Is It Worth Being In the Gang?
It’s a lot of work to manage your position in the group. And sometimes sacrifice. So do you even want to be in the gang?
The answer is usually yes
Generally speaking, the in-crowd gets the most perks, the best assignments, the most forgiveness for screw-ups. There are more chances to strut your stuff and line up the next promotion. So, lots of good career reasons why it’s better to be in. But that isn’t always true.
When you don’t want to be in the gang
Peer led in-groups
Sometimes in-groups form which are not boss-led. They may be all the cool guys or at least those who think they are. They’re often more social than work-oriented. Join the group because it’s fun or exciting but not for your career.
Groups opposed to the company goals
This kind of group does exist. Members don’t buy the company’s direction, don’t trust management, and believe they could run things better. All of which may be true, but they often enjoy scepticism more than rectifying. Eventually, you’ll tire of cynicism which goes nowhere. You don’t need to be Pollyanna, but neither is it helpful to run with a crowd uninterested in making things better.
When the in-group is not respected
Your work in-group may not be worth joining if it is not admired by the rest of the company. Might be because the boss is a boob and has recruited in-group members in his image. Might be because the in-group is generally seen as incompetent or untrustworthy.
In this case, keep your distance. Being the go-to guy in this group will not win admiration or might even put off managers looking to hire you.
When your values are violated
To be in, you must adopt the group’s values. If they’re sharing, fair-play, and hard work, not a problem. But if they’re denigrating others (sales people are idiots; IT are dorks) or playing destructive games to keep on top, that’s another matter. If you have to become what you don’t want to be, think long and hard on whether the benefits are worth the price. If you don’t, you’ll be submerged by the undercurrent of power at all costs.
What if you choose not to be in?
Sometimes, impressed by the perks of being in, people don’t recognize it’s possible not to join. You’d probably need to opt out if you want a balanced work life. The maneuvering to stay ‘in’ can be time-consuming and, the higher you go, the more time needed. So, might make sense to remain one of the unwashed masses.
If you make that choice, however, promotions may come long after you’ve earned them, or perks like representing your company might be granted only if no in-group member is available. It might slow your career progression.
A difficult consequence may also be that your colleagues will assume you weren’t allowed/invited in. Protesting this interpretation will only confirm their suspicions so I’d save my breath. In the worst case, they may take you less seriously.
However, hang in there. If you consistently turn out good work, you’ll eventually be seen as valuable but eccentric. You decision won’t make any sense to your colleagues but in time, your independence can be accepted as your little quirk. Which isn’t a bad thing.