Inclusivity, the Problem with Cliques and How to Break Them

Posted in : HR Updates on 1 March 2024
Andrew Pain
Andrew Pain
Issues covered: Diversity & Inclusion

Nearly 4 million people in the UK say they’re very lonely or extremely lonely (ONS Report ( and it’s not just the elderly: loneliness is rife across the age groups (ONS Report ( and regardless of the wonders of Zoom, Teams and social media which apparently keep us connected, it’s clear that many of us are not feeling that connection.

Given the compelling evidence from Harvard’s 80-year study of human behaviour (Harvard Research Reveals The #1 Key To Living Longer And Happier (, which found the quality of our social connections is the key ingredient for a long and healthy life, more than ever, we need to understand how to create vibrant and inclusive communities and therefore, we need to understand why cliques form.

  • Have you ever been to an event (wedding, business conference, company away-day) where most people in attendance, seem to know each other, but you only have or two existing contacts at that event and unfortunately, they’re more interested in talking to other people?
  • Have you ever worked in a team, where everyone seems friendly enough at first, but when it comes to deeper relationships and beyond small talk, you’re on the outside? The endless in-jokes, the banter and real social stuff, it all happens separately to you.
  • Have you ever felt like a complete outsider? Those around you seem like nice people, but they simply don’t understand you or care, so you start to ask yourself, “What’s wrong with me?” “Why am I so unlikeable?”

If you can relate to these scenarios, you’re not alone, cliques are everywhere because where people gather, there will be cliques, and it’s horrible being on the outside. Cliques prevent community, create misunderstanding and get in the way of all the good things which make communities flourish, so it’s important understand why cliques form.  These are my thoughts:

  • It’s very hard to spot a clique if you’re already in it: but if you’re outside of it, it’s crystal clear and you simply can’t believe that those within the clique are not aware of the clique.
  • People who form cliques are not bad people: they’re busy people and socially speaking, they’re creatures of habit. Some people just find making new connections difficult. It’s easier and more comfortable to talk to people you already know, rather than reaching out to people you don’t know.
  • I don’t believe cliques form because as children, we were allegedly taught to NEVER talk to strangers and this means we’re naturally reserved in making new connections. My memories are that I was taught to be cautious in certain scenarios, to use my wits and pay attention to my gut, whilst also appreciating that the majority of people are great once you get to know them. I believe cliques generally form because of my second point above, rather than, the ‘not talking to strangers’ myth.
  • It’s easy to justify not being inclusive, by telling ourselves that it takes time to get to know new people and that we haven’t got enough time for the people we already know, let alone those we don’t know. This serves as a handy excuse to stick to our inward-looking social habits. Being exclusive doesn’t necessarily come from a place of being mean. Most people don’t want to be mean.

But if cliques are common, they’re hard to spot if you’re in them and they prevent inclusivity, how can we take responsibility for preventing cliques?

 I have three top recommendations:

  1.  On a day-to-day basis, and in your various social interactions (from work to your community, neighbourhood and family) ask yourself, “What would an inclusive person do? How would an inclusive person act in this situation?”
  2. Check in with yourself frequently and ask this question: “Is it possible that socially speaking, I’m a creature of habit? If so, what new social habits could I form? What could I stop doing? What could I start doing?”
  3. In a team situation, collectively get the magnifying glasses out and examine your dynamic as a team. Ask yourselves:
  • Are we cliquey?
  • Do we do things in the same old way we always have?
  • Are we resistant to accepting ideas/challenge from newer people?
  • Do we pay lip-service to inclusivity with a ‘hello’ and a smile, but no commitment/action to press into a meaningful friendship/relationship with certain people in the team?
  • What would someone outside of our team say about us?
  • When was the last time we ran with an idea from the newest person in the team? 

Legal Island Training Resources for Your Staff

Diversity & Inclusion - The Importance of Conscious Inclusion | eLearning Course

Are you responsible for overseeing the implementation of training for all employees on diversity and inclusion policies in your organisation?
Legal Island’s Diversity & Inclusion - The Importance of Conscious Inclusion eLearning course will help your staff understand the importance of inclusive behaviour in the workplace and the value it brings to both your staff and your organisation. This course is tailored specifically to your jurisdiction and provides comprehensive compliance training for all employees within your organisation.

Click here to view our course on Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace.

This article is correct at 01/03/2024

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Andrew Pain
Andrew Pain

The main content of this article was provided by Andrew Pain. Contact telephone number is 0121 420 3457 or email

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