Dating at Midlife/Stupid women at the job


QUESTION: Hello Dr. Belove,

I am 40 and very fit and athletic for my age. I looked at advice under the workplace column but I think I need advice from an older viewpoint and this is not a romantic relationship question but I think I need to talk to someone experienced, I suppose a psychologist would be a right fit!

I work at a small cubicle office in downtown Chicago.

At the workplace, there is one woman who really wants to fight me. The other women are ok with me although not that close since they are all extremely immature, but no one has any problems with me though. Except her.

She is 20 years old and not as educated as I am and she is not very attractive but wears very nice makeup and has very nice hair and clothes. However she is a college graduate and scored very high on IQ tests. She is wealthy, married to a rich successful handsome man and has beautiful children, drives a nice expensive luxury sports car and lives in a mansion. I do not have any of those things and am single, never married. I am a middle class regular gal. But this 20 year old really wants to challenge me for some irrational reason. She goes absolutely crazy and goes ballistic when I walk by. When I walk by talking on my cell phone, and I'm not even looking at her, her entire body has convulsions and seizures, she can't stand to be in the same room as me. She complains about everything I do. Once she went into an explosive screaming tirade all by herself for about 5 minutes about something I had slacked off in, she backed me into the corner and went nuts screaming and yelling, and everyone else in the company smirked and laughed. Every time I walk by, she goes crazy all by herself.

She is very wealthy and high class and is a college grad with an engineering degree so she should be reasonably smart if she is a math/science person, yet acts like those nutty people on the Jerry Springer shows tossing their head around and lifting up their finger to tell people off like the way ghetto girls do. I don't know what to say.

At 40, I have no idea how to deal with a 20 year old who wants to fight me. And I'm not even doing anything, she is going ballistic all by herself when I'm walking by not even talking to her or looking at her. And she fights me for things that don't even make sense, there is nothing to fight about, she just makes stuff up, like if I eat one more slice of pizza at work pizza parties than everyone else, she goes ballistic screaming about that, and tells everyone I hog things. Since she is complaining so much about me eating 1 extra slice of pizza and taking 1 extra napkin, everyone is starting to notice I really do those petty things no one else would care about, and now they all believe her too. So stupid.

How do I deal with a stupid girl half my age that is constantly threatening to fight me?

Oh and she is 5'0" tall and I am 6'0" so I tower over her so it's hard for me not to laugh, but it is bothering me since she is becoming annoying.

I think this is a common situation in life. Intimidation, jealous of other's success, bad people jealous of good happy honest people who are hardworking and get promotions, etc.

But I'm not sure how to deal with these ignorant hyenas. I have been laughing at her and rolling my eyes a lot but ignoring doesn't stop the pest of course.

Oh and I tried to talk to her? And she ran SCREAMING into the room and locked the door behind her!

Well I don't know what to say.

And yes a 20 year old guy I barely knew did this once to me too...way back in graduate school...that situation was REALLY weird. However I did not have to work with him 8-10 hours a day every single day so I did not have to deal with him hardly at all. From a woman doing it to another woman is expected, since women are almost expected to be catty and competitive, when a man does it to a much older woman, that's just even weirder if you're not competing for grades a promotion or anything like that.

But this girl is really weird because she is 20 years younger than me so it all just seems silly and ludicrous to me, when I was 20 I would never dream of competing with a 40 year old.

By the way this is not for a job or a promotion or benefits; I work in a completely different department than her so we're not competing for anything. We have a different circle of bosses and co-workers and don't work or compete with each other for projects. She is already married so we're not fighting with a man. So the fact that she is obsessed this much with me is strange, and I have no idea how to deal with it at 40 from a young immature person.

ANSWER: Thanks for writing.
I appreciate the cross-over aspect of your question and it makes me think that perhaps I should register in that category as well. I've been spending a lot of time lately coaching folks in those kinds of challenges and it's surprised me how useful some of my tools have been for folks with challenges like yours.  

I think you've observed astutely  and thoroughly.  You have a sensitivity to context and that really matters in these situations.

It's strange how it is that she has singled you out.  

it also speaks well for you that you do not take this personally.  

I do think that what you are seeing is a reflection of the culture in her department and maybe in your organization.  I don't agree with you that catty competitiveness is restricted to females. The corporate world can be a jungle, often is a jungle, and often enough most of the predators are male. Often men and women show their fangs differently, execute their kills differently, but that's it.

Some of the things you picked up on might be very much part of the pattern.  She comes from a world which is often extraordinarily competitive and oriented towards personal superiority and very sensitive to positions on the food chain/hierarchy/pecking order.

(one of the more disturbing aspects of your story is that she seems to be gathering support from those around her and you are starting to feel threatened, not by here, but by the fact that she is organizing a coalition against you.)

But what to do?

I think first of all you'll have to accept the fact that she is now your enemy and will remain so. People like her often always have an enemy or two or five.  So you'll have to take her seriously.  As she matures she might become less obvious but she will always be like this. She is dangerous and also she will do well. The Wolf of Wall Street was an interesting example of this kind of person. It's quite instructive. Also, the character in the movie, which is a true story, never, ever changed.   So my first advice is to accept that you have a scorpion in your surround.

Second, someone higher up is supporting her and even maybe approves of her aggressiveness. Sorry.  So start looking around.  I've seen corporate environments where someone was identified as a snake and yet that person received promotions.  Good people quit rather than work for him. Other good people just kept their heads down and withheld their best. Life in the jungle.

Having said that, I will also say that nothing is going to change her and you'll have to find ways to deal with the bully. And as she moves up, she will become more of a bully.

The best thing for you to do is to give up hoping for any empathy to come from her. To present a false face when you can.

Also you want to have your friends and your support system solidly in place, especially among the higher ups.

Your other question is "why you?". For that we can only guess. If you go to my web page, and read the blog, "How to read other people's intentions like a pro," you'll see my rule of always having three guesses and you'll see why I say so. It's a very good rule and if you practice it, you will become shrewd.  

My guesses with her?

1.Her: She always needs to have contempt and hate for someone and you are a safe target because you are outside her immediate department and therefore her dark side won't be too visible and won't interfere with her ambitions. She practices on you.

2.  The department: There is something in the culture of her department which is particularly vicious and so she is discharging her hatred toward you. You are her scapegoat.

3. You:  Maybe you remind her of someone else. Or maybe you offended a friend, or made a casual comment, or are a convenient projection target.

Maybe a combination of all three theories.

Hope this helps. Thanks for asking.  if it was helpful, please tell others.

Please check out my web pages:

Let me know if you are interested in direct coaching.


Philip Alan Belove, Ed.D.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: She is an ignorant woman, at 20 years old she does not know the difference between Christian, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, and Hindu. She thinks all 5 are all the same religion. Yeah it's shocking.

She thinks all asian people are one way, all whites another, all blacks another, all mexicans another. She thinks all asians are buddhist and cannot be any other religion.

She pointedly argued with me on all of these points, I stayed calm and collected, and she started screaming with her face contorted.

She once pointed out a man of a completely different religion than me, she asked us both what religions we were, and she said "you two should date since you pray to the same God."

All I could do is shake my head.

She laughs at burping and farting jokes all day, she pointed at my chest and started laughing at what bra I was wearing and my chest size.

I made a comment that spiders and reptiles sometimes camouflage to hide themselves and she started viciously arguing with me saying that normal people don't know facts like this, you're a weirdo, why do you know such detailed science.

How can someone with an engineering degree be this much of an ignoramus? Weird.

I think that tells you about 75% of what you need to know about her.

However unfortunately she has now turned the office against me because it is true (LOL I eat like a man) I always did take one more extra chicken wing than everyone else and now they talk about this ALL day long, about me eating one more chicken wing.

This situation is extremely common in the workplace, by the way.

There is always one person who is the oddball. Either they are too mature, too old, too smart, too wise, too beautiful, too charismatic, too fat, too ugly, too skinny... it's always something. And the ignorant people (who tend to be bullies) tend to jump on that.

Being too mature is one big problem... the generation gap is way too much. A gulf. An ocean. They cannot understand why you are so calm and collected and think you're a snob.

The fact that she goes into convulsions when I walk by not even looking at her is telling.

The fact that she ran screaming into the room and locked the door behind her is telling.

I remember being 20 and everyone around me was smart and serious.

Part of her reacting to me is that she is not mentally developed and so against someone intelligent and attractive and older and wiser and more calm and collected, it makes her feel inferior, it makes her feel like an ignoramus so she gets so uncomfortable that she freaks out. This is common.

At 40 I also know a lot that 20 year old women don't. You're more comfortable with sexuality, and you know where to go to buy quality products for cheap. Such as I get my hair cut and styled and colored at cheap salons that make me look like a movie star and buy their salon shampoos at discounted costs, I get coupons from Target and Walmart and ULTA and Sephora so for $5 I can get $100 worth of movie star quality makeup and jewelry. Also just all those years of readings books and magazines and newspapers and dealing with so many different people in your life, you just "know more"

A 20 year old cannot compete with me. A 30 year old possibly might depending on their life situation.

By the same token, at 40 I cannot possibly compete with you in your 60's. I would feel like an ignoramus next to you since YOU'RE 20 years older and know way more than me! I just wouldn't express it in such an immature way.

ANSWER: Well, as you've opened up, more of your contribution to the situation seems to emerge.  I can't tell if this is your basic all-the-time character, or if it is the environment at work, or if the situation with this woman has sorely provoked you and put you at your worst. Let's say it's the last.  

She's gotten to you. Whatever fundamental insecurities you have (and we all have some) she's touched them in you. Now you find yourself arguing for your worth, having to prove your worth, by citing what you've read, where and how you shop, and how many years you've been around.  You are in competition with her.  You've taken the bait. You're personal excellence is under assault.

The problem is not personal shortcomings. The problem is being tempted into validating the competition. There are consequences.

If she has a foolish, contempt for you, you seem to have as much for her.  It's like being an adult and suddenly finding yourself in a shouting match with a five year old.  Your personal sense of authority has been compromised. You have been reduced to your opponents level of maturity.

So maybe she's found your vulnerable point, the chink in your character armor.

I get the sense that you are shocked that she has reduced you to these sorts of arguments. For that I commend you.
It's a sign of maturity to know when you have lost your temper and to be concerned by it.
I also commend you for sharing all those arguments that run through your head after those encounters with her.

This makes me guess that she has you on the run. I suspect that she is a bit of a predator and she smells blood.  So this might be a dangerous situation for you. Its also an opportunity. Any loss is a good opportunity to see what it is you need to learn and thereby up your game.   

In your first letter i couldn't see how deeply she'd gotten to you. It's clearer here.

Here is one of the clues to your weakness. It's in your last paragraph. "By the same token, at 40 I cannot possibly compete with you in your 60's. I would feel like an ignoramus next to you since YOU'RE 20 years older and know way more than me! I just wouldn't express it in such an immature way."

The last thing I would ever want in an interaction with you is for you to walk away feeling like an ignoramus.   I recognize that competition is necessary and important sometimes, but not in people who work together.  In those cases, the work much be collaborative. The two have to come up with something smarter than either could have come up with alone. The best performances arrive in this manner.

Maybe the culture where you work doesn't have this collaborative team spirit.  maybe it's all about winning and losing and you are either a winner or a loser.  Lots of companies work that way, lots of marriages work that way.  

The issue is about proving who is smarter. The issue is about excellence and doing well.  Often that admirable goal gets sacrificed to the issue of who is smarter.  In those cases, the problem is not smartness, it is competition.  

But that kind of competition is quit seductive.

Does any of this ring true?

Philip Alan Belove, Ed.D.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: The reason I'm paying her so much attention is because I've never seen anyone this out of control, this vicious, this ferocious, and so out to get me. And the other women agree with her now. And now they are all in a crazy competition with me...but it's mainly her.

Actually another thing I noted...the other women actually do their 8-5 work with their heads down and serious. No one pays any attention to me. She spends the entire day obsessing about me, walking by my cubicle and poking her head in to see what I'm doing. Continuously.

I was in this situation with a man who did this to me, I told you about it. He would not leave me alone, him and all the guys backed me in a corner so I screamed at them hard to leave me alone or I would report all of them for harassment, they laughed and smirked but it completely stopped. The man had a connection to the superior...but the superior told him to leave me alone. He started harassing me again and I went ballistic on him and threatened to file a complaint. Yes it finally stopped.

I would not do this here, it would not work with this woman and this is a workplace too. This women is too violent and vicious and threatening to report her won't work. She is too brazen and probably has a connection to a superior as you say. She burst out laughing hysterically when another person filed a complaint, the manager talked to her, and she and all her friends just laughed hysterically right in front of the manager, who just shrugged. Bad news.

So in this situation I don't know what to do.

I'm not sure I can give you a strategy without actually having a conversation with you.  We're talking about subtle
moves and nuances, little things than can make a big difference. My guess is that you are flailing and they are playing
with you.

As I said, I think they've figured out how to make you crazy and it's really worth figuring out your triggers.

It's a strange little test for you.  

And it seems to have the support of the staff, so that's not a good sign for you or your future there. It means that
the managers are strangely sympathetic to them.

I do suggest you speak to someone and work with this.  If you'd like to work with me on the phone, contact me directly at


Dating at Midlife

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Philip Belove, Ed.D.


Hi. I`m Philip Belove (that is my name, really). I`m 71 and I`ve been a psychologist all my midlife, the past 35 years. My specialty has been counseling and coaching other midlife adults.  I think we all figure things out as we go along, but even more so at midlife. Being between 40-ish and 60-ish and single is like being a stranger in a strange land. I`ve learned which questions help people find their own way. I created this category, I publish a blog at and I write articles for various web sites. My commitment is to help people 1) understand and improve how they deal with others, 2) understand the forces that rule the relationships they are in, and 3) make the decisions which will shape, or create, or end those relationships  so they achieve the goal of midlife development  to finally live with personal satisfaction. I`ve been divorced twice myself. I`m in a satisfying relationship with a fine person. I`m very interested in learning about your challenges and in offering what I can.


Professionally: Licensed Psychologist. Marriage and Family Therapist. Coach.Author. University Lecturer. Personally: I'm 71. I've probably made all the big mistakes, er, learned the big lessons.I've forgiven myself and made many apologies and I've made it into a good, stable, sweet relationship. I now have a perspective on midlife.

Please check out my book, Rabbis in Love, at Also my blog at The Rabbi book was done as part of a research project. My collaborator, Marilyn Bronstein, and I wanted to interview couples with very successful marriage and also we wanted to talk to people who cared as much about their spirituality as love. Maybe being able to love and be spiritual were one and same, we thought. So we found a rabbi couple and the interview was so astounding that we interviewed nine more rabbi couples. One dropped. They'd revealed too much. It's a fascinating book and, Jewish or not, religious or not, these couples do a lot of things right and there is a lot to learn from them.

Masters in Counseling Psychology, Alfred Adler Institute Doctorate in Consulting Psychology, focus on family therapy, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

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