Coping with mean girls when you're the older woman

Columnist Kristen Asleson says when a new, younger woman dismisses your experience, follow some simple guidelines to rise above.

Coping with mean girls when you're the older woman

Several months ago, one of the Women at Work column topics was ageism. This week, ageism was seen first-hand while at a function coordinated by a client who is a young 56-years-old. My client shared she was approached by a young woman in her early 30s who treated her like she was an old lady with zero intelligence.

This young woman was in her first week of the job at a hotel where my client holds a large breakfast meeting. This meeting generates a nice amount of revenue for the hotel and encourages attendees to become members of the exclusive 'members only' club. In short, this client was treated as if she were old, dumb and unintelligent.Why is this? Why do younger women treat women in their 40s and up as if they should be put out to pasture and have nothing left to offer the world of business? Women in their 50s are made to feel as if they lose value at a certain age, and this attitude is perpetuated daily.What younger women do not fully realize is that each generation can teach other generations so much.

Young women can learn how to navigate the workplace or job, and they can watch how leaders do or should behave.So, again, why are younger women mean to older women? Are they naturally rude? Are older women intimidated by the older women who have more experience and knowledge? Maybe there is a bit of jealousy coupled with insecurity? Not necessarily are these mean women backstabbers or gossipers, they are just disrespectful and ignorant.To be clear, not all young women behave in this manner, thankfully. There are plenty of young women who simply want to do their job and learn from those in their organization or who did it before them. Those women know what true customer service is, and they are genuinely wonderful co-workers.

However, on occasion, this 'mean girl' is something older women must tolerate or learn to deal with in a professional manner. Here are a few signs that the new girl may be the 'mean girl':They are nice to you in public but not in a private setting.They offer criticism, publicly.Claim your work as theirs.They downplay any ideas you have.They exclude you from meetings, lunches, or happy hour.Want to know a few tips on 'handling' the mean girl at work?Be the bigger person: If there is gossip, ignore it. Easier said than done, but seriously, ignore it.

You have no reason to defend yourself or the work you do; it should be obvious to others what is being spread is false. Do not defend yourself or add fuel to the fire.Be kind and be nice. Not fake nice, because that is also a tendency of a mean girl, but genuinely nice.

Grandma always said, 'Kill them with kindness.'Find common ground. Without stooping to their level, look for ways to make a relationship bloom. Work on a party or a project together.

You just never know; you could quickly become allies.Do not take it personally. Their behavior is not because of you, rather, it is about their own insecurities. Remember that.

Just smile, walk away, and roll your eyes in private.As you grow older and more successful in the workforce, there is always going to be someone who would love to be in your shoes. Lastly, remember this, the younger person who is the mean girl at work — before she knows it — she will be the 'old' person at work. Hang on to that thought, it might be the only thing you need to cope.Kristen Asleson is owner of Midwest Virtual Assistants.

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