7 Ways to Confront Adult Mean Girls

How to respond to mean girls at work

two women glaring at each other

For some women, mean girl behavior does not end in high school. In fact, you are likely to see adult mean girls just about everywhere you go. They can be found standing on the sidelines of youth sporting events, participating in parenting circles, leading volunteer organizations and especially holding jobs in workplace. Consequently, you need to know how to address mean girl behavior immediately before it gets out of hand.

Typically, adult mean girls use relational aggression such as verbal bullying, gossiping, spreading rumors, name-calling, ostracizing and general bullying to demean, intimidate and harass their targets. Sometimes, other women will even join in the attacks. Other times, women will remain silent bystanders or go along with the bullying. When this happens, it only magnifies the feelings of helplessness and insecurity victims’ feel. If these mean behaviors sound like something you are experiencing in the workplace, check out these seven tips for dealing with adult mean girls.

Be confident. Office mean girls have the uncanny ability to discern whom they can control and manipulate. So, no matter what happens to you, smile, stay strong and remain professional. Avoid looking nervous, insecure or defeated. Mean girls are less likely to try their tactics on you again if you remain confident and in control.

Keep your chin up and do not give in to the pressure to crumble or cry.

Recognize what is controllable and what isn’t. Remember, you have no control over what other people say or do. But, you do have control over your response. Remain professional, no matter what an adult mean girl says or does. Keep your responses free of emotion and anger.

And if you cannot respond in a calm manner, walk away. Then, brainstorm how to deal with the situation in the future. Be prepared if there is another attack.

Stand up for yourself. Learn how to be assertive and self-confident. If you are lacking these skills, take classes or read books on how to improve your confidence and self-esteem. The goal is that you learn to defend yourself in a respectful manner without being aggressive or mean in return. For instance, be clear that this woman’s remarks and bullying tactics are unprofessional and will not be tolerated. Indicate that you plan to report any further abuse. Remember, mean girls count on you being passive about their behavior. Show them that they made a mistake in targeting you and they will learn to leave you alone.

Continue to work hard. Do not allow office mean girl behavior to derail you at work. For instance, do not spend too much time firing off e-mails or talking with other co-workers about what is happening. Instead, focus on continuing to produce high quality work.

Do not allow the turmoil caused by another’s actions cause you to fall behind on projects.

Find healthy ways of coping. Dealing with an office mean girl can be stressful and anxiety-laden. As a result, you may find that exercise, journaling or a new hobby will help you manage the stress. Other coping options include volunteering, religious practices such as praying, and finding additional social opportunities.

Disengage from the conversation. If you are a bystander to mean girl behavior, excuse yourself from a rumor-filled conversation by indicating you have to make a telephone call or that you have a meeting. If you provide an audience for mean girl gossip, you will continue to be sought out. One way to stop a mean girl is to take away her audience. Help put an end to mean girl behavior by not participating. It is also important to report unjust behavior to a supervisor. You also can offer to befriend the person being targeted.

Know when to get outside help. Do not allow workplace bullying to go on for too long. Contact human resources or your supervisor. It’s also a good idea to keep a record of all the bullying incidents including dates, times and witnesses. Keep all electronic correspondence, especially if the office mean girl is a workplace cyberbully. And if you feel emotionally drained, depressed or anxious, contact a counselor. If you do not have a counselor to call, ask your doctor for a recommendation. But, it is never a good idea to ignore the effects of workplace bullying.

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