Difficult Work Relationships


One of the great things about being a homemaker is that you can to a degree, control your relationships. Truthfully no matter what you do you will always have a few of those relationships you are stuck dealing with, the mom of one of your children’s friends, a teacher at school, a neighbor, a fellow team member in a group you are part of at church or in the community. They are around and while at home you still have to negotiate around them but, usually you don’t see them every day and they do not generally affect your ability to be a successful parent or homemaker.

Then you return to work…

I think one of the most startling parts of returning to work was feeling like I had returned to jr high! Suddenly I was working with all these women, seeing them every day and having to navigate the very tricky social network of the corporate world. A place where everyone doesn’t like me. Entering on the bottom of the corporate ladder I found some excited to have me below them to boss around and others who seemed to think I was a threat to their future advancement. The person you trust with personal information turns it against you and asking questions becomes evidence of your incompetence.

There are a lot of things I love about being a woman but, our backbiting, non supportive ways are not one of them. Slowly you begin to learn while working how to navigate around the toxic people in your workplace, who to avoid, how to stick to business and give as little information as possible, avoid the gossips, do your job and get back to the people in your life who are positive and uplift you.

Recently on facebook I made a general observation that not everyone in life is going to like you or think you are wonderful.  I really wasn’t fishing for compliments when I put it up but was simply sharing the thought I was mulling over that particular day.  However, several of my wonderful friends responded by telling me how wonderful they think I am and how happy they are to know me.  It was really uplifting and helped keep proper perspective as I navigate the working relationship world. When I am faced with mean girls and critics I can remind myself that not everyone thinks I am an idiot and the things that bother my co-workers are the traits my friends find charming.

I must admit I am not sharing any of this because I have answers but just as a general observation. However, while I was on a run-away-from-home afternoon at Barnes & Noble this weekend I came across a book called, “Mean Girls at Work” by Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster. Validation! Someone finally is addressing an issue that has been going on as long as women have been in the workforce. I flipped through a few chapters identifying several mean girls I have dealt with in my working years. But I also started asking myself a difficult question, “am I a mean girl?”  How do I contribute to the negative problems?  If we are really honest with ourselves we might not be the meanest of the mean girls but we all have a little mean girl in us.

Dave Ramsey has a zero-tolerance gossip policy in his organization.  If you gossip you can be fired.  Honestly this is probably my main mean girl tendency.  I really try to walk away, and for the big stuff I can be pretty good, but for the little stuff I get sucked into a good story from across the room.  I have often wondered how I would do in his organization.  Would I be fired within 6 months or would I find that being surrounded by a positive atmosphere would cause me to respond more positive and be more productive.

At the end of the day we can only control our choices.  I can’t control what the other women around me say or do but i can control what I say and how I respond.  So I am learning to keep my mouth shut, not respond to the negative from the mean girl and do the best job I know how.