Snow White in the Workplace

8 years ago

There are many office personalities that mix like those two cleaning
chemicals I always forget that you shouldn't mix. The cleaning
chemicals can be solved by opening a window, whereas mismatched office personalities continue to grate on each other. Sometimes it's not even the combination of two personalities that's rotten: One study recently featured on This American Life found that some people are just the "bad apples" that spoil workplace production for everyone.

One of the areas where this is arguably the most evident is among younger female colleagues. Through stories I have heard from others and my own experiences, I have deduced that women often do not protect or help one another. Instead, they turn into cage fighters.

There are some women at work who want to be the "fairest one of all" and will try to
feed you the poisoned apple. In the fairytale Snow White, we never heard the evil queen's story, but there's a reason for her bitterness. In situations where one woman in the workplace seeks to bully another newer employee, remember that maybe she wouldn't be such a bully if she didn't feel like she had to work extra hard to get where she is. I'll even go so far as to say that in some cases women are put together strategically as a control mechanism (the cage). A recent article in the New York Times addresses this female workplace phenomenon, but offers little solution.

I have worked as both a superior and an inferior with women I would consider bullies. Maybe I have even been a bully without realizing it. I have hardly figured out entirely the right way to handle confrontations with "evil queens," and would be interested in what you all have to say. Meanwhile, here are a few tips I can share with other women who have such bullies in their realms:

1. Fulfill the tasks
she requires of you. At the end of the day, we require our colleagues to complete the tasks that affect us, and female bullies are no different. So if someone is your boss, she wants you to do the work she assigns to you. Maybe Snow White refused to do her chores and it started the whole mess!

2. Block her from your personal life. It is easy to become friends with other female co-workers your age, and it is almost oddly expected or required for a happy existence. I have met many of my good friends at work. However, the truth is, if you can't get along with someone else, you need to find a way to block her from your personal life. Obviously, do not invite her to go shopping with you on your lunch break, and do not feel the need to share your most recent trip to the doctor with her. The more you can relate to someone on a simply work-based basis, the easier your relationship will be. Basically, it's using the technique of isolating the situation to just one area of your life. The downside is that you risk making her feel left out, so tread carefully.

3. Look out for her interests.
It is painful to help someone who you think repeatedly tries to hurt
you whether they mean to or not. However, perhaps if, as women, we look with more and more compassion at other women, we will eventually help stint this problem. Arguing amongst ourselves is inhibiting progress for women in the workforce. Basically, keep in mind what the bully ultimately WANTS, and unless it is for you to disappear (and I doubt it truly is in most of the cases), see what you can do to work toward that. Maybe you could talk her up so she gets that promotion ... And maybe that promotion would get her outta your hair!

4. TRY not to gossip. I say "try" because it's easy to suggest not talking about your co-workers behind their backs when writing in a blog. In reality, especially when several co-workers relate about the same situation, it is often temporarily therapeutic to talk about it. I still think it's best not to go overboard, because some way or another, it becomes obvious to the bully that you have banded against her, and she will only retaliate. Also, by talking about it to your co-workers you are
dwelling on the situation, and you are better than that!

5. Hang in there and do not let HER ruin your career. The last thing you need to be -- and the last thing we your fellow members of womankind need you to be -- is the woman who got in a cat fight in the break room. Even if your situation is the worst imaginable situation, like working solely with this female bully on every project, you have got to stay strong, open a window, and move on. Eventually it might mean a different job for you, but for now you've got to put on your headphones and get the job done.


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