How to Handle the Mean Girl at Work

You would think with the slew of women empowerment and #metoo being so strongly relevant today that as women, we would be kinder to each other. And while that’s usually the case with those I interact with, women raising each other up, from time to time we will all still come across that “mean girl.” 

From a another girl trolling your social media account with negative comments to someone giving you the side eye while you’re standing in line at your local Starbucks; opinions, assumptions, body language and resting bitch face always seem to rear it’s ugly head doesn’t it? Yet while the by-chance interactions can be easily brushed off, what do you do when you’ve encountered the mean girl at work?

Work, you know the place where you spend 40+ hours a week at dedicating your career to and more time than with friends and family. In my last two roles I have managed 300+ women, reported to women, had female peers, won with women, competed against women and ultimately have risen with women. Safe to say, I’ve handled a mean girl once or twice before.

I like people. I would consider myself a people person. When leading a team I have one rule and one rule only, be nice or get out. When on a team, intentional kindness is one of my contributions. I’m either the person that’s speaking up and others are saying “thank god”! because they were thinking the same thing or I’m the one speaking up that causes a disturbance amongst the topic and others are saying “shut up already!” Either way, speaking up doesn’t always make you friends. It’s about respecting everyone’s opinion and validating ideas and concerns, even when you disagree.

Kill with Kindness, Always Always Always

When someone blasts out at you or treats you poorly, their behavior says more about them than it does about you. I once had another woman try to call me out on assumptions she had in a large team meeting. I thanked her for her feedback and smiled at her with heavy eye contact during the rest of the meeting. As I mulled over responses to her in what would be a private setting, I ultimately decided that her attempt to bully and embarrass did not warrant my response. There are certain behaviors that don’t deserve your response. But they deserve your smile.

We all have a tendency to take things the wrong way from time to time. Be kind about them and do not assume the worse. Let someone know that first and foremost you care about the working relationship and when they see that you are coming from a sound place you can physically see the guard go down.

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Build a Relationship, 1 x 1

Break down whatever walls may be up. Perhaps she’s intimidated or insecure. Perhaps she just hasn’t taken the time to get to know you. In one of my former roles, I had a senior supervisor who clearly didn’t care for me. I didn’t see her often to have daily interactions with her and it felt impossible to get to know her. I finally found a core connection we had and asked her advice. From there she could see that I was in a position she had been in when she was in the stage of my career. She was now able to see beyond me in my role and me as a person. The busier the person, the harder this is to do. You simply don’t see executives standing on the water cooler but asking for 10 minutes to grab a coffee may go along way.

Take a Partner When Necessary 

Sometimes, you can’t take the conversation 1 x 1. Sometimes you’re dealing with a highly emotional person that can’t be rational or you fear the attention given to the situation will make it implode even bigger. When it’s out of your league, take the appropriate partner. An HR member, supervisor or other neutral but appropriate peer. Getting a second opinion can always go a long way as well.

Do Not Stand for Being Bullied or Discrimination 

Keep in mind the same rules of the playground apply. Hurt people, hurt people. However, what happens when those behaviors go to the extreme? Unfortunately, the bullies don’t stop in grade school. Stick to your core values and stand for what you believe in. No one can make you feel small without your permission.

Discrimination of any kind is wrong, and usually illegal. If it feels wrong, it usually is especially when it comes to age, race or gender. Talk to someone if you are experiencing discrimination in the work place.

Your Story

Have you encountered a mean girl at work? How did you handle? Comment below, tag me in or send me your story. Let’s break down these problems and lift each other up!

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