEIR BRAIN around the fact that many female Christians can be attractive, fashionable and even sexy (without being inappropriately dressed or anything), and have confidence without needing the group. Their brain just goes “DOES NOT COMPUTE!” That is because of all the misguided messages they are fed through the media and entertainment industries all their lives that portray Christian females as frumpy, shy and out of touch.

  48. Anonymous*

    I can totally relate, in my case it’s my manager who is the ringleader. For me it doesn’t bother me much that i am not included in personal things like parties and get togethers and such, but what does get to me that it’s starting to slip into work where my work or information regarding my work is being excluded from me. He has 3 in his clique, 1 is a secretary who does nothing but talk on the phone all day and does nothing, does nothing so much that the mail is done on friday if your lucky. The other is his no 2 as i like to call him, kiss up and likes to rat on people who are on facebook or online, but fails to mention when he does the same. The last one is ok, he just fell into that clique out of just being nice but out of all of him, he is the most tolerable. They have their little lunch group, and then they have their little whispers in the corner, the manager who at first was OK, is as clueless and incompetent to his job, no only does he have the secretary and his no. 2 in his ear, he does basically everything they say, and knowing that his secretary does no work, from the complaints, he still defends her. But he has no problem checking me on my work, one thing is for sure, whatever personal get together they have, that’s personal time, when it starts going into actual work, that’s when you either A, have a one on one meeting and ask if there is problem and if so talk it out best as possible or B, go higher to your director and HR ONLY if its work related exclusions where they are intentionally messing with your work. Best thing you can do is just do your job, because no matter what, at the end of the day , your work will speak for itself.

  49. NoName*

    In my case the ringleader is a demoted, overweight, lazy employee and co-worker who has been there forever, who sends off secret emails and the whole office parades right by my desk. I just don’t want to bother with him anymore and actually, feel best when I ignore him. Oh, and he friended everybody in the office on Facebook except me, which is good by me. We are opposites politically. He didn’t even graduate from H.S.

  50. anonymous*

    Invite the people who feel left out to hang out together. My guess is if you confront the people getting cliquey, there just going to get more cliquey.

  51. Rella*

    People definitely don’t have to invite all of their coworkers, but I do think it is low class to make plans in front of those who aren’t being invited. This happened to me recently, by coworkers that I wouldn’t have hung out with anyway, but I did think it was rude. I didn’t take it to heart, though I did take notice of their lack of manners. I think it rubs people the wrong way, not because the coworkers are hanging out without you, but because they are flagrantly excluding you. It’s just commonsense manners that are becoming less and less common.

  52. Mustang Sally*

    Dear Rella: I’m sorry you experienced this.

    It seems to me that in this day of computer technology it is pretty common and pretty easy for groups to plan gatherings via email at work and then meet up at the lobby or parking lot. To make plans in front of those being excluded therefore smacks of intentional rudeness.

  53. Notinvited*

    I am in a similar sitution to several of these posts. I work in a small government office which is part of a bigger organization. I sit near a woman who decided about a year ago that she didn’t like me. This started when I found out she was sending emails to co-workers criticizing me for mostly personal traits but also because I was pretty new in the office and asked questions of her. There is a lot of history in our office and my understanding is she felt that our supervisor should be training me, not her. I approached her about the negative emails and asked her to stop. She denied doing this until I told her I had seen one of the emails, then she apologized and said she would stop. Since that time she will not talk to me directly unless it is a work question which she will answer. This person is very influential in our office due to her experience and knowledge, but she will go out of her way when asked a work to exclude me from the answers, going into cubicles and whispering, etc. People in our office know how mean she can be and go out of their way to avoid her anger and while I understand these acts of self-preservation it definitely has an impact on the office culture. I have tried to be nice to her, say good morning, etc. but she generally ignores me. Recently, I heard from another co-worker that this person is hosting a party at her house and that we were the only two people in the office who were excluded. I asked someone else in our office who verified the party; I also found out that our division director is also invited, although I am sure this person does not know that there is a “select” guest list. We are a small division, less than 10 people, but part of a bigger organization and more people from the office are invited. I am beginning to feel that I should say something to management, since to me this party is more than a social event, by inviting management and excluding a few this feels like a “work party” and she is determining who is worthy of attending and this may carry back into the office and how my co-worker and I are treated. I am not a very dramatic person and am friendly with others in the office but need some input on whether I should take any action.

  54. Mustang Sally*

    Perhaps hold your OWN “work party,” inviting yourself, your similarly excluded co-worker and the division director/management. During the festivities explain the other party and the issues surrounding it and how you feel it can affect the work culture. Don’t forget to discuss the “self-preservation cowards” and how their cowardice contributes to the unpunished meanness and antics of this obvious Bully. Let management know it was being USED by the bully to ostracize you and your similarly situated co-worker. Perhaps secretly record the encounter/party you hold for posterity.

    Your bully is obviously SO AFRAID of your presence in the workplace and threatened by it that she feels she has to resort to these Second Grade tactics. Management should KNOW they are being manipulated by a SECOND GRADER.

    1. D*

      I love that term: “self-preservation cowards”. My office sandbox has people that notice and realize that our manager continually excludes me yet says nothing nor refuses to be party to the behavior. It is causing a less than stellar environment – one that is making me consider leaving a position I have had for 17 years.

      1. Mustang Sally*

        D – Sorry to hear you are dealing with those oh-so-pervasive Self-Preservation Cowards (i.e.,”SPC’s”). The fact you have been there 17 years coupled with the fact that it is a manager who is involved in the excluding behavior makes me wonder whether the company is using the manager (and your co-workers who may be in on it or simply clueless cowards doing what cowards do) as a Tool to get you to depart on your own before you can collect any retirement or other type of monies you would be due if you stayed.

  55. Jim B.*

    We have a clique at work and a lot of people talk about it who are outside the clique. A manager who is twice the age of his clique members controls who are involved and who are left out. I use to socialise with people of this group when it was an open invitation but ever since it has become a clique I hardly socialise with them now. It’s all hushed up, people are told not to tell others so they are not invited. They go away on holiday together and I think the whole thing is very weird, considering he is 50+ and the others are at least 20 years younger.

    1. Denise*

      Your situation sounds very similar to mine – our office has turned into a middle school “who’s in and who’s out” environment. The manager having “exclusive” parties will sit near me and discuss having everyone over to his home just so I will hear that an event is coming up or that happened that I was not invited to. This guy doesn’t even like the majority of the people he invites. Seems to me he is more interested in me knowing I wasn’t invited. I get it is his hang up – for whatever reason he feels the need to exclude me often in outside events. I would hate to think his behavior is due to me being the only African American at the office that he excludes me. But I would probably guess it is due to me not being impressed by his tales of how big his home is, how much he paid for it, etc, as some of the other invitees are.
      Even people in their 50’s still want to be the big guy on campus.

      1. Mustang Sally*

        It sounds like this childish 50 year old needs the adoration of the people under him and would like your adoration too, which might be why he informs you about the parties, his house and his pocketbook. He wants you to know what if you don’t try to be “IN,” (which evidently means being an easily-impressed suckup), then you will be “OUT.” Even if you decided to be one of the “IN” folks, there might STILL be a SUB-clique (that’s inside the clique you know about), that might not let you in. Then if you alleged you were being excluded/mistreated by THEM because of your African American status, they could come back and say “What are you talking about, you’re in The Clique?” If I were you, I’d stay out of both cliques and laugh on the inside at this creep.

  56. N*

    If discussing their weekend events at work is being disruptive to other employees, and thus creating a hostile work environment, it is your duty as the manager to take action. If you do nothing, you are only continuing to foster a hostile work environment, which is illegal to ignore, since grievances have already been reported to you.

    1) Take each employee in that group of 7 aside, individually. Tell them that you are concerned with productivity and professionalism. While reliving their weekly events, they are not focusing on the work at hand, which is making them less productive on company time. And it is unprofessional to discuss such outings at work, especially in the presence of customers.

    2) Ask them to refrain from discussing their weekly events during company time.

    [This advice is coming from a Business Management major]

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      “Hostile workplace” is a specific legal term that requires that the hostility be linked to discriminatory harassment based on race, religion, national origin, disability, age (40 and up only), military service, sex, etc. This situation does not sound like it qualifies.

      I wouldn’t throw that business major around like that :)

      1. Mustang Sally*

        Why assume that “hostile workplace” criteria is NOT at play in one or several of the cases? One of the people may be being excluded for their religion, another one could be being excluded for their race, etc.

        Also, people with Business Management majors are being taught things about legal matters in the workplace, like hostile workplace environments, so it is not out of her/his arena to discuss it in this forum.

  57. S*

    This is the same issue I have been facing only I have been on both sides of the fence. When I joined I was “coveted” by this “in-group” as well as the one/two people they would deliberately exclude out due to an intense personal dislike & prejudice. No doubt they were great fun to hang out with , but eventually the female colleague complained and whined enough for the Management to step in. I was given a tuff time for being under the “influence” by my boss so much so that it impacted my work relationship with the teams senior. My defense was the same that no one can be sand boxed to play together as this was not a grade school. Ironically the chick clique dropped me after a while as I wouldnt side with them either over some office issues ( which the very reason they solicited me initially ) . This has never happened with me at any previous workplaces and its more of a culture challenge at this particular company rather than a personality issue. Needless to say Im hoping a better culture will prevail soon or either I or the groups will leave for better options. Bottom line : its irritating ! But one has to live it. Best to ignore and go about your work.

    1. Mustang Sally*

      It’s interesting to hear from a former insider. These cliques are definitely power plays that exist for one or more political purposes in the office.

      I’m glad Mangement stepped in in this instance and that you then refrained from taking sides — which evidently got you ousted from the clique, oh well. I’m afraid that unless Management continues to hack away at this clique, they will remain and it may be you who decides to leave out of disgust. If only cliques would ALLOW one to simply go about their work (which, I think, is the reason we were hired?), but they make it very difficult to do so. Someone should invent a stylish helmet to wear to work, that blocked out your peripheral vision (of whisperers and pointers), and that piped in soothing music through headphones complete with verbal affirmations of your worth as a person and employee, that had rose-colored eye pieces so everything looked soft and pleasant at work, and it had a button you could push that would spray a mist of some nice essential oil into the nosepiece that only you could smell that would make you feel better, it would be a little easier. It would be an Anti-High-Schooler-Helmet, and it could come in many colors and patterns depending on the wearer’s taste.

  58. Anonymous*

    Just had this happen to me this week at work and I was completely blown away. In my circumstance, this is a ..newly developing company which encourages “grow and share” and other team environment stuff like that. Most of us have worked there for less than 3 months.

    Insert “frat boy” who spends his ENTIRE shift socializing rather than doing work, but is somehow buddies with everyone. He sends an email out to, I guess, his favorites, inviting them all out to a bar on Friday. He mentions it in front of me to his invitees several times, but I’m not one of the invitees.
    Flash to cafeteria where there are about 5 of us sitting there including frat boy. Frat boy asks one person in the group if he got the email. When this person says “no, what email” frat boy says “i can’t talk about it here, its secret” I know damn well what he’s talking about.

    Ugh, it mostly annoys me as we are a new team and we really don’t need to have this one frat boy stuck in middle school mentality splitting the team.
    Avg age of team – 25-35. Frat boy is probably about 27.

    1. Mustang Sally*

      Too bad Frat Boy can’t prove he actually graduated from college, as evidenced by his High School behavior.

  59. Denise*

    How do you handle having a manager that continually invites the office staff and supervisors to his home for Christmas and Summer holiday parties and continues not to invite one person in the office?
    I have been going thru this for a few years now with our manager of 7 years. The office is set up with 5 female reps, and 10 male leads/supervisors. At work, some of us are very friendly with each other, even socializing individually outside of work on occasion. But when our manager has a private event, he excludes me each time.
    I respect the idea that an individuals home is their place to chose whom is invited, and that not every person will like you to the point regardless of the reason. But this has started to cause a rift within the office – a me against them that doesn’t seem to be going away. In addition, I am the only African-American at this office. As each event that approaches that I am excluded from, some who are not aware ask why am I not going. Yet have no response when I tell them I was not invited.
    In all honesty, I wouldn’t attend the event anyway because the parties get quite out of hand. But the idea of not having the invite extended, and the manager making it known to others he is not inviting me makes it uncomfortable.
    Open to suggestions on how to navigate this sticky situation…

  60. Mustang Sally*

    Maybe crash the party once, after it’s been going on for a few hours so everyone is out of hand by then, and approach the host and tap a glass with a spoon to get everyone’s attention, then in your most gangsta accent you can muster super over-thank him for finally inviting you, and tell him you were late because you had to fix your jerry curl then give him a big kiss and say you have to leave early because you have to go give some money to your pimp (a la Eddie Murphy). My guess is on Monday there will be a new clique in town, and you’ll be the head of it, and it will kick butt on the old clique!

  61. Anonymous*

    I know I am late to this forum but I am in the same situation. I am “well-liked” by many in my company but the people I work closest too seem to exclude me from pretty much everything. Previously they would go for lunch and ask me to join but I would say no because I can’t afford to go out for lunch 3 times a week which seems to have turned me into someone they don’t want to hang out with. The same people are also big Starbucks fans and similarly to why I can’t eat out every day I can’t spend $5 a day on coffee so I don’t go on coffee runs with them. This has now become the norm for me. Even though I would love to join them once in a while, they don’t even bother to invite me anymore since I don’t have the $ they do to spend on this kind of stuff. I don’t have any concerns about hanging out with them after work but during the day I feel they could at least offer? It all seems to come down to engagement and when your co-workers are going out for lunches and coffee without even an offer it makes you feel completely un-engaged :(

  62. Gigi*

    There is a definite A-list group where I work. The present Store Manager is leaving. There were 4 department managers that were not invited to the going away dinner. I am one of the four. I feel very hurt by not being included in the dinner. Should I let my Boss know the reason why I didn’t attend the dinner?

Comments are closed.