When cliques become a membership problem

Posted On: Tuesday, 13 December 2022

Are you part of the unwelcoming committee?
For years, magazines and other forms of media have published introspective questions for their readers to easily identify whether they fall under a certain category. Sometimes, it’s just for fun. Other times, a quick set of words or phrases can cause us to take a long pause and reflect. When it comes to inclusion in the American Legion Auxiliary, we need to look in the mirror and ask, Am I part of the solution … or problem?
We know ALA units are often strapped for members to participate in mission outreach activities or community service events. In many units here and abroad, members are holding multiple chairmanships because of a lack of people. But what if that problem wasn’t always because of quantity — what if it related to quality?
Take into consideration the following responses from the ALA member survey conducted earlier this year. A question asked, “How would you finish the following sentence? I believe the future outlook of the ALA is ...” And while the majority answered “extremely positive,” the “extremely negative” responses bear weight too:

  • Work together rather than have individual cliques.
  • My local Auxiliary is like a high school clique with some of the officers making decisions among themselves.
  • Place is not welcome to new members at all. Never felt welcome there and noticed older members very cliquey. Probably will stop attending.
  • The interaction I have had with the group can be somewhat cliquey.
  • The current officers are very cliquey and are not very friendly. They are always negative, and most members don’t even want to attend the monthly meetings.
  • It is very cliquey. They don’t listen to your opinion or suggestions or want you to volunteer.
  • There are members who’ve been around a long time and know the ropes, but sometimes demeanor comes off as standoffish and cliquey to new people.
We don’t need new ideas; we’re doing just fine, thanks. People joining the ALA for the first time seem to have this complaint the most, based on feedback received at National Headquarters. It is 99.9 percent likely your new person doesn’t have a mission to infiltrate your group of go-getters and destroy its existing services. But what they can offer is a different viewpoint. Remember the saying “work smarter, not harder”? Be open to the ideas — a new person could have lots of connections to help your unit work its mission outreach more efficiently. 
We don’t have time to train someone new. Just as our founding members did when the ALA was established in 1919, it’s part of our duty to onboard people who made a commitment to join and serve our veterans, military, and their families. Think about it this way: These people took the time to learn about our organization, fill out a membership application, and pay their membership dues because they believe in the mission. Now it’s time for you to believe in them. Get the groupthink out of the way and make sure everyone is welcomed and consistently appreciated. 
Oh no — our ALA unit is a clique. When the realization hits, it hits hard. Most of the time, people in cliques are good eggs. They just happen to like familiarity, embrace routine, and form tight bonds with one another. All of those traits aren’t necessarily damaging, but they can be when mixed together as one. So, now what? The answer is simple: Expand your group. Be welcoming. When someone new attends your unit meeting, ask them to sit in the front so they feel accepted. Encourage newbies to speak up and add their thoughts to a conversation. And most importantly, acknowledge and truly absorb what they have to say.

Cliques aren’t just an in-person thing
Social media groups can be an invaluable forum for American Legion Auxiliary members who post questions about membership procedures, promote program activities, and more. But these groups can also become hotbeds of hate and disrespect. When we work together — collectively and not as a clique — it means more support toward serving our mission. 

ALA Mission

In the spirit of Service, Not Self, the mission of the American Legion Auxiliary is to support The American Legion and to honor the sacrifice of those who serve by enhancing the lives of our veterans, military, and their families, both at home and abroad. For God and Country, we advocate for veterans, educate our citizens, mentor youth, and promote patriotism, good citizenship, peace and security.