The eight types of bitchy colleague – and how to deal with them
BITCHY women in the workplace who play emotional and tormenting games are responsible for high levels of stress and sickness among their female colleagues.
Meredith Fuller, author of new book Working With Bitches and a psychologist for more than 30 years, said her clients commonly complained about other women in the workforce who used schoolyard-style bullying and exclusion tactics to get their way at work.
Dr Fuller, who then researched the subject by interviewing women from Australia and the US, found workplace “bitches” could be classified into eight main categories (scroll down to see a list below).
“Think about school where you observed who’s the ‘in group’, who’s the ‘out group’, girls who would refuse to speak to other girls, taunts, giggling, raising eyebrows, body language,” Dr Fuller said.
“We thought we’d left all that behind when we were children, then here we are at work and all that stuff about envy and nastiness is coming up again.”
Dr Fuller said the problem was becoming worse in a more uncertain and competitive job market. When some women see female colleagues succeeding at work they feel threatened – particularly if their colleague is good at something they’re not – and respond with “bitchy” tactics.
“There are heaps of decent, supportive, emotionally intelligent women who do look out for each other, mentor and coach others,” Dr Fuller said.
“(But for others) instead of saying; ‘What can I learn about how that woman transacts herself so I can develop my deficit?’ they like to actually destroy it.
“They think ‘I want to destroy what makes me uncomfortable, that about her makes me uncomfortable so I’m going to destroy her’.”
These “bitchy” women can be driven by perfectionism, anxiety, a sense of not feeling good enough, a sense of anger or a sense of a sense of entitlement, Dr Fuller said.
The eight types of workplace bitches—and how to handle them (from Working With Bitches):
The Excluder sees other women as oxygen thieves if there is no personal gain from communicating with them. She can pretend you don’t exist and fail to pass on important information.
The solution: Don’t chase after her. The more you dance after her, the more she ignores you. You will be able to get minimum required communication by discussing the problem with a more senior manager. Make sure you obtain necessary information from any other sources.
The Insecure micromanages everyone, trusts no one, and thinks that no one knows better than she does.
The solution: She is usually anxious and worried; this drives her perfectionism. She needs regular updates to allay her fears, so keep her updated before she chases you. Keep your work and desk tidy to get her off your back. Determine the type of outcomes needed, and reassure deadlines/delivery/quality standard/success. Get up as soon as she strides over to your desk so that you can speak with her without her peering over your shoulder at your computer.
She has to nit pick, so the fewer criticisms the better and consider that as praise. Make sure you have colleagues or friends to give you feedback about how well you did on the project.
The Toxic is a two-faced game-player who should never be trusted. She’ll suck up to you and be your best friend one minute, then gossip about you the next.
The solution: Keep your distance figuratively and literally. Physical closeness makes it easier for her to slime you, vampire your energy, and irritate you with her blackness. Refuse to gossip, refuse to let her whisper or mutter ambiguous statements, and call her on them.
The Narcissist is a self-serving ego-centric mean girl who expects everyone to admire her. She doesn’t care about the good of the company, only about looking good, and expects you to feed her ego.
The solution: Don’t expect much, if anything. If you need her buy-in on a project she needs to think it will be a feather in her cap, or an opportunity to bathe in the light. If she is denied applause and attention, she will sulk and turn belligerent and de-motivated. Never become a handmaiden by doing personal favours or odd-jobs such as minding her animals, or covering for yet another manicure trip when she is supposed to be at a meeting. If you notice something about her (such as fabulous shoes) before you start the task with her, she is less likely to resist. Things will take longer, so allocate a little more time when working with her.
The Screamer cries for attention, yells to intimidate, screams to insult, and then yells some more for good measure.
The solution: Two year olds in supermarkets do this. Notice the smart parents who stand away from the flailing limbs, breathe deeply, wait, or comfortably refuse to engage. There is no point trying to outscream her – she has more practice. If your organisation is OK for you to say “I’ll come back when you are calmer”, leave. Humour may defuse the situation. Keep your distance and stay close to a doorway – don’t allow her to box you in. Also check – is she rude and unaware? Some screamers have never been told about their unacceptable behaviour (because people are too afraid; they assume she must have been told but it doesn’t work; or she has slipped through performance review cracks for so long it doesn’t seem worth it.) Sometimes, kind feeback can help. Remember, that level of anger usually hides hurt or resentment.
The Liar has mastered the art of excuses, quick fibs, and charming manipulations.
The solution: Never trust them. Never be alone with them – they will twist whatever is said or done. They like the game, and usually escalate it. At some point they will have to go, but you may not wish to wait them out if you report directly to them.
The Incompetent lacks knowledge, work ethic, and awareness. She makes you do the work for her or takes credit for your work in order to make herself look good.
The solution: Her arrogance may be defensiveness or she simply may not know what she doesn’t know. She will be suspicious that any information or advice from you is to show her up or is a challenge rather than support, so get it across from neutral sources.
The Not-a-Bitch may have an unfortunate or disagreeable manner, but is just trying to do her job.
The solution: Look at your own behaviour – don’t project your laziness, tardiness, lack of attention, or lack of manners onto her. Learn from her.