How to Deal With Mean Girls in Adulthood

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Mean girl behavior does not end in high school. In fact, adult mean girls are found just about everywhere you go. They can be seen standing on the sidelines of youth sporting events, participating in parenting circles or moms' groups, leading volunteer organizations and holding key jobs in the workplace.

Their primary focus is to make your life miserable. They are manipulative and sometimes narcissistic and their goal is to have complete control over others around them.

Adult Mean Girl Behavior

Typically, adult mean girls use relational aggression such as verbal bullying, gossiping, spreading rumors, name-calling, ostracizing, and general bullying to demean, intimidate and harass their targets.

Sometimes, other women will even join in the attacks. Other times, they remain silent bystanders or go along with the bullying. When this happens, it only magnifies the feelings of helplessness and insecurity that victims feel. 

How to Deal With Mean Girls

If these mean behaviors sound like something you are experiencing, check out these seven tips for dealing with and confronting adult mean girls.

Be Confident

Mean girls have the uncanny ability to discern whom they can control and manipulate. So no matter what they do, be sure you smile, stay strong, and remain professional. Avoid looking nervous, insecure or defeated.

Mean girls are less likely to try their tactics on you again if you remain confident and in control.

Keep your chin up and do not give in to the pressure to crumble or cry. They are looking for weakness and when they find it, they will exploit it.

Recognize What Is Controllable

Remember, you have no control over what other people say or do. But, you do have control over your response. Remain professional, no matter what an adult mean girl says or does. Keep your responses free of emotion and anger.

And if you cannot respond in a calm manner, simply walk away. Then, brainstorm how to deal with the situation in the future. Be prepared if there is another attack.

Stand up for Yourself

Learn how to be assertive and self-confident. If you lack these skills, take classes or read books on how to improve your confidence and self-esteem. Defend yourself in a respectful manner without being aggressive or mean in return.

For instance, be clear that this woman’s remarks and bullying tactics are unprofessional and will not be tolerated. Indicate that you plan to report any further abuse.

Remember, mean girls count on you being passive about their behavior. Show them that they made a mistake in targeting you and they will learn to leave you alone.

Continue to Work Hard

If you have a workplace bully, do not allow her behavior to derail you at work. For instance, do not spend time firing off e-mails or talking with other co-workers about what is happening. Doing so creates drama and gives the mean girl exactly what she wants. 

Instead, focus on continuing to produce high-quality work. Do not allow the turmoil caused by another’s actions to cause you to fall behind on projects.

Find Healthy Ways of Coping

Dealing with an office mean girl can be stressful. As a result, you may find that exercise, journaling or a new hobby will help you manage the stress. Other coping options include volunteering, religious practices such as praying and finding additional social opportunities.

Whatever you choose, be sure you are able to release stress, forget about work, and relax. Doing so will go a long way in keeping you mentally and physically healthy.

Disengage From the Conversation

If you are a bystander to mean girl behavior, excuse yourself from a rumor-filled conversation by indicating you have to make a telephone call or that you have a meeting. If you provide an audience for mean girl gossip, you will continue to be sought out.

One way to stop a mean girl is to take away her audience. Help put an end to her behavior by not participating.

It is also important to report unjust behavior to a supervisor. You also can offer to befriend the person being targeted.

Report the Behavior

Do not allow the bullying to go on for too long. Contact human resources or your supervisor. It’s also a good idea to keep a record of all the bullying incidents including dates, times and witnesses. Keep all electronic correspondence, especially if the office mean girl is a workplace cyberbully. 

When you do report the behavior, be sure to remain calm and stick to the facts. Avoid being emotional or calling the mean girl names. Getting emotional may cause your supervisor to focus on your feelings rather than on the issue at hand.

A Word From Verywell

Remember, dealing with mean girl behavior can be exhausting. If you feel emotionally drained, depressed or anxious, contact a counselor right away. If you do not have a counselor to call, ask your doctor for a recommendation.

But, it is never a good idea to ignore the effects of bullying. You need to address mean girl behavior immediately before it takes its toll on you. 

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