You’d think the Regina George (aka mean girl) of high school would be long gone once you entered your adult life and stepped into the 9-5 corporate gig. Well, I’ve got news for you, women like her continue to exist! I see mean girls in the office, at social events, on social media, and even at the gym. Women can be incredibly mean to one another, and more often than not, jealousy and insecurity play a major role.
Jealousy can run havoc within a work place, amongst friends, or even while you’re out grabbing groceries. Girls are the ones that compete with each other, but women, women should empower one another. At this stage in our lives, there shouldn’t be a reason why women scan each other’s outfits with pursed lips, ignore or glare at a pretty woman rather than compliment her because suddenly they feel threatened, snub or mock another woman’s endeavors because their success strikes jealousy, or better yet, cast judgment because they feel insecure! In a world where women still have to fight for equality, wouldn’t it make sense for us to stick together and empower one another instead?
Now…by no means am I a saint. I’ve been a mean girl – in the past. But, after seeing the repercussions I’ve learned my lesson and know better than to continue acting that way. That being said, now in my 30’s, I’m shocked at how many women didn’t take note and change their ways. And just because I’m older and have thicker skin, it doesn’t mean that it hurts any less when mean girls are catty, b*tchy, or bullying me either. You can no longer just draw lines in the sandbox, claim the swing sets at recess, or take one another’s snacks. Instead, mean girls cut deep and deny promotions, make you feel incompetent, cast judgement on your appearance, publicly humiliate you, or simply dismiss your achievements altogether.
I’ve come across three variations of mean girls, so here they are and how I handle them:
1. The Queen Bee: Each work place is filled with women who thrive on authority, protective of their work, or have zero desire to help bring other women to their full potential. They often fear you’ll outshine them and take their place – which is ridiculous, why not work together or just work that much harder? There are also the mean girls that form an army in the office. One altercation and an army of mean girls is formed. Regardless of whether it had anything to do with them, you are now enemy number one and you’ll have the pleasure of dealing with them from 9-5. Forgetting what it was like in grade school, they continue to gossip and bully, spread rumors without the notes, and act catty when they should be acting professionally (or like a normal human being).
Defense Mechanism: Honey! Just kidding. Honestly, I always suggest to check your emotions at the door as much as possible! First, maintain your professionalism at all times, keep your head held high, and smile - never let a mean girl know she's broken your confidence! Second, speak to friends and family as they can provide perspective and support when the going gets tough. Lastly, if you feel unsafe or the bullying continues, bring the matter to HR (caution: keep the story straightforward and low on emotion) – sometimes you can’t continue to fight the battle alone. Always remember that although the impact of bullying can cause you a lot of pain, you have to try and realize it's often not about you.
2. The Stranger: The world has variations of mean girls, from the ones that hide behind their monitors to those standing next to you in line judging you quietly or vocally. These mean girls don’t know the first thing about you but they feel they have the right to judge you. Whether they are jealous of what you have or angry about what they don’t have, they are the ones that cause your head to spin. Whatever it is that’s caused them to react, it often has no connection to anything you did or didn’t do, said or didn’t say. You are merely an open target, and at that moment, a mean girl feels she has the right to speak her mind. Because…in that moment…SHE feels vulnerable… and the only way to feel better is to break you down.
Defense Mechanism: Confidence! Easier said than done, but understanding your self-worth, loving yourself and being confident is key. Equipping yourself with the tools necessary to defend yourself against a mean girl can help you spend less time on people who don’t matter and more time on those that do. First, don’t overthink it or take it personal - they're not worth it. Second, don’t respond on social media or engage in conversation (body language/verbal). Lastly, always ask yourself this question “what are they going through that is causing them to act this way?”. Because even though it doesn’t excuse them from their bad behavior, we can at least let things roll off our back a little easier when we start to change our mindset and realize it’s often not about us.
3. The Acquaintance: Because none of us have bullies as friends, we do occasionally run into “acquaintances” that act like mean girls. You either know them through friends or you run in similar circles. These mean girls are particularly tricky because their reasoning behind acting a certain way is purely territorial or competitive. The way I see it, either they don’t welcome new girls easily, they see you as competition, or they are jealous of their friends (or partners) bond with you. As a result, something comes over them and they give you the cold shoulder or act mean to appoint their dominance on you.
Defense Mechanism: Stay sweet! If you’ve entered a room and find yourself in this situation, assess it. Is there a partner to worry about, has there ever been bad blood, etc. If there is nothing for you to apologize for and they are simply acting like a mean girl, kill them with kindness. Approach them, try and get a conversation going, smile, or last resort, have a friend introduce you to help cut the tension. I find that if you can break down that wall, you can help them see how awesome you are and that there is no need for them to act this way! That being said, if you continue to try and try and try with no reaction, you have to know when to quit and move on. Continue to act cordial, but don't waste your kindness. You tried hard enough!
NOTE: While some of you read this and wonder why I haven’t suggested putting a mean girl in her place, I have a good reason. That often doesn’t end well. I’d rather try every other avenue than to face a bully head on. By not reacting, I’m reacting.
Bullying can take a real and profound toll on our stress levels, it can lower our self-confidence, and even cause imbalances in your body. I'm sure each of us has dealt with a mean girl at some point. You've probably even found yourself looking inward and blaming yourself just trying to make sense of it all. Your time is far more important than that. So, to all the mean girls out there...I'm standing up to you and letting you know I refuse to let mean girls cast shadows over women. I refuse to let mean girls break women down rather than empower them. If there is anything I’ve learned over the years it’s to remind yourself of your worth, keep strong women around you, and to not take it personal when they aren’t being nice. Because in my world, everyone can sit with us.
Bye, Mean Girls!