Wednesday, July 25, 2012

'Mean Girls at Work'

When I first entered the workforce many years ago, I was confronted by many women who did not have my best interests at heart.  A few were part of a clique; they would whisper when I walked by, or demean me in snarky tones.  Some were jealous, a few were controlling.  I ran into many gossips, while others took credit for some of my ideas.  Quite a few were 'talkers' (and, sad to say, I'm part of that group).

Sure, it was confusing, but it made me remember my high school years, when I was first exposed to such women.  But in school, as in my work life, I've learned to ignore the taunts and control (but it can be tempting to listen to the gossip, as long as it's not about a coworker).  I've found some very dear friends who not only lifted my spirits, but also gave me a chance to help them shine.

Women are confronted by 'mean girls' in the work world each and every day, and the youngest members are confused about who can and cannot be trusted.  'Mean Girls at Work', the new book by Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster (a book I wish had been around when I first started working), offers a wonderful map that navigates newbies through the tumultuous, yet rewarding, world of the professional work place.  The book is written in a concise manner, and although it appears to be a 'quick read', it contains valuable solutions which will stay with you whether you are new to the work place, or a seasoned veteran.  Both authors know what they're writing about.*

The 'mean girls' described in the book are broken down into sections; 'Meanest of the Mean', 'Very Mean', 'Passively Mean', 'Doesn't Mean to be Mean', etc.  The authors describe particular situations (i.e., the aforementioned cliques) and what not to do in regards to a reaction.  They then offer suggestions as to what to do; one of the best suggestions they offer to dispel anger is exercise, breathing, or any diversion.  By keeping one's mind off the anger, one is able to come up with a logical solution.

Keeping our cool and maintaining a professional attitude is something all of us need to remember.  Of course, that doesn't mean we shouldn't nurture friendships.

We just need to learn how to weed-out the Mean Girls.  And thanks to Katherine and Kathi, it is now that much easier to maintain our professional integrity.

*Katherine Crowley is a Harvard-trained psychotherapist, and Kathi Elster is a management consultant and executive coach.  Together, they run K Squared Enterprises, a training firm that helps clients manage difficult situations in the workplace.  'Mean Girls at Work' will be published by McGraw Hill in November 2012.

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