Regina: Oh, my God! I love your skirt. Where did you get it?
Lea Edwards: It was my mom’s in the ’80s.
Regina: Vintage. So adorable.
Lea Edwards: Thanks.
Regina: [turns to Cady] That is the ugliest effing skirt I’ve ever seen.
The classic film Mean Girls celebrated its 10th anniversary over the weekend, and in honor of that occasion, we’re looking back at one of the most iconic lines from the movie. The fake compliment given by Regina George, queen bee of her high school, is still as hilarious (and biting) today as it was when the film first came out. She’s a social genius and an unmatched war strategist. Seriously, General Patton has nothing on this girl. While everything looks effortless, every move is calculated. Unfortunately, the poor sportsmanship we often see disproportionately in high school and movies is not limited to those arenas.
Bullying in the workplace is, unfortunately, becoming more common, with 35% of Americans admitting to being harassed at work according to a 2010 survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute. 53.7% of female bullies vs. 39.9% of male bullies use sabotage as their bullying tactic, while 50.2% vs 44.7%, respectively abuse their authority figure status. Male bullies are more likely than females to verbally bully others, at 57..5%, and 47%.
Why are we more critical of those who are like us? In some ways, it is because we know how to hurt them the most. One reason women often choose other women as targets ” may be that they think they can find somebody less likely to get defensive or retaliate,” said Gary Namie, research director for the Workplace Bullying Institute.
Women are socialized to be more passive than men and to resolve conflict through collaboration rather than confrontation. I’m a prime example of this. If there’s an argument going on near me, I leave the room immediately. I never get mad at the barista when they make my drink wrong or spell my name incorrectly. Instead, I apologize for being a pain by ordering anything other than black coffee and tell them my real name is Bob. I was raised to believe that it is impolite to speak badly of someone behind their back, so I wait until I get home before venting about the person to anyone who will listen.
Women feel threatened by other women’s success and take them down as a result. Washington Post journalist Selena Rezvani wrote:
While workplace studies show women are routinely underestimated compared to men, we don’t give much credence to the fact that women hampering other women is also to blame…. Many of us have witnessed a man who comments on a woman’s hotness just as she leaves the room. But what about the woman who criticizes another’s appearance (Did you see what she was wearing in there?) or frowns on a woman’s unapologetic use of power (Just who does she think she is?)?
The woman who patiently waits for the other person to leave the room or tries to sabotage her very quietly is, in a sense, much more terrifying than the loud-mouthed confrontational lady. For instance, take Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada. She barely whispered and was chilling. Women can be devious creatures. In the episode of Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23 where June naively thought the only other girl on her investment bank team was friendly, but she was quickly learning information to take her down later. Though it made for a hilarious episode, that would not be so amusing in real life.
Even though it took women an extensive period to gain equality in the workplace, we don’t want to see any regression. Unfortunately, this mindset is hurting us more than helping. A primary reason for the thinner presence of women in leadership roles is the general lack of support. As Catalyst reported, though women fill over 50 percent of management and professional positions, only 15.7 percent are Fortune 500 officers and 15.2 percent are directors.
Women don’t help further other women’s careers, preventing them from being promoted, according to new research. When women are successful, they sometimes feel like their value is threatened, which causes them to be less likely to help other women.
Michelle Duguid, Ph.D., assistant professor of organizational behavior at Olin Business School and author of Female Tokens in High-prestige Work Groups: Catalysts or Inhibitors of Group Diversification? Dr. Cooper identifies two forms of value threat that she believes affect the behavior of female tokens in high-status work groups when it comes to promotion and selection – competitive threat and collective threat.
“Competitive threat is the fear that a highly qualified female candidate might be more qualified, competent, or accepted than you are,” Duguid writes. “Women also might be concerned about bringing in another woman with lower qualifications, who could reinforce negative stereotypes about women and impact others’ impressions of them. This is a collective threat.”
To put it simply, we are all still in high school.
The woman bullying program is based on the environment. A study done in the Netherlands found that if a woman was in sexist surroundings, she would more likely act like an alpha female or Queen Bee. After further research, it was determined that the woman would become more sexist than her male counterparts as a result. “These women are concerned that if they are seen to be helping other women rise to the top or supporting other women in the workplace, they will be derided by the men at work, and will be seen as operating counter to the culture rather than acting like one of the boys.”
Rezvani stated that women can sometimes forget what it’s like to be new or have less authority at their job. “She wrote, ‘ They may forget what it’s like to be junior, to have little sway, and to be underestimated as a young woman. When people finally reach the top, they often begin to think and act like those around them. However, some believe that it is necessary to be harsh to succeed by adopting the ‘sink or swim’ mindset. This school of thought maintains that one should be treated poorly on their journey to the top so that one can learn from their struggles.
These women make Regina George look tame in comparison.