“Two is company; three is crowd.” That was the regular advice given to us in secondary school to discourage us from forming and joining cliques. But the narrative changed as we entered the university. Then it became, “Tell me your friends and I will tell you who you are.” With this, we were encouraged to identify with a group, albeit a good one.
After we graduated from university, we found out that “you need connection to make it in this country.” And that “connection” must be someone who knows you and can vouch for you. But then, it was difficult for a lot of us to find the right “connection” because all the people we know and are close to are family members. And when you don’t have someone in your family to pull you up, well, you know the rest.
I sat back some days ago to reminisce on the necessity of belonging to social groups and realized that most of us have lost the opportunity of having a close relationship with non-family members because we were instilled with fear of belonging to any clique, which we were told will mar our future. Some people have become loners because they couldn’t get themselves to make friends they’ll hang out with. They do things alone claiming that “lions hunt alone.” I may not be a lion anyway but I know from wildlife films that lions that hunt alone don’t always get their kills.
Man is a social animal and should, therefore, live and exist within a group. The problem we are facing these days is that a lot of posts on social media makes it look like you don’t need others to succeed. This ideology is already tearing a lot of families apart because a member can wake up and decide he doesn’t need the other members of the family. He will leave to build his Utopia only to be hit by the bitterness of a lonely life. But this article isn’t focused on family as a social group, but on the type of social group known as ‘clique’.
The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, 9th edition, defines “clique” as “a small group of people who spend their time together and do not allow others to join them.” This dictionary portrays clique in the negative light. It made it sound like clique is synonymous to gang (in the negative sense). And if you don’t know better, you might think the dictionary is referring to clique as a cult.
But, clique from all I know, is a group of friends that always cluster together when they find themselves within a larger group, say office and school environment. The members of a clique are so close that they know the whereabouts of one another. If A and B belong to the same clique, all you needed to do when looking for A is to ask B for A’s whereabouts.
But the problem I know most people are afraid of when the subject of cliques comes up is the influence the members of the group will have on one another. This is why there is a need to start early to teach the younger ones how to identify good and bad groups. To that I’ll suggest the following:
- Don’t be in a hurry to associate. A clique may look appealing from the outside but may really be damaging to its members. So I’ll say, take time to study the clique that caught your attention. Don’t allow flashy things to attract you. Ensure the clique has what you needed before you start associating.
- Don’t join cliques that create wrong impressions. No matter how you might see it, once a particular clique is not accepted, be it in the workplace or in the community, belonging to it will dent your image. People will question your integrity and will treat you as they treat other members of that clique.
- Don’t join a clique with a visible leader. Remember, cliques are groups of peers; they are teams; they are equal. Yes, everybody has roles to play within a group and it is impossible not to have a nucleus within a group, but it should be noted that in cliques that influence members positively, there is no one taking up the position of the leader. Once a clique has someone that controls how things are run in it, it is not worth associating with. As far as I can tell, members of such a clique will lose their voices and freedom because the leader will be their “brain” and “voice”.
- Join cliques with successful members. How you measure success is up to you. But if that clique you’ve been contemplating joining is filled with people that move down when others are moving up, please stay alone; it is better that way.
- Don’t join cliques with conflicting ideologies. I know we are supposed to learn everyday, and that we need to, sometimes, unlearn to learn, you still need to be weary when contemplating joining a clique that has an ideology that conflicts with yours. If you must, be sure their ideology will have a positive impact on you.
The Importance of Belonging to a Clique
It’s possible some people are looking down their noses and asking what they need cliques for. These people may be surprised if they find out that they themselves belong to cliques. For instance, if you are one of those that spend the major part of the week in the office and have made friends there, you may notice that there is this group of people you can’t wait to meet when you get to work, and they are the ones you prefer sitting with during lunch. These people are likely members of your office clique.
If you don’t belong to a clique, be it in the office or elsewhere, here are some of the reasons why you should start considering identifying with one:
- Influence: Of course every group you belong to is bound to influence you one way or the other. This is the same thing with cliques. If you belong to a clique where all the members complain a lot, you will find yourself doing that too. But if you belong to the one where the members focus on finding ways to move to the top, you will find yourself working your way up. Like I always say, associate with people that will influence you positively.
- Grapevine: In offices, if you belong to cliques that have members that know “what’s up”, you will get information on everything happening within the office. You’ll get gossip that may not be of any good to you, as well as information about things that will be of benefit to you. Remember, those ‘oga on top’ don’t always release every piece of information that may help you build your career in the office. Your group member/s may just be the person you need.
- Fallback: Clique members have ways of helping one another. If they are close enough, they see themselves as “brothers or sisters that got each other’s back”. They rally round their members in times of difficulties. For instance, they can help a trusted member with money when he’s in need; and they may decide to engage in “isusu” to make it easier for them to sponsor projects.
- “Connection”: No matter how we see it, we all need connections to climb the ladder of success faster. Someone needs to push or pull us up. Whichever way it goes, it is still someone that trusted us that will do that for us. It happens most times that clique members do this for their members. You might need a favour, say referral or positive review, and the person that may connect you to the right persons will be someone in your clique. This is one good reason why it is never good to walk alone.
- Mentoring: This is the reason to belong to the clique of successful people. They will offer you free advice and guidance on how to handle situations. This is better if a member of your clique is a superior in your office, someone in the same profession as you or someone in a business you have an interest in. The major thing with people like this is that they don’t mentor people with negative mindsets and those that look for ways to rip them off. Put differently, if you find yourself accepted into a clique with this calibre of people, be ready to learn from them and not ask for financial assistance or “connection” (lol).
No matter how it is looked at, we all need people to lean on when the need comes. No man is an island. Identify with a group today so its members can help to pull or push you up that ladder. You don’t need to do the work all alone.