Mean girls
August 28, 2011 6:27 PM   Subscribe

How did you, as a young woman, learn to deal with "mean girls" at work?

So my 18-year-old daughter called me crying and asked me to pick her up from work. She is a hostess, at a semi-upscale chain restaurant, and this is her first real job. When I got there, she was just absolutely in pieces -- which I never see, from her.

She tells me about a confrontation she had with some other hostess, who sent her and a party of six to the wrong table, then blamed my daughter for it, then publicly derided her in front of a gaggle of waitstaff. My daughter asks Heather to just talk to her, so they can work this out, and (of course) Heather mocks her to her face, and tells her there is nothing *to* work out. Later, a manager sees her, and asks if there is anything wrong and my daughter tries to say, no, no, I'm fine, but the manager drags out of her what happened. Now my daughter is horrified at having been a tattle-tale, and convinced that if Heather didn't have cause to hate her before, she does now. And explodes in a crying frenzy. The manager suggests, not unkindly, that maybe she should take off the rest of the shift, which she does. It is not lost on her that this has now cost her money, money she needs, and that Heather can tell her own story for the rest of the day.

I'm hearing this, and feeling for her so much, because the bitches and their ways used to make me cry too, when I was an 18-year-old hostess -- but I don't know what to say. The bitches still exist, damn them, even in the professional jobs I have now, but they don't make me cry anymore -- but I don't know how that happened, or how to help her get there. I don't even know how I do handle them, other than to keep out of their way as much as I can, I guess. I'm sorry there are bitches, sweetie. They really should all be killed was all I could find to say, but it is not very much to the purpose.

And sorry about the incendiary language -- Men have ways of being horrible, too, certainly, but the thing my daughter experienced is, I think, a strictly girl-on-girl kind of combat. And I know Heather is only a young woman, too, and still learning, and probably deserving of some kind of compassion if bullying my daughter is how she needs to get by. I just --
  • How did you, as a young woman, learn to deal with "mean girls" at work?
  • Do you still struggle with this kind of stuff at work? How do you deal?
  • What should my daughter do? It may be a crap job, but she needs this job. How does she handle having cried and flipped out over what must seem -- what *was* -- a completely minor incident?
  • What can I say, what could someone have said to you, to make you feel better?
posted by pH Indicating Socks to Work & Money (56 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
The bitches still exist, damn them, even in the professional jobs I have now, but they don't make me cry anymore -- but I don't know how that happened, or how to help her get there.

My heart goes out to you and your daughter, so I hope what I'm about to say doesn't sound harsh. But -- I'm not so sure that finding something for her to do is something you should be trying to do.

You experienced this too, you said -- and while you can't quite pinpoint what it was you did to learn how to cope, you still found that way, the way that worked for you. And that's something that only a person going through an experience can do, on their own.

I know it's crushingly hard for you as a parent. But -- there's something from on an episode of Lost that may be something to think about; a character told another about watching a moth struggle to hatch out of a coccoon. He was tempted to help the moth as it struggled wildly -- but his teacher told him not to. It was the moth's struggle trying to fight through the coccoon that helped "iron" out its wings, and helped force the blood into them; if he'd "helped" the moth by trying to cut it out of the coccoon, the moth would be left with shriveled-up and useless wings. By letting the moth fight its way free on it own, it was helping. It could help more by just giving the moth a safe chance to do that fight.

That's maybe what you can do; support your daughter, listen to when she needs to vent, support her emotionally, tell her about what you went through, tell her you also think it sucks, but...other than that, maybe letting this be a fight she does on her own would be the most powerful way to help.

Good luck to her.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:43 PM on August 28, 2011 [31 favorites]

Your daughter gave the mean girl the reaction and satisfaction she was looking for. You deal with people like that by not emotionally reacting to them or else you become an easy target. I've worked in restaurants for over 12 years and if your daughter doesn't grow a thicker skin, she's not going to make it. She may even end up losing her job if she can't keep herself emotionally together over minor events. I've seen people let go for similar reasons. Management already had to send her home once and they probably won't be so nice next time. Of course the other girl should have been sent home too.

The restaurant industry is soul sucking at times and it isn't easy.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 6:51 PM on August 28, 2011 [8 favorites]

My second job was as a waitress. And the cooks were - they were horrible. They harassed and bitched and yelled and denigrated until I felt at the end of my rope. Constant insults, constant haranging, it was just horrible. I just put my head down and kept doing my job, because at first, my mental process was, well, they're right, I've never done this before, I really AM a terrible waitress, I suck at this!

But I kept at it and got better - and eventually I realised, hell, I'm raking in the tips here, I'm good at this! Of course, they didn't stop their bitching, and finally, one day, without thinking or planning it, the cook started in on me over something stupid that wasn't even my fault. Without even pausing, I yelled right back at her, told her that she was wrong, I'd done what I was supposed to, and I wanted what I'd ordered! And you know, after that, well, yeah, they still tried to bully me into giving them part of my tips (which wasn't the policy of the restaurant and I absolutely refused to do it), but they stopped yelling at me once I stood up to them.

I'm not saying for your daughter to yell in the middle of a crowded restaurant, but standing up to them is the only way she's going to get anywhere. They're mean, they're bullies, and they're like hyenas when it comes to sniffing out weakness. Until she can calmly and matter of factly call them on their crap, they're going to keep at it.
posted by lemniskate at 6:55 PM on August 28, 2011 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I think the "victim vs. player" paradigm applies here pretty well. In a nutshell, a victim is someone who is at the mercy of circumstance and external forces, while a player is someone who takes responsibility for their own fate. Ones goal, professionally, should be to be a player. Okay, that's some MBA speak, what does it mean practically?

Circumstances: there are some bitchy girls at work. There will probably always be some bitchy girls (or undermining people), as you noted from your own experience. The fact is that spending any time thinking about how unfortunate these circumstances are is a waste, because it won't change them. Your daughter needs to take charge of her own fate and recognize that doing a good job at work includes working well in the face of undermining forces and bitchy mean girls. In a perfect world they wouldn't be there, but the world isn't perfect, and your daughter has to perform well in this world.

Picking apart everything that went wrong:

sent her and a party of six to the wrong table - Some people can't be trusted. Maybe there's a way in the future that your daughter can confirm that she's going to the right table, perhaps by checking a seating chart in the computer, or double checking with another server.

then blamed my daughter for it, then publicly derided her in front of a gaggle of waitstaff - Getting publicly called out is part of life, even for shit you weren't really responsible for, so she should work on letting it roll off her back, or on cultivating a "Dude, I don't know about that" casual response that turns the table on her accuser.

My daughter asks Heather to just talk to her, so they can work this out, and (of course) Heather mocks her to her face, and tells her there is nothing *to* work out - Nothing really went wrong here -- Heather acted like the bitch that she is. Ideally you'd take this information, file it away in the mental "Heather file", and move on.

Later, a manager sees her, and asks if there is anything wrong and my daughter tries to say, no, no, I'm fine, but the manager drags out of her what happened - Poker face. You need one in most jobs and especially in the service industry. Conversely, your manager is there to help in difficult situations, and during a 1:1 conversation when you're off the clock is a good time to tell this story.

Now my daughter is horrified at having been a tattle-tale, and convinced that if Heather didn't have cause to hate her before, she does now. And explodes in a crying frenzy. - See above re: poker face.

Sorry if this is harsh, but so is the world. If you can teach your daughter to analyze situations like this and to "be a player," she'll find herself successful even in a world full of haters.
posted by telegraph at 6:55 PM on August 28, 2011 [32 favorites]

I suspect that EmpressCallipygos is right, and I like the moth analogy. I'd only add that your message makes me suspect that Heather sees your daughter as, for lack of a better work, weak -- someone that would put up with this, and be cowed by it. I wouldn't be surprised if Heather saw your daughter as a threat to her place in the pecking order in the restaurant (especially for male attention, perhaps?), but I'm not sure that helps much in terms of a practical response.

This may be a time for your daughter to try to Act As If, also known as Fake It 'Til You Make It. It may not be in her nature, but if she could strut in there with her head held high and backbone straight and act literally dismissive of the pathetic antics Heather has been up to, that they're like a mosquito she just needs to swat away, that may help her get enough of a support group among the other workers, which could be her best defense going forward. That, and being EXCELLENT at her job. I bet the other servers etc. will be happy to ally themselves with your daughter (and tell Heather to STFU and stop getting in the way of their tips) if your daughter is competent, thoughtful, professional, attentive, and all the rest..... and does not involve the manager again unless direly necessary.
posted by argonauta at 6:55 PM on August 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

This stuff happened to my sister (who worked quite a few waitressing jobs) all the damn time. And I'm afraid the only answer is that your daughter needs to get a thick skin, give it right back to the mean girls (within reason), and don't fret over the many small slights and humiliations that come to her in the working world. It's just part of working, and there's no really perfect way of dealing with mean people and idiots.
posted by jayder at 6:56 PM on August 28, 2011

I think the best thing that you can say to her to make her feel better is to put it all in perspective. Is it a bad thing that Heather (why are they always named Heather - all of my nemesi in high school were Heathers!) sent her to the wrong table? Yes. Was she a bitch in how she handled it? Absolutely. But, is it the end of the world? Really unlikely. Yes, it's embarrassing to be called out in front of the rest of the staff for something you didn't do, but in the end, it's just words. Your daughter knows that she didn't do anything wrong and she just needs to be happy with that for now.

I've also found that women like Heather tend to pick on what they perceive to be the 'weaker' ones. The girls who appear to have lower self-esteem or who are easy to pick on. This doesn't mean that your daughter is weaker or has low self-esteem, it just means that she is perceived by Heather as being easy to pick on. Confidence is the key here. Even if she fakes it to make it, she needs to put on your game face for Heather and let Heather know by her actions that she's not going put up with her BS anymore.

Unfortunately, I didn't get comfortable around the Heathers of the world until college when I really had time to figure out who I was so that I could be confident in myself. I hope your daughter gets there faster than I did.
posted by Leezie at 7:01 PM on August 28, 2011

Telegraph's advice sounds right on.

One thing I remember doing as a teenager is staring out the window, or off to the side, or at some customers or whatever and pretending that the person giving me a hard time was speaking another language. Then when they stop talking just saying "If you are done, I have things to do." I even used to practice keeping a straight face in the mirror.

Be warned though, I also used this on my parents.
posted by keeo at 7:05 PM on August 28, 2011 [8 favorites]

pH Indicating Socks: "How did you, as a young woman, learn to deal with "mean girls" at work?"

I'm a guy, but I think you should start by not referring to women you don't like as "bitches". That's not at all helpful to this, or any situation.

I'm a girl, and, she called them bitches because they are bitches. Sorry. I think I'm a person who gives every person every possible chance, who is constantly telling people at the office who bitch about customers things they might not have seen from the customer's point of view. But the mean girls thing is hard to grok if you're like, not a girl.

EmpressCallipygos is right. I was a person whose dad thought he should step in at every opportunity, to phone people on my behalf (or people's mothers), and what must have been an insanely sincere effort, because of what he'd suffered at the hand of his own mother, was the absolute worst possible thing he could have ever done. Worst. Possible. I can manage a mean girl now, but it took me way, WAY longer to learn than it should have, and that meant a LOT of miserable years.
posted by Glinn at 7:05 PM on August 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

Okay, maybe I'm a delicate princess, but I feel pretty lucky for the support I had when people were nasty to me in my professional life. I had to learn confidence and strength for myself, but I could do that because people who loved me never let the bastards (or bitches) get me down.

Tell her you still deal with these kinds of people but they don't make you cry any more. Tell her about the awful things that happened to your friends who are now awesomely successful. Tell her that the only way to get around this is to become awesome herself, and that you're absolutely confident she can do it. And because you know this, you know this so hard you know she's going to go right back to work like nothing happened. Why should she care if Heather hates her? Why would you want a bitch like that to LIKE you?
posted by synapse at 7:07 PM on August 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

(Sorry, I wasn't suggesting you were trying to do something *for* her. I know you just want to give her the tools she needs to handle this utterly crappy situation. I was just giving a more extreme example, I suppose)
posted by Glinn at 7:08 PM on August 28, 2011

Tori Amos wrote "The Waitress" for a reason. Your daughter might find the song enjoyable to listen to at her times of need.
posted by wondermouse at 7:15 PM on August 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Excellent advice so far, and thank you, and please keep it coming.

Empress and Glinn, I see what you're saying, I do, but please understand that she is asking me what to do, and Oh honey! is all I got. So I suggested we ask her brother, since he's has recent first job experience, but as she had to point out to me -- her brother is a guy. So I told her I'd ask MetaFilter. The only other time she asked Metafilter, Metafilter failed, but she is hopeful -- and I know you better, so I was confident you would know.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 7:23 PM on August 28, 2011

+1 on the victim-vs-player angle as the long-term strategy for coping/handling.


When someone gets into my head like that, it helps me when I manage to see them as human beings who are sick.
posted by krilli at 7:31 PM on August 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm a guy, but I think you should start by not referring to women you don't like as "bitches". That's not at all helpful to this, or any situation.

Based on the description, this girl is a bitch, and deserves to be called one. She's also a Heather--go watch Heathers, the movie, and you may understand a bit better what is being discussed here. This is not a decent human being with whom the daughter just isn't particularly simpatico. This is someone with retracted claws and bared fangs, intending to do harm and greatly enjoying when she is successful in doing so.

Not emotionally reacting to Heather's abuse might work, since the bitch doesn't get the satisfaction of causing emotional harm with her shit. But I think that would be pretty hard to pull off here; the daughter would have to go from emotional meltdown this time to utter serenity next time, and that seems unlikely. And, the Heather has drawn blood and likes the taste; she will not likely give up very easily if presented with a slightly more armored victim. She'll just have to bite harder next time to get the desired effect.

Maybe the daughter can try to get on a different shift? Recruit sympathetic co-workers to stick up for her? Using humor might work. The daughter and the coworkers can be a bitch right back, but do so in a joking way, such that if the Heather reacts *she* looks like the loser who is taking things too seriously.
posted by parrot_person at 7:31 PM on August 28, 2011

Your daughter needs to develop an attitude that says, "I don't need this job." Because she doesn't.

I worked in restaurants for many many years. It is a cutthroat environment.

I once walked out on a hostessing gig at the beginning of a shift because the GM said something nasty and kinda sexist to me. 4 months later I ran into him at a New Year's Eve party. Not only did he apologize to me, but he said I was right to walk out. Eh.

Restaurant gigs are a dime a dozen. I was young and freaked out for a day or 2 after I quit that job. I ended up landing a waitressing gig at a smaller restaurant and was promoted to floor manager after 4 months, over other staff that had been there longer.

Restaurants have a revolving door policy.

To get a good idea of what she is dealing with, she should read Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. A better tome about the in's and out's of restaurant jobs was never written. AND IT'S FUNNY, TOO!

If that doesn't give her a set of balls and some perspective about this, nothing will!
posted by jbenben at 7:41 PM on August 28, 2011 [6 favorites]

Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress could be a good read for her, too. It's funny and breezy but definitely helps put the whole industry in perspective.

Just please please avoid the Ryan Reynolds movie that was based on it. Just... no.
posted by argonauta at 7:46 PM on August 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

This wouldn't be much help, I'm sorry for your daughter.

I just kept out of their way as much as possible. The poker face thing, trying not to react to their antics and keeping any interactions with them to the minimum. The pressure, anger and emotions I just kept to myself then let it out some other way, like venting to a willing listener or through exercise or sometimes just crying my eyes out when I'm alone.
posted by accisse at 7:47 PM on August 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

How long has she had this job?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:11 PM on August 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I waitressed for about eight years and there was ALWAYS a crazy server/cook/owner/manager/chef to keep things interesting. There was definitely a "proving yourself" period when starting at a new place. More than once I had to tell someone something along the lines of "Your behavior toward me is not okay. I will not put up with it. If you don't knock off X, I will quit." That was hard to do at first but it got easier over the years. Never got me fired and ended the bullying.

I have met some of my favourite people on earth working in the restaurant industry. I have also met some of the worst. Seconding jbenben, yes to Kitchen Confidential.
posted by futureisunwritten at 8:15 PM on August 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

1. Is waitressing going to be her job of choice for the foreseeable future?
2. Is she really determined to make this particular job work?

If she's just marking time, then she might as well find another place with less bitchy types in it (though as others have pointed out, waitressing may be just that bad all over). If she wants to make this work, she is going to have to see it as boot camp; she will need to stand up to the Heathers and tell them to go fuck themselves and just work around them as much as possible.

Service jobs are tough, even if your coworkers are nice because, The Public.

As her mom, your advice maybe should be: honey, you have to determine how much you want this. I support you if you stay or if you quit and look elsewhere. Learning what kinds of stress you can deal with in a job is part of life.

If you want, you can MeMail me for tales of My Worst Jobs. One involved unauthorized on-the-job porntastic photo shoots (not involving me) one involved people being fired for saying Happy Birthday to someone the fire-er didn't like. I quit both of those because Jesus, life is too short. But I didn't blame the ones who tried to tough it out.

Shit jobs happen, and everyone has to find their own level of tolerance.
posted by emjaybee at 8:15 PM on August 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Teach your daughter the power of three very simple, very powerful words:

Go fuck yourself.

Repeat them often to oneself. Over and over again. Go fuck yourself. Find playful ways to elaborate on the point.

Go fuck yourself with your grandfather's dick.

Go fuck yourself in the ass with a cock-ful clue, you stupid fucking cow.

Didn't I already tell you to go fuck yourself? Why are you still standing here looking at me like you don't already know where all the dick is. Go get it, girl. Get it, stick it down your throat until you fucking choke to death you useless piece of shit. Stop wasting my fucking air.

The thing about winning arguments against people who aren't really interested in arguing is that you don't have to actually have an argument to make, nor do you have to really stay on-point or keep any kind of logical consistency. All the sorts of things you have to do with reasonable people, all that shit goes out the window with unreasonable people. All you really need to do is just pile the vile invectives at them and then walk away like they don't even deserve to have a chance to get to retort. Have fun with it. Tell your daughter that, the very first chance that lying sack of shit gives her any fucking trouble, tell her to get the fuck out of your way and to go find a nice, quiet place to go to fuck herself to death so that the rest of society can finally enjoy itself.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:27 PM on August 28, 2011 [42 favorites]

Also, how has the relationship between your daughter and Heather been? And has something recently changed? Was there some sort of fallout from the customers and Heather was looking to pin blame anywhere else? What is Heather's status in the restaurant, is she loved or hated?

Fleshing out the situation and relationships will people understand the situation and what particular games are being played.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:27 PM on August 28, 2011

Best answer: How does she handle having cried and flipped out over what must seem -- what *was* -- a completely minor incident?

The coworkers probably did not notice (really). Even if they did, they probably don't care because three incidents of drama happen per night. And because as new staff, she's a bit character, not yet central to the soap opera. And because they don't know the full story. Maybe she flubbed the table assignment, broke down, and went home because she got a text that her dog died.

So on her next shift, just play it off confidently. Fresh start. If anyone asks, just act like if they knew the full story they'd understand. Like "oh that? *minor eyeroll* Long story. Soo not worth going into." And it isn't. (I tried this once, I got sympathy from maybe 1/3; half hadn't heard and also did not care (and thought it was kind of weird that I was trying to explain this); the remainder seemed to think it probably was my fault.)

She does need to address it with the manager with a quick, upbeat, professional "don't know what happened there, but it won't happen again."

Ninety percent of the people there? All they care about is whether she can do her job. Not "does she never make mistakes?" (restaurant jobs are full of spilled food and flubbed orders) but "can she clean up those mistakes faster than she makes new ones?" On some shifts, all it takes is one leak (a slow busser), and the whole ship starts to sink. The first few weeks, new people seem stunningly incompetent and oafish, and the experienced staff wait to see whether they get out of the fucking way already or get fired. Sorry if that's harsh; it's natural and normal. It may seem irrelevant, but to someone who has been there a while, and to the management, that's what matters. My advice would be to fake competence and confidence, and walk quickly.

I wouldn't start a war with Heather. (You don't want to start an overt war because you want the good shifts, so you don't want the boss to be thinking "I can't schedule her with her.") Just be friendly while demonstrating you're not afraid. If you view her as the unimportant person she is, it'll be easier.

At home, you can help turn her into a cartoon character by dissecting the entire experience and finding those quotes, or that one gesture (the hair flip), that rise to the top. You know how on WipeOut and other reality TV, all the people are caricatures of themselves ("the female army sergeant!") and have signature quotes that get played over and over? All my minor enemies eventually end up with taglines like that that demonstrate just how stupid / unreasonable / jerky they are. If you find the moments like that and start making fun of her at home (and maybe also the manager), it'll probably make it a lot easier to not care how they act. (I know, you raised her to be the bigger person, but after "let's talk about this reasonably" gets mocked, then it is "us against them," so be on your daughter's side.) You can also practice different responses. Oh yeah, on preview, C_D reminded me, I was going to recommend you pass along a few bon mots, too. Like "haters gonna hate," or my favorite, "fuck em if they can't take a joke." Good luck!
posted by salvia at 8:45 PM on August 28, 2011 [7 favorites]

I'm not, nor have I ever been, a girl. But I've been in these sorts of situations.

Remind her that the way this girl reacted is the last refuge of the incompetent. Maybe she made your daughter lose face on this occasion. However, the other girl sucks at her job, while your daughter will pick herself up and not only get better at doing her own job, but wipe the floor with this other hostess. Focusing on taking pride in doing your job well is one surefire way to rise above these sort of petty disputes.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 8:45 PM on August 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

And, I suppose, by "rising above," I mean, "destroying your competition." So, yeah.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 8:46 PM on August 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Civil Disobedient, you're awesome. I don't think I will tell her that exact thing -- because I wouldn't want to color her views on sex, which I would hope to be positive -- but the cathartic power of xtreme vulgarity (even unvoiced) is something I understand very well, and can recommend.

And she has been there 3 months. This is only a representative sample of this girl, whose name is not really Heather, and who's been more or less in my daughter's grill since she started -- this is, however, the first time my daughter lost it at work. Brandon, are we still married?
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 8:46 PM on August 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by mkultra at 8:53 PM on August 28, 2011

Bullies like to bully and "Heather" found a perfect target in your daughter. If your daughter doesn't learn how to ignore the bullying by becoming indifferent, she will become a victim over and over.

Tell her what I told many in situations like this...Stop crying, no one you love died. That should put things in perspective. She said something mean to you, she embarrassed you, she decided to degrade you in front of many people. How else will "Heather" elevate herself if she doesn't find someone to act this way toward? And guess what? She will be the one that looks like a fool if are unaffected by it. Even if it bothers you, smile and walk away. Always remember, don't cry, because no one you love died because she was being an ass to you.
posted by Yellow at 9:12 PM on August 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Current waitress, former hostess here.

Civil_Disobedient's advice is precisely correct, and those exact words are pretty great. I'm a youngish woman, slightly older than your daughter, and I learned the hard way too that the restaurant industry is particularly brutal on occasion. But I also learned that I had a thicker skin than I thought, that I didn't need to get upset about someone else's shitty behavior even if it was directed at me (hell, waiting on customers will teach you that!), and that there is always someone that likes to cause drama (or everybody as the case may be).

At my very first restaurant job, hostessing at a busy and in-demand little bistro, the chefs (including the chef/owner) would routinely address all the staff in the most degrading possible way- the insults gained a kind of piquancy because they were always agonizingly specific- everything was fair game. Race, gender, appearance, nothing was taboo. Once I was sitting eating lunch with the other hostess and the owner saw fit to expound on which one of was prettier, to both our faces. I dreaded coming to work hungover or without time to do makeup, because no one would hesitate to let me know just how much I looked like shit that day. And so on.

Now, unpleasant as all that was, I realized very quickly, that it was all just a tool. It wasn't about using hate-speech about someone's religion or race or gender (I think a lot of the banter would have easily qualified for a hostile work environment on any number of fronts- and I think most restaurants are like that, except for maybe the very, very professional ones) to demean them, it was about seeing if you had a thick skin, if you were confident enough to dish it out right back, and not take it personally. Because you can't take things too personally if you're in a service industry. People are going to shit on you all day long, and if you take it personally, you will have a nervous breakdown and moreover, you won't be able to enjoy your work!

So there is no other way around this but to take Civil_Disobedient's advice, and tell that bitch to fuck the fuck off. And if I were your daughter, I'd go back in next shift, and tell my coworkers, "wow I've got some bad fucking PMS, did y'all see me lose my shit yesterday? Ha", and so on. She doesn't even have to really sort things out with Heather. Chances are, the rest of the staff knows she's a bitch and while they may find it entertaining that she was able to get such a big reaction out of your daughter, it won't take long for them to think highly of your daughter. It doesn't take long to suss out what kind of coworkers you've got when you're all working long hours together in that kind of environment, and nasty people do get ostracized or ignored (unless the whole place is rotten, and in that case she should just look for work elsewhere).

Best of luck and remember, it's never really a big deal. It's just dinner.
posted by Aubergine at 9:19 PM on August 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: "This may be a time for your daughter to try to Act As If, also known as Fake It 'Til You Make It. It may not be in her nature, but if she could strut in there with her head held high and backbone straight and act literally dismissive of the pathetic antics Heather has been up to, that they're like a mosquito she just needs to swat away, that may help her get enough of a support group among the other workers, which could be her best defense going forward. That, and being EXCELLENT at her job. I bet the other servers etc. will be happy to ally themselves with your daughter (and tell Heather to STFU and stop getting in the way of their tips) if your daughter is competent, thoughtful, professional, attentive, and all the rest..... and does not involve the manager again unless direly necessary.
posted by argonauta at 6:55 PM on August 28 [+] [!]

Exactly! Perfect answer! I've worked with women for 31 years and there are a few things I've learned, most of which are expressed in the above paragraph.

A couple of things are really important:
1. You must be the BEST at your job - do it better than anyone else, train yourself to pick up on all the vibes and never miss a trick. Most bullies don't have a lot between the ears, so it's not too difficult to figure them out.
2. Never, ever, collapse in tears - there's no better way to encourage them to hit you again.
3. If you can hang on for awhile - always carrying yourself like you own the place and can handle anything that comes along - you'll soon be replaced as the "newbie" by some other poor person; each time this happens, you'll be less of a target.
4. If you've been set up, get loud about it. You don't have to go to the boss, but be sure that everyone in the place knows what happened - the boss will hear the story also - don't whine, for Heaven's sake - just lay it out there.

You have to grow a very thick skin for the working world, especially when you're working with women. You'll do better if you toughen up.

Best to you.
posted by aryma at 9:20 PM on August 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

This is very much indeed a ymmv situation but for me what really helped was having a lot of angry meaningless sex with them, and then dropping them cruelly at a whim.
posted by elizardbits at 9:20 PM on August 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Someone upthread suggested that your daughter should act friendly to Heather. I really, really disagree. She shouldn't engage her in conversation, she shouldn't smile at her, she shouldn't laugh at her jokes. She should only interact with her as much as the job requires, even if Heather suddenly starts acting friendlier toward your daughter. Lots of bitchy girls are not exclusively bitchy -- they alternate friendliness and bitchiness, which can make the situation even tougher because, when she's being nice you may think, 'oh, I'm making a friend!', and when she's a bitch you think, 'man, that really hurts because I thought we were becoming friends'. I had this situation at a restaurant job and it only ended when I decided this girl sucked too hard to try to be friends or even friendly with, and I was willing to go outside of my comfort zone and be assertive to get her to back off. Basically I followed Civil Disobedience's advice -- when she came up to me at one point, being extremely rude and asking why I hadn't done something that she had told me to do (it was not her job to tell me what to do), I said "because I don't fucking want to." I got a blink of disbelief from her, and then she went off and barely spoke to me again. It was awesome! Most bitches don't want a big public fight -- they prefer to needle girls and keep everything under the radar enough to avoid being called out by management. That's why she'll probably back off if your daughter asserts herself, because she'll figure she's no longer a worthwhile target and won't want to escalate things further.

Your daughter probably won't get this right away, but that doesn't mean she can't seek out advice and anecdotes about this type of thing, and they certainly may help. I was told a million times when I was younger to be confident and assertive, but it didn't really click for me till I was about 25 because that's when confidence started feeling more natural for me. One simple thought that helped me was "no one is better than me, and thus no one has the right to treat me like crap. If someone treats me like crap, I have the right to say something." Sounds obvious, but I didn't really believe it till 25.
posted by imalaowai at 10:09 PM on August 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

I'd go back in next shift, and tell my coworkers, "wow I've got some bad fucking PMS, did y'all see me lose my shit yesterday? Ha"

An idea worth considering.
posted by salvia at 10:26 PM on August 28, 2011

Maria Dellamorte has frequently demonstrated her chops here on the green with respect to mean ass bitches on the restaurant scene. Girl has earned her STRIPES! I can't favorite her answer enough. There are all sorts of different ways that you can approach this very specific problem your daughter is facing, but the long term best answer approach is thicken that damn skin. It is wonderful advice for young women everywhere.
You cannot always be the best ally, you are not everyone's best friend. Put on your friendly mask (we all have one, right? RIGHT?!) and let all the shitty comments just fall by the wayside. Be the best professional you can be, and keep your guard up and don't let the bitchy girls get you down. Ultimately, you may earn her friendship and respect, but that isn't what that chick wants right now. Your daughter just needs to make it through the shift. I would listen to Maria Dellamorte on this one. She has proven time and time again that she has the goods to make it through the food/beverage service industry. Good luck! I wish I could give your daughter a hug. Women can be SUCH bitches to each other!
posted by msali at 10:56 PM on August 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree with imalaowai....I would be careful of making her feel bad about crying in front of her co-workers, and i would be careful of putting a lot of pressure on her to be tougher than she is...lots of people on this thread are saying to tell her "be confident, be assertive, toughen up, be the best at your job," but I know I wouldn't have been able to acquire those skills overnight at age 18; for me also, it didn't click until I was 25 or so.

I would just keep reaffirming that some people are bitchy, and that you love her and support her. She knows she needs to be tough and will figure it out for herself. But telling her crying was wrong and that she needs to be stronger isn't going to be helpful so much as stressful.
posted by daisystomper at 10:59 PM on August 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry, I have not read this whole thread because I'm on a tiny useless little device. But in case it has not been mentioned, I wanted to point something out. I realise your daughter is only 18, but this is a professional work environment, and she is relating to her co-workers like a child to her classmates. Her concern for being a tattle tale is misplaced. Her concern that this other woman won't like her is misplaced.

I am very, very concerned that she initially declined to stick up for herself with her manager because she was afraid a mean girl would hate her. I would suggest she really examine that. This does not bode well. Maybe a little more experience will season her to value her own self-worth more highly.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:59 PM on August 28, 2011 [17 favorites]

I'm a bitch in sheep's clothing, so I might have some insight.

This is my deal: I was never bullied, despite being a bookish sort, despite being pretty quiet, despite being the new kid in school too many times, despite wearing glasses when glasses weren't cool. I never stopped to consider why, that's just the way it was: I wasn't bullied, I stuck up for people who were bullied.

Now, of course, I know why. Because lurking just under my seemingly mild mannered exterior is a raging bitch. I hate drama, I hate gossip, I'm kind, compassionate and empathetic... but do. not. fuck. with. me. Because, seriously? Even I have no idea what I might do. I'm not talking about whipping out my switchblade, but first of all, you will get a faceful of whatever you're putting out, and secondly, if you don't step right off, I'm going to figure out how to mess your shit up. I'm smart, and not forgiving, and walking away unscathed will not be an option.

How did the bullies know? How do they still know, when I'm a nice, quiet middle-aged lady with a dog? (Yeah, I recently discovered that I live across the street from an adult mean girl, who has never targeted me at all, but has been going all-out against my new, perfectly lovely upstairs neighbor. I had no idea.) I don't know how they know, but they do. They always know who they can safely victimize, and so do other bad sorts: users, abusive partners, predators of all stripes, and all sorts of people who get their jollies by being cruel or dominating.

I recommend your daughter find her inner anger... find her inner bitch, for the sake of this conversation. And for more reasons than one: if you allow yourself to be bullied and mistreated by any old jackass out there in the world, you're much more likely to relieve some of that pent up rage and frustration against the ones you really love and care for. It has to go somewhere... so use it for good, I say. Use it against the bullies, straight up.

Your daughter has to learn to be appropriately angry, to let it out, to let it work.

Anger has its proper job to do in a balanced personality just as our other emotions do, and stifling or subverting it puts everything out of whack. If showing anger when being abused doesn't come naturally, it must be developed and nurtured. Maybe an assertive friend could help with bitch lessons... but really, it's right there. It's there when we need it, just do the roll call: oh, hm, let's see, who do we have here?... Sympathy, Empathy, Humor, Fear, Anger – ah, Anger. *There* you are. You take this one, please. The other emotions can be helper bees here, but anger takes point now.

tl/dr: it's okay to be angry; properly employed anger can actually be constructive and help to ensure that the organism survives with less stress, fewer harmful incidents, and ... less anger.

Big, big, HUGE BIG Caveat: I am not talking about having a showdown with every rude cashier, inattentive waiter, bad driver, pain-in-the-ass neighbor or unfriendly co-worker you encounter. I'm talking about people who specifically, personally target you with intention to harm or dominate. I really just don't care about the other people; maybe they're having an awful day, year, or life. Maybe they're just tired or sick or don't like me. That's all fine, and a normal part of life that we must handle, ignore, mitigate, or endure.

My anger doesn't get out much. It mostly lounges around eating bonbons and reading trashy magazines, but I'm glad I have it. I wouldn't give it up for anything.
posted by taz at 12:58 AM on August 29, 2011 [67 favorites]

"My anger doesn't get out much. It mostly lounges around eating bonbons and reading trashy magazines, but I'm glad I have it."
Taz, you're fucking awesome.

I've been a restaurant hostess before, and my current job is in the military. I've had to develop skills to deal with people. Oh, not so much the bitches, though they're there, but the sexist and misogynist bullshit from the men. On guy was sexually harassing me for over a year before I finally said, "Fuck this shit" and talked to someone.

For the random sniping and little jabs, she needs to learn to shrug it off. Like many have said, this can't be done overnight. However, the faster you accept that many people throw out an insult and often forget about it within the next 15 minutes the better.

For the people who make a point to yank your chain, develop a selective foul mouth, a quick "bird", and the ability to also forget about it. There are too many bitches (and bastards) in this world to spend too time worrying about it.
posted by DisreputableDog at 2:03 AM on August 29, 2011

Bleh. *one and *too much.
posted by DisreputableDog at 2:04 AM on August 29, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks so much to all of you, all of the existing comments were helpful. I phrased the question the way I did -- How did you as a young woman... -- specifically because I wanted to avoid the kind of derail that did in fact occur. Whether you saw this behavior as gender-specific or not -- and from the Meta, I see that some of you did not -- you made the effort to give helpful advice, and you have my thanks for that.

I've asked my daughter to re-best-answer the answers most helpful to her when she reads this thread... and the difference will be illuminating.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 3:30 AM on August 29, 2011

One thing you can do, Socks, is boost her confidence. Give her lots of hugs, praise and I love yous. Now I give these freely but if you're one of the people who dont, suck it up and do it. Consider it as medicine for your child, who you chose to bring into the world. Someone who is happy and loved is more confident.

I'm asking you to do this when it is hard, when you are anxious or in pain yourself, or frustrated with her, or withholding affection - perhaps unconsciously - from the people in your life who need it. Give her attention, too. Make her feel like a human being in the world. I know from hard experience it is nigh impossible to stand up for yourself otherwise.
posted by By The Grace of God at 3:36 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

And she has been there 3 months. This is only a representative sample of this girl, whose name is not really Heather, and who's been more or less in my daughter's grill since she started -- this is, however, the first time my daughter lost it at work.

She's doing alright then if this was her first flip out after three months at her first real job, which has a hostile work environment.

Sideways advice: If there's a league nearby, she should join a Roller Derby team. For what I've seen, it's empowering for women to be able learn how to both dish out and let out aggression.

How does she handle having cried and flipped out over what must seem -- what *was* -- a completely minor incident?

She said to herself and anyone who asks "Jesus, I need put more fiber in my diet so I don't have to deal with so much shit." Treat a minor incident by treating it like a small thing. Sure, she could have handled it better. She didn't and what happened is over and done with. Move on and take to heart what was learn: Heather doesn't want to talk things out. Ever. Quit trying to do so or paying much attention to her.

You don't mention exactly what transpired in this specific incident, but your daughter's response to Heather should be something like "X happened. You're gonna have to have to find the strength to live with that." and then walk away. Others have mentioned that she needs to find her inner bitch. She also needs to find her inner smart ass and deal with Heathers in a lightly dismissive way. Whatever their problem, it's their problem, not your daughters and she shouldn't take them seriously when they're acting up.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:49 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

The bitches still exist, damn them, even in the professional jobs I have now, but they don't make me cry anymore -- but I don't know how that happened, or how to help her get there.

I remember how this happened for me. First I started standing up for myself, directly to the mean girl, right when the incident happened. I never worked in restaurants so I never got to use the fabulous profanity suggested above - I had to do it more calmly and "professionally." But mostly they aren't expecting you to say "No, I did not do [thing you accused me of.] I can't imagine why you'd say that, but don't do it again." So they back off.

More importantly, as I got older and gained more experience around non-bitchy people, and as the mean girls got older and stayed mean, they began to look REALLY pathetic. Now, when I'm standing there after being insulted or snubbed in some way I thought only happened in cheesy comedies where the plucky heroine then goes on to get her revenge while the bitch ends up in some sort of outfit-ruining humiliation, all I can think is, "Really?! She just really did that?!" And then all I think, every time I see the bitch after that, is "What an idiot. Stuck in 5th grade forever."

I think that the second reaction could have been taught to me earlier, if anyone had pointed out how truly pathetic these girls are. It took me a long time to realize it on my own. People would say things like, "Oh they don't matter," or "This job won't last forever, just put up with them." Which are both true. But I think if I had a daughter I'd tell her that when she's all grown up, these bitches will be 30 and still so limited that they can't just be nice to people.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 4:29 AM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's a dumb saying but one I find I return to often in my own personal workplace stuff: "It's nit show friends, it's show business." Fuck them, because they're nobody. Focus on the job. Whether they like you is inconsequential. And the bonus is once you really start feeling this way, you actually do start making friends at work. I don't know why but that's how it is.
posted by mckenney at 5:27 AM on August 29, 2011

i think every person who is raising a daughter should read Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls.

it's a book about the different way that school age girls bully. sure, some girls punch their target and some boys play shitty social games, but in my experience grade school was pretty gendered and my girl bullies never laid a hand on me, yet i spent many a night bawling into my pillow.

and i know, this is about your 18 year old, but i think the behavior you're describing is very similar to the sorts of behaviors talked about in the book.
posted by nadawi at 5:46 AM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

I had a job where I was required to have a tough skin and not put up with mean girl crap. What got me through it was to pretend that I was a different person and put on a tough act when someone messed with me like Civil_Disobedient recommends.

The side effect of that is that I started feeling like the mean girl within was taking over. When I shared that concern with a friend, they recommended reciting in my head over and over again "This isn't me. This isn't me..." after an each incident. Worked like a charm.

Good luck to your daughter! Mean girls suck.
posted by JuliaKM at 6:01 AM on August 29, 2011

When I was your daughter's age, I worked as a bartender in a "gentleman's club". You haven't seen mean until you've dealt with a 50 mostly-naked, sweaty, cranky women who are all in fierce competition with each other. And they could turn on a dime,; one minute all sweet and pleasant, and the next second, they are a bedazzled Kali ripping into a new victim.

I learned a lot at that job. Among the tricks that I still keep in my bag, is to treat Mean Girl Behavior with Southern Polite Bafflement. Example:

Example: Public derision in front of wait staff

Response: tilt head to one side "Oh honey, do you need to borrow some Pamprin? *nod affirmatively while saying the last part of the sentence...which will cause physical buy-in from most of the engineering; it's your friend.

Alternate...less sexist but a little meaner...remember the head's really a killer move in female to female aggression situations...:
Response: "You poor thing, it's not easy being you, is it?"

And of course, one of my personal favorites...lean in real close when nobody else can hear and say "Bitch, keep fucking with me, and they'll never find your body." And because it's so out of character, if she tells anyone, it's sooo easy to make her look like the crazy one.
posted by dejah420 at 6:55 AM on August 29, 2011 [17 favorites]

As a teenager who was bullied, the best advice I got was "think wide." As in, look through the wide lens. What am I going to be doing in a year? I'm going to be in college, and she's going to still be waiting tables. What am I going to be doing in five years? I'm going to be living in the city and working hard. What is she going to be doing in five years? Dragging her second child to work and sitting him down with crayons because her mom refused to babysit again, while she continues to waitress. It's another variation of the mean girl ethos, but it helped me get through it.

There's an episode of Louis where the main character gets bullied in a donut shop, called "Bully." He follows the kid home only to discover that the kid's parents were horrible bullies to him and shit rolled downhill. The show is often kind of crass, but this episode gives a lot of perspective on how someone ends up a shithead, which might help your daughter feel sorry for Heather. It's not a bad tactic to just overload your anger with pity. Thinking, "I can't imagine what must have happened to you to make you turn out this way" is the right mindset.
posted by juniperesque at 7:19 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I work in a less, uh, horrible environment, but a few of my coworkers and clients do rub me the wrong way sometimes. The thing I do is be really innocent and assume everyone is acting out of not-bad motives. Never assume she told you the wrong table on purpose, assume that it was a slip on her part or that there was some breakdown in communication or something.

"Hey, table 7 is full, where should I seat these people?"

Then if she flips out, she's not flipping out because she wants to be mean to you. She's flipping out because she messed up and she's covering her ass, or she's flipping out because she's having a hard day and even something simple like someone mishearing her pushed her over the edge.

"Oh my god you idiot, how could you have possibly thought I meant table 7 when I clearly said table 15? You are so stupid!"

"Uh, OK, relax, if it bugs you that much then let's just say that I misheard you and I'll take these people over to table 15, no harm done." (Make it clear with your tone that you're pretty sure you weren't the one who messed up, but that getting along in the workplace is more important to you than pinning the blame.)

And if she says the wrong table again then you know for sure she's just bad at her job, and you know to always double check the table number with her. She'll get the point.

If she keeps it up past that? You're not tattling on her for being mean, you're bringing up a legitimate problem with your manager about how someone's ineptitude is causing problems.
posted by anaelith at 8:11 AM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: How did you, as a young woman, learn to deal with "mean girls" at work?
I'm very sensitive and I've worked in restaurants four ~7 years (I'm 25). At first when stuff like you described happened I got hurt and reacted much like your daughter. That didn't do me any good for all of the reasons you described. I finally got sick of the bullshit and when stuff like that happened I got MAD.
Here's the difference - when I'm hurt I'm self-conscious. I feel guilty, like I should have done something different to please the person who is deriding me, even if logically I know it's not my fault. When I get mad, I realize that it's only about the other person projecting their pathetic attitude on me. Their treating me like shit because THEY did something wrong, or maybe even if I did do something wrong they are going over the top to be a dick. Basically I found enough value in myself to stand up to the bitches (and assholes) because I am awesome and they have ABSOLUTELY no right to treat me like that.
Do you still struggle with this kind of stuff at work? How do you deal?
Oh yeah. I still work in restaurants and I've developed a very thick skin. If a coworker were to behave like Heather, I would have waited until she was done unleashing her derision, then when we were alone said. "About earlier - that was a completely shitty thing to do. If I make a mistake tell me in private and not in front of customers. Don't do it again." If she proceded to mock me in front of other waitresses, I would completely ignore it, wait till she was done and then smile and say "did that make you feel better?"
What should my daughter do? It may be a crap job, but she needs this job. How does she handle having cried and flipped out over what must seem -- what *was* -- a completely minor incident?
See above. If anyone brings up the incident in a mocking or bitchy manner, your daughter should either interrupt them and tell them that she doesn't want to talk about it or laugh in their face and tell them that they are pathetic.
What can I say, what could someone have said to you, to make you feel better?
She'll either get used to it or quit. Help her develop her own self confidence so that she realizes that not everyone has to like her so long as she likes herself and treats herself the way she deserves.
(and sad as it sounds, if she thinks this is bad then wait until she becomes a waitress and has to deal directly with the cooks. hopefully she'll develop the vocabulary of a sailor and cut them off before they have a chance to lay into her.)
posted by pintapicasso at 8:30 AM on August 29, 2011

Your daughter needs to develop an attitude that says, "I don't need this job." Because she doesn't.

This, a thousand times. Tell your daughter this:

"The world is full of people who can't do better than they're already doing. Sometimes it is because they defeat themselves, sometimes it is because they simply aren't capable, and sometimes it is because they are unlucky or don't have the opportunities other people have. Whatever the reason, though, these people often become unhappy and bitter, because on some level they know they'll never do better than this.

And you, dear daughter, you are young and starting your first job, and you are already at the level this woman has plateaued at. She will never see you as a friend, she will only see you as a threat, or as opportunities she never had, or as the kind of person she will never be...or just as a convenient target she can abuse so that her day can be just a bit more bearable.

Ultimately, you can't fix her, and you will encounter many plateaued people as you move upward through the world, but there are two things you can do as you work for a living: first, remember that you will also plateau -- everyone does, even those who plateau at the top of the mountain because they've run out of time -- and so try to understand a bit about why these people are so bitter and hateful...and second, remember that you're going to move on quickly to better things and leave these people behind, so don't take crap from them, not one bit. Call them on their shit, and get back to work, or toss your apron and walk away because you can."

Personal story (or as the Farkers would say, Cool Story Bro): my second job was in a grocery store, and I ended up working there for four years. When I was a lowly bagger/guy who mopped the floors and faced the shelves, I had a manager who was -- to put it nicely -- severely plateaued and embittered. Among his claims to fame: stopping the open freight elevator between floors and then dumping a bucket of dirty mop water on the head of an employee he didn't like. Thanks to the union1, he kept his job years beyond any reasonable expectation, but he would never be promoted (and worked in that same position until they closed the place years later.)

One evening, I was (foolishly) running down an aisle on my way to do something, and I tripped and fell. I barely caught myself, after much flailing and hands-hitting-the-ground, and there was much co-worker laughter. About twenty minutes later, I got called to the aisle by this boss (who wasn't even my boss), who pointed at a scuffmark my shoe had left on the ground, chewed me out for a couple of minutes, then demanded I mop it up (much to the amusement of my co-workers.) So I was embarrassed, and it felt terribly disproportionate and unfair to be chewed out for it, but I mopped it up and moved on.

The next morning I came into work and heard the big boss and his assistant laughing. I said "good morning" as I walked by the open door, which evoked hysterical laughter, and they called me in. As the big boss smiled, the assistant explained that I had apparently been written up by the plateaued boss for "falling on purpose and leaving a twelve foot skid mark on the floor", which they found hilarious -- both because of what "twelve foot skid mark" made them think of, and because the plateaued boss had a reputation for incredibly stupid write-ups. The assistant reassured me that this wasn't even slightly a problem, and as I left he started pacing off twelve feet, making the big boss laugh again.

The point here being that, if your daughter's aggressor has been working there for any length of time, everyone including the big boss knows they do it, and knows they're ridiculous for doing it, and is probably considered a joke. So join the team that's doing the laughing, instead of feeling like a victim.

1note that I am generally pro-union and am not trying to start a derail here
posted by davejay at 4:13 PM on August 29, 2011 [5 favorites]

As a young girl, I learned all sorts of things about how to deal with the world. And I learned it by having lots of good and bad experiences.

Try saying to your daughter "How do you want to deal with this?" "What do you think you might do next time?" "What did you learn from this?" and be sympathetic to her angst. It's her job to learn to deal with the world, and your job to let her go. A co-worker being a jerk is an experience that will happen again. Having a loving family helps you have strength to cope, but you have to learn to deal with it.
posted by theora55 at 4:32 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wish I could favourite DarlingBri's answer 100 times. That answer gets right to the nub of the problem.

This is NOT school - this is work. There are no "tattle-tales". This is a professional environment. If you are being bullied, its OK to report it.

However, having said that, it is good to learn how to handle bullies. I won't add to any of the great tips in this thread, but I will add a caveat - don't swear (at least, not within earshot of anyone else). I never EVER swear at someone during a fight. That way, if I have to repeat what was said to someone else, I can (with a clear conscience) repeat what I said word for word. Also, it helps my case if I can mention that the other party was swearing and had lost control and made me feel "uncomfortable"! Keeping a professional appearance at all times will win you over with bosses and HR types.

A little light sarcasm also goes a long way. "Having a bad day today are we?" "It's sooo nice to know that you care!" "Oh no, we'll have to call the cops! Quick!". Practise a few of these, in front of the mirror if you like. And also IGNORE. She is not your boss, just some dopey co-worker.

Disclaimer - I am male and I have never worked in the service industry.
posted by humpy at 9:03 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I read this question when it was posted a few days ago, and I've been thinking about it on-and-off since. After mulling it over, I think that the way you're understanding and framing this may not be super-helpful for your daughter.

You're characterizing this as a 'mean girl' problem, and it sounds like you may be bringing some personal baggage to that ("the bitches and their ways" ... "they don't make me cry anymore" ... "they really should all be killed"). But based on the facts you give, it sounds like the actual problem here is more about work than gender: someone is making mistakes on the job, and trying to blame them on your daughter. Because of the way you framed your question, you're getting lots of advice that is really more appropriate for surviving high school cliques, than it is for succeeding at work.

What your daughter needs to do: apologize to her manager for freaking out, and reassure him/her that it won't happen again. She needs to cultivate a professional attitude, do her job, mind her own business, and not get caught up in drama. She shouldn't care so much what her co-workers think about her, and she certainly shouldn't care what Heather thinks.

All the advice upthread about eyerolling and putdowns and posturing and telling Heather to go fuck herself is, I'm sorry, absolutely awful. Even if we were talking about high school, getting down in the mud of girl-on-girl catfighting (seriously: PMS callouts?!, are you kidding me) is 1) grotesque and 2) not a winning strategy. If you think mean girl games suck, you should switch to a different game that doesn't suck. It just doesn't make sense to participate in, and thereby legitimize, stupidity.

(Like some other people here have said, your daughter can also comfort herself that she won't have crappy jobs forever. When you're young you have to put up with all kinds of horseshit at work, but as you gain experience you tend to get jobs at places that are more intelligent and humane. Also, FWIW, I am female and have worked dozens of places, including all-female workplaces and plenty of waitressing and bartending jobs.)
posted by Susan PG at 11:00 AM on August 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

I just popped in this thread to express my undying love for Taz and favorite her anger-comment, hard.

Your daughter is working, not going to school. What everyone here said is true.

1) apologize to manager, quick and pro: I'm sorry, it won't happen again. She can phrase it as "I won't let it happen again" if she wants to send the "That wasn't my fault signal" but don't tell manager more. Manager is working and wants staff working as hard as he/she does.

2) Always double-check things. Heather is clearly throwing wrenches her way. Check the lists, the computer, whatever, just make sure the info she needs is in her hands. Not anyone elses. This makes her better at her jobâ„¢ and managers like that.

3) she is there to work, not make friends. Joke with the kitchen staff if you want, greet everyone with a smile when coming in, never whine about strange customers or a hellish traffic jam coming in to work. She should try the "all comments out of my mouth are positive" approach to work for one week - it's amazing how many people at work will really like you fast when you do this. They're not going to be your friends, but if shit hits the fan further down the line, Miss Positive gets the vote. I'm not talking "be smarmy", I'm talking applying moms old rule "if you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all".

4) Thicken the skin. If dodgy comments are thrown her way, shake them off. Don't retort, don't reply. Just. Keep. Working. If it gets to her, she should take bathroom break and dash off to compose herself in there.
posted by dabitch at 3:10 AM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

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