The movie Mean Girls – where former home-schooled teenager Cady Heron is plunged into the world of regular high school and girl cliques – doesn’t only apply to navigating high-school hierarchies, there are some lessons here that translate to the business world as well – especially when you’re starting at a new job.
And, yes, you can sit with us.
1. Navigate the politics
In Mean Girls, Cady learns from Gretchen and Karen that her crush, Aaron, is off-limits because he used to date fellow Plastic, Regina George – this is an unspoken rule. When you start a new job, these kinds of unspoken “rules” do crop up. There are already-formed friendships and alliances; there are hierarchies.
They may be trivial to you, but you need to know them in order to perform at your best and form strategies that benefit you and what you create. As silly as it can be, learning about politics from long-term staff members – like why it seems a certain senior member of staff is singling you out when it comes to the company’s tightly held policies and you wish to do things differently – is paramount when it comes to your success.
2. Find allies
Although the aftermath is misguided, Janis befriends Cady and subsequently, Cady joins the Plastics. As a new student, she learns that having friends or those whom she can turn to is important in surviving her new environment. This is also true of workplaces.
Finding those who support you and your ideas will ensure you talents are recognised and in the long run, your input could benefit the business greatly. Also, it’s been found that making workplace friends doesn’t have to come at the expense of meeting goals at work. (Just don’t gossip.)
3. Understand the hierarchy
In the lunchroom scene on Cady’s first day, we see Cady assessing where to sit before leaving to sit by herself in the girls’ bathroom. Thankfully, Janis gives her the lowdown on the school hierarchy, with Regina George ruling the kingdom. When
I came from a creative agency, where my manager would sit on the row of desks with us, to a more traditional corporate setting, where seniors had offices, this was an adjustment for me. I had to learn who was an assistant to whom, and how the hierarchy worked.
This turned out to be crucial as I was requested to rewrite my work by various members of senior management. In some cases, it was inadvisable to push back on requested changes after learning the hierarchy.
4. Learn the lay of the land
In Mean Girls, after Cady is invited to sit with the Plastics during lunch the next day, Karen enthusiastically tells Cady, “On Wednesdays, we wear pink!” Now this motto has entered our lexicon (and sadly, “fetch” never did), it’s important to the social rules of each workplace you enter.
Must you attend Friday night drinks with the team you work with each week? What about lunch – do you have to accept a lunch meeting or can you request to move it?
I freelanced at a creative agency where I received an email on Monday with the opening line: “On Tuesdays, the creative team sits together on the hot desks”. I had to resist the urge to email back, “On Wednesdays, do we wear pink?”
So, it seems there are a few lessons that can be adopted from Mean Girls into business life. What’s the most important lesson you have to share for those starting a new job?