Career Woman

How to beat the ‘Mean Girl’ syndrome


When Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin belted out “sisters are doin’ it for themselves” they were talking about women being able to do whatever they set their mind to.

Twenty years later, we are seeing women doing things our grandmothers would never have dreamed of. Starting business empires. Working in formerly male dominated industries. Working and raising a family.

Yet, there is a dark undertone to our achievements. A nastiness that pervades the comradery of sisters doin’ it for themselves. You see in Facebook groups, in workplaces and in the media. It often happens when one woman is achieving or succeeding publicly and extraordinarily.

I am talking about the mean girl (now days, we’d call her a troll). The one that has to cut other women down, to point out others flaws, to say horrible things, backstab, and just generally be unsupportive and nasty.

In this social world we have created, with our lives being played out online, it is not surprising that many women are afraid or reticent to share their accomplishments.

Before we get to how we can better support each other, let’s look at why some women are mean. Why women are the worst enemies to other women.

  1. Projection

There are things we don’t like about ourselves and nasty women often project these icky parts onto others – fear, jealousy, resentment, lack of self-esteem and rage.

  1. People skills – or lack thereof.

Sometimes people think they have the right to say what they think when they think it, not realising they are being horrible.

  1. Because they can

Then there are the people who do it because they can get away with it; no one calls them out for their bad behaviour. These are the true bullies and like to attack those who they feel as less powerful than them because they believe the world revolves around them. Otherwise known as narcissist.

How can we better support each other in the small business space? To come to place where it is about collaboration, not competition. I am not saying we all have to get along all the time but there has to be a line where as a group, we better back each other up. Life is hard enough without not having each other’s back.

Here are few ideas on how we can show solidarity and support for each other:

  1. Call out the mean girl

In sociology, watching something bad happen to another person is called bystander apathy. It is even easier to do in this age of social media. When you sit back and watch another woman be mean to another, you are condoning their actions. Instead, say something. It doesn’t have to be confrontational but just let the mean girl know she’s been caught.

  1. Celebrate others’ successes

When you see another woman post about her media win, award win or any other accomplishment, congratulate her. You know how hard it is to make it in business, so share the love and pat another sister on the back when she is kicking goals.

  1. Be supportive

How about we all try this for a day – pick a woman you admire on social media or from afar and compliment her on something. It can be anything – a talk she gave, a new product she launched, a comment she made … anything – just say it with love in your heart and the spirit of giving.

  1. Lead by example

How are our daughters (or daughters of our friends) meant to learn how to be nice people if we don’t embody the qualities we want them to display? Ghandi said ‘be the change you want in the world.” In this care, it starts with our young women. Show them how we should be treating each other.

  1. Law of reciprocity

Give for the sake of giving, without the expectation of return. How many times have struggled in your business and would have loved someone to share knowledge or a tip on how to do things better. The world would be a better place if we teamed up to help each move forward by sharing what we know.

There is not a lot we can do about the mean girl; she has her own demons to face but we can better support and empower each other. We win when we work together – this how we have achieved some monumental moments in history. It’s time to step up.

About Nicole van Hattem

Nicole van Hattem comes from a high stakes corporate environment and now works with women help them survive the nine to five.

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