Mean girls don't go away after high school. They get jobs – and become workplace bullies. Ugh.
You don't want an adult version of manipulative Regina George in the "Mean Girls" movie to make your sweetie's 9-to-5 day miserable. To prevent a grown-up Queen Bee from tormenting your teen or 20-something daughter, speak up.
What should you say? To find out what you should tell your offspring about avoiding an office version of the Plastics, Family Goes Strong talked with Meredith Fuller, author of Working with Mean Girls: Identifying and Protecting Yourself from Workplace Nastiness. (The U.S. edition, called Working with B___s, is available in March.) Excerpts:
What's the wrong kind of comment for a parent to make?
Be careful. Don't say, "There are other women out to get you."
What should you say?
"When you first start a job, gather a little more data before you make strong commitments to who you pal up with."
Why is that the case?
Mean girls will often target a new young woman in the workforce. She may feel flattered and make friends in a day or two. It's a little bit like job interviews. People tend to make decisions in three or four minutes. You really need 30 to see the real person. Let's use that analogy with job friends. Wait a month or two. The mother can suggest the daughter take a little bit of time before she buddies up. In any new job, you start to make allegiances. Once you start teaming up with some groups, it means not teaming up with others.
What else should a mom do?
The mother can encourage the daughter to judge people on their merits. Don't take people on second-hand experience. Wait before you judge. One of the problems for young women is they want everyone to like them. They may put more effort into chasing after the women who are excluders.
What about mean boys?!
Males tend to be more overt and clear.
How does jealousy factor into mean girls' behavior?
They may see you as a potential threat. Some women decide they'll only connect with women who are useful.
What can a mom say to a daughter who is the victim of nasty comments by a mean girl?
It's very important to say things in public like, "I'm sorry, Jane. Could you repeat that?" Usually what they count on is they'll say all these nasty things very cleverly and silently, and you'll be demoralized.
So make them feel embarrassed?
Why do mean girls act so, well, mean?
Sometimes it's because they're very insecure. Sometimes it's because they're very narcissistic. They want all the attention and all the limelight. You're coming in bright eyed and bushy tailed, and that's very threatening.
What kind of workplace is least likely to be full of mean girls?
Organizations that have strong, clear leadership, where you've got top-down protocols about being professional helps nip this in the bud. Everyone shares common values and common goals. It's much harder for these subtle things to occur because people will call each other on it.
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