I WORKED WITH A MEAN GIRL
Silly me, thinking that once I had left the halls of high school and my teens years behind, I would no longer need to deal with the pettiness of popularity and the struggle for social superiority. Oh, boy was I wrong!
Before I start my tirade on this topic, I would like to point out that 99.9 % of the women I have worked with have been professional, wonderfully compassionate, mentors and colleagues who made the workplace a pleasure. For most of my working career, I have worked with wonderful colleagues and couldn’t relate to this topic, until it happened to me – resulting in me leaving a previous job. Dealing with a Mean Girl is exhausting and can leave you feeling emotionally drained and depressed.
The Phenomenon of the workplace Mean Girl is a perplexing one. Bullying in the workplace is unfortunately rather prevalent. Office bullies are often emotionally immature and have a history of bullying. Have come accustomed to a role that they took on in their teen years and are unable to outgrow this persona in adult life.
Males and females bully in different ways. Males tend to be more dominant and aggressive in their bullying techniques, where my fellow female sex like to do it in a subtler way.
What is a Mean Girl? This term was made popular by the 2004 cult film “Mean Girls”, written by the amazingly talented Tina Fey, starring Lindsay Lohan and Rachael McAdams. Mean Girls the film is based on the book Queen Bees and Wannabees by Rosalind Wiseman.
Ostracizing and excluding other women at work is their modus operandi. Mean Girls want to be the Queen Bee and work towards socially isolating their target. Driven by jealousy, a need for attention and a fear of competition (real or perceived). Mean Girls isolate their victim by leaving them out of meetings, emails, withholding important information and ignoring “blanking “the target.
The office Mean Girl is struggling with a toxic level of envy and anger. By belittling her target, she feels she is validating herself. Due to her internal struggle with envy, she is unable to acknowledge anything good about anyone else. Sometimes office Mean Girls have poor impulse control. They are quick-tempered, tend to yell a lot and may even use profanity and not above rolling their eyes to undermine their colleague.
Office Mean Girls are often obsessed with image and what another would think of them. These bullies target others that threaten their status. If for some reason they believe another woman is threatening their status or position at the office, they have no qualms in eliminating the perceived threat. In extreme cases, the Mean Girls will go out of her way to make her targets life a misery. Including making up lies, spreading rumors about targets work ethic, office relationships, and even personal life is not off limits.
These bullies are systematic and calculated in their approach. On the outside, she appears charming and charismatic, but on the inside lies a cold and calculating skilled manipulator. Their sweet appearance is just a way for them to manipulate the situation and people to their liking, always appearing the innocent party.
Power and control are what they came for and power is what they will get. Office bullies will have strong personalities and excellent verbal skills which they will use to walk over the needs of other people.
Now that you can identify a mean girl, how do you deal with her?
1. Be professional. When dealing with an office mean Girl, always respond and act professionally. She will use everything and anything against you. Play self-defense by keeping documentation of her behavior, in case you need it later for disciplinary purposes.
2. Don’t take it personally (easier said than done). You may even take it as a compliment, she is threatened by you. Keep your nose clean and never engage in her tactics of bullying, gossiping or pulling coworkers into the messy business – this reflects more on you than her.
3. You may even consider killing her with kindness. Be extra nice to them, put them on the back foot. Remember the saying “sometimes the most unlovable people need the most love”
4. Confide. Find someone you feel you can trust to talk about your concerns about a personality clash. It could be a Manager, Superior Staff member or even your Boss. If you don’t bring the issue to light and let the relevant person know that there are issues nothing can be done. Try not to use the word Bully, mean or any emotive words. Emotive words could make you come off looking childish and emotional, which is exactly how the Bully wants you to be viewed.
5. Start looking for another job. Start networking and looking for another position at another firm. You cannot live in a toxic work environment.
Do you know a Mean Girl or dealt with woman-on-woman bullying?