Sometimes 'mean girls' who cruelly judge and ridicule their peers grow up to be bosses who bully. What's a woman to do when her boss is making her life miserable? Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out has good advice for anyone coping with a female boss who is a bully.
Lisa: I'm Lisa Birnbach for Howdini dot com. Now, what if the bullies that you grew up with become employers and you end up working for a mean girl? To discuss this is Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out, published by Harcourt.
What happens? I mean, those mean girls grow up, they don't all get nice.
Rachel: They do. It's just so disturbing how parallel the behaviors are of 40, 50, 60-year old women and fifth graders. It just doesn't seem to change. So, it's a terrible thing when you find yourself in that position. And, I think the number one thing you've got to do is to document what is happening. You need to keep a log and make sure. Because I think one of the ways that women show power over each other -- negative power -- is by controlling their version of events. So, for example, you'll say "wait a minute, I thought the meeting was on Monday" and the person will say, "No, I told you it was on Tuesday", and you could have sworn it was on Monday and yet somehow that person is making you believe that it was another way, so you start to second-guess yourself, you start to get confused. So, keep track of everything that's happening.
Also, don't let yourself get isolated in the office. Because of that control, because they [bullies] can sort-of get you in their thrall, make sure you develop other relationships so that you can know that you're not crazy - because that is very often what will happen - that you will begin to think that you are crazy because you will think you know one thing and the other person is telling you something else. So, make sure you are not isolated.
Lisa: Should you confront this woman? If you remember the behavior, if she suddenly triggers old, bad feelings that you had when you were a kid?
Rachel: Yeah, you should confront her, but don't expect her to change her behavior; it will not change. Either you will figure out a way to work there in a productive a way as possible, or you will have to leave the job. I don't want to make any bones about it. But, if by that time that's the way she is acting, the that's the way she's always going to act. When you confront her come with your examples; make sure, because likely she will deny it. Be prepared to ask questions. Don't be afraid to say, "Did I do something to offend you?", "Did something happen?", "Do you want to talk about it?" If she continues to play dumb, list your examples, speak in terms of your own experience - do not begin sentences with "you embarrassed me when you did this", but say, "I felt embarrassed when this happened at such and such a meeting", or "I feel very worried because i feel like I don't get the information that I need to have." Holding information back is one of the primary ways that women bully each other at work; not telling them, not giving them critical pieces of information. So, if you are not getting information from someone, that is an aggressive act.
Lisa: So, that's passive-aggressive behavior that is used to sabotage other women, because some women feel like there can only be one of us in this workplace?
Rachel: It could be that. There is definitely more aggressive behavior, too. I mean, people will get other women in the workplace not to like someone and to exclude them. So, you'll walk into the lunch room and you'll get funny looks and you're 35 years old and in an office space.
Lisa: Is it correct to think that the women who are mean at work are the same people growing up who were mean in high school or middle school?
Rachel: I think there are some aggressive girls who outgrow their behavior and become very penitent; they feel badly about what they did; they try to be better. There are others who don't. Some of the new research on girls out there is looking at how people who are identified as physically aggressive when they are in preschool tend to grow out of it, but when they are identified as more psychologically aggressive in the manner of the stereotypical "mean girl", that behavior tends to remain consistent over time. So, there is a lot of evidence mounting that says that when you start out this way, that's who you become, which of course is why it is so important to start interventions early.
Lisa: What about corporate cultures that really foster Darwinian survival of the fittest mentality?
Rachel: That is an excellent question and I think in part we definitely live in a society where "it's not personal, it's business". In fact, I think 'The Apprentice' television show, that was their whole slogan and that of course is endorsing a particular brand of aggression that becomes acceptable as a way to negotiate, as a way to accomplish your goals. And so, I think increasingly we are living in a culture that gives this behavior permission.
Rachel: At the same time, having said that, there is such a thing as harassment; there is such a thing as an unsafe working environment and if you don't feel safe, and if you are being hurt, you should go to your human resources representative. You should explain what is happening to you and make the argument that you aren't able to be productive.
Lisa: So ultimately Rachel, if you are confronted with someone who is really diabolical in the workplace, you do have recourse? But if the culture endorses it you may have to look elsewhere.
Rachel: You've got to get out. I think you can't overestimate the importance of your quality of life at work. If you are emotionally compromised, you will be professionally compromised.
Lisa: I'm afraid that's true. That's right. Thank you so much. This has been fascinating. For Howdini dot com, I'm Lisa Birnbach.
Howdini is life’s little instruction manual, in HD. We’re all about bringing together the top, most respected experts in their fields to help us be the best we can be at all of the little and not-so-little challenges of our complicated lives. Howdini is the place to be for the know-how you want, when you need it. Or maybe it’s the know-how you need, when you want it. Whatever. We’re here to help. So come in and look around, won’t you?
We think you’ll love finding everything you want to learn about in one convenient place, and as we grow and add more categories and more Howdinis, you’ll be doing less surfing and more learning right here. And unlike television, Howdinis aren’t limited by time—we don’t have to break for commercials, and we’re always on.
Who is Howdini?
People often ask us, is there an actual person who is Howdini? And the answer is, it’s kind of like Lassie. Just as there were many Lassies, there are many individuals who are called Howdini. In fact, each of our experts is a Howdini, and, like all those Lassies, they really know their tricks. (Although so far there is no ‘How to tell your master that Timmy is trapped in the old abandoned mine’ segment)
Our gurus are people you know and trust because you’ve been getting advice from them for years, at places like Good Morning America, The Today Show, Money, Prevention, and Food and Wine (to name just a few). Many are best-selling authors. Others, like our medical experts, are respected leaders in their fields.
The first Howdini was Joanna Breen, who left a comfortable career at ABC’s 20/20 to create a how to video website after one too many frustrating experiences with handymen who weren’t that handy. Joanna had traveled the world reporting with Barbara Walters and others on injustice, outrage, and tragedy, but now it was time to turn her talents to dealing with crises closer to home, like what do you do if you drop your diamond ring down the drain. Joanna is the quintessential can-do girl, so she didn’t find the prospect of launching a gigantic website the least bit daunting. (Ok, that last part isn’t entirely true.)
Joanna convinced an old ABC News buddy, Shelley Lewis, to join her. Shelley had supervised roughly 9.7 million helpful how to segments during a long career executive producing television shows like Good Morning America and CNN’s American Morning. A self-described “info-pig” who loves all kinds of information programming, she is never happier than when she’s learning an amazing new tip that she can annoy share with everyone she knows. Needless to say, Howdini was a dream gig for her. A career woman, a wife, a mother, and author of two books, Shelley considers herself equally challenged by all the facets of her life.
Joanna and Shelley were introduced to marketing executive Alison Provost by a mutual friend who knew that Alison had what they needed - entrepreneurial experience, patience, and a checkbook that still had checks in it. Joanna and Shelley could see right away that Alison should join Howdini. They figured that they would take care of the programming, and Alison would bring trustworthy sponsors to help pay the bills. It took Alison significantly longer to be convinced, maybe because she was crazy busy running a marketing firm called PowerPact, which she continues to oversee while serving as the biggest of big cheeses at Howdini. But whether it’s playing Suduko or launching a new business in a field she knows little about, Alison loves the challenge of a good puzzle, It wasn’t long before she began dropping obscure internet terms like “user-interface” and “googlebot” into casual conversation.
What’s Next for Howdini?
Our goals are modest. Complete and total domination of the internet, crushing Google, Microsoft, and any other punks who get in our way. (Hey, it’s a just a goal.) But until then, we will content ourselves making the best, most professional, most credible how to videos you can find anywhere. We want to help you solve your career issues, your parenting problems, your money troubles. We want you to be more glamorous, healthier, and less stressed out. We want you to check Howdini every day for fun, interesting, useful advice from experts you know and trust.
We want to make Howdini the community you love to be part of every day, To do that, we need to hear from you. Please share your suggestions, rate and comment on the Howdini videos, and the blog, (The Howdini blog). Tell us what you’d like us to create for you.
And then, when we’ve achieved that, it’s back to working on complete and total domination of the internet.