Mean girls grow into mean bosses… stop the cycle!

With all the current  – and appropriately intense –  attention being paid to bullying (in schools, in the workplace), Selena Rezvani’s recent Washington Post article “Why Mean Girls Grow Up to be Meaner Bosses,” shouldn’t be surprising. With all the current – and also appropriately intense – corporate and leadership attention being paid to mentorship, the article is  however,  troubling. I’m not naive about how women can sometimes develop a form of “sexism amnesia,” as Rezvani says in the article – forgetting the women who have helped them advance professionally in favor of joining their peers at the tops of organizations who keep others, especially women, from growing and being promoted. I’ve experienced it, too, and so have my friends in Los Angeles, DC and places in between. (Add in other diversity-related factors such as ethnicity, and the problem is multiplied.)

Okay, but… REALLY? In 2012, is this really still happening? Hasn’t all the training resulted in any more of an enlightened executive level worker?

Rezvani recounts a personal experience of being “frozen out” of a supposed inner circle of top female executives in a normal business social setting… presumably because of her age – she was younger that most of the other women. It’s symbolic of more formal settings, where information, networks, power, influence and other critical factors to a person’s professional success are kept away from those aspiring, as well.

Again… SERIOUSLY? It sounds like the playground antics shared with me by my daughter – who is in SECOND GRADE. I supposed that’s the point. Nip meanness in the bud at an early age and we can prevent mean bosses from forming in the first place. Rezvani makes a solid point by saying that it all starts with having high self esteem and a strong sense of self, which can help women feel less like hurting others. That’s where we come in as parents of course. That’s also where we can be helpful as mentors to younger workers and students. After all, they’re aspiring to be like us. And we’re nice, aren’t we?

More on niceness in the workplace – next time. Until then, play nicely, work nicely, and look out for others. Please!


About Jaya Koilpillai Bohlmann
Global corporate communication, business, and organization behavior executive; author. My blog, DesigningCommunication, offers inspiration, insight, and tips for all professionals who want to express themselves effectively, and lead with integrity.

One Response to Mean girls grow into mean bosses… stop the cycle!

  1. Jerry Carducci says:

    It is sad in today’s world that such issues continue to persist. Agreed that it has been, and in many cases remains, a tough road for women in advancing and gaining equal compensation. While some call it assertiveness, regardless of the label (assertiveness, meanness or bullying) such behavior gets you nowhere, be you male or female. In an age where organizations are challenged with doing more with less, increasingly diverse workforces and rapid fire change, leaders must have a high level of emotional intelligence in both their personal and professional lives. Another way to put it; “treat others as you want to be treated.”


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