Dear Aunty B,
I work in a retail environment, so gossip spreads like wildfire.
There is this girl who is queen of it all. She talks about everyone behind their backs but says nothing to their faces. That’s fine with me. However, my real problem lies with her trying to steal her co-workers’ boyfriends.
She has already succeeded taking one man away and currently she is after mine. Now, I trust my guy and he wants nothing to do with her. But she still won’t stop! Oh, did I mention she already has a boyfriend? She claims that she “doesn’t believe in monogamous relationships”. Gross. Did I also mention that she’s 19? The rest of us are all over 21. I don’t understand her logic in this.
Please help. What can I do to get her to stop?
I’ve had enough!
Dear I’ve had enough,
There is only one thing worse than a bitch in a workplace – that’s people who give that person oxygen.
First of all, understand that this “queen” has deep problems. It may not seem so on the surface, but bitchy people are deeply insecure and jealous. She may have psychological problems and be on medication – who knows. But the best way to cope is by distancing yourself from this aggression and the bad feelings it arouses in you.
Second, recognise the patterns. There are patterns of behaviour here that include gossip, public ridicule, exclusion and fuelling rumours. This is described in the US as “middle school” behaviour and can be very disruptive in the workplace.
The best way to deal with this behaviour is to stop it before it becomes entrenched in the culture. Unfortunately, dealing with this can be hard as people who practise this behaviour over time are often unconscious they are even doing it because it has become a habit.
Third, your boss needs to step in. When you talk to your boss, do not include all that boyfriend stuff, which is irrelevant to the workplace. (Why does she even know your boyfriend?) Stick to the facts and don’t use those emotive, nasty words (which we took out of your email).
What you want to say in a very calm way and in one minute is this: You love the retail environment, enjoy the job, get on with everyone, but there is a problem with a member of staff who is using patterns of behaviour such as gossip, public ridicule, exclusion and rumours to make other staff members feel very uncomfortable.
Do not raise your voice or carry on like a middle school dropout. And don’t labour the point. State your case and ask the boss the best way to deal with it – which is office speak for “boss, you deal with it”.
Fourth, it is entirely possible to work with a person in a professional way but not deal with them at all. You are polite, professional and always include them. But you don’t mix with them, you don’t share anything with them and if they try to involve you in bitchy discussions you have one answer: “I’ve got some work to do.” And you walk away. That’s it. No oxygen, no fire.
Your Aunty B
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