We all have the freedom to choose our friends. It is natural for people to get along with some and not really “click” with others. We all interact with individuals/groups and make connections, which is a normal part of life. We share close bonds with some and others we call acquaintances because relationships/intimacy levels are different.

Because we will always have closer relationships with some and not with others, how do we handle these “friendships/groups/cliques” in the workplace? The workplace is a completely different environment altogether. How should you handle the fine line of belonging to a group while maintaining your professional image/goal? Is it possible to do both well?

One thing to realize, the workplace is first and foremost a “place of work”. It is a place where you hopefully, can set future goals. Whether you are working towards a promotion or building skills for a future elsewhere, the important thing is to make sure the work is handled well. The group you are connected with on a more social level has to be handled with caution. In some instances, the group can have a detrimental affect. Does the group have a negative image within the company? Would associating with a certain group jeopardize your position or work image? Can anything you say leak to other sources? The fact groups or cliques exist is not a negative thing at work. However, it becomes negative if the group uses their “collaborative unit” to intentionally make a negative impact in some way. It could be work sabotage, bullying, gossiping, etc. That is when the group becomes a toxic unit that can make others feel isolated. And you most definitely do not want to be associated or take part in this type of behavior. The old adage, “You are the company you keep” does most certainly apply here.

So what if you find the “right group”? You cannot erase the notion that certain people will not gather together but the “gathering” should be done without affecting the well being of others. Should you find yourself getting along with a certain group, make sure you still maintain a professional outlook with everybody (both the ones you associate most and the ones you may not). First of all, it is about being polite and about having good manners. Second, you will be able to have a good enough rapport with everybody to get the job done and it will also help maintain your professional image. Depending upon how you handle the situation, people can connect with their respective groups without repeating the cliques of their high school pasts.

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