Thank God It's Monday!® Blog

Mean Girls

Did you ever see the movie “Mean Girls?” If you haven’t, you probably don’t need or want to for that matter—it’s not exactly a classic.

That said, it packs some great lessons. When our daughter was a teenager, I took it as a moment to bond and joined her in watching it.

It was about what I expected. They gossiped. They eye-rolled. They manipulated. They did every awful thing in the book, and they recruited others into the “mean girl” group by making it obvious that if you weren’t one of them, you would be on the receiving end of their venom.

Then the heroine showed some character and put her foot down and made it clear that she wouldn’t participate any more.

Despite being a bit formulaic, there was a pretty powerful and relevant message in that, one that applies to the workplace.

If you’ve ever worked in an office, you’ve discovered that “mean girls” come in all genders and ages—people who put others down and hurt them while making it unsafe to stand up to them.

It takes character to stand up to them because you know you’ll be the next target. The problem is, it’s just a matter of time, and you’ll be the target regardless.

IF you want a safe workplace, you have to take a stand and disallow the hurtful behaviors that are normalized in most workplaces. Most workplaces are dysfunctional. Most workplaces are unsafe. All it takes is one person to take a stand and stop the pattern of
“mean girl” behaviors.

Want to succeed?

Stop blaming the outside world

Jim Harter at Gallup was recently asked what successful organizations have in common. The answer might surprise you.

It isn’t huge financial resources. It isn’t charismatic leaders. It isn’t perfect products or services.

Sure, these things help. But it turns out these are not the deciding factors in success. So what is?

It’s a refusal of employees at every level to use the economy, or any outside circumstances, as an excuse for failure.

The economy will ebb and flow. That’s a guarantee. And across all industries, Harter has found that those companies taking the lows as an excuse to fail are much more likely TO fail than those who, as he puts it, “just leaned into it a bit more.”

Just a bit more!

A recession or tough economy can get into your head like a cancer. And once you have that excuse, it’s easy to let yourself fall short of success.

But if you want to join the winners, don’t find excuses outside of yourself. Meet the inevitable challenges, and lean in!

Ethics over the little things

I remember it like it was yesterday. My baby brother was about three when he came home with a pack of gum in his hands from the grocery story.

It wasn’t paid for. And by my parents’ reaction, you would have thought the bank was robbed.

Everything stopped, and three kids were loaded back up in the car for a long ride to return the gum and apologize to the store owner.

Now, at three years old, he wasn’t exactly destined for a life of crime. But he was setting up one of the most memorable dinner table lessons. My father said, “If you steal, you may as well steal millions, because the impact is the same—you’ve ruined your reputation.”

You don’t forget a moment like that.

It would have been easy to ignore it—it was no big deal. But it was a HUGE deal.

As for my brother, don’t worry—he’s a standout as an example of an ethical husband and father.

We are all faced every day with our humanity and the temptation to tell the “little white lie.” We are all tempted.
In fact, in the classic book The Day America Told the Truth, author James Patterson’s research showed that 97 percent of people lie regularly.

The question is, do you want that to be your legacy—or do you want it to be one of greatness?

Learn to Say “No”

It happens every single day. Someone finds you out of nowhere and asks you to help them in some way or another. How do you say no?

First, realize that it is completely fine to say no. This alone is a big step for many people. But it should be obvious that when someone asks a yes/no question, there are (at least) two possible answers.

Suppose a client suggests that you come by her office for a conversation that would ordinarily take 10 minutes. But now, with the commute, you’re looking at an hour – and that’s an hour you cannot give up today.

Let the client know how eager you are to connect, and that you’re equally eager to help her avoid the required charge for out-of-office consulting. Suggest conducting this conversation over the webcam. Everybody wins.

Or perhaps Chris, from the cubicle next to yours, pokes his head around the corner in hopes that you can help him with a project he’s been assigned. If you can do it, great. But if you can’t, you really need to find a way to say that.

Make it clear that you appreciate his thinking of you, but that you will not be able to assist him until Tuesday, or whatever it may be. And if you can’t at all, just say that. With all due love, of course!

Commit yourself to tasks that are most profitable. Learn to say no to the rest.

Why Do People Spread Gossip, and Why Do Others Listen?

Gossip ruins lives. It’s worth taking some time to study it so you can help rid your workplace of it. And one of the first steps is understanding the reasons that people are such willing participants in it.

Why do people spread gossip? Usually the person spreading rumors has a bad self-image, so they try to pull others down to compensate. Seriously, think about this. If you have gossips in your workplace, are they people who have their stuff together? I’m not talking about the bluster and confidence on the surface, but what’s really inside. Are they grounded and satisfied? Not bloody likely, or they wouldn’t feel the need to level the playing field.

According to workplace research, the content of gossip is 80 percent inaccurate. That’s the proof that the real intention is to hurt others, not to solve a problem, even if they pretend otherwise.

Gossip is a two-way transaction, of course. So why do people listen to it? Two reasons: First, they want to feel “in on it,” partly so they aren’t on the receiving end of it. I hate to tell you – that will not protect you. If you keep gossip alive as a part of your workplace culture, it’s like feeding a rattlesnake and letting it roam the halls. Eventually it’ll bite you too.

Second, people listen because they too like the little thrill of supposedly putting themselves above someone else. They’ll tell themselves they aren’t the kind of person who would start it, but what’s the harm in listening in? Plenty, of course, because gossip needs an audience to stay alive.

Understanding the motivations of the gossips and their audiences is an important step in fixing the problem for good.

So what about you? Are you part of the solution—or part of the problem?

If you participate in the gossip game—whether as pitcher or catcher—call it quits. You know better. If the Queen of England came to your home today, you’d act better, wouldn’t you? Well, act better right now. Be the person your dog thinks you are. If you’re the one with a poor self-image, it will do a lot for your self-esteem to keep your nose clean from gossip. If you don’t, you are virtually guaranteed to come to a really bad day and maybe even lose your job. One way or another, the result is always ugly.

So make a commitment here and now to rise above it all.