… the HR Minion. Because even minions have opinions. And giggles.

Is the HR online community a clique?

On more than one occasion, I’ve had people mention to me that they felt the HR online community was a clique. Apparently there are “cool kids”, you know, the ones who get invited to all the cool parties (conferences) and get all the attention (blog traffic). I’ve also been told that it is really hard to get into that “cool kids” group. When I hear stuff like this, I can tell that a good deal of frustration, and maybe even hurt feelings, is behind it. In the end, the HR online community is actually fairly small, especially when you consider how many HR professionals aren’t involved. It’s a little discouraging to think that people seeking a place to belong online feel left out. I mean, that’s one of the reasons I got involved myself. But you know what, I’ve come to the conclusion that yes, the HR online community is like a clique and that’s not a bad thing.

Here’s why:

1. Popular doesn’t just happen. One of the biggest mistakes you can make about a “thought Leader”/”cool kid”/(Insert another meaningless blogger title here) is to assume that their popularity just happened. That’s crap and anyone who has dedicated hours, and I do mean hours, of their time building their social media presence and reputation will tell you, it doesn’t just happen. Your content has to be good, well-written, and informative. You have to be entertaining, market yourself, make connections, and build an audience. Yes, luck does come into play too, but if someone is popular, they are working hard for it.

2. You get what you give. Related to my first point, popularity doesn’t just happen, and sometimes the problem isn’t that people are ignoring you, they don’t know they should be paying attention to you. When I hear from someone that they don’t feel like they can get a foothold in the community, one of my first thoughts is, “How much are you putting into it?”. Social media is an investment. You contribute time, ideas, interaction with other members, and eventually you can start reaping the rewards of your involvement. Give people a reason to want to get to know you and read what you have to say.

3. Remove your ego from the situation. Let’s be honest with ourselves and just admit that part of why we blog is because we all have some ego involved. We all want people to like us and think we are clever. Yes, there are a million and one other reasons why we blog but… Come. On. So when you dedicate so much of yourself to blogging and you aren’t getting as many comments as that person, or don’t get as many RT’s as this person, it can hurt. So learn to take your ego out of the process and enjoy what you are doing for itself.

In the end, cliques happen, but they happen for a reason. People get close to each other, build off each others ideas, and naturally want to work with each other more and more. To someone new to the HR online community, it can feel like you can never break into that inner circle. But that isn’t true at all. I have seen bloggers established long before me fall into obscurity and newbies blast past me in popularity. So instead of worrying about the “cool kids”, focus more on yourself and what you can give. You’ll be surprised by how fast those feelings of being left out go away.

44 Responses | Add your Own

  • 1 Benjamin McCall :

    These are truly good points and also good advice Shauna!! I hope that many people will take advantage of it!

  • 2 akaBruno :

    Like I said in SD, I’m “D” list and fine with it.

  • 3 Jonathon :

    So true. There are some great, engaging HR professionals and bloggers out there with their thousands of followers that really make an effort to engage with the newest of entrants. That’s above and beyond!

    It’s a great community, even from a distance.

  • 4 Paul Smith :

    Very interesting post. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve had very similar thoughts and I agree the clique is not such a bad thing.
    If I would add one thing, in relation to point #2, if you’re fortunate to get a foothold early on, then you can’t take that for granted. You have to continue putting in the time and work. Otherwise, you’re just a one-hit wonder…and you’re going to be happy with that or you’re not.

  • 5 TheHRD :

    This is a really interesting post. I have to say that I probably would have said some time ago that I did feel that the online HR community was a clique. In fact I still think there are areas of cliquiness, but then aren’t there in all societal groups?

    One of the things that I think is specific to the online version of such a group is that you kind of always assume that something is going on behind the scenes that you’re not aware of, some in joke or secret inner sanctum. What I learnt was that if you ask people they are, without exception, willing to help.

  • 6 Steve Boese :

    You don’t keep score? Then how do you compare yourself to other golfers?

    By height.

    I think you can’t worry too much about what other folks are up to, and get caught up in comparing things like comments/RTs etc. If you are doing what you enjoy, writing about what interests you, learning and growing your own capability that is what matters.

    Love the post. And Matt, you are clearly on the ‘C’ list, don’t kid yourself.

  • 7 Rick :

    And TheHRD is the leader of the UK’s HR online clique! πŸ˜‰

    Good piece Shauna. It’s a bit like school; we convince ourselves that someone somewhere is having a much better time than we are.

  • 8 akaBruno :

    @SteveBoese I am a tremendous slouch

  • 9 Dave Ryan :

    Shauna I really enjoyed reading your post today. While I do think you are right about there being some cliquish aspects of what goes on in the HR on line space, I have never found it to be mean-spirited of unwelcoming; perhaps more so to the other end.

    When someone sends out an #FF it appears they usually get new or additional attention out of it. That wouldn’t happen if folks weren’t somewhat welcoming.

    One other thing I have observed is this, the on-line friendships are great, but once you have had the opportunity to meet someone face to face, it takes the friendship to a new level. So perhaps some of the folks newer to the community have not met many folks face to face. Keep up the good work!

  • 10 R. J. Morris :

    Great article. Personally, i have been overwhelmed at how welcoming the online HR community has been. People, some who would be considered “popular” have reached out to proactively help me learn and grow. It’s been very comfortable.

    @steveboese and @akabruno I like you, Betty. It’s Danny, sir.

  • 11 Glyn Lumley :

    Excellent post Shauna

    I agree with you entirely – I’ve only been blogging for 6 months. You need to put in a bit of effort but, if it’s something you enjoy doing, what’s the problem?

    I’ve found others in the community to be very open and welcoming.

  • 12 Chris Frede :

    What a good post Shauna. Like R.J. I agree that the online HR community has been very supportive. I agree to your second bullet – you get what you give.

    Take your time, learn and contribute. Thank you for the great read.

  • 13 adowling :

    Ego? Who’s got an ego? No one I know. #Sarcasm

    I love the online HR Community, we’re a great bunch. Everyone is always willing to lend a hand, offer advice, constructive criticism, and the occasional snark to keep you in check. But, as everyone else has agreed, if you arent willing to contribute and put in that same effort, you’ll get bupkis back.

  • 14 Shauna :

    Ben – Thanks, I hope so!

    Matt – You are sooo not on the “D” list! Be nice!

    Jonathon – That’s great to hear, thanks!

    Paul – very true, early adoption won’t keep you on top.

    The HRD – What, you aren’t in on the secret jokes? I’ll send you a list of the secret #hashtags… πŸ™‚

    Steve – Yup yup, blogging isn’t about comparisons, that kind of thinking only leads to frustration.

    Rick – I’ve found the best way to combat that “somewhere someone is having a better time” is to go out and stir up some Shenanigans of my own. πŸ™‚

    Dave – Great to hear and a very good point! All my online relationships got better after I met the person face to face! It makes a big difference.

    R.J. – So happy to hear it! πŸ™‚

    Glyn – Welcome to the space and glad you are enjoying it!

    Chris – Glad to hear the community is being supportive, please keep contributing!

    April – Bupkis, nice. πŸ™‚

  • 15 Kevin Ball :

    Well said. I especially like the clever psychology which means that commenting here makes us all part of the in-group; we’re the cool kids and the others can go rot!

  • 16 RMSmithJr.SPHR :

    This is actually great guidance for use where ever cliques may be observed to naturally and collectively form.

  • 17 Bob Tarver :

    That was a great post…thats why I’m a stalker–errrr fan of Shauna’s Blog…always gives me something to think about within the HR profession…have to catch up with you on the phone again sometime…keep up the good work

  • 18 Lance Haun :

    I partially disagree a bit.

    Popularity doesn’t just happen. But I think more than hard work goes into making a blog popular. The kindness of friends, strangers and people with audiences had a major impact on my continued blogging. Without these people letting me into their clique (with very little history or work put into it at the time), I probably would’ve been discouraged at some point and just given up.

    The ego thing is misunderstood but shouldn’t be downplayed. Having an opinion is what gets me read. Being a jerk about it doesn’t play into it though. I think there is a fine line there that some folks miss.

    And I think another point that you didn’t really hit on is the transparency of social media. What used to be fairly private relationships built over e-mail, phone and in person conversations have now gone public. If I don’t follow back someone I don’t know very well on Twitter, it is a cliquish thing to do (something I’ve been called out for).

    That’s not clique, that’s human. We only have a capacity for so many connections. Those ebb and flow as time goes on (I don’t believe in connection collections). When this happened in a more private setting, nobody thought it was cliquish because it wasn’t visible. Now it is.

    I try to be open with people about it without sounding like a dick and without some sort of “I’m more important than you” attitude. It isn’t about what they’re doing, it is simply a capacity issue. Something I’ve learned the hard way.

    Thanks for the post.

  • 19 Shauna :

    Kevin – Ha! I have never been one of the cool kids. πŸ™‚

    RMSmithJR – Thanks!

    Bob – Haha, I appreciate it, and yes, we should catch up soon.

    Lance – Dude, if you wanted to guest post on my blog you could have just asked me, you didn’t have to put it in the comments.(Giggle) Very good points Lance,especially about the transparency of social media. We totally need to have a conversation about this in more depth one day. πŸ™‚

  • 20 John Jorgensen :

    Good post Shauna. I have heard this on rare occasions but it is done by people who have not made much of an effort to connect. In this case it is input=output. Also, I agree with Dave, you must make every effort to take that final step in social networking and meet people face to face. It is that which takes your relationships to the that next level.

  • 21 Paul DeBettignies :

    Leave it to the Search Firm guy to be a bit negative.

    As someone who sits on the edge of the HR world I am neutral on the clique being a good thing. No doubt there is a wealth of information that is freely shared. And yes it is a friendly group.

    But I do think that frequently it feels as if the only HR β€œcool kids” are the ones on Twitter or have a Facebook Page.

    Certainly not the case.

    Are there really only 10-15 (give or take) HR bloggers worth reading? One might think so by looking at the rolls on most sites.

    Being the most vocal, the loudest or attending all the conferences and events does not make one worth listening to.

    My challenge to the β€œcool kids” is to find someone new to add to the group. New voices, energy and perspective are in my opinion always good.

    I have a simple test if I will listen to someone:

    What do they do?
    What have they done, their track record?
    Have they done what they are speaking, writing about?

  • 22 Frank Roche :

    Good points…and it’s the micro version of “a place at the table” that HR people complain about. Want to be part of the in crowd.–and you really have to ask yourself if you want to be–then work it. You don’t get beyond the velvet rope by bitching.

  • 23 Steve Browne :

    This post is fascinating and challenging at the same time.

    I have been active in the “HR Community” long before social media and have loved every frustrating minute of it !!

    Social Media has actually allowed me to connect with others who are passionate about our field. When you’re passionate (and not apologetic) about HR, people tend to shun you.

    Most HR folks love living in their self-imposed silo of misery and it’s well past time to destroy those silos.

    I love being connected, active and “branded” in social media because I get to meet folks. Other great humans with diverse thought and approaches that I never would have known if it weren’t for Twitter, Linked In, Facebook, etc.

    I don’t have a blog. May never have one. Like guest posting and infiltrating so much more.

    Shauna – way to shake the tree a bit !!

    If this is a clique – I’m in. I think it’s just great people that want to know each other and get others connected.

  • 24 Mike Henry Sr. :

    Well, I’m not in the clique. I’m not even in HR. (Horror!) At least not the profession. I’m here because I saw Steve Browne tweet about it. Interesting post and comments.

    One difference I have noticed in various social-media cliques is that in social medial cliques, we’re not actively excluding anyone. We’re all open to new connections, they just have to add value. If we were outside of the “in-group” in school, we looked like a suck-up for trying to get in.

    Today, add value (primarily through the social media channels) and the in-groups will find you.


  • 25 Corey Feldman :

    I have never really thought of it as a clique. A clique implies a certain level of exclusivity. I haven’t found that to be the case from the group as a whole, on an individual level, that is another story. *Most* everyone has been warm, friendly and inviting. And this comes from someone who is not an HR blogger. I’m a blogger (barely) who happens to be in HR. I am much more likely to post and/or tweet about my kids, technology, or books that anything related to HR. Yet the online HR community has always been welcoming to me both online and in the real world (at the few conferences/events I have attended).

  • 26 Shauna :

    John – Yup, I’m glad to hear that it has only been on rare occasions. I’m happy most people feel engaged in the community.

    Paul – Good point! Being vocal doesn’t mean you have anything good to say. I like the challenge, everyone should try it.

    Frank – Why would you want to get beyond the velvet rope? It’s so fuzzy… πŸ™‚ Thanks for the comment Frank, I agree.

    Mike – Very cool, thanks for the comment and no worries about not being in HR, we are a weird group anyways.

    Steve – “self imposed silo of misery” Nice. I have to steal that. πŸ™‚

  • 27 Shauna :

    Corey – I’m glad that you have found it welcoming! And you don’t have to talk about HR all the time, or even most of the time. It’s more authentic that way. πŸ™‚

  • 28 Jessica Miller-Merrell :


    This is a good post and while I love my HR/Social Media friends I believe it is important to engage people and bring in others outside of our friends.

    If our goal as a community is to help educate others on social media in the HR Space, we need to be open which is what my intent is. That’s not the same for everybody just as social media is not for everyone either.



  • 29 Kimberly Roden :

    Great post Shauna. One thing I noticed as of late is the constant vying for Top Spots in this so-called clique has now come to being critical of others. I think it’s shallow because it’s negative and the SOLE purpose is to draw more attention to themselves or to have themselves “appear” better than others.

    Don’t we have enough negative crap to deal with in this world? I wish these people would get over themselves — it gets old.

  • 30 The Monster 5 For Friday - Works Edition (Volume 13) | MonsterThinking :

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  • 32 Ben Eubanks :

    Rockin’ awesome post, Shauna. I couldn’t contain my response to a comment, so… Here’s my post! πŸ™‚


  • 33 Alison Green / Ask a Manager :

    I posted this over at Ben’s post on his own blog, but since it was all spurred by this post, I’ll repeat myself here!

    This is a great post, and a fascinating topic.

    When I started blogging three years ago, I was a little nervous about entering the space (although it was a lot smaller then). Very quickly after I started, Suzanne Lucas (Evil HR Lady) sent me an incredibly nice note of encouragement, and it had a major impact on how I felt about the whole thing.

    Since then, I’ve tried to do that for new bloggers too when I see the opportunity, because I remember what a difference it made to me!

  • 34 Alison Green / Ask a Manager :

    I’ll also add that agree that the lists of Top Sites aren’t so helpful, for the reason Kimberly mentions.

  • 35 Christine Livingston :

    Great article, Shauna!

    As you say there are so few people, relatively speaking, who’ve taken the discussion about work online that we owe it to ourselves to connect.

    From my point of view, the world of work is changing massively at the moment. The recession, social media, and changes in people’s expectations around work are all fuelling that. Those of us who write online and use social media to run our businesses are really well placed to play a part in creating and supporting something different. So, it’s not surprising we’re identifying with and connecting with one another in the process.

    To people wanting in on the act and holding back, some advice – get on board! We can’t hear your voice unless you do πŸ™‚

  • 36 working girl :

    Sure it’s cliquey (am I spelling that right?) – a clique is just a group that gravitates toward each other. Everyone has their preferences and some people have more cred than others at any given time so everyone cozies up to those people. Classic high school. The main difference is you no longer need great hair.

    Of course, those of us with fabulous hair are doubly blessed. πŸ˜‰

    I think capacity constraints explain much of what comes across as cliquey. For example, someone who starts off by commenting on lots of blogs regularly will probably over time (especially as they get busier with social media, which requires a lot of time investment) prune that list pack to the handful of people who comment back. It’s human nature for people to focus on themselves and their gang because you can’t be everything to everybody.

    It’s not cliquey, it’s human. All in all, it’s a pretty nice place and for every ‘cool’ person who revolves exclusively around their own center of gravity there are two or three others who are truly helpful and welcoming.

    BTW did someone actually contact you and accuse you of cliquishness? That’s so awesome! You’ve made it, baby!!

  • 37 Karen F. :

    You’re not one of the cool kids? I beg to differ! πŸ™‚ I believe the first post I ever read on your blog was that lovely list that I agree should be posted in EVERY office! lol

    Am I aiming to be a cool kid? Hell no…if anything, I just want all job seekers and career changers out there to get their hands on the tools and the (human) resources they need to get the job done right — the first time! That’s all we could ever wish for or want of our clients.

    If this wonderful group of professionals we engage with everyday can be considered a clique…then I would like to be a lifelong member!

    Karen, The Resume Chick (on Google or Twitter for questions, comments and violent reactions)

  • 38 Shauna :

    Jessica – Great point, Social Media really isn’t for everyone, maybe some people should self-select out if they don’t feel comfortable.

    Kim – You know, back when I first started blogging I would always check my analytics but now I couldn’t care about that stuff. Blogging makes me happy and is part of who I am now and that’s what matters. πŸ™‚

    Ben – I loved your post Ben! Happy to have inspired it!

    Alison – I agree, the encouragement from other bloggers really made a difference for me too.

    Christine – Yeah, holding back and lurking on social media only takes you so far, get involved!

    Working girl – You know you’ve made it when you get haters I guess. πŸ™‚ And as someone who is very vain about her hair, yeah, it totally does rule. (flips her hair like an 80’s valley girl)

    Karen – Aww, you are making me blush… πŸ™‚

  • 39 Kari Quaas :

    I like this post, Shauna. Can’t believe all of the comments! Well, actually I can. πŸ™‚ There are some amazing HR bloggers and professionals out there, and I’m just happy to be a part of the club and connected, if only on the periphery most of the time. HR folks rule.

  • 40 karen m :

    It (being a clique) not being a bad thing, I guess it depends on which side of the fence one is on.
    Is the H.R online community a clique – well there is a connected few, that is reminiscent of grade /high school – with as much drama and pettiness. It unfortunately clouds the real important messages of the industry.

    Popularity based upon Who what knows, versus WHAT one knows creates damage. people get invited into cliques, because of the ability to fit in – that they can “relate” to each other, that they share commonality.

    Fortunately that isn’t real life, which is why cliques don’t work.. because they don’t bring diversity – different views, thoughts, opinions. In fact Cliques shut out different views and opinions.. They want eveyone to think like they do..

    Eventually Cliques will create fan clubs again based upon the hero worships.. and the number of people of who they know.. quality, not quantity.

    Cliques don’t work on the playground, they sure don’t work in the professional world – except for the small group that they are involved in

  • 41 Shauna :

    Kari – HR folks do rule. We are a kooky bunch. πŸ™‚

    Karen – Thanks for the comment, I agree that cliques can easily become group think but I don’t agree that everyone in a clique has to think the same. I think you can be brought together by a common interest, HR and social media for example, and still have different views and diversity. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive and I would argue that the HR online community has a great deal of diversity and differing opinions, even among the “cool kids”.

  • 42 Lynn Dessert :

    Shauna, your post came up when I met a fellow local blogger I met in person last week. We were sharing some of our blogging lessons with one another.

    My comment my colleague was that many of the HR blogging sites have all the same links and it does appear cliquey. It makes me wonder at times where is the uniqueness of their reading or referral list?

    Mind you, he is a veteran in blogging years and I have been doing it roughly for 1.5 years. I have had mixed responses to engagement with the HR community. Some bloggers have embraced the “newer kid” on the block and others say nothing – translated to “go and pay your dues”. Absent any feedback, it is really easy for someone to start to fill in the blanks!

    I personally like the “pay it forward” concept and try to share what I know with people just starting out. Inclusive out trumps exclusive in my book. The latter caters to egos. Each of us have different levels of expertise – it could be writing style, content, optimization, blog design or forbid making money beyond a latte for all the hard work dedicated bloggers put into their craft.

  • 43 Shauna :

    Lynn – I think it’s very important to help encourage new people, without that encouragement from others when I was starting out I probably would have given up a long time ago. Thanks!

  • 44 Lauren :

    Have to disagree with Lance above – ego does play a major role in blogging. Many people have opinions, Lance (perhaps all!) – some people just don’t feel a need to broadcast them to the world. There’s nothing inherently wrong in doing so, but I’d argue that ego is a significant factor in the blogosphere. After all, if you’re blogging, you obviously assume that your opinion has some value – which may or may not be the case.

    (Also, none of this is aimed at you in particular, Shauna. I think all bloggers, myself included, should be reminded from time to time that our ego is what’s driving us – not our “opinions.” Opinions don’t motivate – ego does.)