Mean Women

Work with Other Women, Not Against Them

Work with Other Women, Not Against ThemReady to get ahead? Then you need to start working with other women, not against them. We’re all on the same team, working toward the same goals, so why on earth do we sometimes forget that and treat each other badly, sabotage one another’s work, or hold another woman down? The aggression women can display towards one another can derail a job, or even a career, and works against women’s progress as a whole. This aggression doesn’t necessarily have to be obvious through bullying or other direct behaviors, it can be indirect and still quite devastating.

As we write in the new book, In This Together, sometimes women will sabotage one another and intentionally lie or destroy the work of others to discredit them, they may engage in backstabbing, or even take credit for the work of others. Whether it’s called bullying, bitchiness, relational or indirect aggression, or something else, women who hold each other back set us all back, which pushes gender equality even further away.  We can’t allow ourselves, or our progress, to be derailed by the bad behaviors of others, but instead must focus on ways we can work together, cooperate and collaborate to achieve our common goals.

In the workplace, women managers sometimes seek to protect their status in a hierarchy dominated by men by being overly tough on their female employees. This is what University of Arizona management professor Allison Gabriel calls the “Queen Bee Syndrome.” Gabriel conducted a large study and found that women, especially those who display traditionally masculine traits, such as dominance, are especially targeted. Women of color are also targeted more often.

However, aggression among women isn’t limited to those in power positions. Generally, women are meaner to each other than men are to women. Through her research, Gabriel concludes that women are more likely to suffer from what she calls “female-instigated incivility” than men are, and fall victim to low-intensity deviant behavior, like ignoring, interrupting, mocking, and other disrespectful treatments, used to put women back in their place.

What Not To Do

Some women can be disruptive for what appears to be nothing more than for the sake of disrupting. Here’s an example of a woman most of us have probably encountered at least once in our professional lives, and her actions are perfect examples of indirect aggression:

“Brittney” was hired to do a job with a specific deadline, but she didn’t do it. She also did not take responsibility for her failure to perform. In fact, not only did she fail to deliver, she manipulated her employer and other people around her. She took other people’s ideas and appropriated them as her own, without giving credit to anyone else. She doesn’t know what she’s supposed to do, and she’s not good at following directions. Whether her actions are merely thoughtless or intentional, she HAS demonstrated that you can’t trust her.

Brittney’s behavior has the potential to be detrimental to any woman – or man – involved in the project. Her lack of responsibility, follow through, and performance destroys relationships and kills friendships. Chances are Brittney can’t be rehabilitated, at least in her current position. Don’t allow yourself to get angry. While anger can be a great motivator, we weaken our ability to make change if we get derailed by our differences or spend too much time stressing over bad behavior. When you meet someone like this, your best bet is to say thanks but no thanks and move forward without her. Don’t try to be a shero and “fix her.” If you’re stuck in a workplace with her, find ways to work around her or cover for potential lack of follow-through. We discuss many options for working with this kind of person in Dr. Nancy’s new book, In This Together.

What’s important to keep in mind is that Brittney is the exception, not the rule. So is the bully in your office, and the snarky woman running the committee. It is our job to remain focused on being positive, helping others, and supporting one another. If we get sidetracked into attacking another woman, we’re less likely to organize and fight for equality for all. We need to actively look for ways to help one another, and put aside judgment and criticisms, and focus on what we share in common – our experiences, hopes, and dreams—and how we can help each other. Let’s stop working against one another and instead work together to make gender equality happen.

Order Dr. Nancy’s New Book Today!

Looking at what makes women mean and dealing with bullies are just a couple of the issues covered in Dr. Nancy’s new book, In This Together: How Successful Women Support Each Other In Work and Life, along with thoughts, inspiration, and stories from 40 successful women.

Order your copy – and gifts for your friends today!

Mean Boss or Misunderstood Leader?

It wasn’t long after Senator Amy Klobuchar announced that she was running for president that reports from former staffers depicted her as a brutal mean boss. According to a piece in Politico, former aides, all speaking anonymously, describe a toxic work environment that included everything from demeaning emails to thrown office supplies and requests for staff to perform personal chores.

Klobuchar has defenders too, including former staffers who have gone on the record to push back against the stories, and, “suggest that the critique is grounded in sexism against a woman who demands excellence from her employees.” Forbes reports that many of Klobuchar’s supporters also argue that, “she was being targeted due to her gender and that a man in her position would be considered ‘tough’ instead of toxic.”

Is Klobuchar tough? Is she a bully? The victim of a smear campaign? Or maybe just misunderstood? We will probably never know, but can definitely sympathize with those who feel victimized, and remind them that they are not alone. Studies show that while 60–70 percent of bullies at work are men, 30–40 percent are women, and according to a 2017 survey conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), they all target women two-thirds of the time.  As we write in In This Together, workplace bullying is so common in various forms that almost three-fourths of employees have been affected by bullying, either as a target or a witness, according to research from Dr. Judith Lynn Fisher-Blando with the University of Phoenix. In fact, WBI has reported that bullying on the job is four times more common than either sexual harassment or racial discrimination.

While it’s true that assertive women are much more likely to be viewed as bossy or even as bullies than their male counterparts, we can’t assume just because someone is a woman her behaviors are being mislabeled or misinterpreted when charges are made. So how do you know when your boss is being tough, and when they’ve crossed the line? Start by checking your bias. Take a searching and honest look at yourself and the situation:

  • Is there any way you might be misinterpreting what’s going on?
  • Are you the victim of a bullying campaign, or just upset by someone’s manner or tone?
    Does this person treat everyone that way or just you?
  • Are you treating everyone with the same courtesy and respect, or are you being high-handed and demanding to some?
  • Are you performing your job as well as you can, or are you making life difficult for others?

If this isn’t a bullying situation, what can you learn from it? How can you adjust your behavior? And if this is a bullying situation, what do you want to do about it? By finding ways to support the humanity of workplace bullies while working to eliminate their toxic behaviors, you may be able to develop more productive, supportive relationships. However, if you are in a hopelessly toxic situation, focus your efforts on finding your next job ASAP. Picture how great you will feel when this is behind you and new prospects are opening up with a new, better employer and a work group in which you can develop supportive relationships.

In This Together shares a number of ways you can work through workplace bullying issues, eliminate toxic behaviors, salvage your position and move forward. Learning to deal with conflict in positive ways, practicing good communication skills with everyone at work, and exhibiting understanding and compassion will help transform the company into a productive, positive place where you and your coworkers can build your careers together. A tough boss can be a learning experience and challenge you to reach professional excellence. Remember that we all have a shared goal at work to do our best work and make our organization successful. When you focus on that goal and support one another, it becomes much more fun and reduces misunderstandings and perceived slights among leaders and fellow employees.

Christine Arylo – Self Love Silences Inner Mean Girl

Author, Speaker

Christine Arylo

Christine Arylo has silenced her own inner mean girl by creating a healthy relationship with self-love. Once a confirmed achievement junkie, Christine now proclaims herself to be “The Queen of Self-Love,” and with this new title, she is writing and teaching others how to identify their own inner mean girls and to quiet their self-bullying to live happy, fulfilling lives.
If you find yourself thinking that no matter what you do, it’s not enough, or volunteering for everything when you can’t keep up with what you have, you need to listen to this interview and check out Christine’s new book, Reform Your Inner Mean Girl: 7 Steps to Stop Bullying Yourself & Start Loving Yourself, which she co-authored with Amy Ahlers.

 How the Inner Mean Girl Can Cause Real Harm

Inner-Mean-Girl-bookAlthough Christine has invented playful ways to deal with your inner mean girl, she also lists awful things that happen to women because of the stress they endure every day. For example: more women die of heart disease than any other natural cause; 60% of women see a doctor for stress-related health problems. Yet women continue to push themselves. The committed “doing addicts” keep doing it all themselves, no matter what IBS or other symptoms plague them.
Also, inner mean girls become outer mean girls and take their frustration out on others. Christine says not all mean girls are mean, but driven by fear and inner lack of self-love, they become sneaky, catty, manipulative back-stabbers. This path is not good for anyone.

 Inner Mean Girl Reform School

Christine and Amy include many inner-wisdom tools with the book, including quizzes to help you identify your inner mean girl(s), live streaming to connect virtually and in person with others reforming their inner mean girls and more. Check out their inner-wisdom blog for more important tips, videos and meditations.
This interview shares more humorous advice and insights into how much easier you can make your life and live your dreams by reaching out for help and making a difference with other women. Dr. Nancy and Christine agree it’s important to give yourself permission to love yourself and get out of the rat race caused by what others tell you to be, and even hug your inner mean girl once in awhile.

Women Empowerment: Should You Stay or Should You Go?

Working_with_Bitches-150x225If your workday is plagued by mean women, read this new post about Working with Bitches on the Women site. We were so impressed with this information, we got permission from the author, Meredith Fuller, to reprint 1800 words from her wonderful new book.

We chose to reprint the section about deciding whether you should stay or go because we had not addressed that decision in our Mean Women series. Meredith offers questions to help you decide if you can stay, suggests five strategies that will help you gain a fresh perspective, and reviews 10 factors that you should consider in making your decision.

This is valuable information that could apply to any situation, whether work, community or personal.

Are you wondering if you can salvage the situation or if it’s time to move on?

If you like the excerpt below, check out the full post on working with bitches.

  • Do you have accumulated vacation or sick time that you can take?
  • Is disability leave a possibility? Use that time to have an extended break and consider your future. Sometimes you simply need perspective. You might come back refreshed enough to consider other options.
  • What part does money play? What are your assets and debts, spending habits and needs?
  • Could you work a four-day week or take leave without pay for a while?
  • Could you take a different job at a lower level that you might enjoy more?
  • Do you need some changes in other parts of your life?
  • Are your core needs being met at work?

Follow the links on the left to read our Mean Women series. then review Meredith’s advice.

10 Words to Use Instead of Bossy

BanBossy1Have you heard about the campaign to #banbossy? It will advance women empowerment and help us increase our vocabularies if we stop calling girls bossy.

In fact, there are many better, more accurate ways to describe women and girls than “bossy,” according to a recent BlogHer post by Julie Ross Godar. This is a reaction to Sheryl Sandberg’s current campaign to get people to stop using the word bossy when describing females. Actually, it reflects the speaker’s lack of  vocabulary even more than it casts a shadow on the girl being described.

Better, More Accurate Words than Bossy

The words bossy is typically used as an insult to get girls and women to shut up and sit down. Women were traditionally supposed to be nurturing and supportive and to help the group. They were not expected to direct activities and lead the group. So “bossy” was a way to  cast a woman as unfeminine and unnatural. Horrors!

Now that women are moving up through the ranks in unprecedented numbers, isn’t it time to help women see the upside of those character traits? What do you think of this list of words? Can you use them to describe a girl today?

  1. Assertive
  2. Smart
  3. Has a clear vision
  4. Honest
  5. Committed
  6. Fearless
  7. Great organizational skills
  8. Gifted
  9. Quick
  10. Eager to share opinions and ideas

Why Banning “Bossy” Matters


Calling someone bossy, especially a young person who is just developing an idea of who she is, can dampen her sense of self. It can cause her to pull her hand back and not reach as high, bite her tongue, try to fit in. We all want to be liked. As the #banbossy campaign points out, girls are twice as likely as boys to worry that leadership roles will make them seem “bossy.”


Is She Really a Pain in the A**?

Godar points out that a woman may actually engage in a variety of bad behaviors at work. Maybe a woman is not a consensus builder, or needs to work on empathy. Does she need some lessons in diplomacy? Does she not understand the importance of leading by example? Does she always insist on having her own way?

“I don’t think anyone’s trying to ignore bad behavior,” by banning use of the word bossy, Godar says. So it’s a good thing we’ve got other words for that kind of bossy, too, she notes. How about these more accurate descriptors?

  1. Needs to work on her listening skills
  2. Hardly an inspirational leader
  3. An abusive boss
  4. She’s an a**hole

There’s a lot of power in words, and it’s just not true that sticks and stones can break your bones but words will never hurt you. Let’s pay attention and use words that nurture and encourage our women and girls. And when we see behavior that needs correcting, lests use words that  describe accurately the behaviors they need to improve.

Check out this wonderful series of #banbossy posters.


Should You File a Formal Complaint About Abusive Behavior?

Mean Women Articles

Most women can stop bullying at work by using the many techniques in our series on “Mean Women.” Maintaining your boundaries, managing your expectations, correcting your own sexist attitudes, understanding indirect aggression and building professional skills will all help you advance your career even if they don’t stop the bullying.

Keep Detailed Records of Abusive Behavior

If your mastery of all these skills doesn’t have the desired effect, you may need to file a formal complaint. Of course you have been keeping a record of all the events and behaviors where you are the only one targeted. (If everyone receives the same treatment, it’s just bad management and you are not likely to have a case.)

 How to Approach Management

Talk to your manager in a matter-of-fact tone and show a copy of your record of the abusive behavior that is creating a “hostile working environment.”  That’s the specific offense you are objecting to. If the manager does nothing, you may have grounds for filing a formal human resources complaint. If you have the stomach for this, contact a lawyer to guide you through the process. The details of this process are far beyond the scope of these blog posts, but an Internet search will get you started.

Be Realistic: Know Bullying Statistics

Be aware though, that “72% of bullies are bosses,” said Dr. Gary Namie, founder of the Workplace Bullying Institute. He notes that although many frustrated employees ultimately resort to confrontation, it usually does not produce the results they want. In fact, he says, “78 percent of bullied employees who come forward end up losing their jobs — they either quit, are ‘constructively discharged’, or outright fired.”

If your professional approach doesn’t work, and you don’t choose to file a lawsuit, don’t pout, blame yourself, give up, disconnect or become enraged. Many employers won’t act to stop this behavior and honestly, it can be a long struggle to try and make them. Take heart that you are not the first one to need to look for another job and move on.

And that may be the best advice: keep your head down and your professional standards up, find something far healthier and more supportive to your well-being and happiness, and wave good-bye to your dysfunctional work environment.

~Dr. Nancy

Have you encountered a book or website that helped you deal with mean behavior by other women? Please let us know in the comments below. We will check it out and post a link for other women to benefit.

Read the Whole Mean Women Series:

  1. Why Are Women So Mean To Other Women?
  2. Manage Your Expectations To Stop Bullying
  3. Manage Your Boundaries | Learn to Stop Bullying
  4. Stop Bullying and Advance Career by Building Professional Skills
  5. Correct Your Own Sexist Attitudes
  6. How to Deal with Indirect Aggression from Other Women
  7. Should You File a Formal Complaint About Abusive Behavior?

Manage Your Expectations To Stop Bullying

Mean Women Articles

Did you ever expect that mean girl from high school would turn up as a mean woman in the workplace? If you didn’t have an effective way to deal with her then, she’ll probably be able to torment you in the workplace now. Do these fit your definition of bullying?

  • Some days Sharon is nice and other days she is really rude and downright bitchy to you. Everyone else shrugs and says it’s “just the way she is,” but you are losing sleep over this.
  • Teresa always tells you stories that make other coworkers look foolish or incompetent. You find out she’s telling stories like this about you — behind your back.
  • You confided to Leslie (your best friend) that your married boss asked you out for a drink and asked her how you should handle it. Now you hear she’s spreading gossip in the break room that you’re having an affair with him.

Types of Bullying: Is Bitchiness a “Female” Flaw?

Some researchers say that men have ritualized ways to resolve competition and aggression. They play sports or punch each other in the schoolyard. Middle class women are more often taught to be covert in their response, so things continue to fester. Our media love to focus on the female “catfight” and frequently stereotype women as catty.

But men are awful to each other too, in different ways. Men expect to be teased, ridiculed, criticized and “one-upped” by other men, so they are not confused or dismayed by it. (This behavior is arguably more human than female. In fact, in the barnyard it’s called the pecking order. Chickens routinely peck to death their weakest member. So it’s more animal behavior than human.)

Most women are warm and supportive, so we may expect ALL women to behave that way. Your expectation may be “that women leaders will all be more nurturing than males and everything will be wonderful,” says Dr. Gary Namie, founder of the Workplace Bullying Institute, a Washington state think tank.  “But women are just as capable of being tyrannical as men. If the corporate structure rewards aggression, they will be aggressive.”

What Behavior Do You Expect From Other Women?

Workplace consultant Marlene Chism says (Four Things Workplace Bully Can Teach You) to regard bad behavior as a gift because it forces you to decide how you want to be treated. “The good thing about experiencing unwanted emotions is you get to claim what is totally unacceptable. The only problem is when you continue to allow the behavior to continue.”

If you have unrealistic expectations like these about women at work you are setting yourself up for pain:

  1. You expect the other women to support you from Day 1.
    In reality, trust takes time. Just because she possesses a uterus does not make her a candidate for being your friend or confidant, so beware the instant best friend. Take your time opening up.
  2. You expect to like everyone in your department and to enjoy working with them.
    The truth is, you do not have to like someone or be like someone in order to work effectively with her. Your co-worker doesn’t have to like you either.
  3. You think they are trying to undermine you if someone disagrees with you.
    In fact, just because she has a different opinion doesn’t mean she has abandoned you or disconnected from you. You really can still work together effectively.
  4. You want to know everything about your coworkers’ personal lives so you can support them.
     Actually, it’s often better NOT to try for intimate relationships on the job. This can make it easier to avoid personalizing your differences. It’s just work.
  5. Work is your world and you don’t have time for a personal life.
    Your career will be much healthier if you cultivate a strong support system outside the workplace. It will be easier to shrug off frustrations and disappointments at work.

Do you need to work on adjusting your expectations? Don’t fret that you will become too harsh or uncaring. You are on your way to becoming more professional and mature in your approach to work.

Strategies to Stop Bullying

  • Sharon may not be aware of the inconsistency in her behavior and of its effect on you. It’s also possible other things going on in her life are distracting her. Catch her alone and say in a friendly and neutral tone, “I want to work effectively with you and I’m confused that sometimes you seem angry with me. Have I done something to offend you?” Respond to whatever she says in a friendly and professional manner, and end with a positive statement reinforcing your working relationship.
  • The next time Teresa starts to gossip about a coworker, say in a friendly tone, “You know, I’ve made a new resolution not to gossip. It’s too hurtful. I’ve even heard there’s a story going around that paints me as incompetent. Can I count on you to help squash it?” You can do this in a group.
  • Leslie doesn’t deserve a spot on your “best friend” list, so beware. Next, catch her alone and say, “Leslie, I hear there’s a rumor that I’m having an affair with the boss. You know it’s not true. Will you help me nip this in the bud? What do you suggest we do?”

Yes, you’ll need to toughen up just a smidge to face down your co-workers, even in these relatively non-threatening ways. Practice in front of a mirror or with a friend until you can say it without crying or screaming. Don’t worry if you feel shaky – that’s normal with a new skill and it will get easier with practice. Learning how to deal with mean women will make you a lot happier as you advance in your career.

~Dr. Nancy

Have you encountered a book or website that helped you deal with mean behavior by other women? Please let us know in the comments below. We will check it out and post a link for other women to benefit.

Read the Whole Mean Women Series:

  1. Why Are Women So Mean To Other Women?
  2. Manage Your Expectations To Stop Bullying
  3. Manage Your Boundaries | Learn to Stop Bullying
  4. Stop Bullying and Advance Career by Building Professional Skills
  5. Correct Your Own Sexist Attitudes
  6. How to Deal with Indirect Aggression from Other Women
  7. Should You File a Formal Complaint About Abusive Behavior?

Have you encountered a book or website that helped you deal with mean behavior by other women? Please let us know in the comments below. We will check it out and post a link for other women to benefit.

Manage Your Boundaries | Learn to Stop Bullying



How other women in your organization perceive you builds the foundation for your relationships. If a bullying woman sees you as weak or vulnerable, she might choose you as a target. You may need to build up your position of strength. Do any of the following scenarios look familiar?

  • Jackie acts like she’s sweet and caring, but then every Friday afternoon assigns a rush project that MUST be done by Monday morning.
  • Emily continually ‘forgets’ to include you in meetings and emails that directly concern your job. You found out yesterday that everyone had a great time at a social event she hosted that you weren’t invited to.
  • Anne Marie has always denigrated your abilities to colleagues and management. You ignored it at first but now find yourself isolated and insecure.

How To Stop Mean Women and Bullying

You have to screw up your courage and confront these behaviors in a courteous, professional and insistent manner. Easy to say, hard to do, but you CAN do it. First, you need some important stress therapy.

  1. Start by looking inward. Acknowledge you are human. You are AWESOME (of course) and also capable of aggression, spitefulness, cruelty, vanity, pettiness and so much more. Accepting this will enable you to be more realistic about yourself and other women.
  2. Pump up your stress management program to take outstandingly good care of yourself. You need to be strong for this battle so Claim Your Power.
  3. Love yourself. It’s normal to look to other women for support and approval, and it’s normal for them not to grant it. Instead they may gossip, hold grudges, spread rumors, slander and ostracize. Find support somewhere else so you are not so needy at work.

Now you are ready to look outward at what you are expecting from your bully. It’s irrational to expect other women to be constantly nurturing and supportive. In primate communities of great apes and chimpanzees, females will attack each other and kill each other’s babies. It’s in their DNA. Often their alliance with a male serves to protect them from other females. Our relationships are similarly complicated.

Define Boundaries to Stop Bullying

Don’t assume the victim role. If you allow bullying behavior to continue, you risk escalation of that behavior. It’s up to you to decide how you want to be treated and make it clear what you will allow. While you don’t want to become a bully yourself, don’t let her make you the doormat.

Instead, you need to stake out and defend your boundaries, says Marlene Chism, author of Stop Workplace Drama: Train Your Team to have No Complaints, No Excuses, and No Regrets. This is assertive behavior, not aggressive behavior. For starters, avoid using a confrontational “you.” In psychology we suggest using “I-messages” that share information about ourselves without making accusations. You will find more ideas and techniques in my e-book, Claim Your Power.

I-Messages Define Boundaries

Here’s a script. Fill in the blanks for your particular situation:

  1. When you …(criticize me in front of others, leave me off of important emails, etc.)
  2. It makes me feel … (embarrassed, angry, frustrated, etc.)
  3. This happens … (it’s harder for me to do my job, our whole department suffers, etc.)
  4. I’m asking you to … (give me critiques in private, make a conscious effort to include me in emails, etc.)

If a nasty coworker accuses you of being too sensitive when you deliver your I-message, Marlene suggests  you simply say, “Perhaps I am too sensitive, however I’m asking that you discontinue (the unwanted behavior.)” You admit to the human weakness of being too sensitive, then focus on what the coworker is doing, rather than on the coworker personally. And you clearly ask for a specific action.

How to Deal with Bullying

Looking back at the examples at the start of this article, how might you address them in a positive professional way? Always focus on the work, not the person.

Early in the week ask Jackie to look ahead to plan workflow. You might say, “I’ve been able to work on weekends in the past but my schedule is changing and I won’t be able to for a while. I’m committed to our company and to supporting you. How can we work together so I can do what you need during the week?” If she presses you to explain, just say in a friendly and confiding way, “I’m not ready to talk about this personal matter yet.” You are telling the truth. Your “personal matter” is to stake out your boundaries and have a life!

Women like Emily are difficult. Try a three-part message: When you “leave me off the email list, people start gossiping that you are angry with me and it hurts my feelings. Would you please check to make sure I’m included on the distribution list?” If she doesn’t change, ask a co-worker to share information with you until you can “resolve some email problems.”

If behavior like Ann Marie’s goes on too long, it can destroy your chances at the company. Talk with her privately and tell her you want to improve your usefulness to the company. Thank her for anything she has ever done for you and ask what new skills or habits she thinks you need to improve. Women who bully often feel insecure and asking her advice may defuse her resentment. Ask her if there is some way you could be more helpful to her. Meanwhile get busy documenting the smart and useful things you are doing for the company and make sure management knows about them.

Never gossip or complain about these bullies behind their backs. In all three of these situations, you are taking responsibility for advancing your career. You are drawing boundaries around your territory rather than cowering in the closet crying or complaining to your friends.

~Dr. Nancy

Have you encountered a book or website that helped you deal with mean behavior by other women? Please let us know in the comments below. We will check it out and post a link for other women to benefit.

Read the Whole Mean Women Series:

  1. Why Are Women So Mean To Other Women?
  2. Manage Your Expectations To Stop Bullying
  3. Manage Your Boundaries | Learn to Stop Bullying
  4. Stop Bullying and Advance Career by Building Professional Skills
  5. Correct Your Own Sexist Attitudes
  6. How to Deal with Indirect Aggression from Other Women
  7. Should You File a Formal Complaint About Abusive Behavior?
  8. Should You Stay or Should You Go? by Meredith Fuller


Stop Bullying and Advance Career by Building Professional Skills



When you get together with other women you’ll soon hear complaints that are the definition of bullying: an office dragon who seems to dedicate her life to undermining, bullying and obstructing her coworkers. Bullying statistics show 40% of workplace bullies are female and they almost always target other women.

Bitchy Behaviors Are Types of Bullying

  • Janet asks for favors a dozen times a day: everything from, “Could you drop this file off at Pam’s desk on your way out?” to “I’ll never get this report done on time, could you stay late and help me finish it?” If you say no to the smallest request, she acts insulted and accuses you of not being ‘her friend.’
  • Melissa interrupts you in meetings and has even shut the door in your face. Feeling humiliated, you hope others don’t notice. Would your response be the same if her name was Mark?

Search online for ways to stop workplace bullying and you’ll find funny but not-so-helpful ideas like this:

  • Put ExLax in her coffee and laugh when she runs to the toilet.
  • Become an honorary member of the Slapaho Tribe.
  • Be rude right back by using one-word replies.
  • Ignore her except for work issues.
  • Wear your iPod to drown her out.
  • Just laugh.

Not that you don’t sometimes feel she would deserve it, but seriously––don’t. Spiking someone’s coffee could be considered assault, and a slap certainly would. Rudeness, retaliation and ignoring will simply escalate the bad feeling and dysfunction.

Build Up Professionalism to Stop Bullying

Sandra Ford Walston, the Courage Expert, says women are often in denial about workplace bullying. Instead of pretending it’s not happening, dig down and connect with your most professional ideals. What did you hope to accomplish at this job? Learn new skills, demonstrate competence, and advance your career? Reacting to a mean co-worker is going to sidetrack you from any of those goals. This job is just that – a job – and don’t let someone’s temporary meanness compromise your professionalism. Just because she acts, you do not have to react.

“There is a need for professionalism, which means not leaving people out, talking behind their backs, or calling them out publicly for things that aren’t directly related to work,” say Emily Blake and Andrian Alphona.  That means skipping the “offhand remark about how many calories are in their sandwich or how you didn’t realize they were still making chinos with pleats. When it comes to the personal, remind yourself it is none of your business if it’s not about business.”

Better to be less popular, but more nice

This is great advice because, as they say, “it is better to be less popular, but more nice.”

  • Learn to hear other women gently and respectfully. Asking what they think is not the same as asking for them to agree with, support or flatter you. Women may perceive nastiness from other women where none is intended.
  • Don’t gossip about your boss or anyone else! “A recent Lifetime Women’s Pulse Poll shows that nearly 40 percent of women workers pass along unflattering gossip about their [female] boss. Despite giant steps up the corporate ladder, the female boss remains the star in water-cooler gossip as everyone’s favorite villain—even among other women.” (Maxine Rock, “Reputation Alert,” PINK, April/May, 2007, 34-35).
    • Learn to hear opposing views without collapsing and without feeling personally betrayed. Truly listen and you may learn something helpful that will improve your standing and usefulness at work.
    • Online forums are filled with rage and frustration at difficult co-workers. The best advice is to find ways to speak your truth clearly, firmly, politely, and without fearing you will mortally offend or drive away other women. You MUST find ways to fend off insulting behavior without resorting to a nuclear attack. “Sandra, I can see that you’re upset, but when you talk to me in that manner I feel offended. Let’s stop now and pick up another time when we can discuss this calmly.”
    • Be excellent at your job and unfailingly professional
    • Never lose your cool

Improve Communication at Work

Professional Certified Coach Randy Mayes, People Centric Consulting Group, sets out a process for establishing good communication in the workplace. To support a free flow of communication he suggests these steps

  1. Create Safety
  2. Suspend judgment
  3. Mine for more information – ask questions
  4. Be curious
  5. Be open to possibilities
  6. Don’t force a solution
  7. Don’t try to justify your actions
  8. Don’t try to make her wrong. You don’t need to be right.

Instead, Mayes says we should take personal responsibility. Get clear about what you want for yourself, for others, and for the relationship. If your goals for your relationship with this person are not professional, you need to realign your expectations.

Stop Bullying and Pursue Own Professional Goals

Now, for dealing with Janet and Melissa: it’s best to assume they have a good reason for their actions or attitudes that may be different from yours, rather than charging in certain they are being bitchy and mean. But you do need to keep in mind your own professional goals.

It’s time to establish firm boundaries with Janet. Say, “I’m no longer going to be able to help you as I have in the past because my own work is suffering. Of course I want to be friendly but I can’t let my own job performance suffer.” It is not necessary to explain or make excuses. Do you need a “friend” like this? If she is your only friend, you need different friends. Keeping business relationships professional is the best way to avoid no end of heartache and frustration.

Think carefully and analyze Melissa’s offensive behavior. Does she interrupt only you? Does the company culture accept interruption as standard meeting behavior? If a man interrupts do you feel similarly offended? Try holding your ground by firmly saying something like “Hold that thought, Melissa, while I finish my point.” Consider asking Melissa for a private meeting and saying politely, “when you shut the door in my face it makes me feel you don’t want to work with me. Have I done something to make you want to exclude me?”

Getting clear about your goals will make it easier to consistently live your intentions, says Mayes. Ask yourself, “How should I behave to achieve these goals?” While pursuing those goals, a true professional will develop and maintain a sense of mutual purpose and mutual respect. That needs to be your default attitude at work, always!

~Dr. Nancy

Have you encountered a book or website that helped you deal with mean behavior by other women? Please let us know in the comments below. We will check it out and post a link for other women to benefit.

Read the Whole Mean Women Series:

  1. Why Are Women So Mean To Other Women?
  2. Manage Your Expectations To Stop Bullying
  3. Manage Your Boundaries | Learn to Stop Bullying
  4. Stop Bullying and Advance Career by Building Professional Skills
  5. Correct Your Own Sexist Attitudes
  6. How to Deal with Indirect Aggression from Other Women
  7. Should You File a Formal Complaint About Abusive Behavior?

Correct Your Own Sexist Attitudes

Mean Women Articles

Bullying Statistics show that women overwhelmingly target other women for their bitchiness and bullying. They also hold women (including themselves) to a different standard than men. Sometimes we trap ourselves in stereotyped behaviors without realizing it. We may unknowingly treat other women in ways that infuriate them.

How would you handle types of bullying like this?

  • Your administrative assistant Alicia gathers around the coffee pot with other admins every morning. This morning they shushed their conversation, giggled and rolled their eyes when you walked in. Your admin has started making snide remarks under her breath when you tell her to do something.
  • Louisa dresses unisex-conservative and criticizes a co-worker behind her back, saying Patti’s colorful, glitzy girly clothing makes her look like a slut. You worry that her appearance reflects negatively on all the women in the company. You’ve debated whether someone should say something to Patti.
  • No matter what you suggest, Sheila finds fault and proposes an improvement. By now you grit your teeth when you see she’s at the table and hesitate to even bring up your ideas.

We’re Trained to Behave Sexist

Women have been trained to forgive men almost anything, but they may be oversensitive to other women. They hold other women accountable for the tiniest perceived difference or slight and often jump to criticize each other.

They have been taught to be indirect and women may hold grudges (men can, too). Women do better to express anger or frustration ONCE – directly to the woman with whom you are upset, without mentioning it to anyone else. Then let go of it. There is healing in speaking our messy embarrassing truths and then forgetting it. It can clear the air.

Women may be so afraid of being criticized as “an honorary man” that they recoil from speaking their truth. We may be so afraid of conflict that we avoid healthy give-and-take.

Co-workers Expect Women To Be More Caring and Nurturing

The other women at a company are not responsible for each other’s happiness and performance on the job just because they, too, are women. Marlene Chism, consultant, national speaker and author, offers several clues that indicate a lack of personal responsibility:

  • Blaming someone or something for one’s unhappiness
  • Gossiping about other people instead of going straight to them
  • Walking on eggshells to keep someone happy
  • Pouting or using the silent treatment

Gossip and calling names is especially harmful. “What might help is a commitment not to believe everything you hear,” says Phyllis Chesler, “but in fact to disbelieve it, especially if it’s something negative about another woman.” Developing the courage to stand up to a gossiper will boost one’s self esteem and standing at work, although it may make you the next target.

Non-sexist Solutions

So how might you apply these principles to dealing with Alicia, Louisa, Patti and Sheila?

Ask Alicia in private, in a diplomatic and calm tone, if you have done something to make her angry. Never assume you know what is going on; always ask for clarification. It may not be about you. On the other hand, you may have unknowingly offended her and need to apologize. Do you treat her with courtesy, appreciation and respect? If the behavior continues even after you try to make peace, ask your manager to review responsibilities and priorities with both of you.

Louisa’s criticism of Patti is especially sad. Listen carefully and you’ll hear how harshly women judge each other’s appearance. If she is violating company dress code, her manager will tell her and it’s none of your business. “Calling another woman a ‘slut,’ ‘crazy,’ ‘difficult,’ and ‘enemy,’ is a way to get her out of the way, punish her, break her spirit, because you envy her,” says Chesler, author of Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman (Nation Books) .

Just because Sheila has a uterus doesn’t mean she has to love everything you suggest. She’s demonstrating her usefulness to your employer. Would you react the same way to a man? Being a team player means releasing your idea for further improvement by the group, so don’t take it personally. Unclench your teeth, thank Sheila for her suggestions and think how you can further improve on her ideas. Pretending to agree with another woman and then voicing disagreement to co-workers is not getting along with others; it is a recipe for endless conflict.

Do You Treat Men and Women Differently?

When Phyllis Chesler conducted interviews for her book Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman, women “mainly talked about how other women had disappointed or betrayed them. Few were able to recall the ways in which they had disappointed or betrayed other women.”

Women thank men for the tiniest things but expect another woman to do everything without being asked and without thanks. Learn to say please and thank you to other women. Treat other women with courtesy, warm ceremony, and make them feel truly appreciated. Be sincere; phony shows through every time.

Watch for nonprofessional behaviors and sexist habits among both men and women in your workplace. Even more important, be alert to your own.

~Dr. Nancy

Have you encountered a book or website that helped you deal with mean behavior by other women? Please let us know in the comments below. We will check it out and post a link for other women to benefit.

Read the Whole Mean Women Series:

  1. Why Are Women So Mean To Other Women?
  2. Manage Your Expectations To Stop Bullying
  3. Manage Your Boundaries | Learn to Stop Bullying
  4. Stop Bullying and Advance Career by Building Professional Skills
  5. Correct Your Own Sexist Attitudes
  6. How to Deal with Indirect Aggression from Other Women
  7. Should You File a Formal Complaint About Abusive Behavior?


Have you encountered a book or website that helped you deal with mean behavior by other women?

Please let us know in the comments below. We will check it out and post a link for other women to benefit.

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