13 February 2008

Groups, Teams, Cliques, and Gangs - Part Two

The emotional investment of a team as I define it here is, in my observation, primarily focused on getting the job done - and this is very important. The job, per se, is the reason for the team's existence; the team's existence is not, in itself, the primary goal. Witn one exception - sports teams, which often do exist partly in order for there to be a sports team in a particular city. This is a special case, but unfortunately, it can and does lead to 'gang' style behaviors among fans and, at times, among the players themselves. More on this shortly.

A clique, in my definition, is a [usually] small, tight-knit set of people that can exist within either a group or a team. Cliques definitely have roles, and very definitely have rules; and here is where neutrality goes out the window. Because cliques have one primary purpose, regardless of where they exist. Cliques are about being 'better than'. And in order to be 'better than', it is necessary to have either an individual or a set of individuals who are designated as 'worse than'.

A clique can be regarded, for all practical purposes, as a small team with a specific negative purpose, which functions as a bullying entity. I am going to define bullying simply as a consistent pattern of abusive behavior towards an individual or group of people. Cliques bully by exclusion or by withholding information from individuals outside the clique [particularly common, and nasty, in workplace water-cooler cliques]. They bully more actively by a variety of scapegoating behaviors including 'active exclusion', or deliberate snubbing/shunning, rumor-mongering [a form of group backstabbing], and other forms of relational aggression. In a clique, there is always an Alpha member [the 'top dog'] and there are usually Beta members [second lieutenants]. The roles are rigid, and the rules, while more covert and less complex than those of teams, are also quite rigid. A clique member does not express humankindness to anyone 'targeted' by the Alpha, without experiencing severe reprisals. A clique member also does not resist domination by the Alpha, without severe reprisals.

The degree of emotional affiliation in a clique is much more intense than in a team - because a clique exists for specifically emotional reasons. The need to be 'better than' is a purely emotional need. And unlike most teams, because of the emotional needs it serves, a clique is 'on task' continuously. In realspace, a workplace clique is 'on' from the minute two members are present together at the job site. In cyberspace, a clique essentially operates 24/7. Clique members may or may not dress or otherwise attempt to look alike; cyberclique members may never see one another, for example, so that this demonstration of solidarity would be meaningless for them, and members of workplace cliques may or may not resemble one another. The members of high school 'mean girl' cliques, on the other hand, routinely tend to look and dress very much alike.

A clique that has passed a certain point in terms of its overall hostility and rigidity becomes, in my estimation, a gang. At this point, conformity in appearance can become fetishistic - you may see gang colors, specific tattoos, specific hairstyles. The roles become a codified hierarchy, and the rules, while often unwritten, are extremely well known to all members, and rigid to the point that infringement may be punishable by death. And where I consider the purpose of a clique to allow its members to feel 'better than' individuals outside the clique, I believe the primary purpose of a gang is actually to destroy targeted individuals, emotionally, financially, or physically.

Consider this last statement carefully, because when this definition is applied, many supposed 'cliques' can be seen to be something much more sinister. Any middle school or high school clique that has hounded a child to the point of attempting suicide is not a clique. It is a gang. Any workplace clique that has snubbed, excluded and harassed a co-worker to the point where they've suffered a stress breakdown is not a clique. It is a gang. If your Homeowners Association is trying to harass the little old lady in the corner townhouse in order to force her to move away... they are a gang. And unfortunately, when undisciplined fans of a particular sports team go on a rampage against fans of an opposing team, as may happen in high school settings or World Cup matches... this is a special type of short-lived gang activity. We call this a mob.

This continuum, from group to team to clique to gang... or mob... can be seen across the entire range of human endeavors. I don't restrict the definition of a 'gang' to the kinds of organizations that law enforcement professionals usually target with anti-gang activities. Not all gangs hang out on street corners selling illicit drugs. Many, far too many, are found in churches [cult survivors take note], schools, workplaces, and cyberspace.

Credit where due, with thanks and praise:
M. Scott Peck, M.D., "People of the Lie", for a discussion of group evil that provided the basis for this continuum model.
Suzette Haden Elgin, Ph.D., "The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense", for a discussion of presuppositions in thought and language that taught me how to recognize abusiveness in context.
Patricia Evans, "The Verbally Abusive Relationship", which helped me understand the fundamental destructive intent behind emotional abuse.
Chauncey Hare, Ph.D., and Judith Wyatt, Ph.D., "Workplace Abuse: How to Recognize and Survive It", for a discussion of group destructiveness in the workplace.
Tim Field [see link at right], "Bully In Sight", for additional, invaluable insight into the group dynamics of workplace bullying.
Anna Valerious,
Kathy Krajco,
CZBZ, and
[please see links at right, and frequently!] for their invaluable insights into the group dynamics associated with narcissism and bullying - especially the group dynamics of bullies' second lieutenants.
Demian Eliané Yumei, who has written extensively about relational aggression
Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., "Vital Lies, Simple Truths" - a book that contains one of the most concise and edifying descriptions of groupthink I've ever seen.
Robert Hare, Ph.D., "Without Conscience" - a discussion of psychopathy which includes a fascinating description of the fans of psychopaths.
Primo Levi, "The Drowned and the Saved" - a description of the group dynamics of abuse written by a Holocaust survivor, and one of the most profound, and saddest, books that I have ever read.
Viktor Frankl, "Man's Search for Meaning", equal in stature to Levi, but better known.
Erich Fromm, "The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness".

And anonymous credit to every bully, operating alone or in groups, I've ever encountered personally or observed at a distance, from kindergarten on.


Anonymous Jordie said...

Thanks for that Storm...

Think I've met a little posse which became a cyber gang just recently. Its amazing how fast a group of people will identify a common enemy and launch a scathing attack based on another (anonymous) person's insinuations.

But the internet's a whole 'nother area for study I think.

14 February, 2008 01:33  
Anonymous CZBZ said...

And another Thank You from me. This is a complex topic especially when it comes to cybergangs. Fools we are to ignore the detrimental impact of 'bullying' online since so many of our children are subject to being targeted.

And then of course, there's the plethora of cybergroups dealing with the complexities of "Healing". Anyone who tries to manage a group of wounded people faces numerous problems creating a safe place for people to connect and work a recovery process.

Had I known then what I know now, I'd have been too uncertain to even take on such a monumental task! It's been a huge learning curve for a woman who loves people but had no idea how difficult it would be to create a safe and 'tolerant' online group.

So thank you for writing about this topic. I'd like to read your messages more carefully and reply after thinking about your comments.


19 February, 2008 16:36  
Blogger Stormchild said...

Jordie - I'm sorry you've encountered this. It amazes me how many groups are actually gangs in disguise, just waiting for an opportunity to prove it.

On the other hand, I'd be willing to bet that CZ has had a lot of experience working with people who come to her forum knowing only "The Gang Way" of relating, because that's all they've seen modeled in their homes, schools, and workplaces.

So they need to learn a totally different way of relating to people, in order to heal, but "Gang" reactions are instinctive, and very pervasive in realspace and cyberspace, thus hard to unlearn.

In CZ's position, as Founder of a group [which is the healthy version of Alpha, similar to Jordie being Founder of a blog site ;-)] she has 'role authority' to intervene in situations.

Because of this, CZ can constrain behavior in her forum long enough to teach and demonstrate alternative ways of relating. Which become more widely modeled as other group members 'get the hang of it'. But this ain't always fun, in fact I suspect it can be emotionally exhausting at times. [CZ, if you want to share about this, I'd welcome it - I'm drawing on realspace experiences of my own to describe this, and that only goes so far.]

Jordie, your running across a 'posse', is totally different. You certainly have spiritual authority, and experience as well, and this gives you a Founder role on your own blog site. But the members of a 'posse' elsewhere in cyberspace won't honor your experience or your expertise; they see you as being on 'their turf', and they'll do what their ringleader wants. There aren't many constructive options in a situation like that... and again I'm sorry you ran afoul of it.

19 February, 2008 21:11  
Anonymous CZBZ said...

Hi Stormchild! I've been swamped lately caring for my aging parents, otherwise I'd have replied prior much earlier.

Each time I try to put a few experiences into words, it turns into a dissertation on Relational Aggression. ha!

I'll be posting a response on the public forum and hopefully, people will take time to read your messages for a clearer understanding of groups, gangs and our human need to connect to one another.


03 March, 2008 15:26  
Blogger Stormchild said...

CZ, your posts on your own experiences with gaNgs, as you term them, :-), are too good to miss.

Thank you... both for the posts and for your kind words therein.

Link to first post here, second post here.

08 March, 2008 21:12  

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