Dealing with cliques at work

An employee at an IT call center finds that his co-workers are in a clique and are not forthcoming with information that could help him do his job. What is the best way to deal with childish co-workers?

Here's an excerpt from an e-mail we received:

"I work in a IT Call Center for a hospital. I am the only person in the call center with a college education, and this seems to threaten my coworkers. My education is not in IT. Everything I have learned about IT has been either self taught, or learned from others. But these days the other call center analysts have formed some sort of alliance with several engineers, and as they learn things the information stops. On the other hand, when I learn something new I share with everyone. I obviously have not found my way into these cliques, and appear to be an outsider in the department. I know at the heart of the matter is probably a touch of insecurity on their part, and possibly old fashioned competitive spirit, but do you have any thoughts or hints on how to work through this?"

In my opinion, insecurity, not money, is the root of all evil. More often than not, when an insecure person is faced with someone they think is more proficient, better looking, or smarter than he is, that person internalizes it as a threat to his well-being. The insecure person then fights back the only way he can with childish passive-aggressive games like the ones your co-workers are displaying. The problem is sometimes these games are successful in that they bother the intended victim. They can also significantly curb productivity.

Have you tried talking to your boss? Not in a complaining way, but as in suggesting that the routes of communication be better. Use an example of some piece of information that you missed out on that could have saved some time and money. Suggest that any new information the engineers come across should be shared universally, preferably through e-mail. To minimize the appearance of "ratting," you may even bring the issue up at a team meeting. Again, don't point the finger of blame, just nicely point out that maybe there could be a central repository of information that the whole group can share in. That way, the group knows that the manager is aware of the issue, and it may curtail some of the clique-ish behavior.