How to Prevent Your Workplace From Being Like High School

How to Prevent Your Workplace From Being Like High School

A few weeks ago, someone complained to me, “My staff is so mean to each other.”

Mean. As in spreading gossip, being cruel to the new guy, and not lending a helping hand to someone in need.

Sounds a little like high school doesn’t it?

Well believe it or not there is a crazy connection between your good ole’  high school days and person-centered care. (Seems odd, but stick with me!)


recent study showed that 43% of people think that work is EXACTLY like high school! Other researchers report that the workplace is just as unwelcoming to unattractive people as high school.

What? Aren’t we all grown up now?!

Apparently not.

So how can you ensure your organization isn’t harboring some “mean girls” (or guys) of it’s own?

Think about the bullies you know from yesteryear or that perhaps your own kids are dealing with right now.

When I hear stories from my own children about kids that aren’t so nice at school I think about their parents. And usually I’m not surprised.

That opinionated, dimwitted man that I try to avoid as an adult is raising a son that I don’t want my children associating with. It really is no surprise that he’s passing his undesirable behaviors and views onto his child.

Think about your workplace. The same is true there.

The culture of your organization is being passed down from the leadership team.



Kids behave and conduct themselves like their parents do. And the same is true with your staff.

If you make cutting remarks (even as a joke), you are fostering staff that will quickly criticize each other.

If you walk around your organization only pointing out what needs to be fixed, you are breeding a team that will find the negative in every situation.

If you are closed to employees’ thoughts and don’t support them, you are establishing a group that will not listen to or support residents’ choices.

Did you catch that?

Your leadership style is the best indicator of the culture in your organization. Your team is following it.

When an employee’s supervisor “bullies” them or treats them with disrespect, most likely that employee is going to turn around and treat the residents and other employees the same exact way.


What are the best things to do if your employees are acting like the mean girls from high school?

  1. Start with the mirror. During my speaking engagements I often have people hold up a mirror and say, “Mirror mirror on the wall, I am the problem after all.” It is critical to look at how your leadership style may quietly, unintentionally be encouraging the bullies in your organization.
  2. Look at those surrounding you. You may personally be supporting a positive culture with your actions, but what about the rest of the leadership team? How about those direct supervisors that have the most contact with staff? Their actions need to reflect the culture that you are trying to create or all of your efforts to be optimistic are seen as a joke by staff that have to deal with a tyrant of a supervisor on a daily basis.
  3. Watch your words. Recently someone who attended one of my workshops shared with me how her supervisor belittled her with the words, “You are just a nursing assistant.” She was so upset; crying and shaking as she shared the story with me. I asked her when this happened, thinking it occurred in the last few days. “About fifteen years ago.” Never underestimate the impact your words will have on another human being’s life for many years to come.

You, your leaders, managers, and supervisors are the strongest predictor of how employees act. Are you encouraging school spirit or breeding bullies?


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