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Mastering Mean Girls

Updated on August 11, 2015

Controlling your responses in the workplace

Women in the workplace can exhibit mean-spirited behavior. When they can’t control their inner critic and feelings of inadequacy build up in a negative way; it is a natural disposition to find a target for their aggression. Aggression and feelings of competitiveness often go hand in hand. Women, being taught that competition is normally reserved for the male gender and not to win at the expense of another, have a tendency to shy away from direct aggression. Naturally being skilled in indirect aggression, women seek ways to destroy the confidence of another woman and take her down a notch. In subtle ways they are able to release their unhealthy feelings of competitiveness. Oftentimes this behavior turns catty.

In order for this catty behavior to prevail, women must assume certain roles. Quickly, a Queen Bee is established. The Queen, in my opinion, is weaker than her foe because her position is furthered by excluding and ostracizing others. Once the Queen Bee has settled on a target and finds herself a swarm of worker bees, which become her audience for inappropriate comments, she sets about her task of building her power base. She is able to strengthen her own weak self-esteem by developing friendships and alliances with other women that will support her behavior. Determined to belong; her sidekicks enable this “dangerous” behavior and help her increase her self-worth. She is quickly able to disrupt the harmony of the workplace and grow her hive.

By not tolerating anyone whose opinion differs from her own, the Queen Bee continues to assert her authority with ease. Her sidekicks must be devoted followers. They actively shun her target and begin to uproot the sense of belonging of their prey. As willing participants, their cooperation is vital to alienating the individual. The worker bees have been programmed to develop a disdain for the enemy. The Queen has projected her own insecurities on the hive. By engaging in gossip, backhanded compliments, sideways glances and trash talk; the followers also begin to feel threatened by their peer and detest her. This feeling is, in part, due to a lack of understanding, as to why the Queen Bee hates her subject and is pollinated by the belief that the Queen is right in her position. In addition, the slow withdrawal of the subject from general office discussions, outside lunches and other events makes the co-worker appear aloof and uninterested in maintaining a relationship. This conveys apathy to the group and cements the adversary’s position as a snob that looks down on her counterparts. This only heightens the tension and furthers the resolve of the hive to taunt their peer.

Cunning and spiteful, the Queen Bee uses every social situation, as a means in which to undermine her victim. She is often regarded as a friend of her prey, but her role is that of a “frenemy”. She operates under the pretense of cultivating a friendship. She appears to befriend her opponent; however because she feels threatened; she has a natural tendency to summon her inner bitch. She maliciously looks for weaknesses in her subject and engages in tactics meant to affect the emotional state of her adversary. She is the constant manipulator.

She engages her competitor in conversation. She makes futile attempts at flattery. With every action, she must re-establish her position of authority. She must validate her sense of self by launching personal attacks designed to inflict as much damage as possible.

She is ruthless in her pursuit. She gains points for expert marksmanship. She is an aggressor, an implementer of drama. She often takes a poised approach when engaging in confrontation, but is unable to control the urge to act on her own negativity, so she is sometimes betrayed by the nuances in her voice, unwelcome body language and cold gestures.

She relies on the passive nature of her prey to remain indifferent to continue the non- confrontational nature of the relationship. If there is a no shift in the paradigm of behavior and her opponent chooses to turn a blind eye to her conduct; the power struggle continues.

To fully thwart, the mean-spirited intentions of the Queen Bee, it might be necessary to speak up for yourself. The silent approach of not provoking an attack; hunkering down at work, remaining pleasant and fine tuning your inner peace does not always work. Sometimes to maintain a good frame of mind, you must confidently deal with the faults of others. To allow yourself to be disrespected; to continue to suppress your feelings and devote all your time to peace keeping endeavors is to allow others to be feel empowered in their responses. Listen to your inner voice and combat the razor sharp sarcasm with wittiness. Do not turn down social invitations; make yourself the belle of the ball. Conduct yourself in a manner that exudes professionalism. Make an effort to get to know your peers, making note of personal facts and maintaining an active interest in their lives. Do not respond to negative criticism instead reinforce it with positive self-affirming statements. React with courtesy. Set a standard for yourself. Do not allow yourself to feel ashamed. Continue to be the person that others respond to favorably until all of your efforts are reciprocated.


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