7 Signs of an Office Mean Girl

Businesswomen arguing at the office

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When it comes to the mean girl phenomenon, it is not limited to the tween and teen years. In fact, more and more mean girls have grown up but have never changed. As a result, they are infiltrating the workforce in growing numbers. Even though the Workplace Bullying Institute indicates that men still make up the largest number of bullies in the workforce, there are a number of women who also participate in workplace bullying. 

Signs of an Office Mean Girl

Here are seven signs that the women you work with may be mean girls.

Office Mean Girls Exclude Others

Ostracizing other women at work is a sure sign of an office mean girl. These women use relational aggression to socially isolate someone while attempting to increase their own status at work. 

Typically, office mean girls are driven by a number of factors including anything from jealousy and a need for attention to a fear of competition. 

As a result, they will act as a clique, leaving other women out of lunch dates, meetings, and after-work gatherings. They may even discuss the details in front of those who are being isolated to demonstrate their power.

Office Mean Girls Struggle With Envy

Usually, these women want what others have, especially at work. And, they are willing to go to any extreme to hurt the person that has what they want. 

For instance, an office mean girl might boycott another employee’s ideas, projects or social gatherings. She will even take steps to destroy her target’s reputation and work-related projects. And she is unable to acknowledge anything good about other people due to her struggle with envy.

Office Mean Girls Steal Your Work

When a co-worker steals your work, this may be due to laziness, insecurity or even incompetence. Whatever the reason, they don’t do their own work, but instead, ride on the success of your work. 

And because they have such a strong desire to get to the top of the corporate ladder, they will do anything to get there including using other people. It is not uncommon for an office mean girl to befriend someone solely on what she thinks she can get from the relationship.

Office Mean Girls Lie, Gossip, and Spread Rumors

Office mean girls are often obsessed with what other people think of them. They consider how everything looks to others. As a result, these bullies target others that threaten their status in some way. 

For instance, if they believe another woman is threatening their status or position at the office, they have no qualms about attacking her relationally in order to eliminate the perceived threat. These actions can include making up lies and spreading rumors about her work ethic, her office relationships, and even her personal life.

Office Mean Girls Are Serial Bullies

These bullies are toxic women who are systematic, controlled and calculated in their approach. On the outside, this office mean girl appears charming and charismatic, but on the inside, they are cold and calculating. 

As a result, they tend to inflict emotional pain on their victims over long periods of time. They also are skilled manipulators. They appear sweet, but this is just another way to manipulate situations to their liking. Girls like these twist facts and situations to make themselves look innocent or to avoid being reprimanded.

Office Mean Girls Struggle with Anger

Sometimes office mean girls have poor impulse control. They are quick-tempered, tend to yell a lot and may even use profanity. These women also are prone to using direct insults and direct name-calling. 

They also may dominate meetings by arguing, criticizing, using sarcasm and spewing insults. And they are not above rolling their eyes and coughing to undermine what other people are saying.

Office Mean Girls Are Power Hungry

These women want to be the ones in control and calling the shots. But instead of earning that right through respect and teamwork, they often speak disrespectfully to others, insist on having things their way and put other people and their opinions down. What’s more, they use the power and control they already have to their advantage.

Sometimes, these women are bosses who are bullies. Other times, they have strong personalities, excellent verbal skills or a lot of influence and they use these things to walk over the needs of other people.

A Word From Verywell

If you are dealing with an office mean girl, it is important to make the most of your current position, that is until you can find a better place. Make sure you respond professionally and keep documentation of what is happening in case you need. But in the meantime, be sure you also get out and meet other people in your industry.

Try to build bridges and network as much as you can. And then when the opportunity presents itself, make the move. You cannot expect to deal with an office mean girl indefinitely, so be on the lookout for a better place.

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Article Sources
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  1. Workplace Bullying Institute. Workplace bullying: Gender in the U.S. bullying experience. Updated 2014.

  2. Wiedmer, TL. Workplace bullying: Costly and preventable. The Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin. 2011; 77(2): 35-41.

  3. Killoren, R. The toll of workplace bullying. Research Management Review. 2014; 20(1): 1-13.

Additional Reading
  • "U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey," Workplace Bullying Institute, 2010.