Help! What should I do about my Cliquey colleagues?

Dear OOO,

I’ve been in my business for about three years now, and I really like it. Work is always fun and challenging, my boss pushes me to grow and always supports me, and my work-life balance is something my friends envy. There’s only one problem: Introversion is so intense that I feel like I’m back in high school! The “cool kids” are all cute enough to work with, but in meetings they’re always visibly laughing at some inside joke, and now that we’re all vaccinated, they’re constantly posting pictures on Instagram where they’re all hanging out and none of the rest of us are invited. How can I either overcome my jealousy or help change our office culture so that I don’t feel so much of a popularity contest?

– Melissa

A former boss used to say that people should never be friends with their co-workers. It’s a logical philosophy – most people need brighter lines between work and life, not more confusion, and separating the two avoids toxic culture issues like the ones you face. But it also failed to recognize how humans actually work. Nearly 100 percent of the people I could reasonably contact were friends of either classmates or co-workers (or partners or close friends of my classmates or co-workers); I don’t even know how I will meet new friends. A very scientific survey of people who were active on my Gchat buddy list when I sat down to write this column indicated that most people feel the same way. Even my reluctant chief succumbed to her principled position; Our entire team became close and still is to this day.

If we accept the inevitability of friendships in the workplace, we are likely to be stuck with cliques, too. It is in our nature to form subgroups, and subgroups are by definition an exception. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it pays to have people who are especially loyal to you, even if it means that there are others who are especially loyal to people other than you.

But while we logically know that everyone deserves a great circle of friends, it still hurts to witness other people’s friends. Although I don’t doubt the “cool kids” ability to create bigger cultural problems – I was a girl in the seventh grade – I do believe that bruised egos can sometimes lead people to see “cliques” in normal groups of friends. I have drinks with some mates but not others, and I definitely got caught laughing in a meeting because of the DM’s side channel. This is mostly healthy, especially when everyone else is Feeling a bit detached A year and a half a global pandemic. You do not say whether you have a file close work friend, Melissa, but focusing either on finding one or two or on developing inside jokes with them can be a good distraction from understandable jealousy.

Suppose, however, that the cool group in your workplace actually creates a toxic environment beyond the occasional laughter that causes envy. There are a lot of things that they You could do to change his behavior, but your options for changing him are very limited. Because they are adults and not seventh grade girls, I tend to think that the gang is ignorant and not actively evil, and they don’t understand their impact on anyone else. With this in mind, I recommend that you choose one member you know is kind and reasonable, and gently ask him to comfort him. [insert problematic behavior here] Because it hurts the feelings of others. Also: Invite clique members to hang out with you and is yours workmates. Even if you don’t all start out on a regular basis, the occasional top of the different combinations can go a long way to making things seem a little less isolated.

If none of that works, you’ll have to figure out how to manage your feelings rather than fix the cause. Step one: Mute or unfollow the cool kids on Instagram. They are completely entitled to post pictures of their wild nights, just as you have the right to avoid seeing said pictures. Step two: Send a friend a direct message during a business meeting, then watch her try to contain her laughter. You’ll be thrilled to be interested in what the clique does.

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