This summer I was with my niece at the library. While she was picking out her books I was wandering around the career management section. I immediately stopped when I saw the title Working with Bitches by Meredith Fuller. Aside from having the maturity of a 5th grader when it comes to humor, I had just left a position where I worked with bitchy people…a lot of them. While I wouldn’t say the book was the most scholarly one I have read on the topic of workplace bullying, it does an excellent job of identifying different types of female bullies in the workplace. The first one discussed is the excluder.
Remember high school…the mean girls…the ones that talked around you, or at you, but never to you? As they got older, some decided they wanted to hold on to a bit of their youth. They didn’t do this by buying anti-aging cream or wearing skirts that were too short. Instead, they used mean girl tactics by excluding others from the cool kids’ table. The tactics used as an adult are the same ones used when they were 16. Do any of these sound familiar?
– Walks right past you saying hello and smiling to everyone but you
– Doesn’t seem to hear your hello
– Doesn’t acknowledge your presence in a room
– Fails to give you important messages or information needed for your job
– Fails to tell you about changed meeting plans
– Stops talking when you enter a room
– Won’t talk about the issue with you
– Rolls her eyes when your name is mentioned
– Makes a face or giggles when you say something in a meeting
– “Forgets” to pass along messages for you
– Plays innocent when you call her on it
– Does nothing for those that can’t help her career
– Once you become useful she will act like nothing happened
If the excluder is hurt or angry, dislikes you, you are no use to her, or she is threatened, she will use the above tactics to make you feel like an outsider who just isn’t quite good enough. If you are big enough to shrug it off and walk away good for you! If you are like the rest of us, you may be looking for a few more suggestions about how to handle the high school mentality of your adult coworker. Here are some tips.
1. Wait for a while. It COULD be that she just needs time to warm up to you.
2. Ask her what’s up. Just say something like “Hey, you haven’t spoken to me in over a week. Is this something that we need to sort out?” Acknowledging is always one of the most powerful way to combat child like behavior.
3. If you aren’t in a position to try and resolve it yourself (understandable if you aren’t) see about ensuring you can get all work related information from another party. Maybe someone else is in the same meeting with the excluder and can pass along information that you need.
4. Document times when the excluder didn’t give you the information you needed. Then see what company policies can aid in ensuring you get the info. Think “reply all” on emails or meeting minutes.
5. Keep on keeping on. If you think that maybe she is excluding you because you “overstep” your job, you do yourself no good to try and redefine your goal to appease her. Her attitude may turn into a “see, I told you so” one.
6. Figure out what upsets you. Once discovered, do what you can to avoid her. Eat lunch at different times, find a way to not have to pass her desk, figure out what you can look at in meetings that isn’t her face, etc…
7. Mind your manners. Say hello or whatever the minimal required response is. If she doesn’t say hello back, it is on her, not you. You will look like the mature one, which can help in the long run.
8. Don’t try to get a reaction from her. It can hurt you in the long run.
9. IF you have a good working relationship with your boss, you could bring it to his or her attention. I would advise that you ONLY talk about it from a work standpoint…Hopefully you have been documenting so you can show your boss how many items “slipped through the cracks.”
10. Dysfunctional workplaces often use the excluding technique. If it gets to the point you can’t function, you may need to find another job.
Please remember there can be long lasting emotional ramifications for those who have been consistently bullied. You may need to seek help from a professional. That’s ok. Please make sure that you are taking care of you and getting the appropriate help needed.