Psychologist Meredith Fuller wrote her book Working With Mean Girls, after noticing an increasing number of her female clients coming to her after being bullied or “bitched at” by other women at work. If you’re working with a mean girl who’s getting you down, follow Fuller’s four-step plan before you think about walking out the door.
“Take steps to see if you can identify a pattern of behaviour by the other woman,” advises Fuller, who says to take notes of particularly nasty comments or actions by her that leave you feeling uncomfortable or victimised. Also, ask others whom you trust if they’ve noticed anything odd about the other woman’s behaviour towards you.
Decide the direction you want to take with your mean girl, offers Fuller. “If you are uncomfortable with ‘calling’ her on her activities, or suspect that confrontation may leave blood on the wall, it may be wiser to develop strategies to deflect her.” Fuller says to minimise the time you’re alone with her and be ready with responses if she comes at with you with more criticism.
If none of your tactics are working, it might be time to get serious and get some help, suggests Fuller. “Research the range of resources and support available - HR, organisational policy, protocols and procedures,” she says. Ask friends what they would do, or have done, in this kind of situation to see what might work for you, and ask a trusted colleague or mentor for advice.
“If you’ve exhausted all the possibilities for harm minimisation, and you recognise that your health is being affected [like stress, illness], you might consider a transfer, job change, or sabbatical,” advises Fuller. This might feel extreme, but remember, life is short and we spend the majority of ours at work. So if you’re not feeling happy, fulfilled and supported, start looking for a place where you’ll be appreciated.