“Mean Girl” syndrome in the workplace

“I want to be respected!!”  I often hear that from women at work, yet women often don’t respect each other or even themselves.  Lack of respect leads to ”Mean Girl Syndrome,” where women sabotage other women’s progress in the workplace, undermining the respect we have earned. Here is an example:

Womanl 1:  “How surprising to see Heather getting that promotion. I wonder why management thought she was the right person for it. I certainly know the project better, I have been on it for 5 years. “
Woman 2: ”I wonder who she knows or what she did. She’s only been with the company for one year”
Woman 1:  “And I heard from others that she is not good with people, so why did they choose her?”

Let’s see what is really going on, why we behave this way, what we can do to stop the sabotage, and how we can embrace relationships that encourage respect and success.

Be aware of the problem and thoughts you have toward other women.
If you ask a full room of women to raise their hand if they have been either backstabbed by another woman or felt completely disempowered.  All hands will rise. Ask the same women to raise their hands if they have backstabbed or disempowered another woman. No hands rise…    Too often we are unaware of our thinking and actions toward others.. If I want respect for myself, then I need to act with respect toward others first.

When you have negative thoughts, identify the real emotions behind them; jealousy, anger, resentment, fear…
Stop a moment and ask yourself what is really bothering you. Deal with the real issue and be honest.. If you need help to sort it out, find someone outside the company who can help you clarify your feelings (a coach is a great tool).  But if you just lash out, it always boomerangs causing others to see you as a trouble maker or untrustworthy. Be an observer of your thoughts; stop them before they drag you to the ugly side.  Substitute positive thoughts. When you hear someone trashing another woman, stand up for her, because one day you will need other women to stand up for you.

When you know something is wrong, don’t ignore it hoping it will go away.  Untreated conflicts only feed anger and resentment. Instead, approach the person with a solution by focusing on the future and don’t dwell on the past, or what has been said or done.  Be firm and gracious about what you want the future to look like and how you can both get there. By doing this, you remove the drama and you position yourself as a leader.

Apologize if you have in any way disempowered other women.
Even if we didn’t raise our hand earlier, we all have spoken meanly or had unpleasant thoughts about other women. Now is the time to change this behavior. When you surprise yourself by saying something disempowering, apologize right away.

Congratulate and motivate other women.
Be their mentor. Ask to be their mentee. Be a cheerleader for the women’s team.  Show respect and excitement when a woman is promoted.  It means that she is blazing a path for you and other women. Be truly happy for them.  Meet with them and learn what they did to earn the success. Other women will want to learn from you too – be open to them and become a mentor.

Do you have what you need for the position you seek?
While wondering why you did not get a promotion, ask yourself if you had all the skills and experience required. Ask for a review from your boss/colleagues/mentors to identify which additional experience and skills you need for the next promotion.  Fill the gaps that you collectively identify.

Be your own promoter. Advocate your skills and your qualities.
You are uniquely qualified to express what you want to do and how well you can do it, for the company.  Build your own business case. Put yourself up for the challenge, and don’t put others down.  By being positive, you will create more positive situations around you.

Treat and respect others the way you want to be treated and respected.  As Gandhi said: “Be the change you want to see.”