This article originally appeared September, 2015.
By: Minda Harts
Most women have dealt with a “mean girl” or two starting from their first day of school. Unfortunately, some of those mean girls grow up to become mean women – and some of those mean women become mean co-workers. In my career thus far, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of amazing women, some of the most caring and intelligent women on the planet. Up until a few years ago, I couldn’t relate to the “mean girl” stories I heard about happening in the workplace… but then it happened to me.
Beware The Nordstrom Ladies
My experience with a workplace mean girl began the day I first encountered the “Nordstrom ladies.” Now, no shade to Nordstrom’s, because I still shop there, but these women are the ones that wear matching pant suits and think that because they know how to pronounce nicoise (salad), they own Nordstrom instead of just shopping there. This particular “lady” was more than twenty years older than me, and at first, I thought to myself, “Great! I finally get an official female mentor.” I never would have imagined that she would try to make my life a living hell.
For those of you who don’t know me, I consider myself a very nice, polite and laid-back person. I have never been in a fight, never flipped any tables (Hello, Teresa Guidice) and never pulled any wigs (I’m looking at you, Sheree Whitfield.)
To this day, I’m not sure if this "Nordstrom lady" felt threatened by me or just wanted to remind me who was boss (although let’s be clear – she wasn’t my boss.) Honestly, my heart broke every day she inflicted girl-on-girl hate towards me. She was supposed to be showing me the ropes, and together I had hoped we would conquer the world. Instead, she was Miranda Priestly and I was Andy Sachs from The Devil Wears Prada. Work soon became a nightmare.
After everything I went through, I’ve come to understand 5 powerful ways to deal with those bitter bitties and keep your sanity in the workplace:
1) Grow a Thick Skin.
There will always be people at work that don’t play fair. There will always be some women at your job that don’t want to be your friend. Don’t take it personally, because they haven’t given themselves a chance to get to know you. Just remind yourself (and chuckle) that being mean at any age makes for a lot of wrinkles later in life.
2) Stand up and Speak Up.
This tip is one of the most important, and one I learned too late. I took too much crap from my tormentor before I confronted her. I kept rooting for her to change or for a miracle (on 34th street) to take place. I waited too late to address her cruel behavior. I believe she would have respected me more had I addressed things earlier on. In the end, she wore me down like Steve Urkel did Laura Winslow, and there was no Stefan to make it better! You don’t have to fight evil with evil, but you should learn to be diplomatic and stand up for yourself, because unfortunately, in most cases no one else will.
3) Prove Yourself.
If things ever get to the point where you have to address your concerns with higher-ups like your boss or HR, you’ll need some proof of what’s been happening. Unfortunately, many work-related spats are just waved off as no big deal, but if you are being disrespected or mistreated time and time again, save every written insult and keep a daily log of verbal ones. Then no one will think you’re “being too sensitive” when you report what’s going on.
4) Have Someone You Can Talk To.
If you’re struggling with a workplace mean girl, you can’t hold all of it in! You need someone who doesn’t work with you to bounce ideas off. Ideally this should be someone who isn’t close to the situation and can talk you off the ledge if need be. Trust me, when you’re under constant stress, it feels good (insert Tony Toni Tone here) to let it out.
5) Don't Be Bitter.
Dealing with mean-spirited women in the workplace can be draining, but the last thing you want is to become bitter like them! Don’t become one of those women who are leery of cultivating healthy relationships with other women at work. The truth is that most workplaces are filled with a range of personalities. Something tells me that when men come against opposition at work, they don’t run to bathroom, close the stall door and cry. We have to WOMAN UP! I vividly remember that after one brutal encounter I had to tell myself “Don’t you dare cry! Save it until you get home. You are fearfully and wonderfully made.” I held it in until I got home, and although it may have been a small victory, it felt great.
Workplace bullying goes on because no one steps in to stop it or offers support to the victim. When you see woman-on-woman crime at work, give that girl some comfort or email her this article. As women, we can only advance in a male-dominated world if we stick together. If you see girl-on-girl hate, be the hero you’d wish someone would be for you. And if it happens to you – well, time to be your own hero, sister!