Reality TV has crafted an a multi-million dollar industry out of women’s willingness to be nasty to each other. The Real Housewives franchise could actually be called the Toxic Women of their respective cities. Love & Hip Hop, Mob Wives and numerous others, take the woman on woman viciousness to alarmingly low, lows, often with women going as far as physically fighting. Perhaps reflective of reality, the nice girls are often quickly booted from these shows and the toxic women reign supreme, skyrocketing ratings and carving out lucrative cottage industries.
We’ve perhaps all experienced it at some point or another, the mean girl. It seems to transcend race, culture and geographical boundaries, the nasty factor between some women. As early as elementary school, in group dynamics, you can find the bully mean girl. She isn’t sugar & spice or anything remotely nice, she is mean and proud of it, happily spreading her mean girl venom, usually demeaning, degrading and devaluing other women in the process.
Why do some women behave like this? I’ve wondered, were they not hugged enough as a child or does it stem from deep-seated insecurity. Can’t a group of women all get along? Is that asking for too much? Why these women’s behaviors are often celebrated instead of being shunned? How exactly are you suppose to deal with them?
Attack Of The Wicked Postmistress
This week, I’ve had a cornucopia of Toxic Women. I run an e-commerce business and have a clothing line. As such, trips to the post office have practically become everyday life. If it were a Disney Movie, she would be cast as The Wicked Postmistress. The woman is perpetually mad at the world. I can’t recall ever seeing her smile. She hisses at employees and her presence creates a typhoon of tension, sucking every ounce of happiness out of the already tedious experience.
Customers are not spared from her venom either. She seems to employ two strategies, the passive aggressive dig or the blatantly rude maneuver. If she doesn’t like a customer, which really doesn’t require much, her passive aggressive move is the take as long as humanely possible to tend to their service. The pace with which she moves makes molasses going uphill look swift. For more assertive customers, she reserves her blatantly rude maneuver. She is nasty and committed to getting you to join her.
After successfully avoiding her for months, this week I had the privilege of being on the receiving end of her blatantly rude maneuvers. She was screaming in the post office, about my packaging choices. It was similar to a 3-year-old having a temper tantrum. I didn’t even know how or what to respond. Emily Post seems to have forgotten to include dealing with the rude postmistress in her etiquette hand book. I stood silently, completed my transaction. Not to be voiceless in the situation, like most millennial’s, I took to Facebook, which I am sure she doesn’t even use, and reposted a sassy little card. Which lead to the second toxic woman attack of the week.
The Battlefield of The Internet, Facebook Wars & E-Mail Gangsters
The marvelous thing about Facebook, is that people have the remarkable ability to personalize things and assume that everything that is posted in some how about them. Most of the millennial social warfare is fought on the battleground of the internet. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are the modern battlefields. Cyber bullying is at an all time high and there is an entire new generation of e-mail gangsters.
Fresh on the heels of my Facebook Postmistress post, I was greeted by a 1,458 word assault. Red text, bold fonts, all cap locks and lists – both numbered and alphabetical, from a woman who is hardly even an associate that assumed my posts were in reference to her. I must confess, I didn’t even bother spending the time to read it closely. In essence, it was her ode or justification for why she hates three of the four women she felt compelled to include on the e-mail. It was nasty and venomous. After I scanned it quickly, I wondered why anybody would send something like this in this day and age where information is disseminated so quickly. Better yet, why is this woman filled with so much hatred?
Is This A Friendship Or A Combat Zone?
In recent years, I’ve had a casual relationship with a group of women, whose bonds have various origins and shelf lives. For years, conflict has been a constant companion for the group. While some have been mild assaults, others have been covert whispers behind each other backs, and the biggest ones, Vietnam worthy grenades. Move over Mob Wives, the sender of the e-mail once went as far as to tell another women in the group that ‘she finds her men in the gutter.’ Why are some women like this?
What was more alarming was the general consensus among the women, to not address the nasty behavior, but to maintain some sort of separate but equal friendship. As e-mails, text messages and phone calls were traded, none of these professional women seemed to register any disgust for this woman’s behavior. I remember hanging up the phone after her ridiculously inconsiderate early morning phone call to share her hatred for this other woman and thinking who says these things to another human being? She had crafted out of niche for herself of being what I call the nice nasty, super nice to some people and unbelievably nasty to others. Not surprisingly, she had numerous conflicts with people and the ‘friendship’ seesaw was quickly starting to gain more players on the unbelievably nasty side as her conflict with other women in the group waged.
The tensions have escalated to the point, where it could best be described as factions, with so much animus they are unable share square footage, loyalty being ever so frail and fickle, must constantly be proven within the rest of the group. Having been told I was the issue in preventing the resolution of their continuous conflicts, I attempted to hang a white flag in the hopes of getting the peace process going.
Apparently I was imbued with so much power as to prevent adult women from communicating. The responsibility felt daunting, more arduous than the challenges of running a start up. Perhaps, with the deluded optimism that many entrepreneurs hold, I felt compelled to find something optimistic about it, maybe the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow would be that these women would at least be able to share a common space and jointly participate in the other women’s joyous occasions without waging World War III, because after all, aren’t we all suppose to be ‘friends.’
Like many pacifists before me, I was slaughtered, annihilated, it was a quick and swift death by e-mail, 1,458 words of her undying and endless commitment to hatred. Had it been actual bullets, I perhaps would have joined a special group of martyrs, dying while fighting the cause of Women Getting Along. Team Nice Girl Zero, Team Mean Girl 1, I thought. Frankly, I wasn’t sure what to think and felt a, overwhelming sense of embarrassment that I had ever closely associated with this person. While it certainly was offensive, I felt a sense of pity for her and all these toxic women who live with such hatred.
Her digital temper tantrum got way more attention that it deserved from the other women. Not surprising she was able to a defender, as always it was everybody else’s fault. It’s the sort of sentiment that comes from people who own wild animals as house pets and blame guest when they are mauled. Having listened to the women who were disgusted try to analyze process, figure out her behavior and forge new alliances. I was left with two fundamental questions, 1) Why are some women so nasty to other women? 2) How do you manage these toxic women in professional settings? The first question, it would probably take a PhD and years of clinical studies to come remotely close to being able to asess. The second question however, I can have a go at.
3 Tips For Coping With Toxic Women In The Workplace
If you have the misfortune of being stuck with a toxic co-worker, try to limit your communication as much as possible to e-mail. If she is preventing you from executing your job responsibilities, create a file and document all the incidents. Try to make sure that you are able to substantiate your claims, with dates and other evidence if there is work sabotage happening.
If the situation is escalating, document them and notify HR. If you are in a small company without a HR department, notify a person in authority. Depending on your company, they may try to adopt different methods of resolving the issue. If the situation fails to improve, then make them aware that it is escalating.
Toxic Women usually try to elicit a response. They are usually aggressive and seek a verbal altercation or passive aggressive and doing subtly nasty things to elicit a response, then play innocent. As much as possible, try your best to be nice and avoid one on one interaction with them. Keep things pleasant and ensure that you are always polite in your interactions with Toxic Women.
The worse thing you could possibly do is have a Toxic Woman succeed in eliciting a negative response from you. Toxic Women relish in provoking other women, especially the passive aggressive ones, then sit back and play blameless when their behavior has been highlighted.
Be A Champion Of Women
Every Woman is flawed; however, there is beauty to be found in all of us. Everybody’s life is filled with challenges. As far as possible try to be nice and find the good in people, strive to get along with everybody you encounter, especially in a professional setting. If you have the misfortune of encountering a toxic woman in your workplace, remember to document everything, notify HR and play nice.
Be the change you want to see in the world and lift, not push down, other women as you climb the corporate ladder.