Friends star Kathleen Turner just nailed the big problem with workplace cliques

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Kayleigh Dray
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Kathleen Turner as Charles Bing / Helena Handbasket -, Friends

“The main cast were such a tight little group that nobody from the outside mattered,” says Kathleen Turner of her time in Friends.

There’s no denying that Kathleen Turner has a formidable IMDB profile. Her film debut in 1981’s Body Heat brought her astronomical success, and the talented actress continued to flourish with performances in The Man with Two Brains, Romancing the Stone, The Jewel of the Nile, Prizzi’s Honour, Peggy Sue Got Married (for which she was nominated for an Academy Award), The War of the Roses, The Virgin Suicides and Serial Mom.

She is, in short, a very big deal in Hollywood. And yet, for many Friends fans, Turner will always be Helena Handbasket – aka Charles Bing, Chandler’s gay drag-queen father.

Throughout the Friends series, Chandler (Matthew Perry) frequently refers to his father, sharing stories about his dad’s affair with the pool boy, and his parents’ subsequent divorce.

However, Helena is not seen on screen until the seventh season of the show, when Monica (Courteney Cox) convinces Chandler to visit her drag show in Las Vegas. When he finally comes face-to-face with Helena, Chandler makes a decision, and decides to invite his father to his wedding.

Cue another two episodes with Turner’s character, and that’s it: Charles Bing/Helena Handbasket never graced our screens again. Yet those three 30-minute episodes made an indelible impression – particularly as re-runs of Friends are on constantly, all over the world.

Unfortunately, though, Turner doesn’t have the best memories of her time on set. Indeed, over a decade after the Friends finale aired, the actress has now admitted that she felt alienated by Perry, Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Matthew Perry and Matt LeBlanc.

“I didn’t feel very welcomed by the cast,” she tells Vulture. “I remember I was wearing this difficult sequined gown, and my high heels were absolutely killing me. I found it odd that none of the actors thought to offer me a seat.

“Finally it was one of the older crew members that said, ‘Get Miss Turner a chair.’”

Turner adds: “The Friends actors were such a clique, but I don’t think my experience with them was unique. 

“I think it was simply that they were such a tight little group that nobody from the outside mattered.”

Turner goes on to add that she respects the “camaraderie” she witnessed between her cast mates, but there is no denying that her comments are troubling – not least of all because they so perfectly sum up how so many of us feel at work. Indeed, for many of us, workplace allegiances play a significant role in our day-to-day happiness. According to a study by Bright HR, 68% of workers aged 16-24 described workplace enjoyment as ‘having great colleagues I enjoy spending time with’.

“For the majority of workers – regardless of industry and generation – camaraderie and social connection are key to their workplace satisfaction,” says Jenny Roper, deputy editor of HR magazine. Or as Sheryl Sandberg put it in Lean In, “Motivation comes from working on things we care about. It also comes from working with people we care about.”

It’s no wonder, then, that workplace cliques can have such a negative impact on our moods. As psychotherapist and workplace coach Steve Martyn tells Stylist, being on the outside of an impenetrable social circle “can alter your ‘self- perception’.”

“Someone who feels like they don’t fit in begins to doubt what they’re capable of achieving in their career, even beyond their current place of work,” he adds. 

However, don’t despair if you haven’t broken into the office clique. Research suggests that aligning with supportive teams can help make individuals and organisations stronger – but casting your lot with an exclusive clique can do the opposite, damaging your career success as well as corporate performance.

The best thing you can do for yourself in a cliquey office is maintain as courteous and professional a relationship as possible with the clique – and focus on forging meaningful interactions with your other colleagues.

How best to do this? Well, try having one drink, going to one lunch in every three, and saying yes to one invite a week, says Martyn. “The way people become more visible is by going to dinner with colleagues once in a while, or the pub on a Friday,” he adds. “I don’t mean get exhausted by it, but it helps if you can go along with the culture to a degree.”

If the invites aren’t rolling in, though, he advises asking someone to go for lunch or a drink one on one. Few people would say no and they’re more likely to think of you in the next group scenario.

And if all else fails? Focus on using your time at work to do just that: work. Set up networking meetings, sort through your inbox, and tidy up your CV. Head out with a book for your lunchbreak (or use the time to call a friend or family member) and focus on getting out of the office on time each evening, so you can spend some time with the people you truly care about.

Image: Getty