Grown-up mean girls

Mean girls not  just in high schoolWatch almost any episode of the Real Housewives on Bravo (Slice) and you can see a level of nastiness that is truly shocking – and these women are privileged by any standard. While their small-screen antics can be amusing, they are far from it in real life. I have a brilliant young friend who is currently working for a bully. It is tough economy, so she is stuck there for now. Her boss drains the life out of the whole office with biting personal comments, undeserved professional putdowns, and non-stop abuse. Another friend, a PR maven, remembers one hideous female boss who screamed at her and even hit her. The tyrant knew she desperately needed the job at that time.  
Meanness is not reserved for the work place. A sweet friend who had been out of work, in spite of her best efforts, attended a friend’s baby shower. While there she was questioned about her job prospects and love life. It was all quite civilized until the dragon-like mother of an acquaintance cornered her. The gorgon began an inquisition about her personal life in the most condescending tones. She even had the nerve to ask: “Well are you going to work or can you afford to become a of woman of leisure?” My friend was disconcerted by her rudeness and her implications. This woman was well aware that my friend is a well-educated woman who has held very good positions and would again. She was simply being a *itch because she sensed that a beautiful, younger woman was temporarily vulnerable. She was an old mean girl.
According to a story in The New York Times in May 2009, based on research from The Workplace Bullying Institute, at least 40 percent of work place bullies are women. They usually bully other women. This is not shocking to anyone who went to high school. We have all seen how mean girls can be. Women are reluctant to report other women because of false notions of sisterhood or not wanting to be perceived as whiners. I was surprised by the reaction surrounding Elizabeth Lambert, the violent soccer player. As bad as this behaviour is, this type of viciousness is easy to spot and stop.
It is harder to stop put-downs, verbal abuse, backstabbing, and sabotage. We are trained to ignore it, take the blame for it, or feel bad for the needy and insecure offender. Darlings, if you are subject to bullying at work, get out as fast as you can. Keep records if it is really bad; you have rights and legal recourse.
If you are bothered by a bully in a social situation, get away from the bad person. Don’t think twice. If the mean girl is in your circle and you can’t avoid her totally, speak up. Don’t lose your cool. Practice, if you are easily rattled. Confide in a friend for advice. Find a non-hostile way to say: “back off Suzy Q”.
If a good friend is temporarily acting up because she is feeling bad about her life, find a way to give her some space. Try to be understanding, but never be anyone’s punching bag. If the bad or abusive behaviour persists, find a gentle no-nonsense way to tell her you know she is going through at tough time, but she needs to cool it.
If you see another woman getting bullied, step in and deflect it. In the work place it can be trickier to control grown-up mean girls. Be aware of your rights. If you are the boss watch out for bullies below you. We can complain about men all we want, but we need to clean up our own act. Don’t stand by and let unkindness become the norm.
Darlings, kindness is underrated. People like people who like them. You reduce your stress and that of others by being kind and joyful. Compliments, cheerfulness, and pleasantries make life nicer. One of the keys to happiness might just be finding time to be nicer and more supportive of each other, and putting a stop to the culture of grownup mean girls.