How to Work Around a Bevy of Mean Middle Aged Girls in the Office

Dear Office Mom,

I’m hoping you might be able to help me with a workplace dilemma. I’ve been with my current employer for two years, and there has been a lot of tension and drama in our department. There is a Queen Bee with a clique that follows whatever she says. She is a major gossip and self-described ‘mean girl’. They are middle aged but tend to binge drink, come to work with hangovers and arrive late almost daily. I don’t drink or party, so I’m the odd man out.

Since I am quiet and never stand up for myself, I have become a target. When I ask a question, QB rolls her eyes and sighs loudly. Last week, she sent a group email calling me out on a mistake I made and generally berated me. I have caught her snooping on my computer and cell phone when I leave my desk, so now I use a pin lock on it. The snotty comments are getting so bad that I wear my earbuds all day. Once they even put salt in my water! Of course, QB denies everything, and the Bees back her up. To compound matters, a new work friend quit last week precisely because of Queen Bee. She told management but I’m sure nothing will come of it.

I decided to confront each Bee separately to apologize. I didn’t think they deserved an apology as it might make them feel justified in their behavior. I made an apology as an olive branch to make things bearable and it only half worked. I explained that I’m an introvert and have always been a quiet, private person. One Bee seems to be okay with my explanation, and things seem better there. Queen Bee told me point blank that she doesn’t like me because I’m ‘antisocial.’ She’s right because I come to work to do my job, not to gossip all day. But, she is more amenable to do the job-related tasks now. It’s not friendly, just not hostile.

I spoke with my manager today, and he said he is aware she has something of a reputation and he would be happy to move me further away from her. I love my job, but I hate going to work, so I am looking for internal and external positions.

What else can I do about this? I just want to go to work, do my job, and go home. Any advice would be so appreciated.
— Julia

Dear Julia,

Image Source:  Unsplash

Image Source: Unsplash

I’m so glad you reached out to Your Office Mom for help with this appalling situation at work. I can't understand how co-workers can harass and get away with it on the job. No doubt, you are working in a toxic environment with these bullying behaviors from a gang of middle aged mean girls.

Your boss knows and did or didn't take action. HR is well aware but hasn't done anything. You took the high road, and approached the Beehive but got lackluster results. And, you're looking at external and internal job opportunities to distance yourself. You are doing all the right things; unfortunately, management won't step up and address the problems of a toxic environment. Sadly, despite getting out of the department, or company, your options are limited. Here is my advice:

  1. If you think it will eliminate some of the on-going day-to-day issues, take your boss up on moving to a different cubicle. Try to get as far away as possible. Hopefully, you will be around new co-workers. Regardless, the Beehive will have their stingers out so if you feel that will aggravate the issue, talk with your boss about a "reason" for the move. However, with this group, it may not matter one way or the other, but be prepared for the blow back.

  2. Be sure you keep your computer password-protected, with a setting to go to sleep in a short time — ditto on your cell phone (whether it's a personal or work device). If there's any chance, anyone knows your passwords, change them ASAP. If you are using a shared drive where someone can tamper with your documents, keep a backup copy on your desktop or a flash drive. If you have lockable desk space keep your handbag, snacks, and beverages locked up.

  3. Focus on your job search so you can change the situation. Update your resume, check your online profiles and create a job search strategy. Apply for internal job postings. Before you take an internal position, make sure you’re not leaping from one toxic department to another.

I'm an extrovert, so I don't understand how an introvert might feel in this situation with a beehive of old-enough-to-know-better party animals. But, as an extrovert, if this were happening to me, I would feel trapped in this toxic situation too.

You deserve so much better than this. I hope this work advice is helpful. Please keep me posted.