Workplace lessons from Regina George (and other Mean Girls characters)
Mean Girls introduced the world to some of the most well-known movie characters ever. Regina George, Cady Heron, Gretchen Weiners, Karen Smith, and Janis Ian became household names despite not being real people. It spawned a lot of pop culture, fan fiction, and even a Broadway musical.
But there are also lots of other lessons you can learn from Regina and the other Mean Girls characters. Underneath the setting of a high school are life lessons that apply to the working world as well. Keep reading for some of the best workplace lessons ever from Mean Girls.
7 – Treat yourself sometimes
Movie moment: When Regina gave up and got cheese fries
In Mean Girls, Janis and Cady band together to try to make Regina’s life miserable. Cady later learns that Janis wants revenge on Regina for something she did years earlier. But Cady is also angry at Regina for lying about a boy that she liked.
So they come up with an idea to give Regina weight-gainer bars, but lie and tell her they are weight-loss bars. Since Regina wants to be skinny so she can be popular, she takes the “weight loss” bars without question. Once Cady convinced Regina to eat the bars, she also convinced her that she needed to eat an all-carb diet because that would make her lose weight faster. So Regina became obsessed with all carbs. She’d calculate the fat and carb content of all her food.
In the cafeteria one day, as Regina was asking about how she looked and whether her food had fat in it, she gave up and simply said “Whatever, I’m getting cheese fries.”
This line became well-known as a joke, since cheese fries are definitely a food with carbs in them, but also because it showed Regina not letting a bad day get in her way. It’s a lesson that applies well to the workplace – sometimes you just need to treat yourself.
When things go bad or you get bad feedback on some work you did, treating yourself may be the perfect thing. Or on the other side, when things are going really well, treating yourself can be a great way to celebrate. It doesn’t always have to be big – Regina just got cheese fries, after all – but you can still treat yourself and enjoy the moment.
6 – Never be afraid to stand out
Movie moment: That’s so fetch!
When Cady Heron first met Regina George and the other two “Plastics” – Gretchen Weiners and Karen Smith – she was not sure what to make of them. Cady thought the Plastics, especially Regina, were nice at first. This is mostly because Regina complimented Cady’s bracelet and called her pretty.
But when Cady explained that her bracelet was from Africa and her mom made it, that’s when Gretchen Weiners exclaimed that’s so fetch! Even as Regina mocked Gretchen for using the term “fetch” to mean cool or amazing, Gretchen continued to describe things as fetch. She even went as far as to say that Cady was in love with a boy and that her being in love was fetch.
Despite being mocked and shut down for using the term fetch, Gretchen felt that she really identified with the term and wanted to use it. That lesson translates well to the working world, where people are often afraid to stand out.
At work, where fitting in is mistaken as a strength, not being afraid to stand out can get you far.
When you’re faced with a group debate and you genuinely don’t agree, say so. If you think a product isn’t described properly and customers may like a different description, explain why. While you may not get the chance to call something fetch, you can definitely take inspiration from Gretchen to stand on your own two feet.
5 – Stand up for people
Movie moment: When Regina told Jason off for hitting on Cady in the cafeteria
When Cady first moved to the new high school and met the Plastics, people wanted to know more about her. She moved into a fairly small suburb of Chicago – the kind of place where everyone knows everyone – so people were curious about the new girl. One of the people she ended up meeting was a guy named Jason. He hit on her in the cafeteria, making her visibly uncomfortable, and Regina came to her rescue.
Instead of watching Cady get harassed and hit on by Jason, Regina stepped in. She forcefully reminded Jason that he’d just been on a date with Gretchen three days prior – so he can’t “scam on some poor, innocent girl right in front of us three days later.” She got Cady out of the uncomfortable situation and even invited her to sit with them.
This would start the whole chain of drama in Mean Girls, but the act itself was very kind. It’s also one to emulate in the workplace: stand up for people. When you see someone being bullied or harassed, say something. Simply using your voice to support them can make a world of difference. Even if it doesn’t change the bully’s behaviour, which it rarely will, it will make the person being bullied feel a lot safer and more comfortable.
An easy way to combat bullying is to just state that it’s not ok. A lot of the time, bullies will stop what they are doing – most bullies only continue when they think they can. As soon as anyone says anything, they often move on. In the working world, there are a lot of instances of workplace bullying. It’s not fair or fun, but it happens. So when you stand up for people, you’re showing that bullying is not ok.
4 – Be direct with what you want
Movie moment: When Regina said “Get in loser, we’re going shopping”
In Mean Girls, Cady wanted to be friends with Plastics at first. She thought they were nice people and tried to make an effort to be friends. Even after Janis told Cady that Regina was a bad person, she didn’t totally believe her.
Part of being friends with the Plastics, and with Regina in particular, was hanging out with them. The group always stayed together. So when Cady wanted to talk to a guy she had a crush on, Aaron Samuels, she went out to the soccer field to see him at practice. That’s when Regina sped up to the field, got Cady’s attention, and told her to get in the car because they were going shopping.
Rudeness aside (there’s almost never a reason to call someone a loser), Regina knew exactly what she wanted in that moment. It was very clearly communicated so there were no unmet expectations: Cady had to get in the car in order to go shopping with Regina, Gretchen, and Karen.
In the workplace, it’s probably best to ignore the rudeness part of this quote. But the lesson about knowing what you want and communicating it clearly is a good one. According to a study in the magazine Psychology Today, most people don’t actually know what they want. And when they don’t know what they want, they can’t possibly get it. This actually became an issue for Cady. She never actually told Aaron that she had a crush on him – he told her that if he’d known, he might have gone out with her.
So when you’re angry with something, make sure you know precisely what you want. Then, find the best words to communicate it clearly. Of course, pay attention to the circumstances and make sure you’re being appropriate and respectful of the people you’re talking to. But don’t sacrifice clarity just for the sake of being “nice.” Make sure you say what you want clearly.
3 – Say it like it is
Movie moment: When Janis called Regina a life ruiner who ruins people’s lives
Janis and Regina were friends when they were younger, a fact which surprised Cady. Since Cady had only ever known Janis when she hated Regina, she was shocked that the two ever got along. Regina eventually shared with Cady that she stopped hanging out with Janis because of a boy.
Janis was jealous of Regina’s boyfriend, and that caused a lot of other drama and rumours about Janis that broke up Janis’ and Regina’s friendship. Unfortunately, most of the rumours came from Regina herself, and Janis never forgave her for the cruelty.
Fast-forward a few years, to when Cady and Janis first start talking about Regina and hatching a plan to make Regina’s life miserable. At one point Cady asks Janis why she hates Regina so much, and Janis simply says “she’s a life ruiner. She ruins people’s lives.” Very direct, very to the point, and she said it like it is. Since Regina had ruined Janis’ life, she indeed was a “life ruiner.”
In the workplace, there’s a lesson to be taken from this quote. It’s not to insult people, though.
Instead of just expressing anger, the lesson from Janis’ simple quote is to tell it like it is. Unlike Janis, who decided that Regina was horrible based only on one experience (her own) the best way to learn this lesson would be to back up any claims with multiple facts or experiences.
If you’re facing difficulty at work in any way, don’t be afraid to say it like it is. That applies to workplace bullying, office politics, or something else entirely. The more honest and up front you are, the better things will be in the long run. So take inspiration from Janis to say it like it is, but unlike Janis, just make sure you have multiple data points.
2 – Always do the right thing
Movie moment: When Janis explained to Cady that there are two kinds of evil people
In Mean Girls, one of the biggest plot lines in the movie is that every group thinks they are the nice ones. The Plastics think they are just popular and well-liked. Janis and Damien think they are the funny, artsy ones. Every group thinks they are the normal ones and others are the rude ones.
So when Cady asked Janis why she was continuing to be mean to Regina after they got a few hilarious pranks in, Janis said there were two kinds of evil people. The first kind are the people who do evil things. The second kind are the people who see evil things being done but don’t do anything to stop it. Janis saw herself as the good person seeing evil being done and that’s why she had to do something. She saw being mean to Regina as necessary to make things right in the world. Janis thought that Regina was the real mean person, so being mean to her was stopping evil from continuing. Weird logic, but that’s what she believed.
Cady followed along with this logic, thinking that Janis must have had a good reason. Cady was also still pretty mad at Regina for stealing Aaron Samuels from her, so she didn’t mind continuing. She even began to believe Janis, thinking that being mean to Regina was necessary because Regina was evil.
In the workplace, the lesson here is not to justify being mean to someone. However, there is some good in what Janis said. Most people know they shouldn’t be evil. But fewer people know that being a bystander is almost just as bad. It means you didn’t stop something from happening when you could have.
So that’s what you should take from this quote. To always do the right thing. When you see evil being done to someone else in a meeting, stand up for them. When you notice someone doing something evil in the office (like switching out normal coffee for decaf), stop them if you can. It will make the working world a much better place for everyone.
1 – Speak up for yourself
Movie moment: “We should all totally just stab Caesar!”
Gretchen Weiners is the ultimate popular girl. She’s pretty, she’s rich – her father invented Toaster Strudel – and she thinks everyone loves her. So when Gretchen had to give a presentation in class, she naturally put on her best clothes and makeup to look the part. In her mind, everyone loved her and wanted to see her look pretty. But this presentation came right after Regina had made fun of Gretchen in public – and she was mad. She thought that Regina had gone too far. She already confided in Cady that Regina had been mean to her for years, and Gretchen was cracking under the pressure.
So even though she was the popular girl, she didn’t have it all together when she stood up to give her presentation. It was about ancient Rome, and she had to talk about Caesar’s assassination by Brutus and the other leaders of Rome. She got up and started calmly but quickly descended into anger, talking about how Brutus was just as good of a leader as Caesar. She then said that no one should be the “boss of everyone else” because “that’s not what Rome is about” since Rome was supposed to be a republic with no king or queen.
She ended with the now famous line – “We should all totally just stab Caesar!”
The lesson here is that sometimes you have to speak up for yourself. At work, it can be easy to fall under a power hungry boss or executive who takes credit for your work, demeans you, and mocks you in public. It feels demoralizing, like no one cares about you and you’re worthless. But you don’t have to take it.
While you may not want to act in the same way Gretchen did – exploding during a presentation – it’s clear that bottling up anger is not healthy. Instead, look for ways to deal with the person respectfully, but always speak up for yourself. If you’re facing a situation where someone at work, whether a coworker or a boss, is putting you down, don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself. Though maybe don’t advocate stabbing them, as Gretchen did with Caesar.