We know a thing or two about fabulous. Over here at Lioness our days are filled to the brim with badass women who are taking startup land by storm. But we were once young, too, and we know that the catty gossip that used to take place in the little girl’s room, can still be found in some workplaces today.
Not everyone can handle a lioness. People can be intimidated by confident women for all sorts of reasons – particularly their own shortcomings. Here’s how to handle it:
Don’t follow up hate with hate.
Who knows why she is spreading nasty things about you? As our gal pal Truvy in “Steel Magnolias” would say, “Maybe the elastic is shot in her pantyhose!” Don’t fall to a hater’s level. This is a place of business. If it isn’t about the doe, say you don’t want to know. Keep all conversations work-related.
Don’t engage with the messenger.
Now, I know tradition has taught you not to “shoot the messenger,” but common sense (and experience) will show you that the messenger is up to one of a few things: she has nothing better to do but mettle in office mess; she is an instigator and will surely run back to the hater and deliver your rebuttal; or, she is an equal opportunity gossiper and could very well be talking about you next week to someone else. If the messenger starts a conversation with, “do you know what she said about you” … shut it down immediately by saying you don’t want to know.
Be direct and brief.
If a colleague ever attempts to speak to you in a demeaning manner or an unprofessional tone, nip it in the bud immediately. Never allow inappropriate behavior to fester. Instantly follow her/his unflattering statement by asking, “what do you mean by that?” Put the onus back on them to explain their statement. Never assume you know what they mean (even if the snarky little comment is clear as day, let her be the fool to explain it). Here’s an example:
Hater: Kevin worked late last night and you did, too. Interesting.
You: Interesting? What do you mean by that?
Hater: Just that the both of you were working late.
You: And that’s interesting? How so?
Hater: You know … Just that you both were … you know.
You: No. I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking you to clarify what you mean.
Do you see what we did there? Let the hater dig a deeper hole. It forces her to either clarify or apologize and it gives you an example to give if your superiors need to get involved. However, if your hater is not dropping veiled language and is direct in her disrespect, call her out immediately by letting her know that the both of you will be working together for quite some time, and seeing as adults spend the majority of their time at work, it would be beneficial for both of you to get along to the best of your abilities. You do not need to yell, curse or invade her personal space. Say firmly, clearly and seriously: “I will not tolerate your disrespectful behavior” and then walk away because there is nothing further to discuss. You do not need to go and tell your office girlfriend or laugh about it in the lunchroom. That is hater behavior and as lioness’ we do not do this. What was said was for her only, which brings us to our next suggestion:
Be mindful of where and how you check your hater.
The first time you need to be direct and brief, do it with professionalism and in private. If her behavior continues, schedule a meeting with your superior to discuss the situation. Set up that meeting via email and within it make sure to write the purpose of the meeting, explain the first incident and the most recent that is requiring the meeting. Now your co-worker’s behavior has been documented in writing and verbally.
Stunt on them.
Oh, they hate that you get all of the good projects? Too bad. Never apologize for getting rewards and achievements that you have rightfully earned. As women we often think about how we can cater to everyone else while putting our needs and feelings dead last. Repeat this out loud: I DESERVE EVERY GOOD THING THAT COMES MY WAY.
Encourage another woman.
When people see an amazing, in-your-face woman, they forget she wasn’t born that way (well, most of us weren’t. There are Scorpio and Virgo women who came out the womb fierce.) Mentor another woman about the importance of voicing her ideas, taking pride in her work and being a reliable and welcoming colleague.
Keep being f*!&ing fabulous.
The world needs more beautiful, intelligent women to strut around in it. Hiding your awesomeness does no one any good – not even the hater (even though she may think so). Every time a woman dims her shine, it makes the world a little darker for all women everywhere.