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Monday, December 17, 2018

You’re a Mean One, Missy Grinch!

You’ve likely heard the phrase about the aggressive workplace worker who is willing to do most anything to climb the corporate ladder. These folks are ready to “claw their way to the top.” The McGraw Hill Dictionary of American Idioms explains this means “to climb to the most prestigious level of something ruthlessly.” Giving humor to this out-of-control behavior is the excellent resource by Dave Barry, Claw Your Way to the Top : How to Become the Head of a Major Corporation in Roughly a Week.

Knowing the almost inherent competitive nature of men, we might expect more rough and tumble workplace behavior from the guys. But not so fast. A recent blog from discusses many young women find a toxic atmosphere when they enter the workplace. “Very often, this atmosphere is created by fellow women.”

Adrenna Alkhas was interviewed for this blog article titled, “Women in the Workplace—Preventing a Toxic Work Environment.” Adrenna is the author of the new book, EmPOWher and is a strong advocate for inspiring young girls toward leadership in their communities. By day, she is a marketing and communication director and she lectures at her local community college. Her marketing strategies and tactics have been widely noted. Recently, she was named "Publicist of the Year" by PR News.

Adrenna describes several of the more troubling attitudes and behaviors some women act out in the workplace. This includes gossiping about each other, playing into their insecurities, and allowing jealousy to take hold. She believes women tend to “over think things” and jump to conclusions quicker.

A few years ago, the USA Today ran a story titled, “At Work: Beware of the Mean Girls in the Workplace.” This writer echoes the sentiment that “You would think that most women want to help their female colleagues succeed. After all, they know better than anyone how hard it is to get where they've gotten. But that's not necessarily the case.”

This article cites the findings of Katherine Crowly and Kathi Elster in their book, Mean Girls at Work: How to Stay Professional when Things Get Personal. They call out several types of “mean girl behaviors” saying, at their worst, mean girls and women can often be vicious, cruel, and vengeful. This shows up when “they act like workplace bullies, say cruel things that make other women cry or become jealous of anyone else's success.”

From the authors' perspective, woman-to-woman relationships are naturally intense. They write, “The biological imperative that compels women to 'tend and befriend' can generate amazing friendships and incredibly productive work teams. But women are complicated. They want to be kind and nurturing but "we struggle with our darker side—feelings of jealousy, envy, and competition."

It is their perception that men tend to jockey for position more overtly while women compete more covertly. The passively mean girl thinks in terms of “being nice.” Instead, her competitive drive brings out passive-aggressive behavior.

Adding one more symptomatic warning, the authors write, “If you're dealing with a woman who ‘accidentally’ forgets to invite you to important meetings, is friendly one day and cold the next, praises you in public then puts you down in private, you may have a mean girl situation on your hands.”

Harvard Business Review added to this discussion as well. Their 2009 article is titled, “How to Stop 'Mean Girls' in the Workplace.” Concerns raised here about workplace bullying are how it affects the bottom line, including “affecting productivity, wellness (with subsequent rise in employer benefit costs), attrition, attraction and retention.” They spell out specific dangers from woman-on-woman bullying.

From personal experience, I’ve heard women comment about the “cattiness” of other women in the workplace. I do believe women take this offensive behavior quite personally. And it’s disruptive.

Often, people of faith refer to the “godly woman” described in Proverbs 31. Of particular note, “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” (Proverbs 31:26, ESV)

This Christmas, let’s ask Mr. Claus to send more of that spirit of wisdom and kindness. And a whole lot less of Missy Grinch.

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