For years, women have fought for the right to be treated equally in the workplace. Having made great strides in this arena, many professional women now find that the greatest problem they face in the workplace is not men, but other women. Catty behaviors such as gossiping, backstabbing and sabotaging can turn an otherwise pleasant workplace into a place of misery and petty evils. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and emotionally disengage from the situation.
Change the way you view the women who are being catty and mean. Women who oppress other women are doing so out of self-hatred, according to authors Dr. Erika Holiday and Dr. Joan Rosenberg in the book, "Mean Girls, Meaner Women: Understanding Why Women Backstab, Betray and Trash-Talk Each Other." Women who have a strong sense of self are less likely to treat other women poorly. When you can view the mean women in your work environment as people who are suffering, it makes it easier to bear their insults and other rude behaviors.
Confront catty behavior directly. For example, if you overhear someone talking about you in the bathroom, walk up to the person later and let her know that you heard her remarks and believe it is a good idea to discuss the problem. Never lower yourself to playing a catwoman's games.
Document behavior that is abusive or that is preventing you from reaching your potential at work. Examples of behaviors to document include sabotage and name-calling. Write down the dates and details, and discuss the incidents with your supervisor.
Take the initiative at work. Many catty women spend time competing for promotions and job perks by denigrating other women or actively standing in their way. To avoid becoming caught up in this game, do your job to the best of your ability, and look for opportunities that aren't clearly advertised -- and thus competed for. Consider asking your boss for permission to present at a professional conference that hasn't been on your catty colleagues' radar, for example.
Take care of yourself. Holiday and Rosenberg point out that victims of this sort of aggression often experience depression and anxiety. Take time out of your day to engage in activities that nurture yourself, and spend time with friends who affirm your value as a human being.
- Mean Girls, Meaner Women -- Understanding Why Women Backstab, Betray and Trash-Talk Each Other: Dr. Erika Holiday and Dr. Joan Rosenberg
- Good Morning America: Do Working Women Keep Each Other Down?
- Work on your own self-confidence. When you feel confident, the petty games and manipulations of such women will appear laughable.
- Never participate in gossip, no matter how enraged you become at how another woman has treated you. Gossip is unprofessional and usually backfires, creating an even worse situation.
Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.