Mean girls and how to manage them

It was my birthday last week, so among the many treats I enjoyed (namely Korean skincare, a browse in Waterstones, and a visit to Viet Cafe) I also went to the cinema to see Mean Girls. And, as I was watching the bitching, backstabbing and big dance numbers, I wondered whether mean girls ever actually mature. Or, do their bitchy ways just mutate into something more insidious come adulthood? So, if you have a Regina George at the school gates or a plastic in your peer group, here’s my guide to managing a mean girl.

1. Adult mean girls often present like nice girls

If you’ve been blessed with wonderful, straightforward female friends throughout your life, then your first run in with a real life mean girl can be most unsettling. In fact you may find yourself on the back foot, as there’s a period where you doubt your reality.

“It’s stealth mode. It’s not physical duking it out. It’s something that’s very stealthy, very sneaky. Sort of quiet,” says Social worker Linda McMurray.

All too often adult mean girls will be perfectly pleasant to your face, while working hard behind the scenes to out manoeuvre you. They probably don’t do anything obvious such as confrontation, yelling or even dirty looks. Instead you may find yourself excluded, belittled to others or on the receiving end of backhanded compliments. If this resonates then don’t doubt what you’re feeling. This is a mean girl in a nice girl’s dress. She does not have your back. And once you accept this, the situation becomes a lot easier to deal with.

2. Resist seeking their approval

The worst thing you can do with a mean girl is try to win them over. It won’t work and can have a massive impact on your self-esteem. They may not like you, but you need to continue to like yourself. So if you’ve been trying to curry favour, ingratiate yourself, or show how wonderful you are – stop.

When it comes to managing mean girls you have to accept that they have their own issues and this really isn’t about you. You’ll find that once you can let the situation be, and stop trying to turn it around, it may get much easier. Expect nothing from them. continue to be polite and professional, especially if you’re at work, but there’s no need for a false friendliness.

3. Mean girls can’t manage the light

Like vampires, and new born babies, mean girls aren’t good with the light. Often, when their behaviour is taken out of the private sphere and made public their power wanes. There modus operandi is all about stealth, and stealth doesn’t work once it’s exposed.

So for example, if your office mean girl suggests that the head of another department had made disparaging remarks about your work then it can be a good idea to invite everyone to a meeting to see if there really is a problem and discuss how best to handle it. Managing a mean girl often means stepping out of the drama triangle and stopping any games before they’ve started.

If you want to share your experiences of managing a mean girl (of if you’re a reformed mean girl!) then I would love to hear from you. Either comment below or email

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