How to Deal with a Mean Girl Clique at Work

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Cliques are prevalent in workplaces everywhere. There are a wide variety of work cliques: the management clique, the nerd clique, the introverted clique, the parents clique. But the worst clique of all is the mean girl clique, an iniquitous group of women who are still stuck in that high school mentality of gossiping, backstabbing and insulting others they deem "uncool." 

Although these mean girl qualities may be viewed by the culprits as being empowered as opposed to being submissive, it’s actually quite disheartening that such people exist in the workforce. With all of the challenges that face the 21st century white collar worker, this kind of behavior is uncalled for and only contributes to the toxicity of offices. It’s also immature. 

Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster, authors of the best-selling book “Working with You is Killing Me," have come up with a list of the different types of so-called mean girls: 

  • Ice Princess: sees all women as potential enemies. 
  • Very Mean: is constantly obsessed with gossip. 
  • Doesn’t Mean to be Mean: spreads gossip instead of doing her job. 
  • Brings Out Your Mean: she talks all the time and thinks she’s better than everyone. 
  • Group Mean: a mean girl clique that excludes and gossips. 

Sometimes it can be hard for a novice employee or a seasoned worker to deal with the constant eye rolls, the gum chomping and attitude that mean girl cliques exude. At times, you just want to drench their head in a toilet or pour a laxative in their $10 Starbucks lattes. Unfortunately, you can’t do that. You just have to bear it and hope that managers will see that these mean girls shouldn’t even be working at the firm. That won’t happen though for reasons we shan’t discuss. 

If you are sitting next to a mean girl clique at work or having to be near them during your coffee breaks and you’re unsure how to deal with them? Then here are 10 ways to deal with a mean girl clique at work (and think back to the time of the dreaded high school days):

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1. Bring their meanness to their attention

Sometimes, a person who is being mean may not have the intention of being uncouth. As many of us can attest to, we come across people on a daily basis that are just plain rude, though they may be ignorant of their behavior due to a variety of reasons.  

If a mean girl is insulting people, saying rude things or laughing at other’s misfortunes, you should bring it to their attention and present the case that it isn’t something that’s nice or funny. If you do this in front of at least two other people then she, or the group of mean girls, may be humbled. Remember, mean girl cliques hate being confronted about how they poorly act.

2. Transfer to another department

Indeed, being in the presence of mean girl cliques for eight hours, five times a week can be nauseating, frustrating and hair pulling! No matter what you do or no matter what managers say, the mean girl clique persists and there is no disbanding in your near future. Perhaps it’s time to ask your superiors if you can switch to another part of the room, transfer to another department or change your working hours. Anything that can minimize your contact with these people. 

3. The power of false innocence and hearing

This has likely happened to you: you’re a few feet away from the mean girl clique, who are standing at a corner and shooting off glances in your direction. They whisper something to each other and then you interject with a smile and ask, "I’m sorry. I couldn’t hear you. Could you repeat that please?" Since mean girls are cowards, they’ll simply come up with a flimsy excuse and say as they twirl their hair chewing gum, "Oh, like, nothing. I was, like, just talking about, like, work stuff." Ugh.

4. When you're smiling...

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As the old Louis Prima song goes: "when you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you." 

Every time you are near this mean girls clique, you should always smile at them, greet them and even send a compliment their direction. Mean people hate kindness, it’s their own kryptonite. A mean person can melt away by the simplest acts of generosity and politeness. If you do this then they may perform a bout of introspection and get their behavior in order. Though it’s very unlikely.

5. Find support and vent your frustrations

There is no doubt that dealing with a mean girl clique can be very frustrating. You bottle up your anger because you think no one else will feel the same as you do. Even if that’s the case, you should find support in the office - a colleague, your supervisor or even the human resources department - and vent your frustrations. Indeed, just letting something off your chest can do wonders.

6. Strong organisation leadership at another office

If you’re just starting your career search or you’re looking for a new job, you should find a business that maintains strong, smart and professional leadership. If the business you work at has this type of organizational leadership then these kind of mean girl cliques would be cut off at the source and refrain from having such employees on its payroll. 

7. Exercise to release stress

As you sit at your desk listening to the inane banter of the mean girls, you imagine punching them right in the face or tripping them as they walk by. Don’t act on this impulse! Instead, go to the gym and exercise to release this level of stress and frustration. Better yet, buy a punching bag for your home and start to beat it up picturing these mean girls! You’ll feel so much better. 

8. Improve your work-life balance

If your personal life mostly consists of going home to your significant other and complaining to him incessantly about how much you hate your mean girl co-workers then it’s time to improve your work-life balance. Rather than prattling on and on about the daily acts of these women, take a yoga class, play backgammon or join a boot camp. Just do something other than complain! 

9. A very minor prank

Nothing may be more humbling to a very mean person than a tiny prank. This could consist of a number of things, like using a can of plastic snakes, applying glue to their keyboards or pouring a tablespoon of their laxative in their cups of coffee. Anything that may embarrass them may improve the situation. They’ll either quit or become a better person.

10. Understand their insecurities

Ok, this may be hard to do, and it will take a degree of maturity, civility and wisdom: be understanding of their insecurities. Mean girl cliques form because each of them has their own insecurities, they want to compete with other women but want to be friends with them at the same time and they are perhaps envious of other female colleagues. We all have some level of quirks and foibles, but mean girls don’t want to have any sort of imperfection. They want to be perfect, and if they can’t they’ll take it out on their colleagues. It’s just like high school! 

When we think of the term "mean girls," we immediately conjure up scenes from the blockbuster motion picture "Mean Girls" from a few years ago that starred the then-sane Lindsey Lohan. Although the picture may have elicited some chuckles, the depiction of these characters aren’t entirely far-fetched. What’s worse is that these kinds of girls have infiltrated the workforce! Oh, no! Mean girl cliques are as bad as working Friday nights, sitting next to someone with the flu in the lunchroom and having that world famous 2 o’clock feeling. It seems like no matter what you do, they are constantly in your head and you just want them eviscerated and out of your life completely. Well, that won’t happen so you’ll have to find ways to deal with them. It’s tough, but so are a lot of things in this world.  Have you ever had to deal with a mean girl clique either at work or at school? Let us know in the comments section below