Photo Credit: Jonny Negron, New York Times, “Mean Girls in the Retirement Home“
Do you notice mean girl behavior in your community?
Let me help answer that – yes you do! Mean girls exist in every aspect of society. It’s all around us and you see it every day. How many times a day do you see someone acting better than someone else or saying things about someone in hopes that it makes them look and feel better? Welcome to “mean girls!”
But what are we to do about it? The New York Times wrote an article about mean girls in retirement communities. In the article the author wrote, “Are there mean girls in nursing homes? After touring a few, I would say yes.”
And it’s not just Nursing Homes! What have you done successfully to welcome new residents into the dining room or restaurant? Are we keeping track of how many elderly people were not treated with respect and now refuse to go through the same experience again?
Whether you are 13 or 73 the sting of not having a seat at the proverbial lunch table rings true. Everyone wants respect and be represented, not overlooked or minimized. Even a middle schooler will tell you that not having a table where they feel safe is a humbling and daunting experience.
Not having a friend to eat lunch can be devastating.
Fast forward a couple of decades to the mature adult and you realize the problem did not disappear. While seated on a plane I heard a similar story by an elderly care giver next to me. Learning that I worked to improve the dining experience for people living in nursing homes, adult day cares and retirement centers she shared her experience of the woman she cared for who refused to dine in the dining room of her assisted living community. She has lived there 10 years. She eats in her room, because on her first evening there, she went to sit at a table and learned, “that seat was taken”. She went to a second table and heard the same. She tried once more and felt that she was not welcomed. So she went to the quiet of her room. She has ordered room service ever since.
Three tips to overcome this are;
- Community: Not everyone will have a companion when it comes to dining. Many residents are alone and initially will be apprehensive about joining a table already with 2 couples. Try creating a community table that is large enough to seat an uneven number of quests.
- Clarity: Ensure your staff is trained, sensitive and know which new residents have not been integrated into the community. Teaching servers to foster an ambiance of genuine hospitality in the dining room can quickly and fundamentally impact the collective psyche of the entire community in ways that positively impact your results.
- Commit: Commit regularly to meet with representatives of the staff and residents to establish how to make the dining experience into a kind dining experience.
If you have a welcoming committee or have a success story about how you have prevented hurtful “cliques” in your community. Please share your success.