Cliques in the National Guard and Army Reserves

Are there cliques in the Army National Guard and Army Reserves?  You bet.  I think it would be safe to say that there are cliques in every organization in the world, whether a volunteer group, a private business, a fraternity, the military, or anything else for that matter.  Whenever people work together or socialize together they will naturally break into groups of people with similar interests, personalities, backgrounds and beliefs.  It’s inevitable.

According to one online dictionary, “a clique is “a small group of people with shared interests, who spend time together and exclude others.”  I like to think of it as a tribe or herd.  If you take a moment to think about it, you have your own cliques.  You might have a clique of your own, or perhaps you belong to someone else’s clique.  If you’re  like most folks, both scenarios will apply to you.

In the military, the same thing applies.  If you visit any armory or military unit you will find the chain of command, the organizations and sub-organizations and the “cliques” within the organization.  Sometimes cliques are good and sometimes they are bad.  For the purpose of this post, I want to share some things you can do to “deal with” cliques in your unit.  Most of these tips will benefit the “unit leadership” more than anyone else.

What You Can Do When You Find Cliques in Your Military Unit

# 1 Identify the Ring Leader

Every clique has a ring leader.  Sometimes it will be the highest ranking person and other times it will not.  Ultimately, you want to find out which person has the most influence within the clique.  That person will be the clique’s ring leader.  Assuming the clique is good, and doesn’t interfere with morale or good discipline, you should leverage this “ring leader” as your messenger.  If you are the leader of the unit, and you want people to “buy in” to your ideas, you should influence the people with influence, not just the people with rank.

# 2 Be Aware of Your Own Cliques

Don’t be a hypocrite.  You have your own herd too, and/or you are part of someone else’s herd.  Remember that you have people that you like, know and trust.  Whether you realize it or not, you give these folks preferential treatment.  My advice to you is to really be aware of this and try NOT to play favorites.  Your job as a leader is to treat everyone equally.  And that is very difficult to do.

# 3 Get Rid of Cliques if They Are Detrimental to the Unit

Contrary to what most liberals think, the military is not a democracy.  You cannot have negative cliques in your unit.  These are small pockets of soldiers who say negative things about the unit, its leaders, and try to do things to damage or hurt the unit.  You need to get rid of these cliques as quickly as possible.  I’d suggest you start with the “ring leader” and go from there.  The longer you let these “negative cliques” remain in your organization, the worse off it will get.

Final Thoughts

Cliques exist in every organization in the world, including the US Army Reserves and National Guard.  Your job as a leader is to get rid of the bad cliques that ruin the morale and effectiveness of your unit.  It’s also important to identify the “influencers” in your unit, AKA the clique leaders and get them on your team.  That will be one of the fastest ways to get your ideas accepted in the unit.

What are your thoughts? What do you think about cliques in the military?  Leave a comment and let us know.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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5 thoughts on “Cliques in the National Guard and Army Reserves”

  1. Personally, I think there is no room for cliques in the military. Whether it be the Army, Air Force, Navy, whatever, there should not be any clique groups going on. But, I do believe in forming friendships and creating bonds with your fellow Soldiers because you all are going through the same things and seeing the same things so it is important to have an understanding group of people around you.

    But there is only so much you can do when it comes to monitoring and breaking up unnecessary groups, or cliques. People will do what they want and you can’t micro-manage every single relationship, there is still a job to be done without the pettiness of clique related groups.

  2. Getting rid of cliques can be extremely challenging. In most cases managing them and using them to your advantage is your best bet. Of course, if you have a clique that’s corrosive to morale, you’ll have to do your best to break it up. There’s only so much “breaking up” you can do in a Guard or Reserve unit, but you can at least disrupt any lines of supervision involving clique members and spread members among different platoons, squads, and/or sections to minimize the clique’s impact.

  3. Cliques can make or break any sort of organization – especially one that relies so heavily upon the spirit of being a brethren and working as a unified team. I like that you mention the importance of recognizing your own clique and maintaining integrity by leading by example. It’s also important that you don’t look to banish cliques all-together, they do serve their purpose after all.

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