Click, Click, Clique

If you have ever heard this while trying to start your car on a Monday morning, when you are running late for work, it can be frustrating. When we turn the key to our car and hear clicking, it tells us that we have an electrical problem. Repairs are going to be needed, it is going to cost us time and money. An older vehicle that has been nothing but problems, we may decide to replace. But if we find that just replacing a part will support several thousand more miles, many will choose this way.

Forget cars, what about organizations we are part of? What about our workplaces, social clubs, churches? Does repair or replace ever enter our thinking? There may come a time when we need to, because whether one is a leader of, a team member in, or an applicant to, hearing Clique, Clique, Clique can be just as frustrating. Finding or hearing of cliques in our organizations reveals a serious condition of the character of those involved.

I think most of us know what a clique is. The dictionary defines a clique as,

“A small group of people with shared interests or other features in common, who spend time together and do not readily allow others to join them.”

I define it as,

“A gaggle of weak and insecure people that exclude anyone that will make them look bad or threaten their status.”

Why so harsh in my definition? Because cliques are evil! People that align themselves in cliques suffer some serious character flaws. Pride fills their hearts with selfish ambition, jealousy, hatred, and foolishness. Somehow from the hallways and cafeterias of school to the breakrooms and offices of the workplace, they did not mature. Anyone in a clique, if they would step back and see just what they have associated themselves with, if they would see what those outside the clique see, they would be sick for days, and in counseling for weeks.

Whether a Mean Girls Club, or a Good Ole Boy Cluster the behavior is the same. In their foolishness they have deceived themselves into believing that their success can only be found in keeping others down. In hatred and prejudice, they place themselves on the bench of as judge, look around the beam in their eye, and devalue others because of a speck. There are few behaviors more detrimental to an organization than this.

Behavior motivated by selfish ambition and jealousy is often the root cause of the failure of a team. Mean Girls crave attention and importance. They will team up against newer employees who are often easy to manipulate, giving them all the heavy lifting. Keeping these outsiders caught up in the ordinary and despised tasks, they take the easy and high-profile projects. They want all the credit and reward for all the team’s success. Mean Girls are always front and center when the cameras come out.

So why are they allowed? With most business organizations giving time and money towards team building and promoting unity, why do we still find them in our organizations? The first stop is going to take us to the leadership. Leaders can be in ignorance. I saw a mid-level manager blindsided when a situation of favoritism was slammed down on boardroom table. Leaders are in denial. Weak leaders unsure how or unable to confront subordinates, retreat to ignoring the problem. Then there is the worst case, the leader is leading the clique. I have an article previously written titled, “The Rehoboam Leader” that addresses a leader that allows himself to be caught up in cronyism.

I have experienced cliques several times. There were some I had seen as they began; others were there before my arrival. Most were in the workplace, but sadly a couple were in churches I attended. In all of them I learned some valuable lessons. Some I would never have gotten had it not been for the truth in God’s Word, and the Holy Spirit teaching me.

Pastor James in his letter to Christians, addresses favoritism boom in your face, and leaves no wiggle room. His pointed statement pins us in a corner and instructs us not to do it! (James 2:1) He then tells us that in doing so it reveals our evil motives. (James 2:4) In between these two verses James uses the example of favoring the rich over the poor. The motivation is that by doing so you are hoping to get money from showing special treatment.

I once worked in a non-union shop that supported union workers out on the job sites. The owner would sometimes allow them to come into the shop to do work. He did this to avoid having to lay them off. He chose to lay shop workers off instead because he could charge the customers more in labor for them than us. I learned that being motivated by what I could get from others was to be rejected.

Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians addressed divisions. This resulted from quarrels because of who they were choosing to follow. (1Corinthians 1:10-12, 3:1-4) Because of divisions in the church, we see that these cliques kept them from being in unity in their actions and purpose. Paul couldn’t talk or teach them as if they were wise or mature. Their behavior was childish. They were jealous and bickered among themselves.

In this instance I was present when the clique formed. Senior management played a huge part in this clique, but it was done in ignorance. Racism was the motivation for this clique. Senior leaders following an existing precedent of “One and One”, which simply meant that in promotions there was to be one white person for every black person. Evil I know because it did not look at the character of the person, for the color of the skin. This clique did not last long as it did its damage quickly. Relationships were destroyed, people left, and respect for authority suffered. Leaders with a strong response, put this clique down.

While I could tell of many more, and what I learned from them, I want to wrap this up with how I learned to handle these situations. So, if you are in an organization, or under a manager that allows cliques, remember that you were hired to do a job, not win popularity. Be gracious in thinking toward them knowing that being more competent and diligent in the performance of your job will always be seen as a threat to the clique. Finally, be honest with yourself and ask, do you really want to be a part of the clique?

James 3:16 AMP

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder [unrest, rebellion] and every evil thing and morally degrading practice.

Seeing that you could be joining yourself to these “birds of a feather flocking together” set yourself apart and choose to walk with the wise and become wise. Hanging out with these fools will only lead you into trouble.