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Office politics and school room bullies

Same bullies; bigger panties

by Heather Cook (Writeonmama)  |  4289 views  |  4 comments  |        Rate this now! 

It’s just about lunch time, the bustle in the hallway is reaching muted jet engine status as the minions funnel out into the fray to jostle for space in the microwave line up and tell off-color jokes. Except for me, I’m sitting at my desk pretending to be engrossed in the blank sheet in front of me, waiting for the Alpha Girl Group to be fully engrossed in Boyfriend O’ The Month Talk before I venture out. Then they won’t notice me. Their eyes won’t flick down and up as they assess my cool quotient.

Junior high flashback anyone?

Or how about just another day at the office.

I am fortunate to work in an office environment that is warm, friendly and free from just about any ‘ism’ you could come up with. But I didn’t always work here.

About halfway between high school pimples and motherhood’s expanding hourglass figure, I worked in an office that could have been the carbon copy of my high school environment. Except there were a few more smokers and no other drama geeks to hang out with. After my first few weeks I realized no one was going to let me stay in their office until the cool kids had gone home. I had to adapt.

So I considered my hard-earned high school lessons and was not surprised to draw some surprising parallels.

1. Class Division. Opposites don’t just repel, they stare at each other from a distance and try figure out their opponents weakness. Now Susan in the cubicle three rows down may very well be gunning for your position, and she may very well be making snide comments about your goody-two-shoes way of never being late for a meeting… but this is not your problem. You are responsible only for your own actions. Keep them honorable and above board and you’ll come out ahead.

2. Attention Grabbers. There are people who work hard, and there are people who talk about how hard they work. Be in the first group. The second group is the girl who didn’t do her homework because she was too busy chatting on the phone with her seven BFFs and is now spinning a sad yarn about how many chores she must do and how her parents are so mean and blah blah blah… face it, she wants attention from her co-workers and you have work to do.

3. Class Snob. The child-free by choice career-focused female boss. Oh, this is a tough one. You know that girl in school who somehow managed to breeze through trig, chemistry and English, spent time volunteering with the peer support group and edited the yearbook? She was overcompensating for something. Successful, yes. Smart, yes. Lonely, yes.

4. Garden Variety Bully. This is still one of the toughest ones to deal with. It doesn’t matter what age we are. What we know now as adults that we didn’t as children is that bullies were very often bullied themselves. While that may offer insight, do not allow yourself to be tread upon. Create boundaries and expect respect. Build friendships with other, friendlier co-workers. And if the bully’s tactics cross the line, do not hesitate to go to your boss or the HR department. We didn’t have those in school. Remember: You have the right to a discrimination-free workplace.

About the Author

Heather Cook (Calgary, Alberta) is a mother of two and and works inside and outside the home. You can find her online at

Read more by Heather Cook (Writeonmama)

4 comments so far...

  • this is so true in so many cases. and i even work mostly with men. you would be surprised how many times i have heard 'OMG you are such a girl' and thought to myself... wow you are WAY WORSE than any girl i know LOL

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Kate on 18th October 2007

  • Great article, Heather, and often true, unfortunately. Getting out of high school is a relief for most of us, but in some ways it sticks with us - and with some people more than others.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Florinda Pendley Vasquez on 14th October 2007

  • Emily, I'm so sorry you had to go through that. I feel for you. It's so sad when people feel they must bully someone else to feel successful or bigger. If only we really could leave all that stuff back in school.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Heather Cook (Writeonmama) on 12th October 2007

  • On a previous job I was bullied and harrassed for 6 months and it made life hell during that time. Ironically she and I left on the same day to other jobs. She had the nerve one time to compare the office to high school, and she was the head bully/mean girl!

    Thank goodness I have not worked with somebody like that before or since. Annoying or whiny people are one thing, but bully/psycho people are another.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by EmilyM on 12th October 2007