How to Handle a Mean Girl at Work

Courtesy of ParamountCourtesy of ParamountAmanda MacMillan, SELF magazine

Not to perpetuate stereotypes or anything, but like who hasn't dealt with that one woman (or multiple women) at work who makes things really difficult? You know the one: She serves up backhanded compliments, intentionally leaves you out of meetings, gossips behind your back and is basically the professional embodiment of Regina George. (She may even tell you to wear pink on Wednesdays.)

So in an effort to help those working with an, ahem, not-so-nice chick, authors and career experts Kathi Elster and Katherine Crowley penned Mean Girls at Work: How to Stay Professional When Things Get Personal, which just hit shelves this month.

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"Women really are programmed to compete a little more covertly and aggressively than men," Elster and Crowley told SELF, "and now that we're 50 percent of the workforce we're bound to encounter some of that competition." In the book, they highlight the seven different kids of "mean" and offer ways you can keep your head high and your career afloat. Here, their top five tips.

1. Do Not Take Everything Personally.
If someone gives us a dirty look or cuts us out of a group, we tend to take it personally and think that it's a personal attack. But you don't know what's going on with her--she could be having a bad day or dealing with something that may have nothing to do with you.

2. Fight the Urge to Counterattack. If you suspect you've been attacked by a mean girl, resist the urge to strike back! We tend to roll our eyes, or badmouth her to a friend, or defriend her on Facebook, but that all just propels the power struggle between the two of you.

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3. Focus on the Actual Job at Hand. Look for a way to solve the problem, whatever it is, professionally--without getting into a personal battle. If a female coworker cuts you out of a meeting, instead of yelling at her and accusing her of being jealous or out for your job, go with just the facts. Approach her at work and say, "It may not have been your intention, but in the future please be more careful to include me."

4. Keep Your Distance. If there's a truly mean girl in your midst--the kind who is cold and aggressive to everyone, who's a ruthless competitor, and who you've seen bring down other women, you may try to befriend her or show her you're not a threat. But keep your defenses up, and never fall for the illusion that she's on your side. If all else fails, steer clear from her as much as possible, and don't let your relationship stray into personal territory.

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5. Don't Flaunt (Too Much). This may help you with the kind of woman that brings out the mean in others. You should never be someone you're not, but bragging or showing off your superstar qualities too much (whether it's by constantly mentioning your Employee of the Month award or just wearing tight, revealing clothes) will likely make you a target for other women in the office.
And remember...it's only a job.

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