My son is a nurse who was very well liked on his previous floor. The hours were long, however, and included every other weekend, so after a few years, he transferred to a 7 to 3:30 job on another floor.

He was telling me they are very cliquish there, and basically have not interacted personally with him, not inviting him to lunch, etc. He said he hasn't felt so lonely since he was in the fifth grade.

I am not attracted to cliquish people so I had no advice to give him. He doesn't feel the same. Eating his lunch alone bothers him; having no one to joke with bothers him.

Can anyone give me suggestions on how to break into a clique?

  • 1
    See also: Joining an existing group of friends
    – NVZ
    Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 4:38
  • 6
    Did he try to make contact with them and got rejected? Like bringing a cake or muffins or something similar to lunch on his first day? How long has this been going on? Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 7:11
  • @AnneDaunted - No, he did not (but that would have been lovely.) He has been on orientation for almost a month. It's inside jokes and group plans discussed right in front of him, etc. Do you think that's too late? Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 14:09
  • 2
    Did he try getting to know his colleagues when they're alone or in smaller groups? For example starting small conversations when he encounters someone by the coffee machine or printer or something. That way, you're not excluded by all the clique habits and private jokes and innuendos, and you can start building frienships with the people as people and not as clique, and slowly finding your way in.
    – Kerkyra
    Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 14:22
  • Where is your son located?
    – user288
    Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 23:48

2 Answers 2


Cliques are inherently closed off.

People who participate in cliques generally enjoy the exclusiveness, strengthened friendships, and sense of security that comes with them. Of course, there's nothing wrong with this, since perhaps the people involved may have known each other for several/many years, share some fairly unique feature/interest (e.g., having the same alma mater), or, a combination of both. Because of this, those who are already involved in a clique are sometimes somewhat reluctant to inviting new members, and especially "for no reason". That being said..

Give it time.

Even though your son is just a transfer from a different floor, he's still probably considered by most as "the new guy", or, "that other guy". I would suggest that your son [calmly] keep this in mind, as well as the fact that he'll be working with these people for the next while, so there should be no rush. It may be difficult to do, but I believe your son's best course of action is to simply play it cool [for now] and let time do its thing, and hopefully things will develop organically. Coming off as overly eager is a big turn off for a clique, and will only increase the distance that's between your son and his coworkers.

So, what can be done for now?

I think it would be a good idea, if your son hasn't already, to explicitly acknowledge that the people in the clique seem to be good friends, making sure to do so with a positive tone of voice (as if he is genuinely happy for them, with good friends being a rarity these days). This could be as simple as casually mentioning it to just one person in the clique, and then starting a conversation as to how they all know each other, who's been here the longest, etc.. When talking about this, your son should make sure to not offer information about himself, unless he is directly asked. Instead, the focus of the conversation should be on his coworkers, and how things operate from a social perspective, on his new floor. Also, your son should not talk about his old floor, unless directly asked.

By your son engaging in this kind of conversation, he demonstrates that he is interested in learning how this floor operates, that he's able to carry on a conversation, and that he's at least curious as to what the social dynamics of the floor are. This is the most passive, nonaggressive your son can be when attempting to communicate that he wants to be considered socially, while at the same time not coming off as pushy.

But the biggest thing is to be genuine, don't be overly eager, and to demonstrate that [your son] is capable of being social, just like everyone else. And smile, always smile. :)

  • 2
    This is excellent advice, particularly the part about not talking about his old floor. Cliques can be weird to navigate. It would be akin to talking about your ex while on a date with someone new to talk about where you used to fit in while trying to figure out where you fit in now. If you say positive things, they will wonder if they measure up. If you say negative things, they will wonder what you will say about them when you move on from there, etc. You have to be balance that you seem like you see potential in bonding but not over eager.
    – threetimes
    Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 16:22

There is one thing you didn't mention in your question. Whether your son likes this group of people. It's easier to join a coterie if you admire and genuinely like its members.

If his main reason for wanting to be included in the "clique" or "gang" is loneliness, he risks appearing desperate and, even worse, sycophantic. Any attempt to break the barrier will be thwarted.

On the other hand, if his main concern is to be part of an efficient and productive team, then it is fundamental he finds out who the leader is. In any typical group, there is always a leader, it's usually the person who has been there the longest and has earned their peers' respect.

Once your son has identified who that "leader" is, he can approach this person and ask them for advice. Not advice on how to be accepted, but advice about work, patients, doctors, etc. that sort of thing. Even if your son already knows his job, and exactly how to perform it, he still needs to show respect (and some deference) to his colleagues. There is always something new to learn. See also @Charlie's very valid piece of advice

Instead, the focus of the conversation should be on his coworkers, and how things operate from a social perspective, on his new floor.

With luck, the "leader" should be able to impart invaluable tips and advice about the floor which your son can put into immediate practice.

It takes time before a group accepts a stranger in its midsts but if he is humble, kind and willing to put in the extra hours at work (for a reasonably limited amount of time) it will get easier.

Tip 1
To help oil the wheels of bonding, he ought to invite colleagues for an evening drink, an aperitif or arrange to meet at the local coffee shop. The first time he should offer to pay, he's the "new guy", and he did the inviting. These small social gatherings help people to get to know each other better as they tend to be friendlier when they are relaxed and outside work.

Tip 2
Asking if colleagues have spouses and children is always a good conversation opener, and from there you can ask about their kids' ages and if they have any photos of them they would like to share.

Tip 3
Next time, he should head confidently to the table in the cafeteria where everyone is sitting and ask:

Would you mind if I join you? It's just for five minutes, I have this niggling problem with blah, blah, blah. (make it work oriented)

Who will be so anti-social as to reject a polite request? By stating it will only be five minutes, he is acknowledging that they may have better use of their free time than to discuss his problem, it is their break too, but he is also saying it will not take up all their break time.

Tip 4
Show his co-workers that he works hard and does everything he is expected to, and more. Never be late for work, and forget about asking favours, e.g. “Can you stand in for me next Monday morning? I need to pick up mom at the airport” However, he must show a willingness to do favors and go that extra mile. If he does the above and displays common courtesies he will eventually earn their trust and respect.


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