Is There an In-Group at Your Work?

November 19, 2018

in-groupIs There an In-Group at Your Work?

It’s a silly question to some

If you have a boss who clearly favors some subordinates, and especially if you’re not one of the chosen, this seems a silly question as it’s as plain as the nose on your face that an in-group exists at your work. But for those either new to work or to the concept, it can be hard to tell.

Is there an in-group at your work?

There probably is, in that it’s just human nature for the boss to turn to people who’ve been with her a while, whose judgment she values, or who have a perspective she finds helpful.

But the presence of an in-group is not as important as whether their special status affects your ability to do good work and be respected for it. Here are some ways to assess this:

  • If you see a couple of the in-group talking, do you feel free to go up and ask, “What’s up?” and do they respond by including you in the discussion? Or do you have to be sure it’s a non-work exchange before you break in?
  • If something happens you don’t like, can you say it directly to the boss, or is it more effective to complain to one of the inner circle in the hopes it’ll be passed on?
  • Do you get your fair share of credit or, if one of the in-crowd claims your idea, do you need to shut up?
  • Are inner circle meetings held behind closed doors, or could you request to sit in if you had a particular stake in the discussion?

The in-group isn’t necessarily a negative if you have a certain freedom to be who you are and not who the powers-that-be want you to be. If so, then whether you are in or out is unimportant and even meaningless. If you generally like the people and feel well-treated personally, it ups the chances that your work’s in-group is not destructive. (Although don’t confuse liking the work and liking the job.) You may love the work but hate the conditions under which you do it).

Isn’t this kind of high school?

Again, this is a question asked only by those who aren’t adversely affected.

The answer: yes. It is high school—are you in the right clique? How do you get in or at least avoid being made fun of by them? How come some girls are in the running for Homecoming Queen and you’re not?

So, it is high school transposed to work. Are you in the group which has access to the perks and new assignments? If not, how do you get in? How come some people get Employee of the Month over and over and you’re ignored?

If the in-group is not an issue where you work, you should thank your lucky stars and use the opportunity to further your career goals. But if it is, then high school or not, this undercurrent can influence your career in ways nobody will admit but can still lead to not getting promotions when you deserve them, the credit going to somebody else, and the blow-hard carrying the day rather than your excellent idea.

It is a high school world. Get over it.   Next post: how to assess if you are in.

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