Mean girls in the workplace: how to deal with them

Feb. 14, 2012
Problems with mean girls and bullying don't go away on their own. Lisa Newburger, LISW-S, tells you how to take action.

By Lisa Newburger, LISW-S

You are being bullied on the job. Not only does the bully laugh at you, she gets others to participate in the bullying. These are the mean girls. Their snide remarks drive you nuts. When you had to learn the new sterilization process, she didn’t even give you training for it. All you got were scraps of information from which you were miraculously supposed to glean knowledge. This is serious. It isn’t funny, and it is affecting patient care.

What would happen if you laugh with the bullies? Consider it. This is a serious issue that shouldn’t be taken lightly. It can lead to a decline in your physical and mental health, or even to suicide. Can you really join them? My philosophy has always been to make fun of myself first so that no one else can get a chance. By laughing at some of the things I do, the power is taken away from the mean girls. No one should get to make fun of me unless I get first dibs. Now I know some of you are going to disagree with this, but think about it. A bully is looking for a reaction. Surprise her. Don’t be predictable, and don’t give her the reaction she is expecting.

What are some signs you’re being bullied in the workplace?

There are repeated actions or verbal comments that degrade or humiliate you.There is gossip about you.You feel depressed — You feel sad and flat. You feel that there is no way to turn this around. Perhaps your appetite has changed. You are crying more at home or even at work. You have no energy and just want to go to sleep when you get home from work. Maybe you’re drinking more to medicate this pain. You see no way out.You feel isolated — Your work friends aren’t standing up for you. You’re basically on your own. Are they two-faced? They might be afraid of the bully turning on them. So they either join in to protect themselves or they risk being a target.You’re having health problems — You’re physically sick from this. You have stomach pains and might even need medication to deal with anxiety, high blood pressure, or an ulcer.You do not want to go to work —You may have increased absenteeism because of the bullying.You’ve undergone undeserved disciplinary action.You’ve faced unwarranted criticism and blame.

What can you do about this?

Role-play with a friend outside of work on what you should say to the bully.Address the issue with the bully. Ask the bully why. Try to stop caring what the mean girls say. Confront the bully about how the behavior must stop.Report this behavior to the appropriate person in your dental practice.Go to your doctor. Your health is your No. 1 priority. Tell the doctor what is going on that causes stress in your life. This is the beginning of your own paper trail.Keep a journal. Document time, date, location, who was present, and everything you can remember the bully said, as well as your responses.Keep copies of any disciplinary actions taken. Consult a lawyer regarding HIPAA on this if patients’ names are listed.Get a counselor. Your self-esteem and confidence are being severely affected from this workplace brutality. Remember, someone may be messing with your livelihood. That is pretty serious.Be aware your HR person is not an advocate for you. HR functions as a service of management to protect a dental practice. Do not think that they are there to help you.For more information and help, Google workplace bullying. There is a wealth of resources out there that can benefit you.Get a lawyer. The key is to protect your health and career. I hate to say it, but there are some pretty mean girls out there. When someone feels threatened by your skills, your social standing with the rest of the staff, or some other issue, you need to protect yourself. At times, legal counsel is the right thing to do. I’m not recommending that this would be the first course of action. But the issue of FMLA or taking a leave of absence on workman’s comp should be a reason to consult with a lawyer.Find another job. Most bullying ends with the person quitting or being fired.

I know jobs are not easy to come by. But problems such as bullying and mean girls don’t go away on their own. You have to stand up for yourself. You aren’t being paid enough to be abused. Correction. There is no amount of money worth being abused over. You deserve better. Take action.

Author bio
Lisa Newburger, LISW-S, aka, Diana Directive, provides humorous ways to deal with difficult topics. Check out Heart2Hearts™ Stand Tuff bullying cards at