How to survive workplace ‘mean girls’

The workplace mean girl. Have you tangled with one? Did you hold your own or did she ride roughshod over you? If you want to escape unscathed, learn to stop the mean girl in her tracks, root her out of your head and turn the tables on her.

Don’t let her into your head

Don’t let a mean girl rent space in your head — you are the landlord. If you allow the mean girl’s venom to poison your sense of self, you collude with her. Don’t stop believing in yourself and your right to be treated respectfully. Once you eat the mean girl’s garbage, it becomes your garbage.

Don’t stoop to her level

If a mean girl starts in on you, maintain your professionalism. You don’t need to take her bait. You can shake your head no and respond, “Pardon me?” — as if you can’t believe what came out of her mouth. You can ask, “Is that your best shot?” to signal, “Good luck messing with me.” If you keep your cool, you and others will witness a failed mean girl attempt.

Don’t even start

You can’t afford to ignore a mean girl’s initial jabs. Like a cat playing with a mouse, mean girls test to see if you’re easy prey. Let one mess with you and she’ll declare, “Game on.” Stop her in her tracks and turn the tables.

Turn the tables

Mean girls excel at preemptive attacks that leave you flustered and tongue-tied. They slice you open with nasty statements. Don’t let them — instead, turn the tables. If a mean girl asks, “Do you cut your own hair?” with a tone that implies your hair looks terrible, then ask, “And why is this important to you?” You’ll immediately show you can take what she dishes out and can even control the interaction.

Have a question for Lynne? Email her at with the subject “SheKnows,” and she may answer your question (confidentially) in an upcoming piece on SheKnows.

Dr. Lynne Curry is the author of Beating the Workplace Bully and Solutions, president of The Growth Company, Inc. and founder of Workplace Coach Blog and BullyWhisperer. Her book Beating the Workplace Bully offers readers 28 chapters for handling mean girls and other workplace bullies.


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