Sparkly part II: The mean girl at work

16214699701_55072899bb_zIt seems weird today, but there was a time when “out of the office” truly meant incommunicado. And once, about 15 years ago, I left town for a family vacation and a much-needed recharge, and had not one shred of news from the office for at least two weeks. It was bliss.

A couple of months earlier I had made the horrible decision to hire my friend, Sparkly. In my defense, she had looked good on paper, and her references – all from people I knew and trusted – were stellar. But in close quarters, her boisterous behavior and machine-gun laugh put me on edge. She had no work ethic and I started to suspect she lacked even the rudimentary skills to do her job. What she did have was an ability to get people to do things for her. She was just so … Sparkly. Everyone wanted to be part of her retinue.

The problem was how to manage her. There had to be a way to utilize her strengths and … well I didn’t know what the heck I was going to do about the other stuff. But I returned from my trip resolute, sure I could turn things around with a good attitude and a stiff upper lip.

Maybe moving her out of my office would alleviate our mutual desire to smash each other’s faces in with our keyboards. It was worth a try. So, while I was out of town, Sparkly moved to cubicle-land. I returned to a quiet office.

Hallelujah.

Only … quiet wasn’t the word for things. This was more than quiet. I was in the middle of an office with a couple dozen other women and no one was talking to me anymore. No one asked how my vacation went, or even made much eye contact.

In the pre-Sparkly days, I’d been a de-facto office counselor. It wasn’t a role I relished. It’s not like I was nice or anything. I was, however, the first person to utilize our bring-your-baby-to-work policy with my first son. People used to file in all day to coo at the baby. When I was nursing him, they’d come in and chatter at me while I tried to type and balance a suckling kid on my lap.

Something about having a kid stuck to your boob makes people think you care to hear about their problems, I guess. In any case, it was hard to duck out of the room thus encumbered when someone would swoop in to dump all their angst on me.

It was all very weird, and the impromptu counseling sessions continued after I’d weaned Jack and sent him off to a bonafide daycare.

Fast forward about a year or so, I’d hired Sparkly, realized it was a colossal mistake, and run off for vacation.

So, the quiet-thing was new. Nobody stopped by my office anymore. Nobody trapped me in the lunchroom to tell me about her problems. No one stuck her head in the door anymore to see if I had “just a sec.”

At first it was heaven. Then it was unnerving. Then it started to feel lonely.

Finally I was able to corner a gal I knew would level with me.

Sparkly, it turned out, had spent the time I was away regaling my coworkers with stories about how I was a control freak (okay, true), and wouldn’t give her enough information or resources to do her job. She spun some tale about having been offered my old job at my previous workplace, and implied she was overqualified.

None of that sounds like much, but it was all I could get out my colleague. She looked at the floor and stammered as she told me how awful it was that I’d made Sparkly so miserable, then ducked out of the room.

Once upon a time, there were a couple of weeks in eighth grade when I wasn’t getting along with my best friend – the queen bee of junior high. Every day of those weeks, I would be on my way to school feeling my stomach tie itself in knots, wondering what new tortures she’d concocted. Eventually, my queen bee friend found a new focus for her for her aggression and things got better for me.

That time in eighth grade was what this felt like. I found myself dreading going into work. I cringed when I heard Sparkly’s loud laugh from across the building.

Screw it. Screw all of that nonsense. I was a professional. I was freaking MANAGEMENT, for crissake. I was a grown-ass woman and a mom. I had gone through 27 hours of natural childbirth. I hadn’t had a full night’s sleep in eighteen months, and I had a hair-trigger temper to show for it. I knew from experience I could breast-feed in front of a full board meeting holding an Al Pacino expression.

Are YOU looking at ME?

I was tough and I knew it.

… And, yeah, I pretty much cried in my car on the way home a couple nights a week.

I wish I could go back and let eighth-grade me know how quickly things would get better, just like it would be nice to fill 31 year-old me in on that, too. Because things would get better.

But first, they got … interesting.

***

I didn’t realize when I started out that this would be a multi-chapter blog entry. My apologies. Have you ever been disappointed in adults who act like adolescents? Have you ever had to deal with social aggression in the workforce? Lay it on me.

Hang in there, I’ll wrap this up next time. The favor of your vote is still appreciated. One click will do ya.

Thank you.

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Photo by: Personal Creations

15 thoughts on “Sparkly part II: The mean girl at work

  1. Oh man… another cliffhanger! Despite my grumbling, I will be back! 🙂 And how long ya got? I work in an environment that feels like high school A LOT. And I was not a fan of high school. It gets totally ridiculous at times.
    kdcol recently posted…A step behindMy Profile


    1. Oh, I didn’t mean to. It just would get so long otherwise. Plus, as it turns out, there are very distinct chapters to this story. I’ll wrap it up next time, pinky swear!






  2. It’s a sad commentary that social aggression in the work place is more prevalent among women ….but to have a “good friend” behave this way? I’m still picking my jaw up off the floor and anxiously awaiting the 3rd entry. (Love that you breastfeeding fed in front of an entire board at a meeting! You da bomb!)
    Sandra recently posted…Bipolar Blogging RightsMy Profile


    1. Thanks Sandra! Ironically, this was for an organization that has a research institute focused on the development of girls, and it shows that social aggression is a learned behavior that can start as young as 3. Has something to do with there never being a time in the life of a girl where it’s proper to just reach out and pop someone in the mouth when they get on our nerves. Rachel Simmons, who wrote Odd Girl Out, was a speaker at one of our events in the middle of all this, I highly recommend that book for anyone raising girls, by the way. We talked about how her next book should be Odd Girl Out at Work, but I don’t think she’s ever written that one.

      And the thing about breastfeeding at a board meeting, that’s another story. I’m way less of a badass than that makes me look. I had a boss who really wanted her Bring your Baby to Work policy to make her look really progressive. I wasn’t crazy about it (it was hard). It was also before social media, so I wasn’t aware that normalizing breastfeeding would ever be a thing. My thought process was “baby’s hungry, feed baby.” … but there may have been a teensy bit of social aggression in there, trying like the dickens to make my boss uncomfortable for her foisting this policy on me.




  3. OMG YES! Except for me it was online, still is, I don’t talk about it publicly though, not even to defend myself (mostly because it happens behind my back, which is worse–and totally like high school). I have to take the hits, knowing that over time, it will get better. (And it has gotten better.) Great topic for discussion!


    1. Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that. That’s awful. If I happen to see any of it happening, I’ll be sure and shut it down if I can.

      It’s true that over time things get better. When my kids were being bullied we talked about their desire for retaliation. I told them to avoid it at all costs. Basically, my kids are total amateurs when it comes to being bullies (I’d like to think), and therefore they’d never win by sinking to that level. In my opinion, the only thing to do in these situations is avoid provocation, kill with kindness, act with integrity and character, and take care of yourself at all costs. I don’t know what a professional would say, but I’m hoping I’m not too far off base.


  4. There is always a bully in every group. You don’t necessarily see it, unless you’re the one getting the pie in the face, but it’s hard to think of a social setting in which someone isn’t intent on putting somebody else down, or embarrassing them, or making them look foolish.
    When you ask a question of someone and they give you this Look and say something like, “well, if you’d been paying ATTENTION…” and for just a moment you wilt, then you realize you weren’t even there five minutes ago…

    Bullies need to run things, to be the top dog without having to work for it. There’s a huge wad of insecurity going on there, and my only solution is just move out of range. I have just enough victim blood in me to realize that Im not gonna beat this, but i can at least get out of the way. One sure way to spot one, especially online, is when they give you (for example) the name of a town, or a company they work for, and it’s misspelled. Ive learned to look this stuff up, ever since I heard, “You spelled it wrong. Try to pay attention.”
    oops. Cross that one off the dance card, lol.

    And tell yourself (and its true) you’re better than they are, and your friends will know that.
    judyt recently posted…fable (6WS)My Profile


  5. I randomly found your site while doing “research” at work and am so hooked – I’ve subscribed and am constantly checking back to hear more of the story! 🙂 Hopefully this week! Fingers crossed – I’m dying with this cliff hangers!
    Courtney recently posted…Cancer Camp: Ye Tang CheMy Profile



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