Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Book review: "Working with Mean Girls" by Meredith Fuller

 - subtitled "Identifying and protecting yourself from workplace nastiness" (This book is sold in the US with the title Working with Bitches and is available as an ebook)

If you've never worked with a bitch, it's hard to understand the anguish it can bring day after long day, week after long week. It's almost impossible to imagine the impact it can have on every aspect of your life, sleeping can be disrupted while you churn over the day, eating can be problematic and leisure time eroded with the ongoing distress of belittling, malicious and downright nasty behaviour. Frustration, self doubt, anger, confusion and exhaustion are words commonly used to attempt to describe the experience.

"Working with Mean Girls" isn't a pop psychology book. It's solidly grounded in theory, knowledge and the experience of working with a diverse range of clients over many years. Meredith Fuller is a loved and respected Melbourne psychologist who interviewed a wide range of women for the stories selected, to shed light on different kinds of bitchy behaviour.

The stories give a sense of the personal challenges many women face in working with bitches. They are a glimpse into a wide range of unhealthy workplace dynamics - some are harrowing and you wonder how anyone gets away with such appalling behaviour. All the stories are very readable, and I found myself identifying behaviours I'd seen in different workplaces in a new and helpful way.

Meredith has identified 8 types of bitches and has named them for their predominant behaviour:
  • the Excluder
  • the Insecure
  • the Toxic
  • the Narcissist
  • the Screamer
  • the Liar
  • the Incompetent
  • the Not-a-Bitch
Not only are the behaviours named and clearly identified, but the possible effect of the behaviour on the target is outlined, along with an explanation of why the bitch may behave in a particular way. Equally helpful are realistic suggestions for dealing with the challenging boss or co-worker and practical strategies are presented in a series of 'what to do' lists.

Throughout the book are reminders that not all nasty, mean behaviour is bitchy, even though it may appear that way. There could well be other causes, and in addition there may be a need at some stage for deep self reflection as well.

The second part of the book delves more deeply into psychological issues and I found I needed to concentrate more carefully. The possible role of fear and archetypes are discussed as well as different communication styles: for instance a preference for either using the head (Thinking) or heart (Feeling) can lead to difficulty with communication.

Age related issues are also discussed, with the possibility for difference and misunderstandings explained helpfully.

Whilst "Working with Mean Girls" has been written by a woman, for women who are working with bitches, I'll certainly buy a copy for my son. I believe it'll give him an insight into behaviours that may otherwise have been perplexing or even have gone unnoticed. The sections on communication styles, learning to say no, managing workplace stress, and strategies for deciding whether to stay or leave an unsatisfactory workplace are equally as relevant to him as they are to women in the workforce.

Link here to a short promotional video for "Working with Mean Girls."

If you are dealing with a bitch at work or are the target of workplace bullying it's often helpful to seek professional support. Practicing some of the suggested strategies with an experienced counsellor can assist in getting the confidence to try new behaviours in the work setting or support you as you change direction.
Meredith Fuller - photo by Jordan Head
Disclaimer: Meredith Fuller was one of my psychology lecturers when I was at college some 25+ years ago. She was inspirational, enthusiastic and knowledgeable. We came into contact again a couple of years back when we were facilitating Myers Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) workshops with university students. Meredith has included some of my workplace experiences in the book, however I receive no freebies or financial gain from book sales.

My personal interest in, and professional experience of supporting targets of workplace bullying and bitchiness goes back many years.  I was honoured to attend the launch of "Working with Mean Girls" on Feb 18, 2012 and am pleased to celebrate Meredith Fuller's hard work and enthusiasm which have led to the publication of this excellent, helpful and readable book.
Meredith with Andrea McNamara (Penguin publisher)
at the book launch Feb 18 2012.




Liza said...

Could have used this a few years ago...I'm glad you put in the disclaimer that it could help with both sexes...

sue said...

Liza, I'm confident that this book is equally as relevant to men. They suffer at work too, in a different way, but the stories and suggestions could be very supportive for all our menfolk who are struggling with workplace issues.

I'm going to ask my local library to get a copy and suggest it to my friends who have children entering the workforce. As they say, "forewarned is forearmed".

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately this book is not available in Europe yet.